Terry Bienstock '75 has made a career of pioneerism
By Steve Seepersaud
Bienstock thrives on breaking new ground. He started as a trial lawyer, litigating test cases in his specialty — First Amendment, media and communications law. Later, as an entrepreneur, he simultaneously founded Mobilactive Media, a mobile marketing firm, and World Extend, which offers cloud computing desktop solutions and application publishing.
In between, he was the top cable lawyer in the United States, serving as executive vice president and general counsel for law and government affairs for Comcast Cable. He negotiated a strategic deal with TiVo, creating a new premium DVR service and advertising platform for the cable industry, patented products deployed by Comcast, started Emmy-winning government programming and grew Comcast's video-on-demand and digital phone services.
The early years of video on demand were not easy, he says, recalling negotiations with HBO for free access to its then-upcoming Rome miniseries.
"[HBO] acted like we were stealing from them. The attitude was, 'you want to put our product out there for free?' I suggested they offer something different, like a director's cut or a 'making of' the series. Do it as a goodwill gesture because it promotes the series. It ultimately worked, but it was not an easy road."
In addition to his primary business, World Extend, he's working with director/producer David Zucker on two movies updating Zucker's Naked Gun and Kentucky Fried Movie series. Bienstock says the scripts are written, and production will begin as soon as the financing is ironed out.
"These movies are going to be very funny, as you'd expect from the comedy legend who brought us Airplane! I'd find them funnier if I was still in college, because that's the age group we're targeting."
But his life is not all business. A longtime lover of astronomy, Bienstock joined community members to found the Montauk Observatory, an educational foundation. The group is installing the first research-grade telescope in the Hamptons, where Bienstock owns a home.
"You never know where life will take you. When I was in law school, I chose a tax course instead of communications law. At the time, you only had one or two lawyers in any city practicing media law. So the odds of needing the course were remote at best. Of course, my whole career ended up focusing on media law. Sometimes it's better to just follow your heart. If you do what you love, you'll be good at it."