John Malone: The King Of Cable Reaches For More

John Malone: The King Of Cable Reaches For More by Geraldine Fabrikant, The New York Times – from 1993 – ties in nicely with the recent Charter news. Below is an excerpt.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo.— JOHN MALONE’S personal life has all the markings of a more genteel, slower time. Most days, he drives home from the office for lunch. And each year about this time, he leaves the Denver area to spend the summer at his retreat in Maine or on his sailboat. He usually makes the long trip to Maine by car because his wife, Leslie, does not like to fly.

But in his business life, as head of Tele-Communications Inc., Dr. Malone is anything but genteel. “This is not touch football, this is tackle,” he said in a recent interview in his office here. And he is almost always the fastest player on the field.

Dr. Malone (he holds a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Johns Hopkins) has already built T.C.I. into the nation’s biggest operator of cable systems. Two years ago, he spun off most of T.C.I.’s cable programming services into another powerhouse that he heads, the Liberty Media Corporation. Somewhere along the line, he became known to the industry — if not the public — as the brilliant and sometimes brutal king of cable TV who has the clout to call many of the industry’s shots.

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“He is the gatekeeper,” said a rival executive, who would comment only if promised anonymity. “He is allowed to decide what people see and don’t see.”

But that was just for openers. Television is on the brink of a technological revolution that promises to change what Americans watch and how they watch it — and the 52-year-old Dr. John Malone is positioning himself to be at all the right spots to lay claim to a new reign as the once and future king of all of TV. Going Interactive

Thanks to fiber optics and digital transmission, the television viewer is being pulled into the world of computers and high-speed two-way communications. Hundreds of channels are on the horizon, along with a trove of “interactive services.” Viewers will be able to call up movies on demand, for example, or stroll through video libraries. Home shoppers will flip through electronic catalogues, pressing buttons for a taped demonstration of fly-casting equipment, say, or to see a model wearing lingerie. And video-game players will spar on screen with opponents across the street or on the other side of the country.

See full article here.