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Bob Wussler: In memoriam



  A memory of long ago: I was doing an interview with a guy named Ted Turner, in his vast office overlooking some bleak concrete plaza in Atlanta. Ted - then and always - was volatile and fierce, and a constantly moving blur of motion and chatter. He reached for something on his desk - a sword! - picked it up and began to swing in wide and ever tightening arcs, with the tip drawing closer and closer to the head of a green scribe both startled and amused.

  Off to the side of this spectacle stood Bob Wussler. Bob's arms were folded, and he was smiling. How, he wondered, would this end? In blood and mayhem? Or like all the other interviews - with the reporter beating a hasty retreat with head still firmly attached?

  Bob, at the time an "executive vice president" of CNN but really the president and co-founder, had seen the storm called Ted Turner in all various meteorological stages - from dead calm to force five hurricane. He had taken this energy and focused it, refined it, directed it.  With Ted, he helped launch TBS Superstation - perhaps one of the most innovative developments in the history of television - and CNN, which WAS the most innovative development since Zworykin discovered the very tube itself.

  Ted had great ideas. Bob had great ideas. Ted was all over the place - completely out of control at times. Bob was completely IN control - a Jekyll to Hyde. Both were brilliant. But Bob was the guy that made it all happen - brought it all to pass. Without "Bobby" Wussler - as he was known wide and far - there would simply have been no CNN. 


  As such, Wussler was one of the true visionaries of this business.

  And now he is gone - died over a week ago, inexplicably June 5 without word or notice. The obits just came out last night.

  I've posted the  Hollywood Reporter's obit below, and will try to do my own digging later. But there is so much more to say: Bobby was one of Walter Cronkite's producer, a longtime and well-regarded news producer who saw in the satellite - hardly used during the days of Vietnam, when tapes were "bicycled" from the warzone via Japan, in a process that could and did take days - a revolutionary concept that could change the very definition of news delivery, and for that matter news. The sat was instantaeous and brought live TV events to YOU immediately, and without delay from any part of the world.  He deployed this technology in sports, at CBS Sports; many had a hand in this technology, many used their talents to figure out brand new empires based upon it (Charles Dolan,  for example, figured out HBO.)

  But Wussler, with Ted and a bunch of other smart, energetic pioneers down in Atlanta, figured out a way thirty years ago to bring news from around the world to cable systems around the country via a new, 24 hour network. That was simply the most dramatic development of them all.

  Bobby died at age 73, and I didn't even know he was ill. 

  This is a sad passing indeed for the TV business.

  Here's the Hollywood Reporter obit: 

  Robert Wussler, a visionary TV news and sports executive who presided over the CBS network at age 40 and later co-founded CNN with Ted Turner, died June 5 at his home in Westport, Conn., after a long illness. He was 73.

Wussler began his career at CBS as a mailroom clerk in 1957, attained the position of
executive producer and director of special events in the news department and then rose to become head of CBS Sports and then president of the CBS Television Network in 1976 during his 21-year stay at the network.

Wussler essentially invented the genre of pregame telecasts in the mid-'70s with "The NFL Today," for which he hired Brent Musburger, Irv Cross, Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder and a former Miss America, Phyllis George.

A native of Newark, N.J., and a graduate of Seton Hall, Wussler received six Emmy Awards and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Trustees Award, presented to such leaders as Turner, David Sarnoff and William S. Paley. He served three terms as NATAS chairman.

At CBS News, Wussler produced thousands of hours of programming, gaining a reputation for innovation in covering such seminal events as the assassinations and funerals of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.; Richard Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972; presidential campaigns, conventions and elections; and the U.S. space program, including Neil Armstrong landing on the moon in 1969.
Wussler also gained prominence as an news innovator, from his early use of miniature
cameras to his calm control room demeanor as Walter Cronkite's producer. He is considered largely responsible for the expansion of satellite usage in news coverage and the advancement of small cameras and recording devices in the studio and in the field.
Between his news and sports gigs at the network, Wussler served as GM of WBBM-TV, the CBS-owned station in Chicago, from 1972-74. In 1978, he formed production company Pyramid Enterprises, which created syndicated programming for the international marketplace.

In 1980, Turner recruited Wussler to join Turner Broadcasting Systems. During the next
decade, Wussler provided broad leadership and business management to CNN, Headline News, SuperStation WTBS, TNT, baseball's Atlanta Braves, the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, the U.S.A. vs. U.S.S.R. Goodwill Games and TBS Sports.

For almost 10 years, he oversaw the growth of SuperStation TBS as its president and, in
1988, was instrumental in the founding of TNT.

Wussler also served as president and CEO of Ted Turner Pictures, which released the
theatrical "Gods and Generals" nationwide in 2003 through Warner Bros.
From 1989-92, Wussler was president and CEO of Comsat Video Enterprises, which grew rapidly in the field of on-demand video in the hotel industry. While there, he also
managed the acquisition of the NBA's Denver Nuggets, serving as managing general partner.Following several international entrepreneurial ventures, Wussler became president and CEO of ABC Affiliate Enterprises, the new-media and marketing arm of more than 100 ABC affiliates.

In 1992, he formed the Wussler Group, an international media consultancy focused on
developing television and Internet properties, electronic commerce and convergence

Wussler is survived by his children, Jeanne, Christopher, Stefanie, Sally, Rob and
Rosemary; and his grandchildren, Emmett, Maeve, Hope, Whittaker, Griffin and Taite.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to Yale-New Haven Hospital
in New Haven, Conn., or to the Comprehensive Pain Center at the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation in Portland, Ore.



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