Interview Date: 1999
Interview Location: New York, NY USA
Collection: WICT 20th Anniversary Collection Project
McENROE: My name is Kate McEnroe. I’m the president of American Movie Classics Network.
INTERVIEWER: How did you initiate–become involved in the cable industry?
McENROE: How I initially became involved in the cable industry is actually through a conversation I had with Bill Daniels about 15 or 16 years ago. The first women’s professional basketball league had been started, and Bill had been, at that point, investing in different sports franchises. And I had contacted him to investigate his interest in purchasing one of the franchise leagues, and from the women’s pro basketball league, at that point, that was here in New York. And flew out there, did the whole performance, talked to him about the growth of women’s sports entitled, nine passing–the title of mine was a bill that passed in 1976, and that we felt there was going to be a significant explosion in women’s sports and that he should really think about capitalizing it. He looked at me and said, honey, you couldn’t give me any sports franchise right now. He had just lost–went bankrupt on the Utah Stars at that point, and had been in several boxing ventures that failed. And he said, but I think your tenacity and your spirit would do well in this new venture called, Rainbow Programming, and I’d like you to meet Jerry Maglio. So I interviewed Jerry. I accepted the job, and at that point had gone back home for the holidays and also had gotten a job offer from Campbell Mathunes[?] It was an ad agency in Minneapolis. I went to pack up my boxes from my apartment, and to tell Jerry that I really decided I was going to stay in the advertising agency business. And I went to resign the first day, but he kept me so busy three weeks later, I couldn’t leave. The pace of the industry, and the creativity was somewhat breath taking, and basically he never had time for me to resign.
INTERVIEWER: How would you characterize the industry when you first entered it?
McENROE: When I first entered the industry, the rules hadn’t been written, and–not that they’re even written still today, but everything was new, every idea was worth considering, and every way to improve was to improve the network, to improve the marketing, to improve the communications. Those were significant issues for the industry at that point in time, because, again, the rules just hadn’t been written yet, and back in the early ’80s we were writing them.
INTERVIEWER: What about now, where do you see cable and telecommunications going in the next five or ten years?
McENROE: I think over the last 50 years, television has really made a major revolution in the way we think, in the way we live, in our family lives, and in entertainment. And I think the cable television industry in the early ’80s provided really what the creation of television didn’t have prior to that, and that was more broad base, and not the lowest common denominator programming. And I think that’s what we really built up over the last 20 years, and some very high quality network, not programming to the lowest common denominator. Where I think the next 20 or 30 years becomes is television that has been somewhat linear in nature where a programming decides what you want to watch when they want to program it. All of that will change in the next five years. The technology is such that everything from VOD to talking the intelligence of the Internet, and applying it to the set top box and program networks will really make the whole television experience something that will revolutionize this industry in the next five years. Where today you have a visual experience with a network, in the next several years, there will have to be user components in this visual experience.
INTERVIEWER: Let’s talk about you. Could you tell me some of the components of your personal success?
McENROE: I think the components of success for, personally, has been a sense of pioneer spirit, and not being faint at heart. And not being afraid of taking on new challenges, and it’s always too easy to say why something shouldn’t be done. It’s more difficult and more challenging to figure out how to get it done whether it’s launching new channels, or whether it’s deploying these set top boxes. I think there’s going to be significant challenges, and it’s not going to be in the future for faint of heart. And always thought of myself as a pioneer and not a historian. I never want to write the history. I wanted to create the history.
INTERVIEWER: What do you see as your greatest professional accomplishment?
McENROE: I think the greatest professional accomplishments to date has been taking what was perceived as old movies, and saying–cleaning them up, restoring them, and presenting them in a museum like quality. And taking what was considered old movies, and turning them into classics. And driving the subscriber base to 20 million homes. I think the other accomplishment is understanding the need for more women’s programming, and moving forward in a very difficult environment and launching Romance Classics. And really making the industry understand the need for additional women’s programming; that the programming in the networks that may have been appropriate in the early ’80s, weren’t appropriate for the new millennium.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think the emergence of the female CEO has changed the contours of the cable industry?
