Robert Zitter

Robert Zitter

Interview Date: Tuesday September 19, 2006
Interview Location: New York, NY
Interviewer: Tom Umstead
Collection: Hauser Collection

THOMAS UMSTEAD: This is Tom Umstead, programming editor from Multichannel News. This is The Cable Center; we’re putting this together for our oral history and we’re here talking to Bob Zitter, Executive Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer for HBO. Hello, how do you do?


UMSTEAD: I want to start with a little bit of history, your history in particular. Talk to me a little bit about some of the early jobs that you had within the industry. I understand you started with the broadcast television area.

ZITTER: Actually, I went back to college, Tom. When I was in college I was a pre-med but started working at the local campus radio station and really fell in love with that. I got involved in starting a television station at my school and then ran the radio station. So when I graduated, I had a choice to make and I decided not to go to medical school and got a job at ABC television in New York typing the daily network log. They gave me five dollars more a week because I was a college graduate, but it was a foot in the door. I worked at ABC and that was during the Vietnam era, so I was drafted as were many other people. Fortunately, instead of going to Vietnam, I directed television shows for the Army for two years and during that time I also worked at a local television station in Augusta, Georgia and a local radio station during my off-hours, so I really got into it then. After my tour in the Army I went back to ABC and worked there until 1972, and that’s when I made the move into cable television and I did it because I was just getting married and the dream that I had was to learn enough so that someday I could pull together some investment money and at that time I was thinking of buying a radio station or a group of radio stations, something like that, and I wanted to get some management experience of a small communications facility. I really didn’t care whether it was radio or anything else. I found a job in Hagerstown, Maryland and I was hired to be general manager of this cable television system at the age of 25. It was 8,000 subscribers, and needless to say, I knew very little about cable television, certainly knew very little about managing a business, and the owners said that they hired me because they had four managers in four years, each of them supposedly had some expertise and they realized that at that stage of the game no one had any expertise in cable television. So that was how it started for me.

UMSTEAD: Before we move more into cable, what were your first early memories of television as a child?

ZITTER: Well, I was born and really spent some of my youth in Los Angeles, so I watched the television shows that kids did and of course everything was black and white. But it was all what I later learned to be called Kinescope, which meant that the quality on the west coast television was really, really bad. But I watched kids’ shows and I think the first thing that sticks in my memory is there was an oil refinery fire somewhere in the Los Angeles area and you could see the smoke off in the distance, and then I’d be watching the coverage on the news on the TV. I must have been about five because I moved away around the age of six, and it just stuck in my mind that you could see on television the news coverage of what was going on. I didn’t really want to watch news at the age of five. I watched the basic kids’ shows. When we moved to New York and as I was growing up, it was simply normal kids Saturday morning and Sunday morning, vast wasteland cartoons. I think Newton Minow was correct. I was very glad that my kids had something like Sesame Street and the Electric Company to grow up with.

UMSTEAD: Talk to me a little bit about the beginnings of cable. When you came in, cable was in its infancy. What was the environment like back then?

