Interview Date: Thursday October 06, 2011
Interview Location: New York, NY
Interviewer: Lela Cocoros
Collection: Cable Center Collection
COCOROS: Today is October 6, 2011. I’m Lela Cocoros, vice-president of corporate and constituent relations for The Cable Center. Today we’re interviewing Brad Samuels and it’s part of the Hauser Oral and Video History Program. Brad currently has a consulting firm that provides strategy and business development support for content and media technology companies. Brad, welcome.
SAMUELS: Thank you. Great to be here.
COCOROS: Let’s start with some early background. Where did you grow up and what did you want to be when you grew up?
SAMUELS: I was born in New York but my dad was in the radio business so as he moved up through his career, we moved around quite a bit. But when I was 8 years old we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and I grew up there. So I’m kind of a displaced New Yorker who grew up in the Midwest and ended up right back where he was born 30 years later. You know there were three things I wanted to be when I grew up. None of which I got very close to. None of which had anything to do with each other. I wanted to be a radio DJ, I wanted to be a forest ranger and I wanted to be a pro-football quarterback. So, none of that really makes much sense as a group together but you grow up and you have different ideas in your mind. As I got older though, as I watched my dad kind of work his way through radio and how it felt to be around the business, I got more and more connected with the media business and it started to become more obvious to me that I would be doing something like that because I found it really intriguing. I could see how much he enjoyed it so I ended up pretty much in his footsteps. For a while, for a minute there I thought I was going to go way off the reservation but I kind of ended up pretty close to what he was doing.
COCOROS: So did you study it in college? What was your college [study]?
SAMUELS: I did. Yes, I went to Michigan State University and studied telecommunications. Which is the early ‘80s and cable was just starting to emerge in some of the major markets. Literally just being built. So it was just the very early stages of the cable business. And a lot of what telecommunications meant was computer networks and the drier more institutional side and also media. But media at that time was more traditional radio and television and so forth. Started to learn a little bit about cable at Michigan State. Went back after I graduated to work a couple of years for my dad selling radio advertisement at a small station that he owned back in Cincinnati which was a tremendous experience to get up and walk down the street into businesses and introduce yourself and say why don’t you buy some radio time. And you really had to learn how to tell a story and how to present yourself. He was a great guy to learn from. He had a great philosophy about sales and relationships. Unfortunately, he sold the radio station a couple of years later after owning it for many years. I think it was a coincidence that he sold it after I got involved in it. I hope that was the case. I decided to go out to graduate school and started to get interested in some things outside the radio business. So that’s where graduate school helped me to see what was going on. I crossed the media business and started to get interested in this new thing cable TV. Went from there to start working in the business after graduating from Michigan State with a masters in telecommunications.
SAMUELS: I went to work for a regional sports network that at the time was called PASS or Pro-am Sports. It was one of the early regional sports networks. It was sold mostly as a pay network. A lot of cable operators would tell you that they would love to sell regional sports networks as pay services today.
SAMUELS: That may not happen. But it was a pretty good model at the time. We had some great teams. The Detroit Tigers had just won the World Series so people were loving their baseball and buying the channel. It was a great chance for me to start in affiliate relations and learn what it was about via cable network and go out and handle the relationships with the various cable operators. In that day there were a lot more owners. A lot more diversity in the cable operator ownership world. So we had affiliates, probably 30 or 40 different companies. Different side systems around the state. It was a lot of fun. It was fun being connected to the sports teams and being part of that sports television business and I learned a lot and kind of started that way.
COCOROS: So what were your first impressions of cable television and the business overall?
SAMUELS: You know it was interesting. It was still early in the industry so people were just getting use to what it meant to have cable and to buy it and the choices that came with it. But to dial back just a little bit because Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio were early test bed markets for cable and what might have been more advanced cable at the time. Warner Amex had these systems they called Qube. As a teenager in Cincinnati, we had these funny boxes with a wire that took it back to the television set. It wasn’t even wireless but it seemed like very advanced at the time. And push buttons to change the channels. I think there were more channels than there was programming. You know a lot of the buttons didn’t seem to do much. But we thought it was pretty cool. It was very advanced at the time. So pretty quickly we all got used to seeing more than just those first handful of over the air stations and got pretty excited about it. While my dad was in radio while it was growing in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I got a chance to jump into an industry that was early in its growth stage. It really was a lot of fun to kind of figure it out together with a lot of people that I still know very well. To be able to enjoy their time in the business with me.
