Saluting Cable’s Trailblazing Originals5/21/2012 12:01 AM Eastern
The 16 new inductees into the Cable TV Pioneers organization represent
many segments of the cable industry and have been leaders
for more than 20 years.
This year’s class includes individuals with backgrounds in development,
operations, legal, engineering, sales, computer software, production,
finance, consulting services and entertainment. Over the years, they have
made very meaningful contributions to the success and development of the cable
Founded 46 years ago on the principle of preserving and celebrating the industry’s
entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, the expanding list of Cable TV
Pioneers now totals more than 565. Each of the newly minted pioneers were
to be honored at the 2012 Cable Show in Boston, at a Sunday, May 20, ceremony at
the Boston Harbor Hotel as part of the Cable Connections: Spring gathering.
The Cable TV Pioneers was responsible for the start-up and developing The Cable
Center in Denver.
The profiles in this section were written and reported by Craig Kuhl.
From his early years as director of programming
and vice president of research
at Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment,
circa 1980, to his advisory role for many of
cable’s most recognizable networks, newly
minted Pioneer Marshall Cohen has left a
For more than 30 years, Cohen has consulted
and helped to launch VH1, Comedy
Central, HA!, ESPN2, ESPNNews, SoapNet,
TV Land, Nick at Nite and many others.
Along the way, he acted as senior executive
at America Online and then AOL Time
Warner, and taught MBA courses at The
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
and Columbia Business School.
Perhaps his most lasting impression on
the cable industry was the invention of Nickelodeon
Youth Monitor, the first major marketing
study for kids (6-15 years old), now a mouthpiece for kids and their attitudes, fears,
needs and opinions.
Cohen has taken his marketing and research skills to the philanthropic world as well,
developing programs and strategies for the AMC Cancer Research Center, the Robin Hood
Foundation, Gilda’s Club and the National Museum of Jewish American History.
Cohen continues to advise and offer consulting services to several major cable networks
Selling cable door-to-door in Azusa, Calif.,
isn’t exactly your prototypical entry into the
cable industry. Yet that’s what inspired newly
minted Pioneer Dave Downey to start a career
in cable in 1978.
Once he finished his door-to-door stint,
Downey began producing cable TV commercials.
After college, he continued his love
affair with cable by producing franchising
videos for Six Star Cablevision and other TV
It was in 1984, when he joined Triax Communications,
that Downey’s career took off.
He was soon promoted to senior vice president
He would go on to help grow Triax into the
seventh-largest privately owned MSO in the
U.S., and to found Across Media Networks,
the nation’s first computer television network.
Charter Communications was his next stop. As corporate director of new media, he was
charged with developing Charter’s advanced television-advertising effort.
Downey’s extensive cable experience brought him to Invidi Technologies, where he currently
serves as president and CEO. He has raised more than $111 million to fund the
His philanthropic work includes the founding of the Freadom Foundation, a charitable organization
dedicated to helping underprivileged children nationwide.
In 1977, Bruce Collins began his 35-year
cable career at the grassroots level, accepting
a job as political organizer for the growing
National Cable Television Association (NCTA).
Those early years in cable would lead Collins
to C-SPAN, where, in 1981, the fledgling
network’s chief, Brian Lamb, tapped him
as director of operations, a job that would
also afford him the opportunity to finish law
school at George Washington University.
For nearly 20 years, Collins would go on
to serve as an on-air moderator and host
while producing call-in and special project
programming for C-SPAN.
Once Collins completed law school in
1987, he was named C-SPAN’s general counsel.
It’s a position he maintains to this day,
along with the additional role of corporate
His contributions to the cable industry include dozens of Federal Communications Commission
filings in support of C-SPAN and/or cable-industry policy objectives. And those contributions
led to his being named a Cable Pioneer.
Collins has also authored several Supreme Court amicus briefs arguing for support of
C-SPAN and cable industry policies.
He is also an active member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where he serves on
its Washington, D.C. chapter.
As an HBO original, Bob Grassi’s journey
through the cable industry — and, subsequently,
to Pioneer status — began in 1980,
when he accepted the position of director of
Grassi’s early years with HBO were spent
managing the creation, production and distribution
of printed marketing materials. But it
was in 1984, when he became the network’s
senior vice president of sales operations
and administration, that his HBO career
would begin to be defined.
