Cable exec was fierce negotiator

During 30 years at TW founded E!, In Demand

Fred Dressler, a veteran cable programming executive who was as renowned for his negotiating prowess as he was for his entrepreneurial vision, died Monday of pancreatic cancer. He was 66.

Dressler, who put in 30 years at Time Warner Cable and its predecessor, American Television & Communications, closed out his career in December 2006 as executive vp programming. As the lead negotiator of network carriage deals, Dressler earned a reputation as a tough gatekeeper, a power broker who fought a pitched battle against escalating sports license fees.

In his capacity as the cable giant's programming chief, Dressler wore a number of hats over the years, developing a digital sports tier at TWC in 2003 and serving in an instrumental capacity in the launch of SportsNet New York.

Dressler also was a founder of E! Entertainment Television and the VOD and pay-per-view channel In Demand.

TWC CEO Glenn Britt paid tribute to Dressler on Wednesday, saying the former programming executive "was responsible for much of what Time Warner Cable stands for today."

"Words cannot adequately express the sense of loss we all feel at this time," Britt said. "His legacy will be felt for many years, not just in our programming department but throughout our organization and the industry. … Fred was revered for his intellect, his wit, his perspective, his vision and his humanity. We will miss him very much."

Since he left Time Warner last year, Dressler had stayed active, continuing to consult and advise a number of media firms, including Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media as well as the BBC, Retirement Living TV and Univision.

Dressler also served as chairman of the advisory board of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He graduated from Syracuse in 1963.

After an early career that touched down on local broadcast, newspapers and radio, Dressler got into the cable TV business in 1976 as assistant general manager of ATC's Shreveport, La., system.

Dressler is survived by his wife, Patricia, and their two sons, Douglas and Kevin. He is also survived by his parents, Anne and Martin Dressler; a sister, Susan Dressler, and three young grandchildren.

Funeral services will be private. A memorial service for friends and family will be announced later.

Anthony Crupi is a reporter for MediaWeek.