#MCNWW 2018: Women to Watch

12 up-and-coming trailblazers 1/29/2018 8:00 AM Eastern
MCN 2018 Women to Watch: Friday Abernethy, Janet Balis, Johanna Fuentes, Roz Ho, Georgia Juvelis, Jennifer Koester, Colleen Moraghan, Robyn Polashuk, Samantha Rose, Michelle Strong, Michelle Thornton Ghee, Julie Unruh

Related: Celebrating Media's Influential Women

Senior Vice President of Content Distribution, Univision Communications Inc.

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: At Hispanic-consumer-focused Univision, Friday Abernethy directs content distribution sales and licensing efforts for television and digital platforms across multiple genres. She has executed deals under a variety of business models with all major linear and online distributors. Univision’s portfolio includes Univision, UniMás, Galavisión, Univision Deportes Network, Fusion TV and El Rey Network, plus direct-to-consumer service Univision NOW. Earlier, she was executive VP of distribution sales and marketing for Pop, where she was instrumental in the network’s repositioning. Before that, she was a Viacom content distribution executive for more than a decade, securing carriage for MTV Networks and BET Networks channels. Previously, she held posts at GE Capital and JP Morgan Chase and is involved with Camp Becket and Camp Chimney Corners, helping to send children from all economic backgrounds to summer camp.

MAJOR MENTORS: “My parents served as great role models for me. In addition to dedicating their free time to my brother and me, they have a tremendous work ethic. Further, my parents always supported me in my desire to have a career and instilled in me that I could do anything I wanted. Having grown up in a family with very traditional roles I reflect on this unwavering support with so much gratitude.”

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “The diversity of the work that I do ensures that no day is like any other with the added bonus of being able to advocate for our community.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Force yourself to make time for strategic reflection. Going months or years without regular introspection can lead you down a path you may not have intended.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “Traveling and experiencing new cultures with family.”

Partner/Principal, Global Advisory Leader for Media & Entertainment, EY

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: A partner at EY and head of its media and entertainment advisory practice, Janet Balis has deep experience in cross-platform media. Before EY, she was a partner and led the Innovation Lab at Betaworks, a studio of digital startups and investments. Prior to that, she was publisher of the Huffington Post and led sales strategy and partnerships at AOL, including its participation in the first-ever Digital Content Newfronts. Before AOL, she was executive VP, media sales and marketing for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “I like that I get to work across the full industry ecosystem to solve the most pressing issues facing media companies — from broadcast and cable networks, to cable and satellite operators, to film and television studios, to agencies and beyond.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “In my days at AOL, just after the Time Warner merger — where I was at the time — I was fortunate to work for the then-president of AOL Media Networks, Mike Kelly, who went on to be the CEO of The Weather Channel. Mike empowered each of us to transform the business with his unequivocal support. Mike gave us all powerful lessons to shape our success, including the mantra of ‘assume best intent’ and ‘results lag effort.’ To this day, those words shape my thinking.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Great work and delivering what you promise is an ante to be in business — focusing on personal brand, networking and endorsement can be incredible differentiators.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “My downtime is precious and I spend it with my beautiful children and friends. Beyond enjoying everything New York has to offer, I love to exercise, so you’re likely to find me at the gym doing a CrossFit workout, running in Central Park, taking a Flywheel class, raising money for Cycle for Survival — an indoor cycling event raising money for cancer research — or trying to improve my tennis game.”

Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications, Showtime Networks

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Johanna Fuentes is responsible for the strategic planning and execution of all global public and media relations initiatives for Showtime Networks and Smithsonian Channel, including programming publicity, media and talent relations, events, photography, awards, film festivals, philanthropy, sports and corporate branding. She supervises all press outreach, and is the communications liaison with parent CBS. Before joining Showtime in 2010, she was at Bravo and CBS.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “No day is the same. You walk in on any given day with a plan in place and breaking news and deadlines (and more recently social media) have a way of disrupting that order.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “After years working in PR, I got my first break in entertainment 18 years ago when I was hired by Gil Schwartz at CBS and back then reported to Chris Ender. It speaks to the stability of the company that they remain at the helm today. Though I have moved around over the years I have learned the most from them on how to remain cool during a crisis and how to be a great manager. In addition, I worked under Frances Berwick at Bravo who is one of the smartest (and classiest) executives in this industry.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Read every story and watch everything, especially the work of your competitors. It’s important to stay very current so I have prided myself on always staying on top of new technologies. Also, stay hungry. And most importantly, I have learned so much from my industry peers. They may be billed as the competition, but some of my best friends work for rival networks and studios. Make those connections.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “As a Caribbean girl nothing makes me happier than reading a good book while quietly sitting on a beach. My other favorite thing: live music.”

