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MCNWW 2013: Women to Watch

Cable's Emerging Influencers for 2013 1/27/2013 7:00 PM Eastern
TakeAway

As we look ahead from the Wonder Women class of 2013, here are 13 emerging influencers we're watching.

SANDY ASHENDORF

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NETWORK DISTRIBUTION, BBC WORLDWIDE AMERICA

 

Career Highlights: Corporate associate (1984-89), Rubin Baum Levin Constant & Friedman; counsel (1989-91) to EVP, affiliate sales and marketing (2007), MTV Networks; current title since 2010, BBC Worldwide America

 

Why We’re Watching: Since joining BBC America in August 2010, Ashendorf has increased channel distribution by 20% and HD carriage by more than 200%. She also negotiated Comcast’s launch of BBC World News, secured carriage on Time Warner Cable in December and, overall, has grown its distribution by more than 130%. Her secret? It all boils down to the programming; from imports and originals on BBCA to the news on World News, “we have really high-quality, compelling shows for our audiences,” she said. She’ll next be leveraging that programming to negotiate TV Everywhere deals for the two networks.

 

Concurrent with bringing distribution inhouse and putting Ashendorf in charge, BBCA has also widened its brand through U.S.-based originals such as Copper, its first scripted series, and the upcoming sci-fi series Orphan Black, set to bow March 30. Both represent a move to bring the BBC’s sensibility to American storylines, which supports BBCA’s distribution goals.

 

“While [BBCA] is first and foremost British and all about high-quality British content, some of that can be made here,” Ashendorf said of the expanding brand. “We’re creating new series that are introducing new audiences to our programming.”

 

BBCA has also embraced integrated social media initiatives to increase audiences. For Copper, it created a customized website and social media games to promote the August 19, 2012, premiere. It was BBCA’s highestrated series premiere to date, with 1.8 million viewers, and the microsite logged 503,949 page views that day.

 

“That’s part of the special sauce, if you will — collaboration,” Ashendorf said. “What I do impacts programming, impacts ad sales, impacts everything.”

 

SARAH BRYANT

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING, COMCAST CABLE, CENTRAL DIVISION

 

Career Highlights: Financial Leadership Development Program (1995-97) to director of customer finance (2000), Lucent Technologies; director of business development (2000-02), Tellium; business operations director, San Francisco (2003-06), to current title (since 2012), Comcast Cable

 

Why We’re Watching: Bryant is more than just a number cruncher; she methodically focuses on business-process improvements. “If we can make progress every day in improving how we do business, it all ties together with improving financials and growth,” she said. In previous positions at Comcast, from the regional level to corporate, she has been the catalyst for re-engineering projects in billing, warehousing and information systems. Now, in her first divisional CFO role, she brings her track record to overseeing financials and information technology supporting 17 million subscribers across 12 states in the No. 1 MSO’s largest territory.

 

Bryant’s colleagues at Comcast describe her as a creative problem-solver. She said it all goes back to her fundamental raison d’etre: Make progress every day. “That was how our parents raised us, and I can look back now and see that I was always thinking, ‘How can I do that in my case?’ ”

 

In Comcast’s case, Bryant has applied that mantra to streamlining operations and, in turn, simplifying the customer experience. For her first year in the Atlanta-based Central Division, her goal is to restructure the collections process, reducing the number of agencies involved and unifying multiple collection paths.

 

“If it simplifies things for our care agents, then we provide a simpler customer experience,” Bryant explained. “So it may drive a great P&L, but it has other tangible benefits overall,” like improving vendor relationship managemnt and measuring performance, she said. “When you move to a standard, and everyone knows they’re being measured by that standard, they perform better.”

 

 

AMY CARNEY

PRESIDENT, ADVERTISER SALES, STRATEGY AND RESEARCH, SONY PICTURES TELEVISION

 

Career Highlights: Sales assistant (1980) to VP/general sales manager (1989-94), Telerep; general sales manager (1997-99), WTVR-TV Richmond, Va.; GM (1999-2000), Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch; VP, sales (2000-03), Univision Online; SVP of ad sales (2003- 2004) to current title (since December 2012), SPT

 

Why We’re Watching: As head of ad sales for SPT’s first-run, off-network and digital inventory, Carney has championed unique opportunities like the “10-Second Solution,” allowing advertisers to insert brief announcements into programming. In December, she added responsibility for SPT’s global strategy and research group to her domain. “To be effective and be able to look down the road at ways to grow your business, you need the discipline of research,” she said.

