Interview Date: December 2, 2016
Interview Location: New York City, NY USA
Interviewer: Seth Arenstein
Collection: Penn State Collection
ARENSTEIN: Hi, I’m Seth Arenstein. I’m here for the Hauser Oral History Project for The Cable Center. It’s December 2, 2016. We’re here in New York City, and I’m joined by — I think one of the great research minds in the business. Howard Horowitz who is the president of Horowitz Research. It’s a new name.
HOROWITZ: Yes, it’s a new name.
ARENSTEIN: Yes. Okay. Welcome, Howard. Great to have you here.
HOROWITZ: Thank you. Thanks for having me. It’s an honor.
ARENSTEIN: Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born and what do you remember about elementary school?
HOROWITZ: Oh. Good question. I was born in Monticello, New York.
ARENSTEIN: Monticello, New York.
HOROWITZ: Yes. Went to a small elementary school. Actually, a religious school at the time. A Jewish religious school. Went to high school. Public high school in Monticello. I have to say, particularly in our context, a memory of that childhood is Alan Gerry who was the owner of the small television shop on Broadway in Monticello. He also had one in Liberty, and he was our television guy. And school was great. Town was great. Known as the Borscht Belt. So we have that.
ARENSTEIN: Right, right, right. The Catskills. Yes.
ARENSTEIN: Yeah, there was a race track there somewhere I think.
HOROWITZ: There still is a race track there. Now a Racino as you might expect. Times are not terrific for the area up there these days. But when I was growing up, it was at the height of the tourist era of the Catskills. So that also connects me to the entertainment arena as we know it, now that you’re making me tie all these pieces together.
ARENSTEIN: Okay. Did you do any summer work as a youth in the Catskills at the resorts or anything?
HOROWITZ: Did a lot of summer work as a counselor at day camps in the area. Worked at the racetrack in valet parking. Worked at Kutscher’s Hotel as a caddy on the golf course.
ARENSTEIN: Here we go.
HOROWITZ: Did the typical things you might expect in that area. My father was also born in Monticello and his father came there from Europe in 1918. Connected through the meat business to the tourist trade. My father was not. He was an engineer. Maybe relevant to our conversation as well. –He also graduated from NYU and spent most of his career at Stewart Air Force Base where he was the base engineer for about 20 years until they closed it.
ARENSTEIN: I guess you’re a legacy at NYU.
HOROWITZ: Legacy at NYU. That’s correct.
ARENSTEIN: So you went to undergraduate and graduate. What did you study at NYU?
HOROWITZ: At NYU, I actually started out in the engineering school. Switched over in the — as you might imagine, in the ’60s, in that era, to liberal arts education and got my degree in Psychology from undergraduate school. Went onto graduate school to get a degree in Political Science.
ARENSTEIN: How does one go from Psychology to Political science? That’s an interesting combination, but it sounds slightly unusual.
HOROWITZ: Psychology, I would have to say, was a degree of convenience — having experienced a lot of different subject areas at that time — was very involved in politics. It was the era of the antiwar movement. While my undergraduate career went by without finding a real focus, I ultimately got a degree in psychology. I left school with a focused interest in Political Science and politics.
ARENSTEIN: What was your first professional job out of school?
HOROWITZ: My first professional job was at a school called the Clear View School in Dobbs Ferry, New York. And it was a school for emotionally disturbed and special needs children. I had left graduate school ready for a job. Spent too much time in school. What was I qualified to do? Well, whatever its focus or lack of focus, I had a degree in Psychology. Put that on my resume. Applied for the job and got it. I was an assistant teacher and then a teacher over the course of three years.
ARENSTEIN: You know, it’s funny. We’ve had a lot of people interview this week, and teaching has come up all the time. People love it, and they all say they benefited or their careers have benefited by being a teacher. What about you? Do you feel the same way?
HOROWITZ: Oh, absolutely. Especially, carried over not so much the particular field but to management of a business. Empathy. Understanding where the person is coming from, especially in an unequal relationship. Need to be conscious of their position. Their needs.
ARENSTEIN: And what did you do after your teaching days were over? What did you do after that?
HOROWITZ: Actually, I went to work for a political consulting firm called Dresner, Morris, & Tortorello. That transition was opportunistic. I was teaching with a woman who was married to an owner of this firm. And in the course of conversations, I had expressed an interest, and I had known her husband since knowing her at the school and he said, “Well, why don’t you come work for me? See what you think.” So that transition from teaching to consulting, to business, sort of.
ARENSTEIN: And what did you do at that consulting firm?
HOROWITZ: I was an analyst. Mostly or obviously, as you can imagine, working on political campaigns. Many of which were interesting. I worked on Bill Clinton’s Arkansas governor campaign in the late ’70s. Worked with Moynihan in New York. Zell Miller in Georgia, although, his politics have gotten away from me in more recent years. So these old-line, famous, Congress people. And these were — as you can see — by these names, this was a Democrat-oriented polling firm.
ARENSTEIN: So you were doing that, and as we were talking before the taping, you jumped out on your own pretty fast. You were a young guy. You were still in your twenties, I would guess. Late twenties?
HOROWITZ: Well, I was 34. Not that I do the math when I jumped on my own, but —
ARENSTEIN: Well, you were 34? Okay. My math isn’t that good.