Senior Vice President and General Manager, Consumer and Metadata, TiVo

Roz Ho, with more than 25 years of industry experience, holds numerous software and hardware patents and has extensive experience managing engineering teams and key product launches. Before joining TiVo in the spring of 2017, she was VP and head of product management at Ericsson. Earlier she worked at Microsoft, including roles in Microsoft Office, as GM of the Macintosh Business Unit and as corporate VP of premium mobile experiences.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “I get to work in TV! Seriously, this is a very exciting time in the entertainment industry. There are so many changes happening — the explosion of content, cord-cutting, instant on-demand, streaming services, to name a few. Plus new technology such as AI and machine learning that will transform the media and entertainment workflow … Just as important, though, is that I enjoy collaborating with people to brainstorm and build the best TV experiences — team members, customers and partners.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “Lisa Brummel, former executive VP at Microsoft, gave me an opportunity to become a general manager, and then taught me to go after jobs I didn’t think I was 100% qualified for. Another is J Allard, former chief experience officer and chief technology officer for the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft and one of the Xbox creators, who was truly inspirational and visionary.”

CAREER ADVICE: “This sounds so cliché: work on something you are passionate about, and work with people you can connect with. Don’t be afraid of change if you find yourself in a situation where those two conditions are not being met. Never stop learning.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “I like to explore remote corners of the globe (I’ve visited over 100 countries), ski the steep and deep, hike up mountains and dabble in archaeology.”

Senior Vice President and Co-Head, Corporate Communications, AMC Networks

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Georgia Juvelis oversees all financial and business communications strategy and media relations for AMC’s corporate strategic initiatives and business segments that include AMC Networks International; new digital businesses, including streaming services Sundance Now and Shudder; and IFC Films. She also oversees corporate marketing efforts and internal communications. She joined AMC Networks in 2007 with more than 15 years of experience. She was VP of communications for Gemstar-TV Guide and, before that, owned a PR consulting firm in New York and San Francisco, with clients including Hearst and PBS. She began her career managing publicity for Discovery Communications.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “Fortunately, many things. Since every day is different and the dynamics of the business are changing so fast, my job is never quotidian. There’s always something new coming at me but that’s the fun part and is what keeps me engaged. I also get to work with a group of very creative, thoughtful and smart people who don’t take themselves too seriously and are just fun to be around.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “I’ve been lucky to have worked alongside many mentors through the years who have inspired me, challenged me, even frustrated me. I had a few early on who were very supportive and encouraging, which was especially meaningful as I was just starting out. They not only taught me the foundational elements of great PR, also had a deep understanding of the business and always had each other’s back.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Be impatient with your unhappiness. It’s hard to be great at something you’re not enjoying, and it’s simply not worth staying in a role in which you’re no longer learning or that is stifling you.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “There never seems to be much of it! But I devote most of my free time to my kids, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Director of Telco and Video Distribution Partnerships, Google

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Jennifer Koester began her career as an attorney and joined Cablevision Systems in 2005 as vice president of privacy, product management and subpoena compliance. She became senior VP of advanced advertising products and data analytics at Cablevision Media Sales in 2014 before heading to her non-legal role at Google in 2016. Her knowledge and perspective of the television ecosystem helps her increase engagement with Google video distributor partners and drive strategy for future growth opportunities.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “I love the multifaceted dimension of my role at Google. Being in the cross-section of technology, media, data and consumer experience creates both new opportunities and new challenges every day.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “My parents provided me with a solid foundation to balance a strong professional work ethic while being committed to family. Amazing female leaders at Cablevision like Kristin Dolan, Kim Norris and Karen Au Claro inspired me to bring my voice to an industry where women leaders were the minority. Industry icons like Tad Smith and Bonita Stewart saw strength and potential in me.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Understanding that there’s not always one defined path to achieve your aspirations gives you the power to take informed risks, try new roles or explore new industries that will ultimately lead you to realize your full professional potential.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “My downtime is focused on our very active children with snippets of tranquility in the yoga studio or fishing with my husband. Understanding that children grow up quickly, most of my free time is spent on the sidelines of the baseball, soccer and volleyball fields supporting our son and daughter. And we always cook Sunday meals together as a family.”