Five years later, he would become HBO’s
senior vice president of satellite services,
which included the overall development and
implementation of sales and marketing strategies
for the satellite-to-home business.
Next up for Grassi was a position as SVP
of affiliate relations in 1992, which entailed
all cable sales and marketing activities in New York and eight regional offices.
His contributions to the cable industry include a long-time membership in the Cable &
Telecommunications Association for Marketing. He served on its board of directors from
1996 to 1999.
Grassi has mentored several HBO staffers during his cable career and is currently a member
of The Friends of the New York Public Library, The Central Park Conservancy and The
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Stan Hitchcock’s unlikely career path from
country-and-western recording artist to cable
Pioneer begins in Nashville, Tenn., in 1984,
where he was host of two nationally syndicated
His music background quickly led him
to Country Music TV (CMTV), where he
headed up the network’s programming and
operations for the country-music network,
relaunched as CMT.
Hitchcock’s long running series Heart to
Heart offered new musicians such as Garth
Brooks, Alabama and Alan Jackson an opportunity
to further their careers and brought
the power of country music to the cable
Combining his ear for country music and
business acumen, Hitchcock in 2003 assembled
a team to develop his third independent
cable network — BlueHighways TV. With its origins in bluegrass, blues, gospel, folk
and traditional country, BlueHighways is an American original.
Hitchcock’s contribution to the cable industry goes beyond his cable networks, however.
He joined with cable icon Bill Bresnan in funding the Farm to Table Ranch in Salida, Colo.,
which produces fresh produce for regional food banks and soup kitchens.
He also volunteers with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which provides hearing aids to
underprivileged children and adults, with music being the first sounds they hear, via his organization
of Nashville entertainers.
As one of the most respected researchers and analysts covering the cable industry, Howard Horowitz has provided the sector with muchneeded
marketing data and business development experience for 35 years.
His early data analysis and report writing, which began in 1977, included valuable research on pay TV services, program guides and new
cable networks and led him to a position as vice president at the Cable Video Research Center, Opinion Research Corp. (a division of Arthur
But it was in 1985, after seven years of invaluable experience, that he founded market and multicultural research firm Horowitz Associates.
He thus began an innovative research methodology that helped usher in the era of programmed cable TV in the U.S. and helped guide
the industry through its growth into the uncharted waters of the urban and suburban markets.
His research has been fundamental to the successful and revolutionary marketing of television as a discretionary consumer product.
Horowitz has been an invaluable contributor to industry organizations such as the NCTA, CTAM, NAMIC and others, pioneering the form
of cooperative, strategic research that benefi ts the industry as a whole.
He works with several charitable organizations and is a founding member of the Iraqi Student Project, which provides tuition and other
support services to promising Iraqi students.
Jim Ludington’s 30-year rise through the
ranks at Time Warner Cable has included
a wide range of responsibilities, from
construction and program manager to his
current position as executive vice president
of national network operations and
His early years at TWC, when he led
the company’s construction crews, were
highlighted by the introduction of fiber-optic
His experience with and knowledge of
fiber optics led him to a position on TWC’s
engineering team in 1990. There, he would
go on to win five Emmy Awards for technology
advancements in cable.
With his cable experience now in place,
and his engineering contributions to the
cable industry mounting, Ludington in 1996
started two successful ventures, both of
which were sold when he returned to TWC in 2003.
He has shared his engineering expertise with the industry via his work with the SCTE,
where he has served on the board of directors, and the NCTA.
Ludington is also an integral part of TWC’s mentoring program and a participant in the
company’s Connect a Million Minds effort supporting local youth in science, technology,
engineering and math.
Gary Martz’s grassroots efforts to develop
regulatory and legislative strategies at the
state and local levels of government that
benefit the cable industry have earned him a
place in the elite group of Cable Pioneers.
From open access to video-franchising
legislation, Martz has been in the trenches
since 1988, mobilizing field personnel to actively
lobby members of Congress on behalf
of the cable industry.
His strong and consistent support of state
associations and his representation of the
industry with such groups as the National
Association of Legislators have been invaluable
contributions to cable.
Since 2009, Martz has been senior vice
president of government relations for Time
Warner Cable, responsible for overseeing all
state and local legislative regulatory activity
while working with field personnel to accomplish
the company’s goals and objectives.