HOROWITZ: — there’s a missing important piece —
ARENSTEIN: Go ahead. What do you want to talk about?
HOROWITZ: — between Dresner, Morris, & Tortorello and my own company. And it actually is the start of my career in the cable business. As you know, political consulting companies are connected to the media. They buy media. Some of them actually buy the media themselves, but there’s an intimate connection with political polling and media. So that media connection was formed and actually became a part of what I did, because cable television, at the time, was a political issue involving rights of way, and Hollywood, and various entrenched interests that were not happy to see this upstart industry make its way from a rural America that enabled them to make money as opposed to taking some of the money themselves. So and throughout my career there, I was an analyst looking at data and numbers and the issue of subscription television and broadcast rights and Hollywood rights. Many of the issues we’re still looking at today were included in that work from the position I was in. All of a sudden, I got a call from a head hunter saying we’re working for a client who’s looking for people who have experience in researching subscription television. And we understand that you do. I can’t really recall — maybe, I asked him how they knew that, but that was their secret way of —
ARENSTEIN: They didn’t find your profile on LinkedIn. We know that, right?
HOROWITZ: That’s where they earned their money. Maybe, they earned it even more then than they do now, — so, I was discovered, so to speak. I interviewed at Arthur D. Little, the big Boston consulting firm who had cable television on their strategic list. And their retirement plan had just invested $40 million with Amos Hostetter. I was part of that. I was recruited into that whole investment strategy by Arthur D. Little. They hired me to develop business and accounts in the cable television and media business about new forms of television. I went on to form — pretty much immediately formed — the Cable Video Research Center. I was headquartered here in Penn Plaza. They set me up reporting to Opinion Research Corporation — a subsidiary out of Princeton. My office was called Cable Video Research Center. Made up out of whole cloth.
ARENSTEIN: And approximately what year was that?
HOROWITZ: This is 1982.
HOROWITZ: Exactly, actually, the year. I don’t know if I could tell you the month, but the year was ’82.
ARENSTEIN: Okay. 1982. What was cable television like at that point?
HOROWITZ: Cable television was about new services. Single channel services like HBO and Showtime. It was about new conversations about moving from a reception service, a dumb pipe — to becoming a programmed service. So that whole relationship with programmers was forming: We have a wire and we can distribute your content. Using the public right of way a little bit differently there is a potential new business here. The issues brought to me had to do with whether the consumer was on board with that.
ARENSTEIN: Was going to be interested in that?
HOROWITZ: It was all prospective. There were no real subscribers. There were HBO subscribers. It was the beginnings of the program cable business. Did some research on consumers subscribing to HBO. Actually, did a lot of work on guides at the time; the HBO small guides and the bigger guides. What was the name of our big guide provider? TVSM?
ARENSTEIN: Something like that. Yeah.
HOROWITZ: Out of West Chester, PA (home of TVSM).
ARENSTEIN: But here where we’re sitting here in New York City, cable at that point was still “I need cable, because I can’t get a good signal from my television.” Correct?
HOROWITZ: Right. And a lot of my business was still in the rural, reception markets who were now selling discretionary products like HBO and delivering guides to HBO and guides to these more limited distribution networks.
ARENSTEIN: What would you typically — well, I know you’re not an HBO spokesman or anything, but what would you find on HBO in those days mostly?
HOROWITZ: By that time, it was a pretty robust movie service. It had gotten away from square dancing. Pretty robust. Movie service and multiple multi-pay service started coming into being that time. All of these ventures were h hampered by lack of addressability and what was a pretty primitive way in which these services were delivered.
ARENSTEIN: All right. So you’re sitting at Arthur D. Little right here at Penn Plaza. And you’re looking at this service that, for the most part, I’m getting it because I live in Manhattan here and the buildings are blocking the signal, basically, of broadcasters. So where do you go from there? You look at a sort of a nascent industry that some people are saying, “Oh, if I could put my own programs on there, we could make some money.” Those are the types of questions that are on the table at that point?
HOROWITZ: Yes. They start it. MTV’s of the world. ESPN of the world. A&E’s of the world. How is this going to unfold and what are consumers interested in? . For my first year, business was pretty brisk. Everybody was happy. I was happy. Company was happy. I developed some good clients. I’m serving quite a bit of America. Not the heartland, but not the heart of urban America or suburban America yet. I got my big break in 1983.
ARENSTEIN: And what was your big break?
HOROWITZ: I got invited to go visit the NCTA by Char Beales at the time who was head of research and other things, I think. But this involved research. She had me in, and Tom Wheeler was her boss and Char said, “Howard, we need to do some research on urban suburban areas of the United States.” Our members are about to invest heavily in this. Wall Street has some questions. Programmers have some questions. Questions about the relationship between content and subscription. We need to bring the consumer into this picture. And we want you to do a research project.” It was a project that was very important to the industry, and I took advantage of being in the right place at the right time. I took advantage of the fact that not too many other people were studying television as a subscription, consumer product at the time.
ARENSTEIN: Because, let’s face it. At this point, it’s a pretty — as I said, it’s a nascent business.
HOROWITZ: Television is an eyeballs business. My form of research is not exactly common at the time. There was some of my form of research out there for the broadcasters, pretty much restricted to local broadcasters. It was restricted to developing their news program where there is competition in consumer choice in the market. But other than that, it was a strange application of the research skills of traditional market research. That is because nobody just bought television; everybody just watched television. The question — a little bit from hindsight, but really the question that I was asked to answer boiled down to: Who will pay for television when television is free? That was the question of the hour, at the time. An interesting part of the story of this is research is that I left the meeting with Char emptyhanded.
