Friday, October 07, 2005

Turning Out the Lights at C-SET

Turning Out the Lights at C-SET

Carolinas Sports Entertainment Television
October 16, 2004 – June 30, 2005

A little before her time… but taken way before her prime.

June 30th 2005 – a sad day for me as the clock struck midnight marking the end of a young television networks existence. As the last show faded to black, what took months to develop soon became nothing more than white noise and static. What a waste it was after all of the hard work and effort that had gone into its creation and the development of its programming. To achieve what we had accomplished, it took a dedicated team and the one that we assembled, I quickly grew to admire and respect. As networks go, I believe that we were scrappers, but each of us was determined, creative and passionate about the common cause we came to know as C-SET. The enthusiasm that we had for what we were creating was infectious and each new employee that joined the group quickly caught it.

In hindsight, it now is so clear. We were the nations first digital – regional television network. We had immediate distribution to all of the Time Warner Digital Cable subscribers (700,000+ in the Carolinas) and the few other cable operators in the region seemed interested in launching the network as well. Our on-air look was superb and the programming was compelling and had the strong regional appeal that it needed. Digital cables penetration in the markets that we served was higher than most areas in the country and was growing at a break-neck pace. Everything seemed posed for growth and success right? Wrong, this little network never had a chance!

It was only a small part of a multifaceted company that consisted of a new NBA franchise (Charlotte Bobcats), a struggling WNBA team (Charlotte Sting) and a brand new $265 million dollar Charlotte arena. In this very young yet very dysfunctional company, the focus was all on the Bobcats. This was understandable, as the team was the flagship of the business. In theory, the Bobcats’ success would be like a tide, it would raise all boats and hence all companies in the family would benefit. Unfortunately the first year NBA franchise was struggling due to many internal and external problems and these issues were overwhelming the senior management team that the network directly reported to. Although those leaders were ultimately responsible for nurturing and growing the total business, they lacked the foresight, knowledge and desire to be concerned with anything other than the NBA franchise. This was the catalyst to the young networks demise.

Such a shame, millions invested in creating it’s programming, building the infrastructure and securing its initial distribution and the few in charge had a different agenda. They made the decision to shut it down after just 8½ months of operation. I wonder what they would have done if it had actually been their personal investment. This is ludicrous to me however in this case, it was not my personal investment nor was it my call to make. For me, this experience was another one of life’s many lessons. One like several others that I have had the benefit of learning from during my career that could be great material for a business schools textbook or master’s thesis paper. My final takeaway on this is that it truly was a challenging and rewarding experience. I’m extremely proud that I played a major roll in developing the business and for having the good fortune to work with some of the industries finest talent. To my X-CSET peers, I wish each of you the best and if I can ever be of any help to you in anyway, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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