Senior Vice President, Data Solutions, 605

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Colleen Moraghan brings more than 30 years of advertising experience to her new firm, 605. She is responsible for the design, development and delivery of unique and effective technology- driven solutions that increase sales by using set-top box data for audience discovery, media planning and measurement. Earlier, she was VP of audience measurement at Cablevision Systems.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “I love the people. Getting up and coming to work to lead a team of committed and talented people is what inspires me. We are like a family; we all share a passion for the data business and we all support each other as we learn and grow. We have achieved so much already after only one year at 605. The future is very bright and I love working in an environment where the team is passionate and can celebrate our achievements.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “It’s hard to choose. Jim and Kristin Dolan certainly are the easiest choices as Jim hired me way back in 1983 [at Cablevision]. I hadn’t yet graduated from college and I was given the amazing opportunity in ad sales under Jim. We worked very hard and established the foundations of local cable ad sales.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Life will bring you many twists and turns that you can never plan for, so surround yourself with good people who have your best interests in mind. Look for those good mentors: they will change your life.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “What downtime? My waking hours are spent on 605, two almost-adult children, an aging father, my life partner Stephen Densen, as well as many beloved friends. I enjoy going to the gym and regenerating with nature by biking or hiking. Stephen is a foot surgeon and we enjoy being involved in the Doctors Without Borders events in the town of Southampton, L.I., where we have a home.”

Partner, Covington & Burling LLP

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Robyn Polashuk focuses her practice at Covington & Burling on the licensing and distribution of programming content across a variety of platforms (including cable and satellite, IPTV, mobile and internet) and business models (from linear to subscription and transactional VOD, electronic sell-through and interactive applications). Her work also includes negotiating retransmission-consent agreements. Clients have included The Walt Disney Co. and ABC, El Rey Network, Fox Cable Networks, Hulu, Ovation, NFL Network, PBS, Pluto TV, Tennis Channel, TV One, Univision and Viacom. She’s negotiated on behalf of content providers with all the traditional TV distributors, including AT&T-DirecTV, Charter, Comcast, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS, as well as the emerging streaming distributors, such as PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and Verizon Go90. Earlier in her career, she served as VP, distribution legal affairs, at Lifetime, and as senior counsel, new technology law group, at Disney.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “I love the diversity of the clients and projects, and the interesting new issues I am asked to address nearly every day in our evolving industry.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “My greatest mentors have been colleagues who I’ve met later in my career and have pushed me to think about my role in new ways. Every person we know has things to teach us if we are open to the lesson.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Law school teaches us that hard work is how we provide value. But it is our relationships, earned trust and integrity that are our greatest assets. Grow your relationships and support those around you with quality — that is how we can offer the most value to the industry and ourselves.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “Turns out that I have a bit of a green thumb, so when I have a free hour or two, I enjoy roaming plant nurseries for a specimen not yet in my garden.”

VP Director, Video Investment, Horizon Media

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Samantha Rose is a leader at Horizon Media, overseeing national video buying for clients such as Capital One, Sleep Number, A+E Networks, Publishers Clearing House and Stanley Steemer. An 11-year veteran, she previously worked on accounts spanning multiple verticals, including Geico, HGTV and David’s Bridal. Currently, she is responsible for overseeing both upfront and scatter negotiations for her client roster. Rose also spearheads the Horizon Advanced group, which seeks to address and highlight best practices for enabling and infusing data into video activations. She works to identify best practices for the future of data-infused TV activation and vets the value of nontraditional prospective partners with programmatic or addressable TV solutions.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “The community and diversity of personalities make it so that I am excited to come into work every day. I’m consistently overwhelmed by how clever and engaged my colleagues are.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “Dave Campanelli, who I have worked for my entire career, is unbelievably smart but has also demonstrated the unique skill of how to tell a clear and concise story surrounding the most complicated of areas. And Marianne Gambelli, who epitomizes what it means to be a strong leader.”

CAREER ADVICE: “It’s all a balancing act — of course, personal and professional life balance, but also being able to balance what you know and don’t know, and actually listening to others and retaining that information.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “I have two young children so most of my ‘downtime’ is spent enjoying them and marveling at everything they do! But I also love to cook, travel and read fiction.”