 

Researching and paying attention to what clients want has gotten Carney results since her early days selling ads for Telerep in Chicago. She was wooing a Foote, Cone & Belding sports buyer, a huge Yankees fan, so she invited him to the Bronx for a game against the White Sox. “He said, ‘Wow, if I could meet Phil Rizzuto, I’d buy whatever you wanted,’ ” she recalled. What he didn’t know: Carney’s dad directed Yankees baseball telecasts. Did Rizzuto show up to meet the buyer? “I got the biggest order of my life the next day,” Carney said.

 

At SPT, Carney has demonstrated she’s an effective team leader, managing sales teams in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago since 2003. All three teams are cross-functional, handling both TV and digital ads. “That makes my life much easier,” Carney said. “I hope to bring that to the research side.”

 

With her December promotion, she now also oversees research teams in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Hong Kong. “I see an opportunity for us to have seamless communication around the globe,” she added. “Collaboration is our watchword.”

 

 

JENNIFER CHUN

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CONTENT ACQUISITION, TIME WARNER CABLE

 

Career Highlights: Associate (1996-2000), Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP; director (2000-01) to senior VP (2005-08), business and legal affairs, Fox Cable Networks Group; senior VP, business and legal affairs, News Corp. Digital Media (2008-2011); group VP, content acquisition (2011) to current title (since 2012), Time Warner Cable

 

Why We’re Watching: Chun fell into the cable business just 13 years ago as a corporate lawyer with no media experience. Today, she oversees more than $2 billion in business, negotiating content deals for the No. 2 MSO in an era of technology-driven changes in how subscribers consume video.

 

Over the last 18 months, Chun has been involved in negotiating deals for channel carriage, on-demand programming, TV Everywhere initiatives and licensing for the TWC TV iPad app. Most recently, TWC announced it will bring its TWC TV service to Roku streaming devices in the U.S.

 

“What is most challenging is that everything is challenging,” Chun said. “From what we pay to who is watching, we have to treat it all as important.”

 

Chun didn’t land in her current position by any grand design. “I didn’t map out a specific career path,” she said. “I just focused on working with people I enjoy on things that bring me satisfaction.”

 

Among those colleagues past and present are Dan Fawcett, the then-general counsel for Fox Cable Networks who brought her into the cable industry; Mike Angus, who migrated with her from Fox Cable to TWC; and Melinda Witmer, TWC’s chief programming officer (and a 2009 Wonder Woman).

 

“I think we are right brain-left brain,” Chun said of her relationship with Angus, TWC’s senior vice president and general manager, video. “We’re different in a lot of ways but, weirdly, have the ability to reach violent agreement on things.”

 

Spoken like a true negotiator.

 

 

ELLEN KRONER

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, COMMUNICATIONS, AMC NETWORKS

 

Career Highlights: Publicist (1980-84), Showtime; field publicity and promotion to VP of publicity (1984-94), Sony Pictures; SVP, corporate communications (1994-98), ICM; VP, public relations (1998-2004), AMC (the channel); SVP, corporate communications (2005-07), Rainbow Media; current title since 2007

 

Why We’re Watching: Kroner led the rebranding of Rainbow Media from a small programming arm of Cablevision to programmer of cinematic originals AMC Networks after its spinoff from the MSO. Her boss, CEO Josh Sapan, called her a “gamechanging leader,” but Kroner said she has just been lucky to be around for “moments of gamechanging transformations.” With hindsight, the way those “moments” line up now suggests Kroner was laying the groundwork all along, as she guided the messaging surrounding taking American Movie Classics from a commercialfree movie channel to ad-supported network AMC, delving into scripted originals, and finally, spinning off and going public.

 

Each step of her career also, in retrospect, seems tailor-made for her current role. At Showtime in the early 1980s, she “was a part of the growing awareness of the press that cable was going to become the new source for outof- the-box TV programming.” And at Sony Pictures and ICM, she acquired a flair for moviescale promos, as demonstrated with publicity stunts like zombies crossing the Brooklyn Bridge for the premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

 

But she attributes her success at AMC Networks to the value Sapan places on communications. “I have a visible role in many of the things that we do [because he] looks to us for key input on business decisions and how things are done,” Kroner said.

 

Another difference, she noted, is all of AMC Networks’ TV department heads report to her. “So, I have oversight of everything the company says about itself,” she explained. “My team has influence and input into all of our constituents.”