ARENSTEIN: You left NCTA?
HOROWITZ: Yes, left that meeting emptyhanded, as did Char. We got all through discussing this major, major study for the billions about to be invested. I ask, What’s the budget.” Char says, “Well, about $30,000.” I said, “Char, I can’t touch this for $30,000.” I don’t think I can touch this for less than $200,000. We’re not even close. She says, “Well, that’s what we’re spending.” So there went whatever thoughts or dreams I had of the seriousness of wanting to talk to consumers and understand a whole new business. I went home, thought about it, and literally slept on it. This was a big invite. I didn’t want to be negative. I’ve always been a realistic and honest with my clients. I woke up. I literally woke up in the morning and said, “We can do this.” I called Char back and said, “Char, we can do it.” “How are we going to do it?” she said, “Well, if you’re with me on this, we’re going to create a private good for each of your individual members and leave with a public benefit. So, if we can identify together a bunch of your members who are about to build these markets. Let’s do a research project in each of their, respective, markets and put a price on it that they have to pay. They will pay, because they’re going to get the research on that market. And if we put together a collection of these, the collection will be the residual that the NCTA gets for cross-market information. In the end, we actually put together 14 cable systems. 14 areas about to be built. One or two of them, I think, were already around. But in any case, there were 14 participants. I believe each one was getting a $13,000 bill.
ARENSTEIN: There’s your $200,000 there.
HOROWITZ: And then, the NCTA got that. The NCTA Segmentation Study, which turned out to be, by every measure, a seminal work in the business. Really part of the launch of program cable television. Basically, you can say, well, NCTA wanted the hypothesis that people will pay for television when it’s free. The research did show that. But from hindsight, I can be forgiven that connection — because, it turned out to be pretty prescient. It was not false information. It was a real assessment.
ARENSTEIN: Right. But again, I guess we should say at this time, the nation — the country — what percent of the country had cable at this point? Had cable systems, would you say?
HOROWITZ: Oh goodness. 30 percent.
ARENSTEIN: Thirty percent. Okay.
HOROWITZ: Not even, but that’s the number I recall either then or soon after.
ARENSTEIN: That’s a small percentage. Relatively small percentage. Okay. So you’ve done this study for Arthur Little.
HOROWITZ: While I was working at Opinion Research Corporation, I did this study. It was presented to the executive board. Caught quite a lot of headwind; it was controversial. A lot of the programmers objected. Especially, the old broadcasters. The first tomatoes thrown at the study were thrown in, I think, Amelia Island, wherever it was, Florida “I can’t believe the study said that documentaries are going to be successful. Documentaries have never been successful in the television business. We really have trouble believing this study,” was the gist of the skepticism. I spoke to the challenge and talked about the data that showed that it’s a different business model; it’s not the broadcaster business model. We’re not — no longer — talking strictly majority rule numbers. There are segments in the market –for which this type of content, e.g., documentaries, will be important. Etcetera, etcetera. That was the tone of the conversation. On the other hand, I – and Char – had our heroes and supporters in this important drama. Bob Miron and Ralph Roberts I recall quite fondly were stand out and stand up supporters. I am guessing, just guessing, they had the kind of change and opportunity in mind that our research, in turn, stood out and supported.
ARENSTEIN: And these principles still apply today?
HOROWITZ: Yeah. About a week later, after that meeting, I was in Allen & Company’s offices. They called me and asked, “Would you come meet with us?” They asked, “Do you really stand by what you said about documentaries?” I said, “Yes, I do. It’s one of the top performers in this new structure of –” “Oh, thank you very much.” Then, went home. They didn’t invite me to invest with them, but then they put their money in Discovery.
ARENSTEIN: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. Entertainment and discovery communicates.
HOROWITZ: That history is part of the business, and there were a lot of those conversations following that study. I don’t know if they were convinced by my data, but the investment happened. The banks opened up. Cable industry in the late ‘80s built the systems that we now enjoy.
ARENSTEIN: Sort of paved the way for the Internet too if you want to put it that way.
HOROWITZ: Absolutely. –Some call it disruptive, but it’s really a straight line. Almost linear line from there through addressability, and then through satellite. And then we’ve got to get through digital. We end up in this sequence to the Internet.
ARENSTEIN: All right. So when does your company — when does the Horowitz company start? Not too long after this, I guess.
HOROWITZ: Not too long after ’83. This was ’83. Horowitz Associates Inc. at the time, opened its doors on July 7, 1985. And it really grew out of my relationships to several people in the business. Having been there and working closely with my clients. There were no research departments or anything, so I had a very intimate relationship. I wasn’t working with the research manager. I was commissioned basically from the top to work with them. And then, I said, “I’m thinking about starting my own company.” Had those conversations, about leaving Arthur D. Little. I’m sort of catching the entrepreneurial spirit.
ARENSTEIN: Must’ve rubbed off from some of the cable people you met.
