04 May 2000

Fred Dressler and Joe Collins it was who nuked ABC last weekend.

Joe and Fred who? Two little known executives, virtually anonymous outside the cable industry, were the pugnacious button-pushers in the epic Walt Disney vs Time Warner battle.

Mr Dressler, senior vice president of programming at Time Warner, red telephone in hand at his Connecticut home last Sunday midnight, ordered the surgical strike on ABC-owned stations on eleven TW cable networks. Earlier that evening he, in turn, had been instructed to push the button by his boss Mr. Collins, chief executive of Time Warner Cable, who made the call after consulting Time Warner chief executive Gerald Levin. Thus do great battles start.

How they end is, as yet, uncertain. Although ABC's signal is now restored and the warring titans attempt to negotiate a long-term solution, the great switch-off highlights the unusual power wielded by Messrs Collins and Dressler. Their actions displeased the Federal Communications Commission’s cable bureau, which ruled that Time Warner violated FCC rules by blacking-out ABC's signal during a nationwide “sweeps” session – a four-week period in which TV ratings are measured.

"We've been sort of a maverick", Mr. Dressler said. Mr. Collins wasn't available for comment, though Time Warner Cable dismissed the FCC rule as "ambiguous." It plans to appeal the bureau’s decision to the full FCC.

Sourced from: Wall Street Journal