 

 

LAURA LEE

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, DISTRIBUTION, CROWN MEDIA FAMILY NETWORKS

 

Career Highlights: Salesperson to district sales manager (1996-98), ADP; regional manager, affiliate sales (1998-2002), E!; director of central region (2002) to current title (since 2010), Crown Media Family Networks

 

Why We’re Watching: Lee has been on the radar since 2008, when, as vice president of distribution for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, she was named to Multichannel News’ “40 Under 40” list. Since then, both networks have seen steady increases in distribution, ratings, subscriber fees, upfront revenue and scatter pricing, and Lee was promoted to senior vice president. Last year alone, Hallmark Channel added lifestyle programming to its originals slate, alongside its signature movies, while Hallmark Movie Channel more than doubled its originals output and is consistently ranked as one of cable’s fastestgrowing ad-supported networks. How can she translate all that into continued distribution growth? “It goes back to presenting a value proposition that makes sense, and that comes down to showcasing what the schedule looks like and how much it costs,” Lee said.

 

As 2013 kicked off, Lee and her 12-member team were showcasing a streak of Saturdaynight ratings wins for Hallmark Channel at the end of last year, when the network had basic cable’s No. 1 Saturday movie for eight consecutive weeks during its “Countdown to Christmas” programming stunt.

 

“That takes a team working together really hard,” Lee said, “We just put one foot in front of the other. There’s no ego in what we do — we just do it. If you enjoy your colleagues and feel a good sense of camaraderie, then you can really move mountains.”

 

Lee started out in sales. As a child, when other kids wanted to play “school,” she wanted to play “business.” And she loved cable. “All the things I enjoyed and got excited about came together in this,” she said.

 

 

LORI LEE

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, HOME SOLUTIONS, AT&T

 

Career Highlights: Intern (1988) to senior accountant (1991), Price Waterhouse; senior manager, business planning and analysis (1991-93), Mallinckrodt Medical Inc.; director, corporate planning (1996-97), The Earthgrains Co.; director, financial planning (1997), to current title (since 2012), AT&T family of companies

 

Why We’re Watching: Lee is responsible for the $6 billion wireline piece of AT&T’s $14 billion “Project Velocity IP” initiative to expand its mobile and broadband networks, announced in November. For her part — and it’s no small part — she’ll oversee an expansion of the company’s wired Internet- protocol network to 75% of homes across its 22-state service area. Her mandates: Increase Uverse broadband speeds to 75 Megabits per second, expand the U-verse footprint to 85 million homes by year-end 2015 and make high-speed Internet and up to 45 Mbps phone services available to another 24 million customers by year-end. “You start with an idea, improve on it, please your customers and go wide,” she said, “and we have $6 billion to achieve that — all centered around a great customer experience.”

 

A consummate example of AT&T’s diversity development philosophy of rotating employees through different areas of the business, Lee’s path was not the typical journey to the top of a tech company. She steadily progressed up and across financial planning, investor relations, a CFO role, strategic planning and customer care before becoming chief marketing officer of Home Solutions — her introduction to the multichannel-TV business. Three months later, she was promoted.

 

“This has been a whole new business for me to learn,” she said. “The wireline business is new … and the content business is really different than anything else we do.”

 

Nonetheless, she said, AT&T is the ideal company to bring the content and the screens together into a meaningful consumer experience: “We have a fully integrated solution featuring TV service, but that’s enabled through broadband. If we can delight [customers] across all that, that’s pretty exciting.”

 

 

NICOL TURNER-LEE

PRESIDENT/CEO, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR MULTI-ETHNICITY IN COMMUNICATIONS (NAMIC)

 

Career Highlights: VP, digital inclusion, to senior VP, external affairs (2002-09), One Economy; VP/director (2009-12), Media and Technology Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; current title since 2012

 

Why We’re Watching: Nine months into her tenure at the helm of NAMIC, Turner- Lee is re-energizing the organization’s commitment to diversity inclusion in cable. To increase NAMIC’s visibility, she spearheaded a partnership with Multichannel News to support the NAMIC Vision Awards this May honoring “the executives who are making the decisions and the creatives who are creating the content” that reflect “the new multicultural consumer,” she said. Turner-Lee sees an opportunity for the cable industry to set the gold standard for diversity and views NAMIC as the conduit through which “other industries see how serious our industry is about workforce diversity and inclusion.”

 

With a deep background in non-profits and a doctorate in sociology, Turner-Lee has the intellectual chops to ensure the industry remains engaged in diversity initiatives. But it’s the passion she brings to her role that can make the difference between random initiatives and an ongoing dialogue that fosters real change.

