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ACA Cable Television History

The Bridge Between the Cable Past & the Broadband Future – #Summit23

Pat Thompson has lived the future. When she was told that “Women don’t do that,” she persisted and became the first woman broker in the still nascent cable television industry. It was an improbable career change for a single mother of three from Montana who had settled in Colorado only a few years earlier with no experience in cable television.

But, as she stated in a May 1984 Cable Television Business article about her back-office experience, “I’ve always been good with numbers.”  It is evident from the many articles about Pat and the many industry awards that, beyond numbers, it is her ability to work with people that sets her apart.  In that same article, she stated that “System owners liked dealing with me and I brought in a lot of business.”

After four years with Jones Group (Jones Intercable), she launched her own cable brokerage company. The launch of Pat Thompson and Company was at an especially difficult time to be in the business of buying and selling cable properties, as it was during the high interest rates of the early 1980s.

Her boldness and patience paid off as she attracted the attention and respect of cable luminaries, such as John Malone, Bob Magness, Bill Bresnan, Glenn Jones, and Bill Daniels. These legends helped transform cable television into a communications network that delivered the future promised by Ma Bell during its heyday.

Still, like the small cable operators she represented, her business faced the ebbs and flows of a cable television industry facing new regulatory, technology, and competitive threats. In the early 1990s, those challenges resulted in her role heading up Daniels & Associates Small System Brokerage.  

A Dedication to Small Operators #

Throughout, she maintained a focus and dedication to small cable operators through her decades of service (27 years as an ACA Connects board member). This is why ACA Connects presented her with the “Above and Beyond Award” at its 2023 Summit and gave her “Emeritus Associate Board Member” status.

In the above interview, she reflects upon the opportunities and challenges that some ACA Connects members face thanks to unprecedented federal funding, along with the transition to all-fiber networks.  She expresses concerns for those operators facing overbuilds from larger players.

Overbuilding by larger operators may only increase, as the BEAD grant rules established by the NTIA give larger entities an advantage. For instance, according to Connect Humanity, the Letter of Credit rules favor entities with “deep enough pockets to lock up valuable working capital over multiple years.” As Doug Dawson points out in a blog post, labor requirements associated with BEAD also favor larger operators over smaller ISPs.

In some sense what is going on in 2023 harkens to the mid-1990s and is reflected in an article Thompson penned during that time, “It’s not a small world anymore.” In that article, she pointed out that the 1992 Cable Bill missed its large operator target and had a much greater impact on the smaller operators serving rural America.

One consequence of that impact was the uniting of the rural cable television industry around what would become ACA Connects.  It has been the foresight and sacrifice of individuals like Pat Thompson that has helped ACA Connects raise awareness among regulators and legislators of the value of its members in bringing communications networks to all corners of the U.S.

ViodiTV coverage of the 2023 ACA Connects’ Summit courtesy of Calix.

References #

Note, thanks to Pat for sending images of articles that could not be found on the web. For reference purposes, they are below.

  1. Clippings from a Nation’s Business article about Pat Thompson, 03/87
  2. What shut down one small broker, Multichannel News. 03/25/91
  3. Daniels & Associates ad in Cablevision, 03/11/91
  4. Former Rocky Mountain Chapter Presidents, 03/91, unknown publication
  5. 1992 Vanguard Cable Award, NCTA Program
  6. It’s not a small world anymore, unknown publication, (12/94)?
  7. Searle, Thompson, Harry, earn awards, unknown publication, 05/99
  8. Pat Thompson – Big Help for small systems – Cablevision, 01/24/2000
  9. Lifetime achievement award – CableFAX, 07/10

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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