Senior Vice President, Distribution, A+E Networks

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Michelle Strong co-leads the distribution sales team at A+E Networks. Her career includes four years in distribution with Disney and ESPN Media Networks, six years with BET in affiliate sales and marketing and four years with Comcast in local ad sales.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “I am truly living my dream by working in television. Content Distribution is such a crucial part of the ecosystem and I’m excited to see how the work we do reaches so many people. Those who know me know that I am a passionate champion of diversity and I get tremendous satisfaction from co-leading, with Marcela Tabares, the Multicultural Insights team at A+E Networks. The work we do to impact our business is extremely rewarding.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “My parents provided a great foundation. Professionally, I’ve been lucky to seek advice from some of the best in the business, starting with my current boss, David Zagin, along with my former bosses, Lori Conkling, Justin Connolly and Jane Rice. I’m extremely fortunate to be a part of the A+E Networks Executive Women’s Forum led by Abbe Raven. To be personally mentored by Abbe has been a gift.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Nancy Dubuc has created an inclusive culture at A+E Networks where there is value in being yourself. Throughout my career, I’d see successful people in certain roles and at times felt that unless I led like them I wouldn’t be a fit for that role or obtain their level of success. Somewhere down the road I realized that I was enough. There is such freedom in being yourself. So I’d say, find ways to ‘be you!’ ”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “I enjoy being a mom to very active twin daughters, traveling with my husband and threatening to learn to play the guitar.”

Senior Vice President Media Sales, BET Networks/BET Her, A Viacom Company

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Michele Thornton Ghee, who joined what was then Centric TV in 2012, was instrumental in branding it as “The First Network Designed for Black Women” and then into BET Her. Her team is charged with growing the network’s revenue base. Thornton Ghee has worked for CNN, A&E, History and The Weather Channel. She began her career at SBC Communications (Pacific Bell) in Oakland, Calif. She has written two books: Stratechic: Life and Career Winning Strategies for Women and Stratechic 2.0: Her Plan, Her Power, Her Purpose.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “What I love is that it’s not a job but a movement. I get to fight for black women every day of the week; 24 hours a day.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “I’ve had two mentors in my life and 100 advocates. The mentors have been a huge influence but so have my advocates. We live in a time where everyone is busy and it’s difficult for people to commit to the time necessary to build a mentee-mentor relationship. Advocacy has opened doors for me, helped me get promoted, paved the way to write and self-publish a book — you get the picture. I’ve learned not to wait on mentors but built an incredible circle of advocates.”

CAREER ADVICE: “If women build a plan and take the time to execute it then we have an opportunity to walk in our destiny. So what’s my career advice? I don’t have any. I have life advice. Get time back from people and things that aren’t worthy; activate your self-awareness; don’t attend events without a plan or purpose; know that follow-up and preparation are the most important aspects of building relationships; ask for what you’ve earned and know your brand better than the brand you work for! Do these things and you will have the career that leaves a legacy.”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “Other than spending time with my husband and kids — I’m still figuring that one out!”

Group Vice President, Programming Financial Operations & Analytics, Charter Communications

WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Julie Unruh, who joined Charter in 2004, oversees the Programming Financial Operations, Data Analytics and Contract Management & Compliance groups. She is responsible for providing financial and analytical insights inform content acquisition decisions, including original content. She previously served as VP of Revenue Assurance, a business unit she was hired to build. Prior to joining Charter, she was a manager in the PwC advisory practice, delivering revenue assurance solutions to cable industry clients.

LIKES MOST ABOUT HER JOB: “I love that every day is a new challenge and provides me an opportunity to learn and grow alongside some really talented people. I enjoy providing financial and analytical insights for video strategy decisions and working to better understand the value of programming.”

MAJOR MENTORS: “I have been influenced by many great mentors throughout life. In my early years, it was my parents and sisters who taught me values, work ethic and to dream big. Growing up, I played sports and experienced lessons in teamwork, success, adversity and leadership from great coaches and teammates. In my professional career, I have been fortunate to work with and learn from some dynamic leaders that have challenged me to grow. In life, I am lucky to have amazing supporters that have encouraged and pushed me.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Surround yourself with talented people who are passionate about what they do and inspire others to follow — it’s contagious!”

ENJOYS DURING DOWNTIME: “I enjoy spending time with my family. My husband and I have two sons that keep us on the go. On weekends, it is a pretty safe bet that you can find us at a soccer field. When we have a chance to escape, we enjoy trips to the mountains and beach.”

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