HOROWITZ: I think so. A couple of my clients encouraged me to do that. Made no explicit promises or anything. Basically, said, “We work with you a lot. We expect we would continue to work with you. You might want to think about it. That’s who we are if you want to be that way as well.” And included in that group was Bill Bresnan and Margaret Richebourg. Included in that group was Ron Dorchester from Prime Cable. A couple other marketing people. Marshall Cohen from MTV Networks at the time. I said, “I’m going to do it.” And the rest is my history.
ARENSTEIN: Right, right. But let me just ask you one question in here. Again, maybe we’re beating a dead horse, but did you get people saying — not in the cable market. This very small market at this point. Did you get people outside the business saying, “Howard, what are you doing? What is this subscription television? Why are you starting a company to research about that? It doesn’t — it’s too small.”
HOROWITZ: I didn’t really get that. I guess I was too insular. Part of my story that you’re getting at nicely is I was never really part of the research business. I was always part of the cable business. I came out of political polling straight into this research for the cable business. And it was actually a smart move. It was scary for me, but it was a smart move. I was young. It was a smart move, because of what had occurred after the NCTA Segmentation Study. So, I had these cable system operators as my clients– but now all the programmers wanted to talk to me, because I had supported their business models in this whole period making the connection between content and cable. There was no other research out there.
ARENSTEIN: I understood, but let me bust a bubble just a little bit here. When you say all the programmers, you could’ve probably fit them into this room here, right?
HOROWITZ: That was —
ARENSTEIN: No, I just want to add perspective.
HOROWITZ: No, it is perspective, but I — from 30 years of hindsight, can say this upfront. I already had success in a business, and it was an entrepreneurial situation I was put in anyway. They said, “Open an office and create this business for us.” I created it for them. So then it became very compelling. So create it for yourself.
ARENSTEIN: All right. So that’s in ’85, you said. Well, Howard, things don’t last forever, but your firm has. At least up to now, it has.
HOROWITZ: That has been the reaction instead of the opposite of what you said before. The reaction now has been, “Boy, it’s been a long time.”
ARENSTEIN: No, but, I mean, in this business where things change so quickly, anything that even lasts for five to 10 years — a television show — a series that lasts 10 years, it’s really hard to name some. It’s very hard to name them. But you’ve been around for a while, and you’re still going strong. So great. Congratulations. How did things look in ’85? How many people did you have on staff in the beginning?
HOROWITZ: In ’85, on my own, only had one person on my staff. She had her own career in the business. Her name was Grace Ascolese who went on to work for CTAM and is now, actually, has her own consulting company. She was the only employee and we located the offices at a typing service. So we had an office and a typing service — was how we started the company back in ’85.
ARENSTEIN: And it was here in Manhattan?
HOROWITZ: No, it was in Mamaroneck, New York.
ARENSTEIN: Mamaroneck. Sure. Okay.
HOROWITZ: Actually, it was sort of good family planning at the time. When I located the office, I said, oh, I am now in the cable business, sort of like Bill Daniels. I spend more time going to the airport than I do in Manhattan. So that two hours a day commute, I actually need if I’m going to spend some time with my family. I actually need that time working. I located the office up there close to where I lived. I lived in Westchester all this time. And that two hours a day, I think, was an important gain. It’s a lot actually. So that’s where we were located.
ARENSTEIN: So let’s break a little bit and tell me about your family.
HOROWITZ: Well, I’m married to Alisse Waterston who is Professor of Anthropology at John Jay College CUNY. Alisse Waterston is also currently the President of the American Anthropological Association. The current President. She’s got another year on her term. She was involved in the business in the ‘90s. We’ll probably get to that. We, together, have three wonderful children all which have grown and out of the home. Quite successful on their own. Matthew is her son. He’s actually in the television production business. He does sessions like this in other contexts, of course. And my son, Dan, who is actually a stylist in the production business. Goes back and forth between New York and LA. And our daughter, Leah, who is our daughter together, who is a Williams graduate. Now, three years out of school, is working at an art gallery called Luhring Augustine in Chelsea and has launched her own successful career.
ARENSTEIN: Excellent. All right, so let’s get back to your story. You’ve got this new company in Mamaroneck. You have one person working for you at that point. How do you grow? What are you doing at that point, and did the people who said they would come in and work with you, did they do it?
HOROWITZ: They did. They did. At that time, we’re now forgetting with all the ownership changes — at the time, it was Warner Brothers or Time Warner or MTV — The Movie Channel — were clients. As was Prime Cable. Mainstays. Group W was important client at the time. A&E quickly became a client. I guess those were the important ones in the beginning. But basically, I have to say that everybody in the business was my client. Really was. Not that they didn’t use other researchers, but they used us as well. Again, we were in a very isolated environment. Nobody else was doing it. It wasn’t big business. I travelled around the country meeting with clients, creating projects. We create surveys. I had freelancers, gradually added one or two staff people at a time. So into the ’90s, we had carried six or eight people. Into the 2000s, we’d grown a little bit more to eight to ten people. Now, we’re 15 to 18 people. So not huge, but —
ARENSTEIN: Good size. Are you still at Mamaroneck?
HOROWITZ: No. We’re in New Rochelle. We quickly moved. Did graduate from the one-room — not schoolhouse, but the one-room type place to modest offices in Larchmont, which is the town I lived in. That office took care of six to eight people for a long, long time. In fact, it took care of us until four years ago now, we found bigger space in New Rochelle. That’s where we’ve been for the last four years.