ZITTER: It was very interesting. There were really three areas that stick with me very much. The telephone companies were doing their level best, and this is in the 1970s, to make life difficult for cable television in its infancy, to put them out of business if they could. The telephone companies owned all the power poles and the issue at that time was how much they were going to charge to attach cable wires to the poles. I remember AT&T would come to my office once a year with a contract that was outrageous and there was no way we could afford it, and they’d say “Oh, well, they tell me who signed it.” And I said, “Well, I’m not.” And they go away and they come back next year with more and more people. That became an issue that got a lot of political traction and during my time in Hagerstown I became president of the Maryland Delaware Cable Television Association, and working on trying to make pole attachment fees reasonable was something we spent a lot of time on. The other thing that was very interesting for me was – it seems interesting these days – there was no copyright legislation and so the broadcasters and other people were asserting that cable television operators were stealing their signals without compensations. The operators in Pennsylvania, which was one of the bastions of cable television, were dead set against it and the law of the Supreme Court had ruled that cable wasn’t responsible for paying these fees. At the end of the day I think a number of people recognized politically that the only way this industry could grow would be if we could put this behind us. So there was some proposed copyright legislation, I believe it was 1976, and the hardest issue we had was – and I was one of the people who believed that we needed some legislation, we needed to pay some money, it went into a copyright royalty tribunal at that time – to legitimize cable TV. The difficult fight was within the industry and ultimately it prevailed to get support for the legislation. During that time, a guy named Bob Johnson was head of government affairs for the NCTA and so I spent a lot of my time, I’d go into the cable office in the morning, make sure everything was fine for the day, then drive into Washington which was about an hour and a half away, and I’d spend my time either in Washington or Annapolis lobbying with Bob on the copyright issue or in Annapolis on the pole attachment issue, and the fact that my wife worked in Washington was convenient. We’d go shopping after dinner and then go home.

UMSTEAD: When did you make the move to HBO?

ZITTER: In 1981. I was a cable operator in Maryland for nearly five years and had enjoyed that very much. At that time I had a decision to make. The parent company that owned this cable system was based in South Bend, Indiana, and they were a company that owned newspapers, broadcast stations, and cable systems around the country – a small MSO that’s still in existence called Schurz Communications. They offered me a job of running the electronic media – their broadcast and cable properties – and the president was going to run the newspapers. I was thinking of that or going forward and as I said we had this dream of owning radio stations. I decided to take the job in South Bend. I guess it showed that I was more risk averse than I thought. So my family and I moved to South Bend for five years and in that role the managers of our broadcast stations and cable systems reported to me, I was involved in acquiring new ones and hiring the people to fix problems if they existed. I spent five years there. After that, we had two children and most of our family was in New York and we realized that if we wanted to be close to family that was a good time to move. So it was ’81 that I joined HBO.

UMSTEAD: HBO’s been on the cusp of many technical innovations over the last 20 years actually. Initially, they were one of the first networks to implement scrambling of the signal. How important was that back then and how difficult was that to develop?

ZITTER: HBO has been a pioneer in many respects and technology included. The reason that we do any of the things that we’ve done over the years is not just to be a pioneer, it was because it made good business sense. So for example, if I may, even before we talk about scrambling the satellite signals, HBO was the first television network in the world to use satellite for distribution and the reason we did that was if you wanted to start a television network in those years the only way you could do it was either getting a microwave channel from AT&T or building your own. AT&T had built only three channels across the country; there were only three networks and they would say to people and they said to us, “There’s no more room.” So HBO built a microwave network along with one of our partners called Eastern Microwave – by the way, they became Newhouse and Western Microwave became TCI – and we got as far as New England and as far west as Ohio, and that’s when we realized that if you leased a satellite channel this thing could rain the signal down over the entire United States. At that time the dishes were 11 meters, 30 feet wide, every expensive and so you didn’t have to worry about securing the signal. No one’s going to spend $100,000 on a dish in the 1970s. So when we started transmitting that way it really opened up opportunities for us and others. We had been looking at the typical cost decline of electronic equipment and in the early 1980s when I joined the company, in 1981, one of the first jobs that Ed Horowitz gave me – the person I worked for – was to work on getting our network scrambled. It took us until 1985-’86 to get that done, but what we had projected was that by ’85 or ’86 the cost of the satellite system would be under a thousand dollars and we knew that that would be a consumer product and would mean that if you were a pay television network, as we are, the only money we get is if people are going to pay for the service, so we realized the cost of getting access to our service without paying for it was going to become a reasonable price. So for that reason we started looking and talking to different technology companies seeing what we could put together. We actually found a company that, since none of this existed, this company worked on encryption for the government, they did the encryption systems that were on the B-52 bombers and they worked on video for some of the deep planetary space probes, digital video. So we said, well, if we can put these two together, scramble our satellite signals… So there was the technical side of it and I was not working on that. My job was the business side and to negotiate the deal with these companies, but then at the time to try to convince the cable television industry that this would be not only something we’d like to do but something that would be beneficial to them. The cable operators who operated in rural areas got it and they understood it. I remember having some very difficult debates with… there was a cable company called Warner Amex at that time and they operated in urban areas, and they had no interest in this. They said people in New York or Houston aren’t going to build large satellite dishes, forget it. Even though we were paying for it they just didn’t want to. But eventually we won people over and rolled out the scrambling system in ’86. Technically, like anything new, it had bugs, it took time to work the bugs out. It had an education learning curve to get up with not even the system managers who would make the decisions, but the technical people who had to install this stuff and keep it working. The most novel thing that they never really could get their arms around was that someone in New York could turn on and off the device, the satellite receiver, if you will, in their headend. They realized what that meant when people in our credit and collections department would call some cable operator who forgot to pay the HBO bill, and maybe they forgot for six months or something like that, and he showed them how we would turn off the signal unless we got the check. So it did actually help in our collections.

