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A Woman of Influence

10/24/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Char Beales, President and CEO, CTAM

Char Beales has been involved in some of the cable industry’s most important and influential programs over the past three decades.

At the National Cable Television Association, she was instrumental in convincing Hollywood that cable programming was worthy of recognition.

And as chief of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing since 1992, she has helped prepare the industry for competition with coordinated marketing efforts and programs — like the Mover’s Program, which allows consumers to sign up for cable service before they settle into a new home — that individual companies wouldn’t be able to pull off on their own.

Beales understands the industry and how it works, said Louise Mooney, principal of public relations firm JLM Partners and a longtime friend who worked closely with Beales at the National Academy of Cable Programming.

Many have described her as tough but congenial, hard-working and open to both sharing and accepting new ideas.

“Char keeps her eye focused on what is going on in the industry and she knows what her board members need and want, and that is very important,” Rauscher said.

As the 1980s began, Beales was a researcher at WBBM-TV in Chicago when she and her husband moved back to Washington, D.C. She took another researcher job at NBC-owned-and-operated WRC-TV there. But she was bored. She wrangled an interview at Arlington Cable.

“It sounded much more exciting than what I was doing,” she said.

To prepare, Beales talked to then-NCTA president Tom Wheeler to learn as much about the cable industry as possible. But Wheeler snatched her up first, hiring her as a researcher in December of 1980.

While at NCTA, she helped form the National Academy of Cable Programming and served as its executive director. At the time, cable shows were excluded from the Emmy Awards, so the Awards for Cable Excellence, or ACE (later CableACE) Awards, were born.

Eventually, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences relented, and cable programming became eligible for Emmy awards. The CableACE Awards were discontinued in 1997.

“We didn’t wallow in not being able to get into the Emmys,” Beales said. “We simply went around them until they couldn’t ignore us any longer.”

Beales eventually left the NCTA to work with Bob Wussler (an old WBBM alum) at Comsat’s Video Enterprises unit.

However, she was lured back to the association side of the industry in 1992 by Showtime Networks CEO Matt Blank, CTAM’s chairman at the time. Cable’s marketing trade group was suffering from a lack of vision and was almost broke — something Blank conveniently forgot to tell Beales, she noted. But she was intrigued by the possibilities.

“I knew the industry wanted CTAM, they just wanted it different,” Beales said.

So the first thing she did after taking the reins at CTAM was find out just what that meant. Two of Beales’s strongest traits are studying the issues and listening to what people want, according to Rauscher.

“Char studies and she listens,” Rauscher said. “She is rarely caught off guard once and she is never caught off guard twice.”

After listening to CTAM’s board members and other industry leaders, Beales trimmed some programs and eliminated others. The No. 1 focus became preparing the industry for competition, she said.

“It’s very exciting, and we’re still changing the landscape,” Beales said. “We should be proud of the things we’ve done.”

September