IT WAS PROBABLY inevitable that Nathanson would carve out a career for himself in radio. For one thing, his grandfather Don Paul Nathanson was the publisher of and even owned a radio station. When Nathanson was growing up in Los Angeles, he was neighbors with Irving Azoff, the manager of bands such as the Eagles, Journey, and Van Halen. Not surprisingly, he developed a passion for music early on, and after attending Tulane University in New Orleans - where he was introduced to that city's vibrant live-music scene - he got what he describes as a dream job: working for MTV in London. 

While his official job for MTV was to help build the video channel's brand throughout Europe, Nathanson was such a music junkie that he spent much of his free time hanging around the network's studio, hoping to catch live performances of the many bands that played there. "I would volunteer to hold the cables for the camera operators so they wouldn't trip in the studio," he recalls. "So every night, I would be down [there] listening to the Smashing Pumpkins or Lenny Kravitz or Aerosmith." After his stint at MTV, Nathanson worked for a record label that handled the Beastie Boys and other such bands.

By 2001, Nathanson was ready to venture out on his own, and he pitched his idea for Mapleton to his father, Marc, who had made a fortune running, and later selling, Falcon Cable TV. Like his interest in radio, Nathanson's focus on small and midsize markets can also be seen as hereditary.

"Most of the markets we are in, with the exception of Merced, [are markets] my father used to be in in the cable business," he says. "So we kind of know some of the economics of the markets, and having previously operated a local business there helps a lot. We are familiar with the markets and the economics and the communities. There's history."

And as far as Nathanson can tell, there is also plenty of opportunity. Small and midsize markets, he explains, just aren't a big priority for his main competitor, the conglomerate Clear Channel. Nathanson says that big radio operators like Clear Channel focus on major metropolitan areas. "That is where their bottom line is coming from. They have to focus on the lion's share of cash flow and revenue," he says. That's not so with Mapleton. "Mapleton treats Monterey and San Luis Obispo and Merced as our L.A., Chicago, and New York."