Like most people who do business in New York, Barry Rosenblum endures the quirks of an unpredictable city: traffic jams, red tape and a wide variety of people. But as a longtime Time Warner Cable executive—and native New Yorker—Rosenblum has met the challenges of operating the city's vast cable system with smooth success.
The company's customer-service representatives speak, in all, nearly a dozen languages. When technicians find themselves stuck in traffic gridlock, customers are notified of the delay by phone. And those technicians, who once dealt with a mere 35 channels of analog cable, are trained to explain new technologies, ranging from digital cable to DVRs to computer networking, in simple and effective ways.
Rosenblum's approach to customer service is instinctive, says Glenn Britt, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable. “Despite operating our largest system, in one of the most complicated marketplaces anywhere, under the glare of the national press, Wall Street and our own parent company, Barry has never forgotten the importance of the customer.”
When he was named executive vice president of Time Warner Cable in 2001, Rosenblum added the operator's upstate New York systems in Albany, Binghamton, Rochester and Syracuse to his portfolio. In total, he is responsible for 2.4 million customers and 6,000 employees; about half of each are found in the melting pot of the Big Apple.
Rosenblum, 52, will receive the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's Vanguard Award for cable operations management this year, the latest chapter in a 25-year cable career filled with landmarks and achievements.
His start in cable came in 1979, a few years after earning his B.S. in aeronautical engineering from Arizona State University. While working in the copier industry in Albany, Rosenblum was offered a sales position with American Television and Communications in Jacksonville, Fla. After a stint in Denver, he returned to New York City in 1983, climbing the ranks of the cable industry in the mid 1980s and 1990s through a series of mergers. He eventually ended up overseeing operations for Time Warner in his native Queens.
In the years to follow, he helped implement the five-year, $400 million fiber upgrade of New York's cable infrastructure. Says Rosenblum, with just a hint of understatement, “It certainly was an interesting time.”
The epic construction project involved completing mountains of permits, serving dense blocks of housing and soothing the occasional cranky landlord. Ultimately, these tasks laid the groundwork for digital cable and high-speed Internet access. HDTV service followed in 2001, video-on-demand came a year later, and DVR service began in 2003. Digital phone service was introduced late last year.
“To do any construction in New York is complicated,” Rosenblum says. While New York wasn't the first market to receive digital services, he—and his construction and operations teams, he is quick to add—really deployed them effectively. Today, 70% of Time Warner Cable's customers in New York City have digital service—a real success story.
“You can never mentally say to yourself, 'This rollout is complete,'” Rosenblum says, noting that Time Warner Cable completes 25,000-30,000 installations per month in New York City alone. “That's like a rollout every month compared to what other cities do in a year. Even if a product is in a mature life cycle, you're still selling a lot of it.”
Scrutiny is inevitable in New York, and Time Warner Cable's battle with programmers has made tabloid headlines. On March 8, the company dropped Cablevision's two sports channels, Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports New York, from its lineup, following a spat over carriage fees. So sports fans have been deprived of the Knicks as the team makes a surprising spurt toward the playoffs. Pre-season Mets games are also unavailable, in a year when the team could be a contender. At press time, the two companies had not resolved the matter.
Rosenblum gets credit for not losing his cool over such flame-ups. Bill Goodwyn, president of affiliate sales and marketing for Discovery Networks and a longtime colleague, says, “You can just imagine dealing with those issues in the most challenging marketplace. You need somebody who's going to remain very calm. You couldn't ask for a stronger operator than Barry.”
Rosenblum also finds time for worthwhile causes. He helped John Sykes, then-president of VH1, found Save the Music, a project supporting music education. (“I am tone deaf, and I failed flutaphone in fourth grade,” Rosenblum confesses.) Also, he and Time Warner are longtime supporters of the Child Abuse Prevention Program, whose members visit public schools to talk to kids.
Rosenblum believes his biggest contribution to New York occurred in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. This is a part of his career he says he will never forget.
“We were wiring places literally overnight. We had duct-taped amplifiers to trees to bring services to places the city needed right away,” he says. The company also connected a hospital ship with Nickelodeon (to provide a diversion for children while their parents searched for loved ones) and quickly installed high-speed Internet for the police.
“You never really appreciate what you can do until you're in that situation where you make such a difference,” Rosenblum says of those days. A Vanguard Award suggests that others have noticed his contributions as well.