Martz continues to serve on the NCTA State Association Advisory Committee and the
Grassroots Advisory Committee, and is active in his state’s associations.
He also finds time to mentor his associates within TWC.
EDWARD HOLLERAN, JR.
Turning around an underachieving cable
system in the early 1980s was Ed Holleran’s
mission. It wasn’t easy, but two years later,
Arlington Cable Systems (later American
Cablesystems) did indeed make such a
financial turnaround, with customer satisfaction
Once that mission was accomplished,
Holleran became the company’s vice
president and area manager in Cambridge,
Mass., overseeing all franchising, planning,
construction, customer care, sales and marketing
and other functions.
That experience would lead to a position
with Continental Cablevision (which purchased
American Cablesystems in 1988) as
VP and regional manager, with the responsibility
of growing the New England region.
It would also firmly establish cable as Holleran’s
chosen career, and lead him to the 2012 group of Cable Pioneers.
He would go on to become VP of commercial data for Media One Group, which acquired
Continental, and prompt his founding of American Broadband, a greenfield overbuilder in
Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Holleran in 2002 co-founded Atlantic Broadband, and is its president and chief operating
His contributions to the cable industry don’t end there, however. He has been an active
member of sever al industry trade groups and is a founding member of the Winchester Foundation
for Educational Excellence in Winchester, Mass.
With his humble cable beginnings at
a small northern New Jersey cable
system in 1980, Lenny Melamedas’
career path was settled. Thirty-two
years later, he is a Cable Pioneer.
During his long journey through
the cable industry, Melamedas has
held positions as regional director
of local programming, ad sales and
marketing for United Artists Cable
of New Jersey, corporate director of
video marketing and ad sales, and
other related jobs.
He has been at the forefront of
the creation of new cable-TV businesses,
such as pay-per-view, local
system ad sales and DMA-wide
advertising-sales interconnects. He
was instrumental in helping create
the New York Advertising Interconnect,
which brought together 23
companies to form one of the industry’s
most successful advertising
His move to Denver in 1994 to become General Manager of TCI-TV allowed Melamedas to
hone his management skills and led to his programming consultant job, which included such
clients as Liberty Media, TCI and Chronicle Broadcasting.
Melamedas has won several CableACE Awards and, in 1983, he earned CTAM’s Excellence
in Marketing award, along with awards from the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (he
was a founding member of CAB in New York), the March of Dimes, the New Jersey Special
Olympics and others.
With the rapid expansion of cable
in the mid-1980s, Jim Penney’s
role as general counsel for Northland
Communications, which owned
cable systems in nine states, became
even more significant.
His close work with cable and
state associations in Northland’s
nine-state footprint would help
shape the cable industry’s role
in the communities that MSO
served. In many cases, he provided
testimony or documentation
in state government hearings and
With 15 years of legal counsel
experience in the regulatory field
with Northland, as well as a fiveyear
stint with a Seattle law fi rm
specializing in corporate, mergersand-
acquisitions and technology
transactions, Penney joined the
newly formed cable company Wave
Broadband in 2002. He is currently
executive vice president of business and legal affairs at Wave.
His contributions to the cable industry extend beyond his legal counsel and the advancement
of Northland’s and Wave Broadband’s growth. Penney has served as president of the
Oregon Cable Telecommunications Association and represents the American Cable Association
on specific regulatory matters.
Penney has donated his legal skills as a guardian ad litem, representing the interests of
abused or neglected children, and for 10 years was a volunteer tutor to Laotian, Cambodian
and Hmong refugees resettling in the Seattle area.
Lisa Shoenthaler’s efforts on behalf of
small and rural cable-system operators
have been instrumental in helping that
community of small businesses gain
greater representation with Congress, the
Federal Communications Commission and
within the cable industry itself.
As director, senior director and
eventually vice president of the NCTA’s
Office of Rural/Small System Operators
since 1994, Shoenthaler has developed
initiatives focusing on significant policy
issues that affect rural and small-system
Her development of the highly successful
Smaller Markets Conference, held in partnership
with CableLabs to address technology
issues, is a signature achievement in
Shoenthaler’s 25-year cable career, which
began in 1988 as a counsel for cable clients on regulatory matters.
Her contributions to the cable industry, most notably to small and rural operators, continue
as she advocates on behalf of her constituency at the FCC, the Rural Utilities Service
and in Congress.