ARENSTEIN: And how would you — I mean, this is a hard question, because it takes a lot of time in it, but how would you characterize your research back then and today? How has it changed? And how is it — it must be completely different, because the industry is completely different.
HOROWITZ: It has changed. So we’re in the business of — we talked about longevity — the business of questions. So each time with technological advances, a lot of questions. So that was good for our business. The nature of the questions changed as well. In the beginning, like the NCTA study, our research was mostly quantitative surveys. Telephone or customer service — surveys developed at the time in the late ’80s. Early ’90s. Also, related to politics were the franchise wars and franchise commitments. It was one of the major commitments by the people who awarded the franchises about serving customers, and you need to keep track of that. It was a big part of the business. It’s also a numbers game in terms of how many people are interested in a vertical music service or a sports service from the content side. And it was a big “how many” game, because programmers were selling the operators who had the subscribers. As we move further along, it became more nuanced and more qualitative. It wasn’t just selling in and getting carriage. Now, it’s actually understanding how to carry customers. With the introduction of addressability — cable sales and marketing became more nuanced, as well. It became a real marketing game. So our research added qualitative elements to our focus groups and other forms of one-on-one in-depth interviewing. We became more skilled in those areas and hired more people in those areas and added that to our work for clients.
ARENSTEIN: As the business takes off and the business grows, what about your role? Is your role — does the managerial part increase as the analysis part and the real research part decreases? What do you do? How do you do that or do you balance that?
HOROWITZ: I balance it. A lot of hands-on research for me until very recently. I would say a good demarcation of that was in the downturn that we all suffered through in 2008 — 2009. Cost me several good employees at the time. And we came back from that very strongly and very quickly. And my two key people had matured — one who handles research operations and the other — Adriana Waterston, the account facing woman and Nuria Riera, my research director, became more accomplished. I’ve stepped back more into financial managerial role. But before then, I was very involved. I actually prided myself on pretty much reading everything that left the company. I guess I’ll say in a positive way, I’m glad that I can no longer do that. So my role has changed, and I’m actually looking forward to transition the business to Nuria and Adriana. I’m very interested.
ARENSTEIN: Okay. Can we break some news here or not?
HOROWITZ: No, we can’t break any news, but you can break the next that it will happen in the next six months.
ARENSTEIN: So what about social media? Do you track that as well?
HOROWITZ: We track social media as far as how our consumers are involved. As you know, we not only do custom work. For the past 20 years, we were doing syndicated work where we study consumers on our own, that is, commission our own research and sell those reports to the industry. And social media’s become a big part of our results in so far as its impact on the television video viewing experience and purchase? And, of course, there are negative aspects in terms of time and attention and where the advertising dollars go. Then, there are positive aspects as a new vehicle of promotion and search and discovery, etcetera. So we do track it. In that way, social media companies are not directly our clients about how to grow that particular business or do social media, but we study it as it impacts our clients. It’s this weird interesting position we are in now, especially for the purposes of this conversation. We work with traditional — now, they’re traditional — cable operations and cable networks. And we’ve maintained that same core clientele. They look to us from the consumer point of view to understand the new business of digital internet access, etcetera. As opposed to working for those on the disruptive side looking to get a piece of the cable business we are working with our traditional clients to learn a new business to defend their own turf and to take advantage of new opportunities. The same thing for social media. We’re working for our clients to understand it to turn it to advantage and also to understand it strategically.
ARENSTEIN: Howard, I want to talk about — as a journalist, of course I’ve benefited by your work, and you’ve been very helpful and Adriana’s been great as well. But I know one of the things that you pride yourself on, and you should, and something that I worked on many times with you was research about multicultural marketing and urban marketing and things like that. Which, I know is something near and dear to your heart. Why don’t you talk about some of the things that you did there and why cable has such a great record in this?
HOROWITZ: Well, first, thank you for asking about that. It’s a major element of our business. And it is a growth area for the business. You ask how our business has changed. A good answer now would’ve been a focus on multicultural research. And when doing multicultural, it is more nuanced and less about majorities, but about qualitative aspects of life and culture. The change it came about in a very quantitative kind of way, as it should be. Quantitative research indicated a sound business basis for understanding these markets beyond numbers The woman, I mentioned a little earlier as my wife is an anthropologist; she worked at the firm at the time. She was actually in transition; she was actually getting her PhD at the time. She was transitioning from teaching to a different career as a qualitative researcher, but working with our data. Might have even been customer service data or whatever we were researching at the time. I think it was on a large market like Chicago or Boston or New York. I don’t remember which. And she brought the data into the office and said, “Do your clients know that African American, Hispanic, and Asian audiences are you best customers?” I said, “You know, I don’t really think they know that.” There are a lot of issues of where they want to build out in their franchises. There are some issues now with the cities now and how they’re going to build these franchises. And these neighborhoods might even be being avoided. So this is very interesting data. We ought to pursue this. So she pursued it. This is in the early to mid ‘90s. And we took it to our clients. Met quite a bit of resistance actually. The demographics aren’t there. This is a subscription business. Sounds nice, but this was a business. We thought the business was really here and that the demographics they were looking at were not what they should be looking at. In fact, one of the ways we finally got traction was convincing some of our clients that they are looking at demographics one way, but actually, these demographics is what makes your products so compelling. This is close to home, at home. It’s their television. It is entertainment people can afford. Won’t have to travel to. It’s really quite well priced. You ought to think about it a little differently. But we did that for — struggled with it for –four or five years. Actually, it wasn’t really a growth sector at all at the time. Alisse, in her inimitable style, said this is about educating our clients. She formulated a study called State of Broad Band Urban Markets. And we were advised, by the way, that “urban” may not be the best marketing term for this product if it were going to sell. . In any case, that struggle became history with the publication of the 2000 census. So the census was sort of our marketing wings, being talked about by all the pundits in all marketing spheres. They were writing about the 2000 census and what it shows about the future of America. All of a sudden, we became popular again for understanding these markets. And we’ve built our business around the notion that multicultural America is America. If you have to think in terms of “them” — can you tell us something about “them”? you’re off on the wrong track. If you can start to internalize that it’s about us and about our whole business in general, then we’re talking a growth market. And that’s been an important element of our research and philosophy going forward.