UMSTEAD: I can imagine! Back then, did you realize how big HBO, in particular, and the cable industry, in general, would become in terms of its distribution and its influence on the television industry?

ZITTER: I think what people saw… When I was a cable operator early on, pay television originally didn’t exist and then HBO and some others started. As a matter of fact, I started my own pay TV service for our local cable system. I didn’t think that HBO was right for us at the time. What some people realized, and I think I bought into it, was that as cable was starting to be more than an antenna reception service and offered choices to people, it became more valuable, particularly if you were going into areas where people could receive over the air four, five, six channels. But what we realized was that at the time – remember, this is before home video, before VHS tapes – the concept of watching television without commercials, and also watching things unedited without changes from the way they were in the movie theater, was something unique and so what many of us believed was, and I think it really became the fact, was that HBO and then other services that followed it really became the driver for why people would buy cable other than to make their pictures better. Did we envision how far it would go? The phrase we used to use at that time inside HBO was this is a rocket ship that’s just on a deep trajectory and we don’t know where it’s going to end up but don’t get in the way. Quite frankly, the business was easier then, much easier than it is now because it was a great concept, it made economic sense for the cable industry and it was a great consumer proposition.

UMSTEAD: Moving into the ‘90s, HBO again sort of advanced the industry but introducing digital compression which helped lead to SVOD, subscription video on-demand, and video on-demand that we all take for granted today. At that time, while it was introduced in the ‘90s, we really didn’t see it implemented until the next decade. What happened in between there and was cable hurt because of that?

ZITTER: Well, let me say initially, I don’t believe that cable was hurt because of that. We were the first television network to introduce digital television in the world, and the reason that we did it was… well, we did it because we were introducing multiplex. Pay television, the growth rate of pay television was plateauing and everyone had different ideas of what to do to supercharge pay TV at the time. We believed that what you needed to do was to give the consumer more choice, more value for the price and our answer was multiplex because we had a lot of content, we had far more content than we could ever put on the air between 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM, prime viewing time. And so we said if we can have more screens so that HBO is more than just one channel that would be a way to add value, to add content. Well, you couldn’t manufacture space on a cable television system and we were talking to people about, actually in those days about high definition, and they were talking about digital technology. We said, well, okay, high definition is going to be a few years out but what if you apply that same thing of compressing the digital signal, digitizing a signal and then compressing it with regular television. So the answer was that in the space of one television channel we could deliver four HBO signals, and we delivered them that way to the cable headends and so we began that in ’92 – excuse me, we announced it in ’92, and did it in the beginning of ’93. What happens with any technology is the first implementation is big and expensive and then all the powers that know how to cost reduce and size reduce do that. So it was affordable for us to buy the digital compression equipment that could at least go one in every headend, and if I remember that equipment maybe was… a decoder was maybe $2,000. But you couldn’t spend $2,000 to put something on a consumer’s set top. The companies that were developing this technology, and at this time it was General Instrument, used our order and our deployment to get their production process online so that they could start reducing the cost because TCI gave them an order that got implemented a few years later at a reduced cost that was suitable for set tops. So the first step was to deliver the signals via satellite digitally, then to lower the costs so that you could do it down to a set top. Now, where cable maybe was at a disadvantage was Eddie Hartenstein and soon thereafter Charlie Ergen recognized that they were able to get the cost down to a price point that could go on a set top and they deployed it before cable did and it was the tool that enabled direct broadcasting. As a matter of fact, the driver of the direct broadcasting services at that time was multiplex pay television, which was the thing that we used to start digital. So the technology was there. TCI worked with General Instrument to reduce the cost and to deploy it but then the DBS guys just rolled it out faster.

