Let’s do, breakfast? Van Zandt hosts cable executive


It wasn’t the stirring Orozco murals or even the herbed eggs and Danish that brought a group of New School students, faculty members, and alumni to campus at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday. It was the prospect of discovering new professional and collaborative opportunities in the evolving media business.

On May 2, President David E. Van Zandt and Peter Stern, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Time Warner Cable, led a discussion of the innovations transforming the cable business and career possibilities for graduates. Stern’s talk was part of the Cable Mavericks Lecture Series, which brings industry leaders to campuses to share insights from the field, connect the business of cable to higher education, and network.

After a brief introduction by President Van Zandt, Stern polled attendees on their media consumption habits, asking about everything from cellphone-versus-wired-phone usage to on-demand movie streaming (and promising not to report the brave souls who confessed to illegal downloading). Stern explained that innovation in the cable industry is spurred by the expectations of users of new technology. Mobile devices in particular have raised the bar for interactive experience and access.

Stern went on to describe Time Warner’s strategy for contending with the loss of revenue from traditional cable services and the increasing demand for cable programming formatted for tablets and smartphones. Referring to the decline of the recorded music industry after the proliferation of illegal file sharing sites, Stern summed up the challenges facing his industry: How do you stay relevant when people expect to get so much for free, whenever and however they want it?, He underscored the need for fresh thinking about media rights, content creation, analytics-based advertising, and scaled fee-for-use business models.

For his part, President Van Zandt challenged the crowd to consider the educational possibilities of videoconference courses and projects linking scholars, students, and content from around the world in real time. Sharing resources and intellectual capacity, in a sustainable way, without the environmental stresses of travel, would be welcome innovations,, said President Van Zandt.

Shifts in the cable industry present new job prospects for New School graduates and instructors who are skilled at creating media for multiple platforms, customizing online experience, and analyzing consumer behavior. As Stern put it, Talk is down; communications are up. There’s opportunity in that.,