ARENSTEIN: Let me just add one thing. You modestly said you struggled with it, but you were vocal about it for so long. You were one of the only voices out there. I mean, just personally when I would write about diversity week, we would always come to you. Yeah, it was a struggle for a long time. You’re right. You’re right.
HOROWITZ: Yeah, it was. We liked it as a good cause, also. We were advocates as well. We felt like advocates. But ultimately, it really s is good business.
ARENSTEIN: It’s good business. Exactly. You know, I want to talk about a couple of other things. You said earlier in the interview in the oral history that you kind of drank the cable Kool-Aid. You became not a researcher or an analyst. You were part of the cable industry. Indeed, that’s how everybody thinks about you, Howard. One of the things that’s very important to you and is a very important industry activity is SkiTAM — tell us about your involvement with that. Are you a skier?
HOROWITZ: I am. I am a skier.
ARENSTEIN: Okay. Coming from that part of New York, I would say, yeah, why not?
HOROWITZ: I am a skier. We were not early in the SkiTAM game. It was one of those events that belonged to the big tech engineering firms and programmers. And as we — I forget exactly where we started with SkiTAM. Many, many years. Ten years, maybe, at least. Actually, probably longer. Probably closer to 15 years. It’s difficult to think in terms of so many years and date myself. In any case, we did get involved and went to SkiTAM. Probably thought of it as a good networking event. Clients were there and we got taken by the cause
ARENSTEIN: You got swept up.
HOROWITZ: Got swept up by SkiTAM and became heavily involved in SkiTAM where we do the research for them — we’re the official research company of SkiTAM. It’s part of our sponsorship. And we’ve also taken SkiTAM on the road and now work in Lake Placid with the Empire State games with their adaptive program. So it’s become a big part of our lives as well as supporting SkiTAM. As far as an industry story is concerned, it’s a great, great story. The way we really got involved is we showed up with our team at the opening reception, and John Kreamelmeyer, who was the Nordic development coach at the time, was our athlete. There weren’t enough athletes to go around, and we were assigned an older gentleman, a wonderful guy. We met him and, as it were, we invited him out to dinner with us, which was customary for sponsoring teams. Then, he said, “Could I bring Andy Sole, one of my athletes?” And Andy came to dinner; he had lost both legs in a — what do you call it? I forget the initial. IED or whatever it’s supposed to be.
ARENSTEIN: Oh, improvised explosive device. Yeah. IED.
HOROWITZ: In Afghanistan. Lost both his legs. He was standing upright on his prosthetics; he came to dinner. And we heard his story. And at that point, I had asked John, “So what’s happening in Lake Placid, the big Olympic venue, as far as adaptive sports is concerned?” He said, “Nothing that I know of.” I said, “Well, that’s really unfortunate. It really should be different. So that was our inspiration to bring it back east. So we don’t have SkiTAM, but Adaptive Spirit does support our efforts. The current name for SkiTAM, the founding organization, is Adaptive Spirit. They fund us up at Lake Placid every February. Everybody’s welcome if they want to come view the games. [REFERRING TO EARLY QUESTION FROM SETH ABOUT “MEN IN SHORTS”). So the men and shorts story is actually an important story for the business. And that was the start for the CTAM Research Conference, which became a big part of CTAM. So there were a small group of us researchers at the time, mostly from the programmers who were worried about Nielson numbers and measurement. Sometimes, they had those numbers, and sometimes they didn’t. I had my company. I actually don’t remember any competing companies being there at the time. It was basically an industry event. And basically, CTAM research started out as a boondoggle for a few — maybe five– guys in shorts who showed up at the McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona. We were going to exchange notes about research. We did that. We had a good time around the pool. Went out to dinner. Did that for a couple of years, and what started as a conference for introverted men-in-shorts turned it into an extroverted kind of major CTAM conference over the years. And that’s been part of the history of CTAM and NCTA until recently. Important changes, which we might get to.
ARENSTEIN: Okay. Howard, it sounds like you’ve met everybody, known everybody in the industry. Are a few of them standout as mentors, as guides to you that you want to mention in your oral history?
