Tag Archives: United_Cable

December 14, 1978 – One Yes and One “It won’t work”

Denver, Colorado – What a day! Back to United Cable headquarters with our new concept of becoming the cable industry’s first ad-supported network. Gene Schneider and his Regional Managers, Bob Ball and Harvey Boyd, could hardly believe their ears. What they had mentioned tongue in cheek just ten days earlier was now roughly our new plan.

I updated them on my travels of the last ten days – Getty, NCAA, etc. – and they were suddenly enthusiastic. The whole plan was on a single sheet of paper that carried only eleven typewritten lines. “If you pull this off, I want to be your first affiliate,” Schneider said. Now THAT was really good news.

Next stop was just around the corner to TCI – Telecommunications, Inc. – Graham Moore was Vice President of Programming for this huge MSO. He listened attentively and said, “I like your idea very much. This is something TCI will be interested in, but frankly, I don’t see how you can pull it off. I wish you well, but I don’t see how you can do it.”

Talk about emotional highs and lows. Coming on the heels of the positive United Cable visit, Graham’s comments ended this particular Denver visit on a down note.

Summing up the two days in Denver was a bit sobering: One strange visit (ATC); One disbelieving visit to the point of barely concealed smiles (Daniels); One “I want to be our first customer;” and One, “You’ll never pull it off.” Not a promising beginning, but it was time to head for the airport again – destination, Austin, Texas to get acquainted with CPI – Community Properties, Inc.

The entire whirlwind month of December is detailed in the book: Sport Junkies Rejoice – The Birth of ESPN. Great Christmas gift for you or for any ESPN fan on your list. You’ll save 25% at http://espnfounder.com/sjr_discount2011.htm.

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December 13, 1978 – Selling Cable TV’s Corporate Leaders

Denver, Colorado – I was scheduled to visit ten major system headquarters  in ten days. Ed Eagan was on a parallel path visiting a dozen medium-sized MSOs and independents. We had to get a sense of what the industry decision makers thought of our 24/7 sports idea…and fast – money to continue was hanging on the reactions of these twenty plus systems.

Our plan in Denver was to talk to as many people at high levels as possible and evaluate their reactions so that we could formulate a plan that worked for all systems. Te first stop at ATC – American Telecommunications was strange. (We eventually found out the cause of that feeling in Kansas City at the NCAA TV Committee meeting on January 25).

ATC was definitely not a good start for the trip and the second stop, Daniels and Associates, was even worse. Tom Johnson and Jean O’Grady listened to our pitch with barely concealed humor. Years later, they both told me that after JB and I left, they enjoyed a good laugh, never expecting to see or hear from us again.

The responses were clearly not what we needed…definitely not a good beginning to a long road trip. JB and I decided we had to have a drastic change in our offering. Just ten days ago, United cable had suggested (with tongue in cheek) that we become, “the industry’s first totally ad-supported network.” Since no one seemed interested in our “penny-a-day” theory, we decided on the spot to become primarily ad-supported along with a greatly reduced monthly subscriber fee.

That was the plan as JB left for he airport. I was on my own to introduce our “newest-greatest” plan starting the next morning back at the same place I had introduced the original idea just ten days ago – United Cable.

From a “laying the foundation” perspective, the month of December 1978 was easily the most active and exciting. We had secured the transponder is September, but had made little progress on financing, programming and customers as I left for Denver on December 4th. By December 28th, everything was in motion as you’ll read in the days ahead.

The complete story (paperback edition) is available with a 25% discount at http://espnfounder.com/sjr_discount2011.htm. A great Christmas gift for the ESPN fan in your life.

December 4, 1978 – Introducing The Plan In Denver

Denver, Colorado – As the calander turned to December discussions with cable operators, the NCAA and potential investors stacked up before the Christmas holiday break.

On this day 33 years ago, I left Hartford’s Bradley Field for a one day round trip to Denver to introduce our initial proposal to Gene Schneider, President of United Cable. He was an industry pioneer in the 1950’s and was known to be the first to sign for, promote and sell the latest idea. (Our Plainville office was in his United Cable office as noted earlier).

With two of his Regional Vice Presidents sitting in to hear wht I had to say I plunged in. “We plan to deliver a 24-hour sports service to the cable industry for just a penny a day,” I announced enthusiastically. Not an eye even flickered. Here I had jsut introduced this spectacular idea and no one else at the table was even remotely excited.

At that point I heard the first of what would be many, “It’ll never work at that price,” comments among other doubts. After a few more minutes of “why it won’t work” pronouncements, Schneider said other new services (I might add that none of them proposed 24 hour service)  were asking for a nickel or a dime and we won’t pay them, and you’re asking for 30 cents a month. It just won’t work on that basis.”

After an hour of being told all the reasons our plan would not work, I promised to rethink the proposed plan and return later in the month. Then it was off to the airport and back to Hartford. Reworking the proposal would be done, but I was already looking ahead to NCAA and investor meetings next week. There would be much work done before Christmas arrived.