COCOROS: So tell me a little bit about affiliate sales because a lot of people I don’t think really, people in the industry obviously know but not a lot of people know a lot about the dynamics of the affiliates. You sold advertising to start off, right? You kind of moved into this more affiliate role.
SAMUELS: Affiliate relations are a unique sales and marketing, I think, job in the media business because the good news is when you get a deal done it means a lot to the business you representing in cable networks. But it takes a long time. You have to be patient. You have to really develop relationships and gain the trust of whoever the affiliate is. It might be a cable company. It might be a satellite company. Then the phone companies came into the business recently. Now of course there are other platforms that are taking programming from the big cable network brands. But it really was about selling a concept for a channel and eventually of course other kind of content, Video on Demand, etc. Having the affiliate believe that you are going to deliver quality programming. That you are going to stay true to your mission as to what kind of programming you were going to do. Then it was going to be worth those license fees that you were telling them that they should be paying you. And then once you got carried on a cable system and they started to pay you for the right to carry the channel then the relationship would become all about partnering to do marketing to help gain viewers for your audience and also to help the cable operator gain more subscribers. So it was really very collaborative with your client and a very long term relationship. So it wasn’t one of those things where you come in and sell and move on. So, I enjoyed that. It was something that has been one of the most important parts of my experience in the cable industry, those relationships with those cable and other affiliate companies and how we found ways to work together and build our business together over a very long period of time.
COCOROS: And branding is obviously very crucial to this and marketing. Is there a difference in how this is accomplished with an affiliate versus how it is from you perspective on the sales side.
SAMUELS: You know the cable business has now got channels for everything. Everybody jokes about the Puppy Channel and this and that. And someday I’m sure we’ll have that. But what was great, you were able, if you were lucky enough; you were able to gravitate toward a company that would fit your personal interest. So after I worked for a year in Detroit at a sports network, I went to MTV Networks which at the time was just a few channels, Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1 and then we launched Comedy Central. So it was music and then comedy and things that I really enjoyed. So you were spending you day talking about programming and personalities and so forth that were exciting and new and original and also something that I personally could really get excited about. Initially you just put programming up and give people something else to watch and we’ll worry about refining it later. Then the word branding became the key word. I would say probably in the ‘90s when it got more crowded and competitive and it became more and more important for people to understand what they were going to find when they turned Comedy Central on or MTV or Bravo or whatever channel we were talking about. So, how did all the programming fit together, how did you schedule it. What kind of interstitial what kind of look and feel to the network that would kind of tie it all together throughout the day. How do you take that message out to the media and so forth to convey what your brand is really about. I think that’s what cable affiliates started to expect you to be able to deliver. Whether it’s a new channel that your explaining what the brand was going to be about or one that had been around for a while that was still finding its way. And that really for me was really very interesting to watch some of the great executives at MTV and Comedy Central step back and think about not just we’re going to do a music network or we’re going to do a comedy network but what was the personality of the channel? Which programs would really hit on the brands and in terms of the key characteristics that you really want to…
COCOROS: And some channels were like a rebranding.
SAMUELS: And that’s still happening. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s necessary. You’re right. It’s an art probably more than a science. It’s understanding your audience. It’s understanding the importance consistency and of course, brands outside of the media business that understand how the customer connects. I think it took cable awhile to get that but fortunately I would at some places that got it right. That was one of the things about Comedy Central which of course has gone on to be such a successful channel.
COCOROS: And you were there when it launched.
SAMUELS: I was.
COCOROS: It was part of this Ha! Network right? Then the Comedy Channel and they merged together.
