Robert Rosencrans: In Memoriam
The Cable Center extends its condolences and sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Robert (Bob) M. Rosencrans who passed away earlier this week at
the age of 89.
“Robert Rosencrans played a key role in three of the most important events in cable television during its first 50 years: the development of satellite distribution of cable programming, the founding of C-SPAN and the creation of the first ad-supported national cable programming network. He was a true cable pioneer and a maverick in every aspect of his career and will be greatly missed by everyone in the industry,” said Jana L. Henthorn, President and CEO, The Cable Center.
Robert Rosencrans was inducted into The Cable Hall of Fame in 2000 and taped his second oral history that same year for the Hauser Oral History Project Collection. His first oral history was taped in 1992 for The Center’s Penn State Collection.
Close friend and C-SPAN colleague Brian Lamb introduced Rosencrans during his Cable Hall of Fame induction saying, “I get to talk about a guy who’s been very important to me personally, but I think very important to this country.”
During his induction speech, Rosencrans said, “As far as I’m concerned, C-SPAN is the greatest thing we all could have done.”
Jim Keller, who interviewed him for his 2000 oral history said, “This is the oral history of Robert M. Rosencrans, godfather, if not the father of Madison Square Garden Network, BET, USA, C-SPAN, entrepreneur, and overall great guy and one of the real founders of the industry."
In that same oral history, Rosencrans discussed Madison Square Garden Network (MSG) in the late 1970s. He said, “We were building a network, and we were getting some advertising. It was doing well, but I think we really were the first ones to create the concept of the two streams of income. All of the components that exist today were started at MSG Network, and eventually led to Nickelodeon and CNN, etc. So those became a whole new world of cable, too, I think.”
Among his many other notable accomplishments, in 1974, Rosencrans, head of UA Columbia Cablevision at the time, was the first to purchase eight units of the earth stations. In turn, he helped define a new era in the cable industry and make telecommunications history with the first satellite distribution of cable programming, the “Thrilla in Manilla” on HBO in Vero Beach, Florida, in 1975.
Rosencrans was an inspiring mentor to many in the industry. Kay Koplovitz said in her 1999 oral history, “When I first got into this business, Bob Rosencrans definitely was a role model for me. I learned a lot by watching the way Bob did business, and he has always had an attitude of win-win in business.”