 

She navigates between enthusiastic champion — “We’re in a great time of upward growth toward meeting our goals” — and truth-teller: “We still have a ways to go.” She gives the industry high marks for philanthropy, bilingual advertising and bicultural messaging, but notes room for workforce improvements.

 

“Increasing pipeline diversity is the area where we are constantly trying to find balance,” Turner- Lee said. “Where do we find the most diverse candidates and where do they fit? That will be an ongoing conversation.”

 

Therein lies one of cable’s opportunities to set the bar, she said: “What other industries take CEOs, senior leaders, mid-level managers, and allow them to travel to be part of the conversation on diversity inclusion? Not many.”

 

 

TARA MAITRA

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER, CONTENT AND MEDIA SALES, TIVO

 

Career Highlights: News associate (1993- 94), CNBC; director of multimedia services (1995) to VP/GM (2000), CNBC Business Video; EVP/GM (2000-04), Primedia Digital Video; senior director, VOD, Comcast (2004-05); current position since 2005

 

Why We’re Watching: Maitra is TiVo’s triple threat against traditional multichannel video, with expertise in content, technology and business. Having secured more than 75 content partnerships, she helped morph the TiVo DVR into a fully-integrated, Internet-connected entertainment device for video, music and other services. Multichannel operators including Virgin Media, Suddenlink, Mediacom, RCN and Comcast are getting on board. Now she’s also spearheading TiVo’s moves into interactive advertising and audience measurement.

 

Content, and the changing ways it’s consumed, have driven Maitra’s career. She started out to be a TV journalist, joining CNBC in 1993. Two years later, she nearly declined what turned out to be a career-defining job when she was asked to help launch CNBC’s streaming video business. “I said I wanted to stay in TV,” she recalled, “and my boss said, ‘It pays more.’ ” That persuaded her, but Maitra insisted on keeping her hand in editorial as liaison to the news side while fleshing out the business model.

 

The result: “I learned that no matter how great the journalism is, if the business doesn’t work, the product can’t exist,” she said.

 

Her next two roles, translating Primedia’s magazine brands into online video businesses and spearheading Comcast’s VOD efforts, furthered the convergence of her skill sets. “My father always told me, ‘Work hard, focus on the results, and the reward will come,’ ” she said. “Always being at the cutting edge can be challenging, but … paving the way for how a lot of this plays out in the industry has been the reward.”

 

 

STEPHANIE MCMAHON

Executive Vice President, Creative, WWE

 

 

Career Highlights: Account executive, New York office (1998) to director of creative writing (2002) to current title (since 2007), WWE

 

Why We’re Watching: Ultimately responsible for 13 hours of television a week worldwide — half of that in the U.S. — plus pay-per-view programming, live events, print and digital content, and fans’ social engagement with all of it, McMahon has duly demonstrated she’s more than the CEO’s daughter. “To lead these incredible teams here and provide a creative experience that’s worthy of the passion of our fans — that’s a pretty tall order,” she said. “It has to be worthy.” While the WWE Network didn’t get off the ground in 2012 as originally announced, the company hit a number of other fan-worthy milestones last year, including the launch of two new weekly series, WWE Saturday Morning Slam on The CW in August and WWE Main Event on Ion in October; the addition of nine new Web series to its WWEFanNation YouTube channel, increasing subscribership by 200% to more than 735,000; and the creation of a secondscreen app that has been downloaded 3.5 million times since August.

 

With more than 134 million followers across multiple platforms, WWE can be accurately described as a social-media juggernaut. Under McMahon’s creative direction, it ranks as the third most-followed sports brand on Facebook, behind the NBA and Nike; and the fifth most-followed sports brand — and 64th most-followed brand overall—on Twitter. Monday Night Raw is among the top five most socially active TV series, averaging 818,000 social media mentions per week on Facebook, Twitter and GetGlue, according to Trendrr.

 

McMahon is also steering the company toward other live events programming. On that front, WWE last December distributed The Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary pay-per-view concert. “We have the television, pay-per-view and marketing expertise to take any brand and make it successful,” she said.

 

 

JESSICA RODRIGUEZ

Executive Vice President, program scheduling, univision communications

 

Career: Analyst, Chase Manhattan Bank (1995-97); programming and promotions director, Univision Puerto Rico (2002-03) to SVP, Univision Cable Networks (2011- 12) to current title (since 2012), Univision Communications

 

Why We’re Watching: The highest-ranking Hispanic woman at the leading media company serving Hispanic Americans, Rodriguez oversees broadcast, cable and digital programming for Univision and was instrumental to the launch of three new cable networks last year: tlnnovelas, Univision Deportes and ForoTV. In the last six months, Rodriguez formed the Univision Agency, consolidating all creative services to provide a one-stop shop for each property’s promotional needs. That effort “went hand-in-hand with all our innovation and growth on the distribution side with the networks,. Now we have a more unified approach.”