SAMUELS: Exactly. It was the comedy wars. You know, which is kind of a funny idea but HBO started a channel and MTV had been thinking about doing comedy so we jumped in right after they announced and we created….it didn’t make any sense because HBO started a channel that was more like MTV. Short clips of comedy from movies and standup. Then MTV started a channel that was more traditional full programs that was almost more like Nick at Nite. The operators… neither of them were that good to be honest with you and they were very different from each other and there wasn’t a lot of room for new channels at the time so the cable operators were kind of like, they didn’t want to offend HBO, they didn’t want to offend MTV so they waited it out for a year. And it was fun for a while because you had some of the legendary Tom Freston kind of guys and Michael Fuchs battling it out saying why they felt their idea was better than the other. It was entertaining for a while but eventually they put them together and created this merged thing called Comedy Central and tried to take the best of the management teams of the programming and put it together and come up with one more powerful channel. And it took a little while. There was a bit a culture clash and the programming still needed to be figured out. We started to get there the first couple of years but it really was a lesson in branding because we knew the audience we wanted to serve. We knew we wanted to be more cutting edge, more innovative, more original. So we started to focus on what kind of Comedy Central we were going to be. And we started obviously picking talent and programming to kind of feed that concept. When we really got it right before South Park was Jon Stewart and the Daily Show because we always we said as much as that show took a while to find its audience that his smart kind of irreverent brand of comedy and just the kind of guy he was, was exactly what we wanted the channel to be. If there was one person that personified Comedy Central it would be Jon Stewart. Once we got some buzz around the show and people starting really watching obviously the rest is history. It was a great model for us to have him as kind of our go-to guy. The channel ended up having a lot of success.
COCOROS: Absolutely. Talk a little bit about multi-platform delivery now and there’s so many different ways to get your content. How has that evolved in terms of what you do for the networks.
SAMUELS: It’s much more complicated and I think it will be different in six months than it is today in terms of how these players kind of settle out and where it all goes. Clearly the consumers want to watch, the good news is people love television still. They love watching it everywhere they are on whatever device they have. Mostly, they still want to see programming from the brands and the companies that they’ve come to get use to watching it from. So, I think that the major broadcast but really the cable networks are in great position to expand to these other platforms. Just need to do it in a way that makes sense to the viewer and to their current affiliates. But it seems, you know there’s always been this thing that the cable industry is content king or is cable king in terms of who’s got the upper hand as a business model. And the two have done quite nicely as partners over the years but I think it’s probably, today the divine wisdom is that content is king because if you’ve got good valuable buzz worthy programming and you own the rights and you can take it to Hulu and you can take it to Netflix, maybe YouTube soon and other platforms, there’s a need for it. There’s room and more than ever for great quality programming. So the trick is just figuring how to manage your relationships across these different outlets to make sure it’s all building to a bigger haul. And I think that’s what we’re seeing. Everybody was worried that there was going to be this siphoning off of viewership to other platforms where it didn’t pay as well as a business model and it really hasn’t happened. I think it’s a testament to a lot of smart people in the business who are being innovative but smart about how they play in these new spaces but it makes doing deals very complicated because now you’ve got to enter all these other different platforms into your negotiation with your traditional cable affiliate so he feels like while he’s getting what he’s paying for and people aren’t going to go elsewhere to see the same thing. It’s always been a long selling process and it’s even longer now.
COCOROS: It seems like it gives affiliate relations people more of a challenge and an opportunity to come up creatively with how to work with each of those different types of distributors. You have to step up your game too.
SAMUELS: Absolutely. Which is great. I mean it makes it fun. For a long time it was just about…not that it was easy but you had to have quality programming and find your way out of the lineup and start getting paid and you had a business. That was kind of it for the first 20 years or so. Then you started to realize you had catalogs of programming that could find its way into syndication on broadcast now and some of the other digital platforms. So it’s a lot about windowing and putting certain things on at certain times. Like you see a lot with Netflix where it may not be last night’s episode of the Daily Show but if you want to go back and watch some of previous years, there’s a place for that and that coexist very nicely with your primary outlets and so it allows for more creativity in terms of how you work with other parts of the organization to say we can be everywhere if we do it right, as long as we have enough content and we’re smart about how we do our deals.
COCOROS: Let’s talk a little bit about TV One. It’s essentially a startup when you there as well?
SAMUELS: I was there at the very beginning.
