By Kate Kight
Washington DC (The Hollywood Times) 5/1/17 – “And a bunch of really bad dudes!” Chair of the Cable Center’s Board Michael Willner described the crowd he was proud to host at the 2017 Cable Hall of Fame celebration. An apt description for a ballroom filled with cable insiders, letting the intense competition of their industry fall away, and a night of inside jokes and celebration of the success of this industry take over.
The evening was notably male dominated. Jana Henthorn, president and CEO of the Cable center, cut a sparkling blue swath through the crowd with host Andrea Mitchell, but their presence at the front of the room did not distract that in this crowd of leaders for cable television, the decision-making power rests mainly with men.
Susanne Forno, who sits on the board of Washington DC/Baltimore’s Women in Cable Telecommunications, wants to see more growth of women at the C-suite level. While she is proud of the work her organization does to build relationships and empower women in cable, growth has been slow in all areas of diversity. “Seeing a different level gives you a taste for more” she says. Andrea Mitchell, Jana Henthorn, and 2017 Hall of Fame inductee Jill Campbell are all examples of women who have worked tirelessly and successfully to be at the top of their field, but as evidenced by the class of 2017 inductees, it’s much rarer for women to get to that level. Organizations like Women In Cable Telecommunications help provide the support and networking to advance women. “For me it’s been a catapult” says Forno, who is determined to keep advancing her career and be an outstanding mom.
Jill Campbell, who started as a supervisor of a Cox call center, and is now Executive Vice President and COO, is adamant that is not having children that holds women back. Family is important, nut f she could give on piece of advice to young women, it’s “pick the right husband or partner. Man or woman, It doesn’t matter, but your partner is your anchor”.
Every honoree of the evening certainly gave their spouse credit for being a support, though each acceptance speech was remarkably different in tone and length. Steve Burke, Chief Executive officer of NBCUniversal, kept his speech short and sweet, urging his fellow honorees to do the same so everyone could get to the after party sooner. Michael Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, reminisced on the early days of building his cable company, but urged the room to recognize that now “we are in the golden age of television”. Surely the greatest levity of the night was brought by Ken Lowe’s introduction video. Guy Fieri, Vanilla Ice, Chip and Jo of Fixer Upper, and other stars of the Scripps network gave at first a touching congratulations to their boss, before ribbing him mercilessly with the family humor their shows are known for. David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, recognized how closely all of their careers had been entwined, as former co-workers, bosses, mentors, and competitors.
For the first time, a television show was inducted into the Hall of Fame to recognize its enormous impact and contribution on this industry. David Chase, the creator of the HBO series, accepted the award with a quiet, unimposing speech thanking his cast—who were arrayed behind him. Without a doubt, the Sopranos changed the face of television because of its extraordinary writing and boundary-pushing, but Mr. Chase and his cast recognized that without the late James Gandolfini, the show would never have been truly great.
Artists, leaders, entrepreneurs, and visionaries all came together to celebrate the rise of cable in the post-Soprano era, a time when binge-watching means binging on profits and dreaming of being connectors and content creators. For the young women and all the diver industry workers who don’t see themselves reflected in the honorees of the Cable Hall of Fame, Andrea Mitchell and Jill Campbell have a simple message : “Don’t Give Up”,