HOROWITZ: Ron Dorchester — Mark Greenburg who worked for him at the time — were major mentors as far as learning the business and learning about cable operators and what they’re concerned about. Understanding the impact of cap ex and addressability on marketing and what budgets were all about. So that was a major element in understanding the cable operations business. Also, Bill Bresnan and his team, Margaret Richebourg in her day — that whole team — were very instrumental in learning that part of the business as well. Also, Pete Gatseos who was a researcher for ATC then TCI. At the time, he was an important mentor on business and research needs. Then, on the programming side, I mentioned Marshall Cohen who was actually a colleague at Dresden, Morris, & Tortorello. We both went over to the cable business, me indirectly, in different ways. And who else on the programming side? Sean Bratches and Artie Bulgrin at ESPN. Important connections and mentors on that side of it. Dan Davids, Ted Yorio at A&E at the time were important colleagues. And of course I have to recall Bob Miron– and Ralph Roberts back at the very beginning without whose support at the time my career in the business may never have taken off.
ARENSTEIN: Sure. And you mentioned Char.
HOROWITZ: Oh, Char Beales. Of course. Of course. I mentioned her earlier, so she won’t accuse me later of having forgotten her in this. For the record, Char, first, and then Bob Miron and Ralph Roberts were crucial supporters at just the right moment in cable history.
ARENSTEIN: No, no. I know you’re a Cable Pioneer. What’s it like to be a Cable Pioneer? At a relatively young age, I would say, too.
HOROWITZ: Two reactions to Cable Pioneer. First of all, it was a great feeling to be a Cable Pioneer in having been selected. And the whole application process — the whole — similar to this, having laid out as history for the — so, it’s quite a gratifying experience. Then, the other reaction was the one of — well, I guess I’ve now outdated myself.
ARENSTEIN: Well, I don’t think so, but — as I said, you’re kind of a young Cable Pioneer at that point, right?
HOROWITZ: No, well, I was young. I think one of the reasons I’m considered a pioneer is because it brought the research function to the cable industry and stuck with it through all these years of the business of programmed cable television, addressability and the satellite era. The broadband era, the transition to digital era and now, the internet television era. So that sort of makes me a pioneer. I’ll tell you the other similar experience, which is actually more recent. This summer, I finished my 46th peak of the Adirondacks. I did it this past summer with another good friend and cable colleague, Nomi Bergman. I’m now a 46er. There are 46 high peaks of the Adirondacks. Those folks from the Rockies will forgive me. We have 46 peaks that are over 4,000 feet. (laughs) I’ve done all 46, and I had the same exact feeling when I reached the peak of the 46th.
ARENSTEIN: Oh wow. As being a Cable Pioneer?
HOROWITZ: Cable Pioneer.
ARENSTEIN: Oh wow. Was Les Read by there? Was he there to announce you coming into the 46th peak?
HOROWITZ: He wasn’t there.
ARENSTEIN: No, he wasn’t there? Well —
HOROWITZ: I should tell Les, so I could maybe tell the story at the next Pioneers’ dinner. And when are we going to have that? Have to think about that.
ARENSTEIN: Okay. Howard, let’s talk about some legacy questions. I mean, I’m dying to ask you. You’ve been through all these different transitions in cable. Can you put on your prognosticator’s hat and tell us what we’re going to be doing in five years in terms of cable or are we going to be — are we still going to have linear television? Are we going to be able to watch just about everything and really make it TV everywhere? Are we going to watch everything on our phones and — what are we going to be doing?
HOROWITZ: Well, we’ll not be watching everything on our phones. Nobody does that now, as much as the leading-edge data makes us worry about watching on the phones. A mandate for us all and for my clients –is that we need to deliver our content and services to those devices. So the future is on all of these devices, and the future, though, for the big screen, fixed-based television is also extremely bright. I think we’ve all gone through this millennial stage, which has as much to do with delayed family formation and delayed household and real estate formation, which cable businesses depend on. And we’re about to come out of that. The human race continues, and millennials do form their own families, their own careers, their own fixed-based lifestyles. And our mandate is to make sure we understand all the new digital control habits that they have learned in the course of their ten-year hiatus that they’re going to expect to bring to their fixed-base, larger screen experience. And if we successfully do that, we remain in a growth business. And of course, the at-home failures at the time become, of course, the lead up to a huge opportunity to a place that we really want to be. At-home will probably go down as a success story as opposed to a failure now that the cable business is in the broadband delivery business. Nothing more crucial to the world in general and to the US economy and to all economies within the US. I think the big secret to delivering the American dream to multicultural America going forward is on this broadband pipeline, to put it in sort of the shortest terms I can put it.
ARENSTEIN: I don’t think there’s anybody better placed to talk about cable’s legacy. What’s cable’s legacy?
HOROWITZ: Goodness. So many aspects to it. I’ll start with some fundamentals of cable’s legacy before leaping to what I think is cable’s ultimate legacy. Before taking this leap, I want to say that cable’s legacy lies in entrepreneurship, in being a technology and method of delivering television that, on the one hand, is considered to have, in its day, disrupted the entire business of television, and, on the other, that generated astronomical growth for the whole business of television. It’s a paradox that may be about to repeat itself as we now enter, I think, a whole new era, a new golden age of television. Video takes up more of our day and video is a more important part of our life. And underneath all that, underneath entrepreneurship, is choice in television. So many networks and so much delivery of content. It’s all part of the cable business’s legacy. Now, I think I can say the next thing, take that leap referred to earlier. The cable folks have actually transformed themselves into a different world, a different business. Looking back, now, we can say that cable’s real legacy is as a transitional technology. It was sort of the manual delivery of TV everywhere. TV all the time. 200 channels. I can find what I want to watch in some vertical sense — music, sports, movies, documentaries, etcetera — in a very primitive kind of way. By flipping channels. The new era is simply that we no longer have to do that. We now have random access to the content. We are now in a great stage of figuring out how to monetize all that access, how to control all that access and choice. Is there opportunity in consumer control, or is it just a challenge and a problem and bad for business? Of course, I take the attitude, and I think I have the evidence, that it’s a growth opportunity, and that it will be a growth opportunity going forward. So looking back, a lot of people are approaching me and asking, “Are we the cable business anymore? Should we be the cable business anymore? Are we the Cable Center anymore?” These questions sound sinister. Actually, we can be proud of these questions because it’s all the legacy of the cable business and the entrepreneurs that built it. Those pipes are still delivering everything, everywhere in better, more convenient ways.
