Cable Operators

NCTC CEO: ‘I’ll Be Proactive’

6/20/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

A few weeks before he officially
takes the helm on July 5 as the new CEO
of the National Cable Television Cooperative,
long-time cable executive Richard
Fickle said he has a simple approach
toward steering the organization to the
next level: listen to the membership.

Fickle, 54, a 30-year veteran of the cable
industry, said in an interview last
week that he wants to emphasize and
capitalize on what he sees as the organization’s
key strengths — its diverse membership
and its long-time relationships
with suppliers.

That includes “focusing in on developing
a good collaborative approach with
the members that are truly the independent
operators that need NCTC,” he said.
“Part of my job is to be very proactive, establishing
a relationship with them and listening to what
they think their needs are going forward.”

DO MORE BUSINESS

Largely known as a vehicle for small operators to band together
to buy programming in bulk, the NCTC also uses
its considerable heft — it has more than 900 members
that represent more than 27 million subscribers — to buy
equipment and services.

The incoming CEO said he would like to broaden the
number of suppliers the co-op does business with, including
technology companies that may offer different solutions
beyond traditional hardware.

“A lot of the industry is moving toward things like cloudbased
applications,” Fickle said. “There are a lot of things
that could be a good fit for some of the profile of the NCTC
membership that would help [create] better scale economics,
give them access to services that start to resemble
some of the larger MSOs.

“Part of our job will be to look at solutions
in those areas.”

He said he wants to make sure the
organization has the resources to handle
the business it already has. “There
are quite a few deals lined up at the
door on the programming side and
hardware side. We want to make sure
we have the right amount of resources,
to make sure that backlog doesn’t
become burdensome or problematic
for anyone. There is probably an opportunity
to beef up our efforts there
and maybe move some of those things
along a little faster.”

First on his agenda is gauging the
needs of the membership. Shortly after
he officially starts, Fickle plans to “grab a
couple of a management team members
and hit the road for a few weeks,” talking
to members and suppliers.

Fickle has spent a good part of his career interacting
with small cable operators, most recently as senior vice
president of cable/telco VOD and TVE services for Deluxe
Entertainment. He came there when the business was sold
by Ascent Media, where he spent a decade working with
cable operators on video-on-demand and digital-video
management systems.

Earlier, at Tele-Communications Inc. and AT&T Broadband,
he helped develop and execute the Headend in the
Sky (HITS) digital-video channel package, which brought
him in close contact with small cable operators.

His time spent on HITS won him friends among many of
his new peers, including the chairman (Steve Friedman)
and president (Matt Polka) of the American Cable Association,
small cable’s lobbying group, who welcomed his
appointment.

Buford Media CEO Ben Hooks, a long-time cable veteran
and NCTC member who worked closely with Fickle
during the initial launch of HITS, said Fickle “should
understand the needs of the small operators well. I don’t
know anyone who would dislike him. He is very knowledgeable
on industry issues facing small operators and he
is sincere, honest, and just a good guy.

“I believe if Rich has the flexibility to support the needs
of small operators, the membership will be pleased,”
Hooks added.

THREE-MONTH SEARCH

Fickle’s selection on June 13 ended a three-month
search for a chief after former CEO Jeff Abbas abruptly
resigned in March. New Wave Communications executive
vice president and former NCTC board chairman
Tom Gleason served as interim CEO while the search
for a permanent replacement, led by Denver-based executive
search firm Carlsen Resources, was conducted.

NCTC chairman and Atlantic Broadband chief operating
officer Ed Holleran said Fickle’s appointment signals
that the co-op is ready for any challenges that lay before it.

“Rich is a respected and knowledgeable cable industry
leader who has the vision and collaborative skills to move
NCTC forward and deliver greater value for our members,”
Holleran said in a statement. “His long-standing dedication
to the interests of smaller cable operators makes
him the ideal person for this challenging position.”

September