UMSTEAD: That was going to be my next question.

ZITTER: The one thing I would say, though, is and I really believe this, I think out of all the things that I’ve been involved with, and HBO’s been involved with, and the industry’s been involved with, the most major advance in technology certainly out of those that we’ve been dealing with has been the move to digital television. It’s been the tool that’s enabled not just on-demand but high definition, internet television, internet video, many production techniques so that you can produce television using a small device. Being able to digitally compress signals I think has changed television forever, and so that’s one we’re very proud of.

UMSTEAD: You mentioned the digital revolution; we’re now in the new millennium and we’re looking at various ways of distributing product digitally, whether it’s cable, whether it’s through portable devices – that’s also brought up a number of issues regarding rights. Is there a balance between the ability to give the consumer what they want when they want it with the whole digital rights situation where we have to protect the rights on the content side?

ZITTER: Absolutely there is. People might be viewing this tape sometime in the future and so to kind of put it in context, when television became digital what people could do with it changed. We’ve always had theft of television signals and HBO as a pay television service has lived with that and thrived. People have been stealing HBO via cable, via satellite, via whatever. But once you digitize a television signal, instead of making one copy at a time you could make a million copies at a time and those copies don’t have to be right in your living room with one tape machine to another tape machine. Those copies can be in China and everywhere else in the world. So the impact of that theft – I don’t like to use the word piracy, I think that’s too sexy – can be more harmful, which just means that the protective measures that we take always need to be evolving. However, I think too many people in the last several years have been focusing on “I have to protect my business, I have to protect what we have” and that’s true, but I very much believe, and I know HBO believes, that if consumers are going to want portability, if they’re going to want to be in London and watch programming that’s on their recorder at home, or watch something from their cable subscription that’s going to be home, we’re going to have to find ways to deal with that. If, with the exception of broadcast television which is free, the consumers pay for cable television whether it’s ad supported or whether it’s premium like HBO, and so I think the answer to your question is we need to be on whatever platforms using whatever technologies consumers want wherever they want the content. We need to have, and we call it protective measures, we call it digital rights management, so that if you’re going to be charging for what you’re doing, and hopefully it’s reasonable prices so that you stay in business – and by stay in business, if the prices are too high no one’s going to buy, if they’re too low you don’t stay in business. So the purpose of the digital rights management is to make sure that people who want it can get it and people who don’t want to pay for it don’t get it. But the mistake the music industry made was they didn’t make their content available in the ways that they consumers wanted it. They didn’t make it available on the platforms, on the technology, and they didn’t even make it available on the business offerings the way consumers wanted. What I mean was they wanted to buy singles and not be forced to buy an album. So our approach at HBO, and what I’ve been working on for the last five years, has been to understand where all this technology is going, to find the ways that we can be there and work with the people at HBO who will create the business models to do that, and then work with our existing distributors, work with new distributors based upon whatever the technology is. And so we regard digital rights management as a tool that’s going to enable more consumer choice. And if I may just for one more piece of it, what that means is that, for example, today in cable television you have pay-per-view for movies, for example, and let’s say for $3 you can watch a movie and if you wanted to buy that movie and keep it forever and take it wherever you wanted to go, you could buy it today on a DVD form and that’s maybe $17. Well, if people were able to digitally master, digitally record that pay-per-view thing for $3 and keep it forever and take it wherever they’re going to go, what’s going to happen is that pay-per-view would no longer be offered. The studios would just make you buy the $17 thing. So what digital rights management is enabling us to do is to create business models that say, okay, you want to watch it for one day, it’s $3. If you want to watch if for a week, it’s a different price. If you want to watch it while you’re on a business trip in Europe, maybe there’s a different business model. If you want to keep it forever and do everything you want with it, okay. Digital rights management would let people come up with all these different choices. What it precludes is giving the consumer the right to take something and to make an unlimited number of copies and send it to everyone they want wherever they want without paying. That was and will still be theft.