ARENSTEIN: Howard, we talked about that big break you had with NCTA and Char. Can you delve into that study a little bit more?
HOROWITZ: Seth, I’m glad you came back to that. I wanted to talk about the Truck Chasers.
ARENSTEIN: Now, what are the Truck Chasers?
HOROWITZ: I think the Truck Chasers may actually define my legacy, for better or worse. The b NCTA Segmentation Study was built around discovering the segments of America that were interested in potentially new content delivered over the cable wires. So if we have sports and movies and drama and documentaries and all the different types of content, there are going to be different segments around each. So how did the data fall? It sort of fell out on a continuum. At one end of the continuum was those people who were most interested. And they had certain demographics, certain characteristics, and certain content they were interested in. On the other end of the spectrum, which the cable industry wasn’t much interested in, were the people who weren’t interested in anything. Three networks were even too much for this group of folks. Then, there were the folks in the middle who had different nuanced issues that they were most interested in. So because it was the first research, and we were taking this to Wall Street and to the public, we labeled each of these segments. We labeled the least interested as the “No Thank You” segment. You’ve probably never heard of the “No Thank You” segment
HOROWITZ: Okay. I actually forget the name of the second to last segment myself. The third segment in terms of numbers, we call the “Entertain Me” segment. These were the folks interested in premium. Their key interest was in movies. And there were some sports fans in that group, but their key interest was movies. A limited, but valuable vertical they were third, because they were limited in the breadth of their interest. And the next highest we called the “Basic Buts”.
ARENSTEIN: Is that two T’s or one?
HOROWITZ: No. One T. “Basic But” with three letters. It wasn’t a very creative name. Didn’t get any traction either. They were interested in a lot of different documentaries and different basic type cable channels. Not that interested in paying for movies. You’ve got to pay for movies. We tried to be realistic in the study. It wasn’t like you could be interested in movies and they were going to be free. It was going to be in some price range. So these folks were not interested in paying those kind of dollars for television. Then, there were the people who were interested in everything. We want more. We called them the “Truck Chasers.” By our measures, we figured they would literally chase the cable truck down the street if it arrived to deliver all this content. Of course, the industry loved the name. It was a great one-word summary. And conference after conference, speech after speech through the late ’90s. I think I could probably find this as late as 1998. People referring to the Truck Chasers. Fifteen years later.
ARENSTEIN: So that’s your legacy.
HOROWITZ: That’s my legacy with regard to programmed cable television — the Truck Chasers. That legacy carried us through addressability and the real ability to bring this content to market. We were all hamstrung until 1988, because you couldn’t really market to the masses, because it would cost you too much to service them. But once you could flip a switch to deliver, then the era of programmed cable, and marketed programmed cable came to be.
ARENSTEIN: You know, we’re hearing all these stories now about fake news and fake research. Somebody dubbed this era the post-truth era. Facts don’t matter anymore. As a researcher and as a — I guess I could call you a political junkie. How does that make you feel?
HOROWITZ: It’s highly disturbing. This notion of truth is very difficult. Obviously, it’s going to be an important issue going forward. I will say, being in the media business and looking at truth, first of all, it’s in our television business as well as online. And there are no controls over it. We’re a free speech society. I think in the current era the model of the fourth estate has been breached. We have a system that is very difficult when our media or spokespeople are partisan spokespeople and not journalistic observers and critics of the system. Whatever the earlier criticisms of limited news being controlled by a few big outlets, l there was still this concept of the fourth estate. I probably take an unpopular view in business circles. I think we need to look to Canada and Europe for examples. And even Australia. I bring up Australia only because some of this comes from there – The kind of journalism I am talking about that has been harmful to our system has come from Britain and Australia. But why is it that it works there and does not work here? It’s because they have the BBC, and they have Canadian Broadcasting Company. And we, of course, have PBS. PBS has nowhere near the level of support, power and attention of these national broadcast outlets, but we do have a model by which standards can be set to avoid what we’re facing now. What we are facing in the news business is the incessant assault of bad money that is driving good money out of the marketplace. So we need good money that just can’t be driven out. PBS needs to be a part of our constitution; it needs to be a public source of information with no other interest but to try to achieve the truth. I personally think that that public media would set a standard that would enable the free market to thrive without being a race to the bottom. . You can try and lie all you want, but it’s not going to be so easy to do that. That is my take on the both the problem and the prospect with regard to “fake” news.
ARENSTEIN: Okay. Thank you so much. This has been fun, I’ve really enjoyed it.
HOROWITZ: Thank you. So did I
END OF INTERVIEW