commissioner for a basketball league — the Continental Basketball Association.
In fact, Stern, the man credited for revitalizing and expanding the once-beleaguered NBA, says either Mills or Ussery would be qualified to someday fill his shoes. “[Terdema Ussery] has done it all at the team, league and corporate level,” Stern points out. The commissioner lists among Mills’ attributes an understanding of many different aspects of the NBA’s operation. “Either one of them, without question, [is capable of] not just filling my shoes but improving them.”
TERDEMA USSERY: A BALANCING ACT
Command central for Terdema Ussery, or “T” as many refer to him, is a Spartan ex-warehouse that serves as the Dallas Mavericks offices. At the rear of the bustling office is a medium-sized cubicle — its four walls offer relative privacy compared with the open office space. He’s a chief executive who manages to balance his time between two very different businesses. “When I go out that door, I’m on HDNet business,” Ussery says pointing to his right — the direction of one of the two doors in his modest office. Gesturing to the opposite portal, the CEO adds: “That door is for the Mavericks.” Indeed, Ussery wears two hats and divides his time accordingly, with about 55% — 60% of his time allotted to the high-definition television network and the remainder for running Mavericks team operations — both of which are housed in the same downtown Dallas location.
Ussery considers both operations he oversees equally important but, as a technophile, is more drawn to the HDNet business due to its high-tech nature and growth potential. “The television network will ultimately be a lot bigger than anything we’re doing with the Mavericks,” Ussery predicts. The Mavericks generated more than $100 million last year. “It also gives me the opportunity to be at the forefront of an emerging technology that will eventually be the standard in households throughout the country.” Ussery expects to have HDNet running profitably within two to three years. He estimates that HDNet has as much as 1 — 1.5 million viewers.
HDNet was launched in 2001 with a $100 million investment from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in conjunction with satellite television provider DirecTV and Fox Cable Networks Services. Currently, the network is subscription based, but Ussery is exploring an advertising-based model. High-definition television is an emerging market with vast growth potential. Roughly 6 — 7 million households currently have a high-definition television, a number that’s expected to grow to about 42 million, or 38%, of households by 2007.
But as with any new entertainment format, there’s going to be a lot of competition. “The biggest challenge is not to get swallowed up by bigger and better financed networks that are now coming out with all HDTV channels, [like] Discovery Channel, [and] ESPN,” says Phillip Swann, author of TV dot Com: The Future of Interactive Television (TV Books Inc.; $14). “Mark [Cuban] has a lot of money, but he doesn’t have Disney money … or NBC, or perhaps even Discovery money.”
In addition to his plethora of responsibilities, Ussery, who reports