UMSTEAD: Will you ever be able to cut the ability of people to steal the signal whether it’s digitally protected or not? Will the pirates always be a step ahead?

ZITTER: Always. One day when I was working for Jeff Bewkes when he was at HBO and I was suggesting to him here are some things we need to do to protect ourselves in this digital era and here’s how much it costs, so Jeff said to me, “Okay Bob, if we do this and this and this we’ll be ahead of them, right?” I said, “No. If you do this you’ll be one step behind and every year you’re going to continue ratcheting it up because people are that way.” Our focus is this: you want to put a lock on the door. It’s really to keep honest people honest. Anyone who’s technically sophisticated is going to be able to break whatever you put there and if you were to spend the kind of money like the National Security Agency or something like that it would not be feasible. So the combination of if you have some technology and then you have laws so that people who break the technology for commercial gain are violating those laws, then those two things I think work hand-in-hand. By and large, if we educate people to recognize that intellectual property is as valuable as physical property and if you steal my car it’s the same as stealing my TV show, that if people understand the ethics of that, by and large most people will be fine as long as you’re offering your products and your services and your content on the platforms and the way that they want. If people want portable devices and we say hell, no, we’re not going to offer them, yeah, it will be stolen. I’ll give you a very good example: everyone talks about piracy today with the internet. I’ve had some conversations with many of the public officials in Canada. HBO is not allowed to sell its services in Canada. It’s one of the named services that the Canadian government has always felt that they wanted to protect Canadian television and programming companies, and so when we started our direct broadcast service, virtually all of the satellite dishes in Canada were pointed to U.S. satellites. When Direct TV started and Echo Star started, most of the… well, the first time the Direct TV security system was pirated the technology to pirate it was developed in Canada, manufactured in South America and distributed everywhere, and it was because no one in Canada was legally allowed to buy the HBO service or other services, but HBO is a popular service. So when you don’t have a product in a way that people want it, they’ll find other ways to get it. So I think our mission is, and HBO’s strategy now, and I and a couple of others have really been involved in formulating it, is as technology evolves and creates new ways for people to use entertainment content and new platforms, we’re going to have to be there. If you’re not, it’s very shortsighted.

UMSTEAD: You mentioned working with the technology along with laws. Are you lobbying Congress right now to try to update the laws that are currently on the books?

ZITTER: Yes! Did you see my travel schedule? What’s very interesting is all of the digital rights management that’s been put in place today, as of today, was done collaboratively between the programming community, cable operators, and the consumer electronics industry and the computer industry, and they’ve come up with all of the technology that’s built into the digital equipment today, and they did it voluntarily by setting up license to which everyone’s agreed. That’s been enabling people like us and others with high value content to make our content available digitally. There’s one problem that exists today that we hope is going to diminish over time in the future where all of the programming that comes into the home comes out of an analog spigot of a set top box, either cable or satellite, and it has to do that because all the television sets are analog and all the VCRs have an analog input, and there’s 250 million of them so they’re not going away anytime fast. So what happens is once a show is on HBO, it’s on the internet within four hours. That’s true with many other services. What happens is that people take that analog video, they digitize it, compress it, then redistribute it on the internet, they burn DVDs, they do all these things that violate the current law which is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. So there are some companies that are looking out for and being protective of this analog recording of DVDs and things like that. Microsoft is doing it on the computer side, but not everyone. So if people from a company in China sell DVD recorders that don’t follow the rules and others follow the rules, there’s an uneven playing field. So we and others believe that there needs to be some legislation that says that if you’re going to have digital content security you have to close this analog hole and make the rules the same for everyone. So we’re hopeful that that’s something that can be addressed in the next Congress.

