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Playing the Name Game on McSlarrow’s Successor

2/28/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

As National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow’s planned spring exit approaches (see Special Report) — the Wire hears the NCTA board met in Punxatawney, Pa., on Feb. 2 and hopefully predicted at least six more weeks of solid stewardship — some names for his possible successor are being floated.

When McSlarrow was hired in 2005, it was in
part due to his Republican chops in a GOP-dominated
town.

In the current climate, Democratic credentials
carry weight, and there are plenty of Democrats out
there looking for a portfolio.

Among those cited by at least two Washington
handicappers with cable connections was a familiar
one, James Assey, the current No. 2 at NCTA. Assey is a
former top Democratic congressional staffer and would be
the obvious choice if NCTA promoted from within.

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell would not comment
on speculation he is on the list, but his name surfaced
when a replacement for outgoing National Association of
Broadcasters president David Rehr was being vetted.

McDowell and McSlarrow have some similarities. Both
ran for Congress, both are Republicans respected on both
sides of the aisle, and both have that “Mc” thing going on.

One source said former FCC chairman Michael Powell
was in the running, though a former Powell colleague suggested
that was a long shot, at best.

There are plenty of former legislators to choose from,
mostly Democrats given the Republican blitz of the House.

Rep. Rick Boucher is one of those, the whip-smart and
well-respected former chair of the House communications
subcommittee.

On the other side of the aisle is Bob Erlich, who lost in a bid
to return to the Maryland governor’s mansion. He has said
he wanted to return to private
life, though that suggestion
was purely a float
from a single D.C. power
player noting Erlich was
on the market, as it were.

We even have a float of
our own. Cameron Kerry,
former cable attorney and
now Commerce Department
general counsel.
Kerry is described in his
Commerce bio as a “national
surrogate for the
2004 Democratic presidential
campaign,” which
would make sense because (déjà vu, again) his brother,
John Kerry, was the candidate.

The executive search is being handled by Korn Ferry,
with McSlarrow agreeing to help out. He might want to provide
a hair sample, as more than one exec has suggested the
best replacement would be a clone of McSlarrow.

The NCTA had no comment on the progress of the
search, but a source called the names pure speculation
and chatter.

Consider it speculated and chattered.

Mining Social Media
For Corporate Gain
Is Gottesman’s Goal

Patricia Gottesman, who served Cablevision Systems for
28 years in a variety of executive roles before leaving in
2008, is now the CEO of a technology start-up called Crimson
Hexagon
.

The four-year-old firm uses
technology developed at (and
licensed from) Harvard University
to sift through 25 billion
media posts a year on behalf
of clients who have included
CNN, Thomson Reuters, Microsoft
and AT&T.

The technology uses an
algorithm that can take online
utterances, analyze them and
use them to predict outcomes
such as an election, she said.

“We are able to provide a very accurate, predictive view,”
she said. “But even more importantly, we are able to make
the content and what it means part of the strategy that our
clients are pursuing when they want to look at what’s happening
in the marketplace, how to position their products
and brands and how to look at the economic indicators that
will drive the success of their products and brands.”

She said she invested in the company, then joined its
board and, ultimately, accepted an offer to be CEO. “This is
day three, and it’s still exciting,” she said on Feb. 24.

“I loved my experience with Cablevision and I will draw
on it for the rest of my life,” she said. “I will always think
of Cablevision with the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘us’ and not
‘them.’”

She’s also still a customer, on Long Island, while shopping
for real estate in the Cambridge, Mass., area.

Honest Knology:
Candid CEO Takes
Rap for Sub Dip

The Wire loves it when CEOs admit a mistake, even if company
shareholders suffer some short-term pain as a result.

Triple-play provider Knology fell into that category last
week. Chairman and CEO Rodger Johnson, breaking down
fourth-quarter results for analysts, explained the loss of
4,500 customer connections (other than 71,000 gained
from buying Sunflower Broadband).

He started out blaming an unnamed competitor for
“ridiculous” discounting. Had Knology matched the offer
(which it didn’t), it would have lost $8.77 a month in cash
flow for every customer that signed up. “By the end of the
fourth quarter, that package went away.”

Then he conceded some subscriber losses were selfinflicted. The reason: Knology shut down a promotional
offering in legacy markets in August and September, and
raised prices.

“It took us several months to realize that we had overshot
the mark with our pricing move,” Johnson said. “Not
only had we increased our bundled price, we had also removed
some of the components from the bundles, making
it more expensive for our customers. This clearly affected
our acquisition efforts.”

Knology tweaked the packaging and saw positive movement
in January and February.

Knology’s stock (KNOL on NASDAQ) tumbled in early
trading on Feb. 22, the day of the earnings report,
falling 9% ($1.44) to $14.56, and was a top-10 declining
NASDAQ stock on the day. It opened Friday at
$14.04.

Sometimes it pains and pays to be honest.

Twas Déjà Vu
All Over Again,
One More Time

Broadcasters and newspapers and the Federal Communications
Commission
were back in court arguing over media
ownership rules last week in Philadelphia.

It was a healthy dose of déjà vu for those who were
around for the last 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
media-ownership rule review in 2004. Arguments were held
in the same court, during the same month of the year.

There was even a big Comcast deal in the news back
then: On Feb. 11, 2004, the day of oral argument, Comcast
made an audacious, ultimately unsuccessful, $54-billion
bid to buy The Walt Disney Co.

“We were standing on line going into security, everybody
was on their BlackBerrys,” one attorney who argued the
case in 2004 (and last week) recalled.

Last week’s argument, of course, came not long after
Comcast completed purchase of a majority stake in programmer
NBC Universal.

“It just goes to show you how the world has changed,”
another party to arguments in 2004 and 2011 said.

Or how it has remained the same.

September