November 21, 2013
Exit Interview - CTAM’s Outgoing Chief on the Assn’s Past and Future
By Amy Maclean
With CTAM pres/CEO Char Beales stepping down after nearly 22 years with cable’s marketing association, we caught up with her to discuss passing the baton to former Scripps Nets exec John Lansing. Lansing actually started with CTAM Nov 1, and has been getting the lay of the land before Beales departs at the end of the year. “We’re on the road every week meeting members,” Beales said of this transition period. It’ll be a busy start for Lansing with CTAM heavily involved in CES and TCA, both Jan events. And it will be a transition for the industry not to have one of cable’s most well-known faces at the helm.
Looking back, is there a moment you’re most proud of?
Really, there are 2 most important achievements, I think. One is what we affectionately call CTAM U. Its official name is Cable Executive Management at Harvard Business School. It really is the world class management development experience for high potential people in our industry, and I’m very proud to have been associated with it over these 17 years. It’s been a life-changing experience for people who have gone through it. The other one is the moment we created and started executing on the Mover program. This year, we will deliver to the MSOs over 2mln qualified leads who are moving their household between the territories of MSOs.
During your tenure, CTAM has seen a lot of changes, including the shuttering of local chapters and the end of CTAM Summit. Can you talk about the changes? Was it hard?
Any association lives to serve its members. The changes we’ve had are because the member companies have changed the way they were organized or going to market. While change is hard, it was necessary. Like anything, what was most difficult is when the change impacted members of our team. But I think we all understood that our members’ businesses were changing.
There are rumblings every so often about how much support to give to industry associations. Are there legitimate concerns there or is it overblown?
In truth, good businesses question their expenses all the time. And it keeps everybody sharp in the association world to stay in sync with what your members need and want. In my mind, cable has this unique structure, and in so many cases there is more gain by working together than what any company could get on their own. Because of that, I think CTAM has a bright future.
What do you think of the choice of John Lansing as the new pres/CEO?
CTAM got a first-class upgrade.
That’s very nice to say.
It’s absolutely true. He’s just perfect for the next phase of this organization because he bring such broad business experience. [CTAM’s top] priorities are all business issues. His background is well-suited. The other thing I love about John is that his first career was in journalism. So being trained as a journalist, he comes at issues in a very even-handed way and wants to know both sides. I think that training will serve him very well at CTAM.
What’s next for you?
I definitely want to take a break. I have a long list of to-do’s. But I don’t want to disconnect from this industry. It’s fantastic, and I have made so many wonderful friends in the business. I’m not looking for a full-time job. So, I hope I can find some way I can contribute to the industry and get to pal around with everybody.
What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
This is kind of a lesson I learned before I came because I came from NCTA, but it is always helpful to keep reminding yourself of it. An action that CTAM takes on a business issue could have implications in the policy arena. And we don’t need any more issues around policy. So, always keeping straight between business issues and policy issues is a smart move.
What are the biggest issues coming up for the association?
For CTAM, it’s definitely TV Everywhere. Having the MSOs and content providers work together to demonstrate the value of the subscription model—it’s important for the business. One of our other priorities that we don’t talk a lot about is cable’s business services. Businesses don’t match up to cable’s footprints. There is a lot of work going on there, and I think that’ll grow. And the Mover programs have a lot more growth in them. TCA, after years of cramming more and more networks into cable’s really short time, we’ve wrangled another day on the tour. I think in Jan it looks like we’re going to have more than 25 networks in our 3.5 days.
Does CTAM have a role to play in home security?
Potentially. But right now probably not. Each company is selling that product to the customers in their footprint, so we’re not a point where there’s more gained from working together than a company could get on its own. If it needs to become national in anyway, that’s the role CTAM plays. For example, we did that with Movies On Demand. Even the largest MSOs couldn’t get coverage of Movies on Demand in national publications like People and Entertainment Weekly because they weren’t national. By bringing all the MSOs together, we made cable national and got coverage in those publications.
In CableFAX language, we’d say you’re one of the industry’s top schmoozers. But it’s probably more conventional to say you’re great at networking. Everyone seems to know Char Beales. Can you share some advice?
Make new friends. When I walk into a reception or a dinner or a lunch, I look for a group of people where I don’t know a single person and walk right up and introduce myself. I find people love to talk about the business, and you can make new friends. But you can’t if you just hang out with the people you already know. It’s a really simple piece of advice, but it’s worked great for me over the years.