UMSTEAD: Going forward, cable faces a lot of competition from a number of sources. It used to be just DBS and the broadcast stations. Now you have Apple, Google, My Space, You Tube, even Wal-Mart now distributing content directly to consumers into the home. Where do you see the cable industry going forward in terms of its ability to compete with these various competitors?

ZITTER: Well, first of all, I agree. Competition is growing and is going to continue to grow, and I think, as someone who grew up in the cable industry, that competition is the best thing that ever happened to cable TV and the reason I say that is, look, I was a cable operator when it was a monopolist. I remember my first price increase which was from $4 a month to $5 a month for basic cable, and hearing the thing from people about no alternatives. I think the transition that I’ve been witnessing in the cable industry of just even the mindset with the management of the companies, they needed to bring in people who were coming from competitive businesses, who knew and cared about consumers. I believe in the early days of cable, cable operators didn’t care that much about consumers. Well, now you’d better, and now you better understand consumers. One of the reasons HBO was such a big success in the early years was cable operators didn’t care about marketing. They spent no money on marketing and marketing is understanding your potential customers and then coming up with services for them, and HBO came up with all the marketing plans, funded them, taught the customer service representatives, did all of that stuff. So, nowadays, for a cable company to be viable, they have to have people who’ve come from competitive industries, who know how to create products, who know how to work and succeed in a competitive marketplace, and I think they’re moving in that direction, some faster than others. I’m a believer that competition just really makes you better. I think the best indicator of that was… if you look at the days we started multiplex, the cable industry didn’t really care for it that much. The DBS operators said, “Wow! For the same price of HBO or Showtime, cable’s going to carry one channel and we’re going to carry 15 of them.” Well, the cable operators were led kicking and screaming to that. Now cable was the one who’s doing that to the telephone industry and they realize that they could offer something very compelling to consumers, be a good competitor to the phone companies, and now the phone companies are on the defensive. And so I think the cable industry has recognized that in a competitive world they need to be the innovator again and not just reacting more as a monopolist would.

UMSTEAD: Over your career, what would you say were your greatest accomplishments?

ZITTER: Oh! It’s not business related, but my children. I say that just because from my sense of priorities, to me – I’ll say this at the Hall of Fame thing – I think my first priority is my family. My second is giving back to the community I’m part of, and the third is my career. I have such a passion for my career that I keep on saying… my wife was working at something that she didn’t enjoy for many years and I said, “Boy, you only go around once, you really ought to be doing something that you love.” And I love and I’ve loved everything that I’ve done over these years. But to put that on a plane, if my kid had a soccer game or there was something to be done with my daughter, I might take a plane at 5:00 AM so that I could take care of my work, but that was my priority and I’m just so pleased with how my kids have turned out. In terms of the career, the thing that I really feel the best about, oddly enough, is not the tangible things of digital compression or SVOD, which is something I really think is the way television is going to go in the future. What my biggest accomplishment has been has been putting together a team at HBO and my job has changed a lot over the years from being the operations person to really trying to chart out a direction and a strategy and to put as many top flight people as I can in the right seats and to be supportive of them. Recently we’ve just done some restructuring and I just feel so good when I see things working well, or when I see someone who started at a level and is now taking on some responsibilities that neither he nor I thought possible. So to me, that’s an accomplishment that I’m most proud of and I think it will benefit our company far more than any particular project that I’ve worked on.