COCOROS: It’s obviously now part of the Comcast family. Tell us how you got involved with them and how you took it from a startup to…
SAMUELS: There are a lot of different kinds of startups. There’s those that and most of which, I’d say like 80% of restaurants end up closing the first year, I think that most cable networks they get launched, stay in business but there’s hundreds that you don’t hear of that never get up and running. There are a lot of reasons for that. Some just aren’t that great of ideas. Maybe the Puppy Channel won’t ever launch. Nothing against dogs, but TV One was a great idea. It had all the things that I found that worked for me at Comedy Central even though a very different kind of audience and programming. So they had the mix of great executive talent, people from major cable network groups like Discovery and NBC and Viacom who decided they wanted to get together and give this thing a try. They had the ownership of Radio One which had a direct connection to the radio stations that the African-American audience on a daily basis [listened to] to help promote the thing. And a great trusted relationship with the audience. Then Comcast stepped up and really made the thing happen by dedicating cash and carriage. They believed in it. They believed in the management and the concept and said we’ll step up and help get this thing up and running. At that point when you saw those different pieces coming together it became one of the ones that looked like it could work. Even though it was already an environment in 2004 that cable operators were saying enough. We’re full. We don’t have room. We don’t want to pay anymore. So it got hard over the years. But we thought we had enough of the right things and an audience that was looking for more of that kind of programming. It was still a very challenging process but we were able to get to 50 million homes in 3 or 4 years. Now it’s a great channel that’s delivering very much on what it said it would and doing very, very well. It’s not easy but if you put the right people and the right developments in place, it can still happen. I’m sure there a couple of more of those that can sneak in there and find their way but the bar is a lot higher than it was.
COCOROS: From there you went to MSG?
SAMUELS: Yes, which was great. MSG was an interesting mix of properties because they had decided at Cablevision, which owned both Rainbow and MSG at the time, but now they have separated the two companies, that Fuse, Music Network, that had always been part of Rainbow, made more sense to be, organizationally, to be moved into the MSG part of Cablevision. With thinking being that because MSG, aside from the two regional sports networks it also owned and still does the Garden, the Beacon, Radio City and all these iconic venues which were primarily about music. So these ongoing relationships with the artists, with the management of the labels, of the management companies of musicians, had been working with the MSG people for years. So maybe we can leverage that together with Fuse to bring more people onto the air and that worked back and forth to promote artists and to get better programming on Fuse. That was the idea and they needed a new team to go out and sell that concept to the cable community. Again, loving sports and loving music, being a very bad guitar player who can’t seem to quit, it was compelling to me and it was a new challenge because Fuse had pretty good carriage but the brand was little fuzzy. There had been some turnover in management and it was time to really go out and make sure people understood what we were trying to do. So we built a new team as I’d done at Comedy and at TV ONE which is something I loved to do. Find people that I feel work well together and get out and tell our story. I spent about three years there and it was great. The Garden is a truly iconic place and to be able to be involved with the Knicks and the Rangers and with some of the bigger concerts that came through the Garden, it was personally rewarding. I think we made a lot of progress. For me it was different in that it was a much bigger company. Much more corporate. And it has to be when you are that big, 25,000 employees. You can’t just walk down the hallway and get things done like you can in a small organization. So, I think for me it was great but I learned that ultimately I like to be in an entrepreneurial, smaller environment where there’s….
COCOROS: Where you can grow from a more…
SAMUELS: Yeah, be a contributor from the beginning. I really enjoyed MSG. It’s truly a legendary part of the New York landscape and so it was a lot of fun being there.
COCOROS: So now, from a marketing perspective, what’s your vision for where you see things going in the industry?
SAMUELS: I think we’re all trying to figure out as consumers gravitate to more digital platforms and start to control their consumption of media and start to affect it in a greater way with social media. You know, it’s changing rapidly. It’s not so much like you can create a media plan, launch a show, do a bunch of radio ads and expect people to come watch and sell advertising. There’s still that and that’s fine. And that still works to a certain degree. But you’ve got to involve the viewer in a way much more deeply than ever before and give them a voice and let them feel like they’re interacting. In some ways and sometimes even affecting the outcome of certain plotlines and programs and so forth. So, I think marketing is not at all one way anymore. That’s been changing over the years but it’s particularly the past couple of years. It’s about letting those fans who’ve come to appreciate your brand who would get very upset if they lost their favorite channel or two or three. We’ve seen some of that happen and that it doesn’t work so well. If a channel’s established an audience, it’s pretty hard to take it away. But now let them go out and kind of evangelize on your behalf and tell their friends through Facebook and Twitter and other platforms what they’re watching, as they’re watching. Hey check this out. Done right in some ways it can be a lot less expensive than traditional one of way consumer purchasing and advertising. But you run the risk of it backfiring at times in terms of people being able to say what they feel – good or bad.