 

Rodriguez understands the Univision viewer intimately. Growing up in the South Bronx, N.Y., she said, “the way I connected with my parents was through Spanishlanguage programming.” She still remembers the first telenovela she saw — Los Ricos Tambien Lloran (The Rich Also Cry).

 

That experience ultimately shaped her career. As a young analyst at Chase, one of her managers sat her down for a conversation about her future. “I confided in him that I wanted to work at a company that kept me in tune with my Spanish heritage,” she recalled. “And he said, ‘Don’t let anything or anyone else define you. If you have a dream, don’t let anyone say you can’t do it.’ ”

 

Not long after that talk, she entered the MBA program at Stanford University School of Business and began retooling for a career in the media. Rodriguez now tries to “pay that forward” in her role as a senior leader.

 

“I am very committed and passionate when it relates to the Hispanic experience and what our viewers watch,” she said. “And when have that passion, that’s what you lead with.”

 

 

SUSAN STONE

Senior Vice President, Operations and Engineering, Major League Baseball

Career Highlights: Junior account executive, corporate sales (1982-83), Tiffany & Co.; freelance production secretary (1987) to production manager (1987- 89) to Olympics production manager (1994-97), NBC Sports; director of production services (1998-2001), CBS Sports; remote operations executive, NFL Network (2006-2008); VP, operations (2008) to SVP, operations (2010), to current title (since 2012), MLB Network

 

Why We’re Watching: Since overseeing the operational buildout of MLB Network — among the first deployments of a tapefree, file-based workflow — Stone has been racking up the technical Emmys, including two in April 2012, for Outstanding Daily Studio Show and Outstanding Technical Team — Studio, for MLB Tonight. She oversees operations for more than 2,300 hours of live studio programming as well as all remote operations for game broadcasts, the 30 Clubs in 30 Days spring training series, All-Star Game coverage and the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Now, MLB Network is about to launch its first entirely exclusive event, the World Baseball Classic in March, featuring 39 games among 16 countries over two weeks.

 

Stone may be the only employee at MLB Network who got her start working at Tiffany’s. That was after earning a degree in French literature and theatre at liberal-arts oriented Wesleyan University. “I was very well prepared for a career in sports,” she quipped.

 

She started on the operational side, which, she noted, “has always been more friendly and welcoming to women.”

 

While she has missed some of the hands-on production as she has moved up the management ranks, she has found a different kind of satisfaction playing a senior role, particularly in mentoring other women.

 

“But I won’t lie,” she said. “Sometimes I itch to get my hands on the credentials list.”

 

 

KIM WOODWORTH

Regional Vice President, Comcast Spotlight, Eastern Division

Career Highlights: Radio station management (1980-1994), various locations; regional VP (1994), Southeast ad sales region, to current title (since 2000), Comcast Spotlight; coauthor, 6 Essentials for Success in Business and Life (PerfectPaperback, 2009); author, the “Today I Can” children’s book series and I Am a Grateful Woman (TodayICan Publishing)

 

Why We’re Watching: Woodworth leads a team that increased the Eastern division’s online revenue by 39% from 201o to 2011 by incorporating ad sales on Xfinity.com and other properties into the core business. She has been integral to Comcast Spotlight’s launch of interactive products like Request for Information, Remind-Record and VOD Telescoping. Additionally, Woodworth has oversight for training the division’s 750 employees, a role she takes especially to heart as an active leader on Spotlight’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Board. “With all the new technology and interactive advertising in this multiscreen era where people can watch — and ads can run — anywhere, every day I commit to learning something new,” Woodworth said.

 

Woodworth is also committed to supporting women in cable. In 2008 she created and launched Spotlight’s Women in Leadership program, first at the divisional level and then, in 2011, nationwide.

 

“If you want to do something, own it,” Woodworth said. “I always said, ‘Oh, there needs to be more for women.’ Then one day I thought, ‘I need to do more for women.’ ”

 

Of the 22 women in the 2011 WIL class, 25% have already been promoted. Going forward, Woodworth said, she sees herself driving more initiatives like that one.

 

“I know this sounds corny, but I really try to walk the walk and talk the talk, and I’m giving back,” Woodworth said. “It can’t just be about me; it has to be about making a difference for others.”

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