UMSTEAD: On the same lines, what do you think your legacy will be in the industry?

ZITTER: Legacy are for people not like me.

UMSTEAD: What do you want your legacy to be?

ZITTER: I want to be known as someone who really tried to make things different and make them better. What I’m so proud of is how television has evolved and how cable was really the change agent, and I believe that HBO more than others was really a major force for doing things differently whether it was satellites, whether it was digital, whether it’s high definition. I think one of the things that’s going to live on for the longest is that television is going to change from a linear model programmed by people in New York to an on-demand model where the consumer can really control what they’re interested in, how they get it and all of that. Those are things that are the pieces of it, but what I hope I’ve done during my career is bridged technology, pure technology with business to try to make the television industry do some new things that weren’t possible before.

UMSTEAD: You touched upon it a little bit – 20 years from now, if you could take out your crystal ball, what will the cable industry look like? Will it continue to be based on linear channels or will it be literally an on-demand product?

ZITTER: With hopefully some… I hope I’m not held to too hard a task by people in the future who look at this, I think that television will be on-demand. I think there’s going to be some way of, I’ll call it curating. Linear television was curating where people looked at all the available things, rejected some bad things and if you’re watching HBO, you could tell it’s HBO; if you’re watching Fox, you knew that that’s Fox because it had the Fox edge to it, but I think one thing we’ve learned is that whether it’s through PVRs or downloads or podcasts or SVOD, that given the choice consumers now are watching nearly ¾ of their television who have it available to them on-demand. So I think it’s not just 20 years from now, it’s going to be a lot sooner than that. They’re still going to want and need people to sort through all the chaff that’s out there, particularly these days the latest thing is personalized TV, it’s consumer to consumer, and there’s going to be so much stuff that how do you find things that fit your particular interests or needs, how do you find the good stuff, and I think that’s going to be done through user interfaces more than something that’s linear. There’ll still be some scheduling to it. It’s just like, okay, we’re going to make something first available tonight at 9:00 PM, and it’s just like the people who will get in line for Yankees or Mets tickets or for the next Harry Potter book. They want to buy it at midnight, they don’t care to wait until the store opens at 9:00 AM. Okay, so you’ll have some anchor points, but by and large consumers like to control their lives and the more control they have, I think the happier they’ll be. The one thing that when I came to HBO out of the various other places that I’ve worked – I mean, they’ve each been an experience I’ve built upon – the thing that I found so thrilling about HBO and stimulating to me was the caliber of excellence of the people here, and I worked at a broadcast network, I worked at local and regional companies, but when I came to HBO and I saw in each department – it was the marketing department, the programming department, the legal department, all of these departments – the people who were running them and the people who were in them were so damn sharp and they were really good. So that set a bar for me that I strove to achieve and it always stayed that way. Even when people would leave HBO… There’s an HBO alumni club, okay, and the people who run various channels or have run various networks around the country, many of them are HBO alumni. So we all stay friendly, even though sometimes we’re competitors, but what it’s done is it made HBO very much a collegial place, and by that I mean people who come from different backgrounds, different expertise feeding off each other to create this good product and while it was easy in the early years, it became much more difficult in the later years because cable operators used HBO as a tool to pull people through higher and higher price points, and so we had to get better at what we did and the competition got better, and we had to figure out, well, do you want to be first in things or do you want to be a little bit more selective about where you want to go. So the fact that for me I was part of a team of what I consider to be the best people in each of their disciplines in the television industry was, I think, something really, really special, and frankly any time when headhunters would call and you’d think of do I want to make a change, or something like that, it was really very difficult to find something else that I would find as stimulating. It’s not just the job, or it’s not just working for a company that’s at the top of its game, but it was really being part of a group of people who are all just very stimulating in that regard.

UMSTEAD: Thank you very much, Mr. Zitter, for sitting down and talking to us, and thank you very much for joining us. I’m Tom Umstead for The Cable Center. Take care.

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