COCOROS: It can’t be controlled.
SAMUELS: Exactly. I’ve sat around many meetings with people adjusting small little pieces of creative, trying to get that perfect message out. That’s really not what it’s like anymore. It’s about putting it out there and letting the community of viewers and fans add their voice to it. What I think is interesting though, when done right, it just kind of adds back to the mothership in terms of potential awareness and audience for a network or a show. It can be very powerful. I think it’s all just added to a lot of the success of the most successful cable networks which I think 5 years ago a lot of people worried that people were going to get too diffused and kind of fragmented in how they spent their time. And audience who are rogue. I think really what it’s become is another way to draw attention to if you have quality program, it’s just a more effective way to market to use those platforms. The end of the year may be a little different, we’ll see but now it’s really become if anything a way to support the core business.
COCOROS: And measurement has evolved too. This whole idea of who’s watching and what are they watching it on and how they are interacting with it. Which is a two-way, like you were saying; it’s a whole different world.
SAMUELS: I think if I had to advise somebody going to college right now, somehow the word data would come into the conversation because whatever business you are, you’ve got an opportunity if you choose to, to collect enormous amounts of data about how people are watching a program or buying a product, following their way through the internet and surfing around and so forth. I think companies are just starting to explore that. Of course, there are privacy issues and different things that have to be addressed. For years, in the TV business, people complained that Nielsen was the only game in town and that they only gave you a primitive real assessment of what people were watching. I have to say that actually worked pretty well and generally was pretty reliable but now you’re seeing a lot of new companies that pop up that are finding other platforms to measure or are using the set-top box itself to where you are really knowing exactly what people are watching every second of the day. Not just 20,000 people randomly around the country sampled. I think you could probably get lost in all of that and spend too much time focused on it. It also allows you to really understand people’s media habits in a much more detailed way. If you can figure out how to get in the flow more and understand where people are coming from and going within their digital click through kind of habits, it can be pretty powerful. So yes, research and measurement and data analysis, I think has a lot to say about behavior. Especially now that it’s become more complex. I think there will be a lot of businesses that succeed in helping people use data to better run their business. It’s very different than it was even 5 or 10 years ago.
COCOROS: Let’s talk a little bit about your personal history with CTAM. And how you got involved because you’ve been very involved over the years in the organization. Just your experience with it.
SAMUELS: I’m glad you asked that. I have for really quite a while had different levels of involvement but have always been on a day to day basis more involved than most people I guess in the cable industry. Part of that was I found the organization to be extremely well organized and strategic. I knew that I could probably add something to the mix but also it really helped me to understand the industry. To learn from others in a format, in a forum that was different than any other opportunity I had in my day to day. I think it’s been a big part of why I’ve had some success in the industry is that whether it be the president of the New York chapter where it gave me a chance to get to know people in New York when I first came here in the industry and to take on a different kind of leadership role and different kind of skills. And then eventually become a CTAM National Board member and get a chance to sit with the CMOs of the cable companies and people like Char Beales who really were thinking about where the industry was going and planning out the organizations future but also that really dovetailed with what the industry was doing. You got this kind of inside look at the operations of the cable companies that you wouldn’t get from an hour meeting when you are in there doing a presentation. You just didn’t have room to have those kind of conversations. That’s why I think CTAM has been so successful. It opens up this dialog and gives people a chance to know each other and share ideas that there really is no other venue like that in the industry. It’s been very rewarding for me and plan to continue to be part of it because it serves a unique purpose in the industry. I don’t know that much about other media industries, parts of the industry but I don’t know that there’s anything quite like that in the telephony business or others where there’s been an organization that delivered that kind of value for the members. As you can see that I’m a big proponent and I’ve really enjoyed my work with the organization.
COCOROS: Speaking of rewarding, what would you consider your most rewarding experience in the industry?
