Center Stage at a Watershed Moment

Kerry Brockhage is a go-to negotiator in NBCU’s Content Distribution Group
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KerryBrockhage.jpg

NAME: Kerry Brockhage
TITLE: Executive VP and Chief Counsel, Content Distribution Group
COMPANY: NBCUniversal

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Brockhage recently closed a number of retransmission consent and affiliate deals with AT&T, DirecTV, Dish and Charter Communications, among others. She worked with the NBC Sports Group to secure carriage of the company’s new linear network, Olympic Channel.

QUOTABLE: “I think my strongest attribute is my enthusiasm. I really like what I do. I love this industry and it doesn’t feel like work to me, so I embrace it.”

To understand Kerry Brockhage, you just have to know she was in the office during the East Coast’s Bomb Cyclone in early January. The snowy sidewalk she takes to the bus that delivers her to 30 Rockefeller Plaza every day was untouched by other footprints and the office was quiet. But Brockhage, who serves as NBCUniversal’s executive vice president and chief counsel for the Content Distribution Group, wasn’t going to let a pesky nor’easter get in the way of work.

“Kerry is invaluable,” said Matt Bond, chairman of NBCU’s content distribution arm. “You need someone who can draft documents, say it right, spot problems and see solutions. And she does all that.”

Brockhage oversees distribution deals involving NBC’s broadcast stations and satellite-delivered networks. She recently handled several blockbuster retransmission deals and affiliate contracts with traditional satellite and cable distributors and also supervises carriage deals with new digital distributors including DirecTV Now, Hulu, Sling, Sony PlayStation and YouTube

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The regulatory aspect of Brockhage’s job makes it even more complicated, but Brockhage said, “It’s another reason and another level that makes this job so interesting.”

While keeping abreast of the regulatory hoops is time-consuming, her biggest challenge is changes in technology. Add to that the fact that the industry landscape keeps shifting and Brockhage’s days have their own adventures.

Steering Negotiations From Every Angle
“There is always something new and different to work on,” she said. “There’s either a new person or new aspect of a deal or a new viewpoint to consider or a new issue to address. In some ways, you are doing the same thing, but it’s always changing.”

While Brockhage must steer negotiations from every angle at a high level, it’s her attention to detail that sets her apart from other attorneys, Bond said. “She gets involved in every aspect of every deal. She is the go-to person when you have a question about just about anything.”

Robyn Polashuk, a partner with the law firm Covington & Burling in Los Angeles who worked with Brockhage at Lifetime in the mid-2000s and a member of  MCN's Women to Watch Class of 2018, agreed. “Kerry is practical, level-headed and methodical. She is one of the hardest-working people I know. She is also incredibly calm and all that makes her a great attorney.”

Brockhage was a tax attorney before retiring to take care of her small kids almost three decades ago. She wasn’t actively looking to get into the cable industry, but a friend suggested she would be the perfect fit for Viacom Cable, which was looking for a program acquisition attorney at the time.

She didn’t know much about the business beyond being a cable subscriber. But she took the job and picked up the basics. When Viacom Cable was sold in 1995, she again off-ramped the corporate world. A few years later, Charter Communications lured her back to do contract work on retransmission consent deals.

Eventually, Brockhage wanted to move to the other side of the negotiating table and took a position at Lifetime. “I found the whole business side of the networks fascinating and I have loved every minute of it,” she said. She worked at A+E Networks after it purchased Lifetime in 2009, then migrated to NBCU seven years ago. She was promoted to her current position last spring.

“This has to be the best job in the industry for a distribution lawyer,” Brockhage said, “because we do it all.” In addition to the fascination with the business in general, Brockhage finds delight in working with her team. “I work with some terrific colleagues who are experienced, collegial and excellent at what they do,” she said. “We work through problems and ideas together. It’s always rewarding. I always look forward to their input.”

She is also intent on making sure that a collaborative and inclusive environment remains vibrant and open. Brockhage sees the #MeToo movement as a watershed moment for change in the workplace and believes it will be good for women, their male co-workers and the companies in general.

Making the Workplace More Inclusive
“It’s a real issue and I think it has real change behind it,” she said. “We all react to the cultures around us and we can make [harassment] harder to get away with and easier for people to talk about. We have a very inclusive environment [at NBCU] but I need to make sure we’re maintaining and nurturing that positive culture. I want people to feel comfortable coming to me and be confident we’ll address whatever it is. It’s easy to say ‘Come forward.’ It’s harder to create an atmosphere where people can talk about it and then know it will be dealt with.”

Brockhage said she believes a harassment-free workplace is important to every employee, but she realizes it will likely be women that keep the issue front and center and it’ll be just one more detail to focus on going forward. “It’s an exciting time,” she said. “It’s an important moment. It behooves everyone — men and women — to realize our potential and work where our contributions are valued. Change is difficult, but I feel this is a moment to begin making progress.”

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