McENROE: I think the change in attitude towards women’s programming is based more on the power, the economic power that women are yielding today, and their influence on the economy right now. Both from paying the bills, and also participating in the new media. 50% of women today are on the Web. 60% own cell phones. 80% write the bills. And when you actually look at women on campuses today, 62% of the total population that are on campuses today are women.
INTERVIEWER: Some successful women have said that it was easier for them to enter the cable industry during its formative years, because there weren’t definite rules. Would you agree with this assessment?
McENROE: I believe that women who were not afraid to take risk back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, this is a wonderful opportunity for them to make a mark.
INTERVIEWER: Some successful women have said it was easier for them to enter the cable industry during its formative years, because there were no definite rules. Would you agree with this assessment?
McENROE: I think back in the early ’70s–late ’70s, early ’80s, that for women who were not afraid to take risk, the opportunities were plentiful. The job market was being created. There wasn’t the stigmatism that were in traditional broadcasting. But the key was that there were no rules, so if you were a high structured individual and weren’t willing to take a risk with this new medium, it was not an appropriate career choice.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any contemporaries you view as role models, or do you have a mentor you remember who helped you through your career?
McENROE: There’s several people I’ve always admired through–from when I joined the industry back in 1982, Kay Koplovitz, partly because she was the president of the network. And back at that point, I was a marketing manager and always thought, oh, my gosh, I want to be Kay Koplovitz someday. And as the time passed in our company, Sheila Mahony who sits on the board of directors of cable vision, and oversees all the franchise and government affairs; both, because she was–she’s very bright and influential. She had a bought with cancer, and she was very strong through it–throughout that whole period and kept a great sense of humor; kept a great perspective, and still continues to guide me today.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any advice for any young people entering the industry, or anything particular you might say to women entering the industry today?
McENROE: The advise I’d give young people today entering this industry is the advise I gave myself years ago, take risks, don’t have–be faint at heart, be creative, and think big.
INTERVIEWER: How would you describe your personal management style? Do you think it evolved over time?
McENROE: It’s still evolving, isn’t it, David? Yes. I think with part of youth, and managing my management style when I was very young was very brash–probably some very aggressive, very little patience, and thinking, oh, I’ll just do it myself.
McENROE: I think as the industry got bigger, more complicated, our networks got bigger and more complicated. Patience became an absolute must, and understanding that it’s not necessarily how one gets the job done, as long as it gets done.
INTERVIEWER: As you obviously know, this is a demanding industry. A lot of folks today are concerned about balancing personal and professional life. Have you developed any strategies to achieve balance? Is it possible?
McENROE: I’m the wrong person to ask about this one. I think it’s very difficult to–I think one can have somewhat balance, but I believe we live in a very stressful society. And within this stressful society, you have to make choices. And it may not be to take that next job, or that next promotion. And in that, trying to achieve balance. But I do think it requires choices that in this–in the media industry, in the entertainment industry, that the requirements, and the demands on your time, if you’re planning to move up the corporate ladder becomes very challenging.
INTERVIEWER: There’s a lot of talk in the early ’90s about the glass ceiling, do you think there ever was a glass ceiling preventing women from reaching their potential–their full potential? If so, does it still exist?
McENROE: I still sense it’s not to the same degree here in the cable television industry, but my sense is there’s still a glass ceiling; otherwise, I don’t think there would be organizations like Women in Cable today. I think the goal in the next century would be that organizations like Women in Cable do not exist.
INTERVIEWER: Do the recent and very dramatic changes in the industry have an effect on women? Are there more opportunities now than previously?
McENROE: The transaction, and the mergers that have happened over the last 12 months is nothing like I’ve seen in the last 20 years. And I think the rules are still not written on what’s going to happen. If it means more opportunities, less opportunities for men and women, and where the future is going to lie. I don’t have a crystal ball at this point.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any involvement in the Women in Cable and Telecommunications?
McENROE: I’m on the board of trustees with them.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have anything you want to say about that?
McENROE: Maybe I’ll reiterate more about–I think the goal of Women in Cable is to no longer exist. And that when women are treated as an equal, that is the point where Women in Cable no longer needs to exist.