SAMUELS: Well, that’s tough. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to part of some pretty interesting, pretty successful businesses that weren’t obviously going to work and we had to work pretty hard at it. It would really be somewhere in there with the launch of Comedy Central and TV ONE. The two were different but they both really required a lot of hard work and being smart on our feet and continue to evolve. But I had to say and I guess I attribute a lot of my personal wealth to those little third grade kids from South Park. (Laughter) I never met Cartman. I guess he’s really just an animated character but the lines get blurry because I owe so much to those guys. But Comedy Central started to build some momentum with the Daily Show and couple of other programs, Politically Incorrect which was Bill Maher’s show which was fantastic. But there’s really never been anything like South Park I don’t think before or since in terms of a show that created a such a buzz. And was so unique and so original and so edgy. Very much what Comedy Central wanted to be and we just caught lightening in a bottle. So there I was talking to cable companies trying to squeeze my way on to the lineup and doing okay but mostly getting pushed on the back burner and suddenly we had a show that was being talked about everywhere. It was on the cover of Newsweek and Time the same week. Which was very unusual for a TV show much less a cable show in the mid-1990s. So suddenly the conversation changed and I was getting calls from cable companies saying “Hey, maybe you better come in here and tell me about this network because a lot of people seem to know about this South Park thing and I’m getting a lot of phone calls.” So that was really rewarding to stick with it. It took us 5 or 6 years from the very beginning to the point at which we started to really hit with some of our programming and then we had this unusual monster hit series which is still on the air. Which is amazing how they’ve continued to keep that show as strong as it is. We really turned a corner in the business. Took off in so many ways. It was really rewarding to have muddled around trying to figure out to get the right formula knowing what we wanted to be but not knowing quite how we were going to get there and then Boom! We were on a bit of a rocket ride. That really was rewarding I think for me. Probably one of the most exciting times because it really hadn’t happened anywhere else and to be really there at the time was really neat.
COCOROS: What do you think your personal, while your continuing your career, what is your hope for a legacy in the industry.
SAMUELS: I think that’s probably a little lofty to think that there’s anything like that I would leave behind. I think it’s really for me relationships that come up. You spend a lot of time working with people at your company and at these other affiliated companies, you know, agencies that you use, affiliates that you call on. It’s really a pretty small industry when you think about it. You’ve been in a long time. You know everybody and as a result it becomes its own community. So hopefully I’ve been able to bring a little bit of humor to some of the meetings and some of the organizations I’ve worked with. Hopefully, people feel like I’ve operated in a way that’s straight up and trustworthy and that’s what been important to me and that’s kind of what I learned from the very beginning it’s important to do what you say you’re going to do and to stick to your guns but also do fair deals. I think as a result people what to keep working with you. It’s about how you carry yourself and how you represent yourself and your companies. Hopefully I’ve done that in way that would be a good role model for people. I don’t know but it’s been a lot fun along the way and very rewarding to do that. There’s still a lot of life in the business. It’s probably a good a time to be a cable company or a cable network than ever. It’s just different and more challenging and a lot more competitive. There’s a lot of media companies that would be very happy to be MTV or Discovery or any of those others right now. They’ve really become dominant in their own categories and there’s a lot to be done going forward as well.
COCOROS: Who are your career mentors?
SAMUELS: That’s a great question. I’ve had a lot. I’ve been very lucky. On the board of Comedy Central at the time when it was owned by Viacom and Time Warner – eventually MTV bought the other half of it – but for 10 years or so it was owned by two of the big media companies and so we were fortunate. We always say we were like the college kid that was away at school. They sent us money but they didn’t meddle in our business. So it was this perfect setup.
COCOROS: Good combination.
