Every Malibu native in the Big Apple who can't watch Pepperdine dance because New York City's CBS affiliate is wed to St. John's—indeed, every sports fan stuck in provincial hell—had a friend in Bill Daniels. The so-called father of cable television died on March 7 at age 79, nearly half a century after being introduced to the small screen. In 1952 Daniels, who had finished a tour in Korea as a decorated naval pilot, stopped into a Denver bar to watch the Wednesday Night Fights. The ex-New Mexico Golden Gloves champ was amazed at the clarity of the black-and-white picture but wondered how to make the signal available in Casper, Wyo., where he lived.
Less than a year later Daniels began using microwave relays to bring the fights to Casper via a community antenna television (CATV) system. Five hundred subscribers paid an installation fee of $150 and a $750 monthly charge to access programming that originated 225 miles away in Denver. Daniels wasn't the first cable guy, but he was the first to use microwave relays, and he quickly became the cable industry's strongest advocate. In '58 he founded Daniels & Associates, a cable-TV brokerage firm that would lure media giants like Cox Communications, Times Mirror and the Tribune Co. to fledgling cable properties.
Daniels died a billionaire. A philanthropist who gave away money like pocket Bibles, he also owned the ABA's Utah Stars, sponsored an Indy 500 car, helped found the USFL and, with Lakers owner Jerry Buss, started Prime Ticket Network, a nationwide group of regional sports cable companies that's now part of Fox Sports.
How fitting that the original couch potato left us in March. His dream house, a 24,000-square-foot Denver mansion he called Cableland, boasted a viewing room with 64 TVs.