Tightrope Walker1/30/2012 12:01 AM Eastern
Ask Rebecca Glashow’s boss what her title should really be, and
he’s likely to say, “chief tightrope walker.” To JB Perrette, Discovery
Communications’ chief digital officer, that’s a far more accurate title
than the one she has: senior vice president of digital-media distribution.
Perrette notes that Glashow is dancing on a fine wire, simultaneously
maintaining Discovery’s strong relationships
with traditional distribution partners and ensuring the network
group delivers the best possible consumer experience
across all platforms, including those of new distributors that
are apt to compete with the established base.
“That’s a tightrope that many people are walking in the
industry, but she’s leading our charge,” Perrette says.
Glashow says: “A lot of what I do is understanding the
business of each partner and where their priorities are and
trying to service those priorities — and to be cognizant of
when you can’t give anymore because it might be detrimental
to our business.”
Her healthy intellectual curiosity and genial personality are
two key reasons why Glashow is able to handle the tug-ofwar
so well, according to Perrette and the other executive
to whom she reports, Bill Goodwyn, Discovery Communications’s
president of global distribution and CEO of Discovery
“The business has probably changed more over the last
three years than it has in the last 40,” Goodwyn says. “So
you’ve really got to have somebody who understands not
just the technology today, but where it’s going to be in fi ve or
10 years. Rebecca’s one of the few people I’ve ever met that
really understands it from all the diff erent levels and can
synthesize it in a manner that’s easily understood.”
Goodwyn also notes that Glashow has “a great eye for talent.
She hires talent and develops talent very, very well.”
What’s more, “she’s incredibly personable. She’s got all
the attributes of someone who is fun and someone you want
to spend time with, thinking about the issues that are facing
the industry. She gets excited about it,” Perrette says.
Glashow says she chose to join the cable industry because
she was looking for an exciting work environment
where she could make a mark.
Her father had already shown her how inspiring that
could be. Sheldon Glashow is a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical
physicist. He spent 35 years teaching at Harvard
University. Now 79, he’s still teaching at Boston
University — not because he has to, but because he
“It’s his passion,” Glashow says. “He was a key infl uence
on my life, because he didn’t seem to have a job. He seemed
to have something he loved to do, and he made a living
doing it,” she adds, noting that her father’s professional
community is also his social community.
“When I found this industry and where I was able to contribute
— and found the right organization in particular, at
Discovery — I felt like I’d found that same kind of balance,”
When she first got out of college, Glashow aimed for a
career in film. But she became disenchanted with the
business while working at a film production company.
“Talk about an industry that doesn’t respect people,”
Then she landed a job at In Demand, the pay-perview
and video-on-demand service co-owned by Comcast,
Cox Communications and a partnership between
Time Warner Entertainment and Advance/Newhouse
Communications. “It was a phenomenal place to learn the
industry,” Glashow says.
She also had a stint at Comcast as a director of programming
before heading to Discovery.
“Working at an operator, you just get so much insight into
future technologies,” she says.
Now that she’s at Discovery, the MSO experience is “helpful
on the sales side — to be a good partner, to understand
their priorities and what’s important to their customers.”
Not that the operator experience puts her on Easy Street.
Now that cable is no longer growing at a healthy clip and is
competing with other means of content distribution, like
Netflix and Google, “everything is a fight,” she says, referring
to the difficulty of reaching détente during negotiations.
She says the biggest lesson she’s learned over the years is
to “treat your employees and your colleagues with respect.
It really matters how you talk to people, how you ask something
of someone, and always answering people’s e-mails
and being kind.”
She notes that as they move up the food chain, it’s easy
for people to get isolated and not really see what’s going on
around them. “I’m inspired by the people who continue
to respect the people that are working for them,” she says.
“There are incredibly tense moments, particularly in the
distribution sales side. You’re negotiating painful deals
and working more hours than you want to be working. It’s
very easy to lose perspective for a minute. I always try to be
kind and respectful to the people who are working so hard.”
Since joining Discovery in 2007, one of Glashow’s biggest
achievements came when she struck a new deal with Netflix last September. It is much more encompassing than the
previous agreement and allows Netflix customers to stream
an expanded selection of shows from past seasons on Discovery,
TLC, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, Science
and Military Channel.
In Perrette’s view, all of the competing interests could
leave someone in Glashow’s role a tad schizophrenic. She
says her home life is her sanity check. She likes to get away
with her husband, Dean Schaffer, most recently to Paris. But
usually their identical twin daughters, who are just over a
year old, keep them very busy.
“I spend my weekends with my family, and when I’m in
my weekend time, that’s where my head is,” Glashow says.
“I bake a lot of cookies and dinner for my family and try to
be 100% wife, mother and friend.”
Hometown: Brookline, Mass.
Current job: SVP, digital
media distribution, Discovery
First job: Coordinator, Unapix Films
Favorite TV show: Sons of Anarchy
High praise: “She’s got all the
attributes of someone who is fun and
someone you want to spend time with,
thinking about the issues that are
facing the industry.”
— JB Perrette, chief digital officer,