Robert Rosencrans

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Robert Rosencrans
Robert Rosencrans.jpg
Born(1927-03-26)March 26, 1927
DiedAugust 3, 2016(2016-08-03) (aged 89)
Alma materColumbia University
EmployerColumbia Cable Systems
Board member ofC-SPAN

Robert Morris "Bob" Rosencrans (March 26, 1927 – August 3, 2016) was a cable television industry pioneer who helped create C-SPAN, an American public affairs television network.[1] In addition, he helped launch the television networks BET and MSG, a predecessor of the USA Network.

Early life and education[edit]

Rosencrans was born on March 26, 1927, in New York City, his parents were Alvin, an Austrian immigrant who imported ornaments for women's hats, and Eva Greene, a Russian immigrant who was a fashion designer.[1][2] Rosencrans was raised in Woodmere, New York.[1]

He had plans to attend Dartmouth College until his older brother died in combat during World War II. Rosencrans enlisted and served in the United States Army Air Forces, then earned bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from Columbia University in 1949.[1]


Panelists discussing the first use of a satellite to distribute cable television programming, the 1975 "Thrilla in Manila" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Left to right: Monty Rifkin, Jack Cole, Hubert Schlafly, Sid Topol, Bob Rosencrans, Gerald M. Levin, Brian Lamb.

After several jobs in retailing, Rosencrans joined Box Office Television (BOT), which produced programming for hotels and wanted to offer closed-circuit programming, such as sports games and live theater, to movie theaters. Rosencrans conceived the idea of a cable system after BOT purchased TelePrompTer in 1956 with the goal of expanding its closed-circuit programming. In 1961, he and other investors began acquiring cable systems in smaller towns.[1] In 1975, Rosencrans' Columbia Cable Systems (which later became UA-Columbia Cablevision)[1] invested nearly $100,000 to become the first cable operator to install a satellite receiving station; the company did so in order to broadcast "Thrilla in Manila", the third and final boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, to its subscribers in Florida.[1][3]

Rosencrans is credited for persuading Madison Square Garden to launch the television network MSG, he and Kay Koplovitz helped create this as a sports channel, which later expanded its programming to become USA Network, the first basic cable channel distributed via satellite.[1] Rosencrans offered Robert L. Johnson air time on Friday evenings, which led to the creation of BET, a basic cable and satellite television channel targeting African American audiences.[1]

He was an early financial backer and founding board chair of C-SPAN, an American public affairs television network. In 1977, while serving as president of UA-Columbia,[4] Rosencrans and his partner Ken Gunter contributed $25,000 and convinced other industry leaders to contribute an additional $450,000 to launch the network.[1][5][6][7] C-SPAN began broadcasting on March 19, 1979, with additional funding from UA-Columbia and several other cable television companies.[4][5] Rosencrans served on the C-SPAN board for nearly 40 years and was designated its chairman emeritus until his death.[4][8]

Rosencrans' role at UA-Columbia was eliminated when the company split in 1984, he started the cable multiple system operator Columbia International, which sold in 1995 for an estimated $600 million.[1]

In 2000, Rosencrans was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame, which recognizes "ground-breaking leaders who have shaped and advanced" the cable telecommunications industry;[9][10][11] the honor was bestowed by The Cable Center, a nonprofit, educational organization serving the industry.[12]

In addition to his work in cable television, Rosencrans was an early investor in PublicAffairs, a publishing company established in 1997 by Peter Osnos,[1][13] he was also an investor in the video discussion website in 2007.[14][15]

Personal life[edit]

Rosencrans was Jewish and described by The New York Times as a "political liberal".[1][16]

As of May 2012, Rosencrans was retired and living in Connecticut.[2] Rosencrans died at a hospital from stroke complications on August 3, 2016, in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the age of 89,[5][8] he and his wife of 59 years, Marjorie Meyers, had four children.[1][4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Roberts, Sam (August 4, 2016). "Robert Rosencrans, Who Helped Propel C-Span, Dies at 89". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522.
  2. ^ a b Lukas, Paul (May 29, 2012). "Permanent Record: Eva and Bee: Both children of the Depression, one ended up designing Mamie Eisenhower's inaugural gown, the other was a mentor to Calvin Klein". Slate. The Slate Group. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  3. ^ "Cable Programming's Top 50". Cable World. September 26, 2005. Archived from the original on November 19, 2018. Retrieved August 8, 2016 – via HighBeam Research.
  4. ^ a b c d "Robert Rosencrans, C-SPAN visionary, dies at 89". USA Today. Gannett Company. August 5, 2016. ISSN 0734-7456. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Ariens, Chris (August 3, 2016). "C-SPAN Pioneer Bob Rosencrans Has Died". Adweek. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  6. ^ Frantzich, Stephen E. (1996). The C-span Revolution. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-2870-2. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  7. ^ Frantzich, Stephen E. (2008). Founding Father: How C-SPAN's Brian Lamb Changed Politics in America. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-7425-5850-2. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Lincoln, Ross A. "Robert Rosencrans Dies: First Board Chairman of C-SPAN Was 89". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  9. ^ "Cable Hall of Fame". The Cable Center. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  10. ^ "Cable Hall of Fame: Past Honorees". The Cable Center. Retrieved August 5, 2016. Note: User must click on "2000 Honorees" in the right sidebar.
  11. ^ "Robert M. Rosencrans: Founder, Columbia Cable Systems, 2000 Cable Hall of Fame". The Cable Center. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  12. ^ "About Us". The Cable Center. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  13. ^ Streitfeld, David (May 29, 1997). "Big-Picture Books; For New Public Affairs Imprint, Highbrow Hopes". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on November 21, 2018. Retrieved August 8, 2016 – via HighBeam Research.
  14. ^ Marshall, Matt (January 29, 2007). "Roundup: YouTube, Intel's breakthrough, sex toys and Bloggingheads.TV". VentureBeat. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  15. ^ Sklar, Rachel (January 26, 2007). "Bloggingheads Gets A Cash Infusion From Angel Investor Rosencrans: "Obviously There Is The Possibility Of Financial Gain, But That's Not The Point"". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  16. ^ Browning, Robert X. (2014). The C-SPAN Archives: An Interdisciplinary Resource for Discovery, Learning, and Engagement. Purdue University Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-55753-695-2. Retrieved August 8, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

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