When Discovery Communications founder John Hendricks was planning his network in the 1980s, he had almost everything he needed -- except for hard data showing that people would actually watch science-based TV shows. To prove to financiers that his idea would work, Hendricks cold-called legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, who ultimately gave him not just data about science-based shows but also a full-throated endorsement to the financiers Hendricks needed.

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