SAMUELS: Right, exactly. They would come in for board meetings and they were certainly curious as to what was happening. You’re sitting in the room with Jeff Bewkes, Mark Rosenthal, Tom Freston, Matt Blank. Guys that were running some of the most successful, exciting media businesses and just to watch how they worked with each other. Competitors all the rest of the time, come in over Comedy Central and try to figure this business out together. And those are some of the names that come to mind. I didn’t work day to day with those guys but I got a chance to see how they thought and they were each different. They had different strengths, more creative, more financially based, whatever. But they all had resourcefulness. Kind of a creativity and positive influence in terms of trying to help businesses grow that was really impactful to me. But otherwise I’d say the two guys at Comedy Central really were the ones that were most important to me. Doug Herzog, who still is at Viacom running a bunch of channels over there. Just a classy, smart, very consistent guy, who figured out things. Great judgment. That’s a little bit just kind of built in. You can’t learn all that stuff but I really loved working for Doug. He was a great guy. Larry Divney, who’s a bit of a legendary guy in the cable industry and should be. Both for his work and his play, I guess you would say. Larry was a lot of the same things I just said. Very inspirational. Very smart. Very collaborative. Just very upbeat. He said look we’ll figure it out. One of the things he said to me which I thought was really great, was when he took over as CEO of Comedy Central, he said “Here’s kind of the way I like to work and some of the things you need to know about me but first of all, I want to hear the bad news first. I want to hear it right away. We’re not going to solve a problem if we let it sit and we hide from it or we avoid it.” He said a lot of other great things that helped me out but that was one of the things that really stuck with me. Let’s deal with stuff. We’ll figure it out. We’re a team and we’ve got talent here and we can figure it out. There were some times we weren’t totally sure about Doug but those are two guys that I learned a lot from and had a lot of fun working with. And just made it fun to be there and you knew we were going to succeed because they were, they had that mentality that it was just a matter of when but we were going to do it. So that was pretty cool working with those guys.
COCOROS: What do you think cable’s legacy is, going to be?
SAMUELS: You know, that’s a great question. Cable became to me the first time that choice really came into the equation in television. You went from a few channels that kind of forced fed whatever they wanted you to watch and suddenly there was room for a lot of different, new more targeted, almost to a personal interest kind of level, group of channels. And now we see that going out on the digital platforms and getting kind of exponentially expanded in terms of people’s interests and websites and content that they can find that’s down to their hobbies and things. So I think cable paved the way for people to expect to see content that was much relevant to them. I think that was very powerful. And the connection that came from that was really what drove the businesses. You were going to keep watching Comedy Central because you loved what was there and you knew that the next thing was going to feel like something you cared about, that you could connect with. I think that was something that didn’t exist before cable. So I think that’s probably it, just choice and creating much more of a personal connection and brand on television for viewers and along the way that created a huge industry. But that was really what it was about.
COCOROS: Tell me about the difference between being an affiliate relations executive at a startup network versus one that is already established and kind of stronger in the market place.
SAMUELS: Sure. Well it’s a very different conversation when you’re introducing a new network and trying to get support and buy in from the affiliate community on this. Much more conceptual. You’re trying to explain how this idea is different from what they already have. Why it’s going to draw an audience. How will it help them compete? To some degree, in terms of their lineup compared to their other competitors. The expectations while they are high in terms of proving out that concept. They understand that it is going to take some time and that your program is going to evolve and that there’s a bit of an incubation period and a honeymoon there once you get the buy in and you start to get carriage. On the flip side, now if you are a 10-year old channel, an established service like an MSG or some of the others that have been around 15-20 years, now you’ve been through a few rate increases. The expectations are very high. There’s a premium on bandwidth and license fees. So the expectations are there that you are not only going to deliver an audience but you are going to really deliver tools and resources to help that affiliate drive their business. So it’s much more of a partnership on a day to day basis saying okay, we’ve got content for your TV Everywhere platform or Video on Demand or we can help you with Facebook page to get our fans involved in your Facebook conversation. There’s a lot of different…every affiliate has different strategies on how they differentiate but if you’re an established network and they know you’ve got an audience and they are paying you a healthy license fee, they really expect you to look for ways to weekly deliver value to them, off the screen in marketing and content environments. Just different challenges. I think, I’ve enjoyed both of them. I’m a little bit more a kind of startup guy who likes to bring new ideas to the market. It still requires a lot of creativity to find ways to take established brands and again marry them up with the strategy of your affiliate and help them feel like they are getting the value beyond just what your programming is. I think those are the key differences.
COCOROS: Is there anything else you want to add? Any last comments or anything?
SAMUELS: No, I’ve enjoyed this. I appreciate you taking the time to spend a little bit of time talking about the business and what I’ve done.
COCOROS: Well, thank you very much. This is Lela Cocoros. We’ve been interviewing Brad Samuels and we appreciate your participation and contributing to the Hauser Oral and Video History Program.