Tomorrow Will Be Televised: Powell Power


No one was more in view last week in the TV world than Michael Powell, president/chief executive officer of the National Cable Television Association. As things turned out, no one was more in view last week in the TV world more quotable, ultimately more welcomed, than Powell.

Six months after assuming both NCTA roles from Kyle McSlarrow, the former Federal Communications Commission chairman and independent entrepreneur was all over Diversity Week, the annual gathering of TV officials aimed at expanding the roles of women and people of color throughout the medium–on camera, behind the camera and in the executive suite. Whether it was Women In Cable’s conference, the 25th annual conference of the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity In Communications, the Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner (raising more than $1.6 million for diversity initiatives), Forum 2011 from the Association of Cable Communications–name the event, Powell was there, front, center and ready to advocate.

At every turn, Powell invited the industry he’s representing (and by extension, all of TV) to rise to a higher level on every level. He ended up being so memorable wherever he showed up, panels following his appearances offered at least one reference to Powell’s comments, often more.

Here’s a choice selection:

“We need a culture of risk-taking. We have it in Silicon Valley, we have it in software companies. We need that in the cable industry, the willingness to take risks, including the willingness to fail.”–Women In Cable conference (10/3)

“For good God sakes, stand for something, something you won’t compromise on that becomes your moral compass…Believe in diversity because it’s more important than ever. It’s not just an objective in my life, it’s everything in my life. When you’re living diversity, it’s a personal value of responsibility whether you like it or not.”–WIC conference again (10/3)

“The digital generation is rising up in the ‘I want customization, personalization and participation’ world. You don’t serve them? You don’t listen to what they want? They are your customers and your subscribers. We have to wake up to a faster world, and innovate faster.”–Association of Cable Communications conference (10/6)

Powell’s basic message to his constituency: Get bold now in the products and services you offer, be as impactful as Web and technology companies are right now, lead on diversity and make big noise about what you do right, especially in programming. “Tell me another industry that takes a week not only to celebrate diversity, but trains their leaders to uphold it,” Powell said.

Through the week, Powell demonstrated his penchant for laser-focused commentary, as well as his bent for self-sataric humor. You had to hear the numerous observations on members of his family multi-tasking, or his kids comparing his TV role with their mastery of IPods and IPads. Sure laugh lines with a point.

NCTA has had its share of bright people at the top over the years, from Tom Wheeler to Decker Anstrom and McSlarrow. Powell, off this Diversity Week road show, has what it takes to move the cable industry’s needle way high. Let’s follow how, and how soon, his community adopts his vision of brighter TV and brings it on the public.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

About Simon Applebaum

Simon Applebaum hosts and produces Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. The program runs live Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific on BlogTalk Radio (, with replays at



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