She also represents the NCTA and other associations, such as the American Cable Association
and the National Cable Television Cooperative.
Shoenthaler is a graduate of the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute and an active member
of Women in Cable & Telecommunications.
Eric Tveter’s pioneering work as a business analyst for Warner-Amex Cable Communications in 1981 laid the foundation for a 31-year cable
career that would leave an indelible mark on the industry.
His early work on the ground-breaking QUBE project, digital-cable trials and the introduction of telephony services in New York for Time
Warner Cable established Tveter as a cable pioneer in the true sense of the word.
Following a career at Comcast, where he held several executive positions, Tveter took his business skills to the United Kingdom, heading
a $150 million joint venture with Comcast and Cambridge Cable Communications Group.
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union were next up for Tveter, when in 1997, working with the Metromedia International Group, he
led 10 communications ventures in five emerging markets during a two-year span.
Now the CEO of UPC Cablecom (a subsidiary of Liberty Global) in Zurich, Switzerland, Tveter continues his role of leading the turnaround
of cable companies while improving brand product and customer satisfaction.
He still finds time to be actively involved in the NCTA in the U.K. and Switzerland as a board member on various committees. In Britain,
he was part of the industry team lobbying for a new telecommunications act.
Ken Wood’s rise from draftsman and product
design engineer at LRC Electronics in 1977
to his current position as vice president of
Home Connect Solutions for CommScope
is a classic example of a pioneering young
engineer carving out a career in the cable
The go-go years of cable, circa the 1980s,
inspired Wood to introduce the Snap-N-Seal
connector, which eventually became LRC’s
most successful product introduction. One
of the first compression connectors to enter
the CATV market, Snap-N-Seal is now an industry
After 18 years at LRC, Wood seized the
opportunity to join Gilbert Engineering (later
Corning Gilbert) in 1994, where he would
serve as vice president in both sales and
His years at Corning Gilbert enabled him
to work on, and eventually hold, seven patents in the field of coax connectors.
In 2010, Wood took his current position as vice president of CommScope’s RF solutions
product line, with responsibility for all broadband products from the tap to the home.
Wood has been a member of SCTE for 24 years and has trained thousands of technicians
on cable preparation and connector installation during his long cable career.
DR. ROUZBEH YASSINI
In 1981, when he was a project manager for
General Electric, little did Rouzbeh Yassini
know he was destined to become the father
of the cable modem, gaining Pioneer status
for creating and fostering the multibilliondollar
broadband cable-modem industry.
As founder and CEO of LANcity in 1988,
Yassini began a seven-year endeavor that
would eventually yield the high-speed cable
modem and the establishment of its modern
industry standard — DOCSIS — by Cable-
Labs, the SCTE and the ITU.
His contributions to the cable industry
didn’t end there. As founder and president
of YAS Capital Partners, Yassini created
the first standard Internet-protocol set-top
box and created 13 startup companies,
while managing, advising and serving as
a board member for several firms, ranging
from $10 million to $3 billion in size.
In 2008, he opened the Yassini Broadband Knowledge Center in Boston, offering
research grants and facilities to explore fresh ideas in broadband technology.
The cable industry awarded Yassini its highest honor, the Vanguard Award, in 2004 for his
contributions and dedication to the industry. He continues his substantial support for West
Virginia University’s “broadband” village.
For 32 years, newly minted Pioneer Alan
Tschirner moved up the cable ranks from
service technician to vice president of
engineering at American Television and
Communications (now part of Time Warner
Cable) in Kansas City to vice president of
technology for the National Cable Television
Along the way, Tschirner assumed additional
responsibilities at TWC, including construction
and design, technical operations,
service and maintenance, warehouse fleet
and facilities and other functions.
Upon joining the NCTC in 2005, he would
introduce cutting-edge technologies to
smaller operators, and assist member companies
with launches of digital phone, highspeed
data and HDTV service.
He provided technical direction for NCTC
member companies and reviewed new technologies. He was also responsible for the technical
training of the co-op’s staff and members.
In January of 2012, he started his own consulting firm, Tschirner Consulting, providing
technical guidance to cable companies.
A member of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers since 1980, he was a
charter member of Heart of America Meeting Group, where he has served as its chairman
and chapter secretary.