Calm Negotiator

Time Warner Cable’s Chun Is a Collegial But Tough Dealmaker
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Hockey may seem like an unlikely passion for Jennifer Chun, a slightly built woman with a gentle voice who’s a native of Southern California. But her husband, Dan Kim, who works for the National Hockey League, dragged her into that “foreign and strange” world. And she competes fiercely with both male and female opponents.

It’s a far cry from her dual role as senior vice president of content acquisition at TWC and the mother of two young children. Chun said she fell in love with the sport because “I meet the most interesting people from all walks of life.”

“It’s a place where you can unapologetically be yourself, whatever that is,” Chun said. “It’s a great release.”

Her interest in the media industry came out of the blue as well. Chun was five years out of law school, working in Los Angeles at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, when she received a cold call from a headhunter about a job at Fox Cable Networks Group.

A SHORT COMMUTE

The bait that hooked her was the prospect of a five-minute commute, she said. However, once she was ensconced at the company, Chun found her groove big time. Eventually, she moved from senior vice president of business and legal affairs at Fox Cable to the same title at News Corp. Digital Media.

“In the time that we worked together at Fox, I did not work with a lawyer more skilled in her position than Jen,” Karen Brodkin, executive vice president, business and legal affairs at Fox Sports Media Group, said.

Little wonder, then, that Time Warner Cable snapped her up about two and a half years ago. She works alongside Melinda Witmer, TWC’s executive vice president and chief video and content officer, and one of Chun’s informal mentors.

“From what I can see, she has transitioned seamlessly from a role in legal/business affairs to a true business leadership position,” Brodkin said. She described Chun’s negotiating style at Fox as “extremely calm and even-handed.” Theatrics, such as storming out of the room, were never her style.

“She’s really smart and does what’s best for her company, but she doesn’t make negotiations adversarial,” added Randy Rovegno, Ovation’s vice president of content distribution marketing, who sat alongside Chun during negotiations when he was a director of affiliate marketing at Fox Cable. “She makes it so you can find a solution acceptable for both parties, and that’s why she’s the best in the business.”

Those attributes must have been particularly key for Time Warner Cable last year, during its protracted and highly contentious license renewal with CBS .

“She has had quite a heavy load in the last year,” Witmer said. She noted that Chun had primary responsibility for not only the CBS agreement, but also the Univision, Lifetime and A+E Networks renewals in 2013 and MSG in 2012.

Witmer characterized Chun as not only a hard worker, but a hard thinker. “Jennifer’s one of those people where if the first solution doesn’t work, she’s going to come up with another and another and another,” Witmer said.

Chun said no single carriage deal stands out in her mind as a particular achievement. “There have been a lot of difficult negotiations,” she said. “But with every single deal, when you get to the signing, you feel a huge sense of accomplishment. There’s such tremendous work and effort to get to that point. It’s like crossing a marathon line, I imagine.”

Chun added she never would get to that end point without her team: “There’s not a single thing that I’ve accomplished here at Time Warner Cable that’s truly mine alone. There’s such a huge group of people behind the curtain here.”

A PENCHANT FOR CONTRACTS

Chun showed a penchant for contracts and negotiations when she was a young child.

“My mom has all these funny stories about how I used to argue with her about everything, and how I would draft what I called ‘contracts’ for my dad to sign — like when I was going to get my first car,” she recalled. “I was not driving when all my friends were driving, which in Southern California is like the kiss of death. So I wrote petitions to the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles] to get them to issue my license earlier.”

Chun has some advice for anyone who might want to follow a similar career track, and it seems related to Brodkin’s observation that Chun’s success is partially due to her big-picture perspective of the media industry.

“What I notice about people who really enjoy their jobs and thrive in them is that their work brain never turns off as they’re consuming video,” Chun said. “They’re constantly thinking about how it impacts their companies’ future. Their innate curiosity about how it works is pretty important to being successful and also enjoying the job.”

JENNIFER CHUN

TITLE: Senior Vice President of Content Acquisition, Time Warner Cable

AGE: 40

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Senior Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs, at both News Corp. Digital Media and Fox Cable Networks Group.

QUOTABLE: “There have been a lot of difficult negotiations. But with every single deal, when you get to the signing, you feel a huge sense of accomplishment. There’s such tremendous work and effort to get to that point. It’s like crossing a marathon line, I imagine.”

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