Finding a Path to Streaming

Interactive TV became a calling for Showtime’s Julia Veale
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NAME: Julia Veale
TITLE: Executive VP, Business, Product Development & Management
COMPANY: Showtime Networks
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Veale has been a key player in launching Showtime’s streaming service, on-demand services, HD channels, interactive TV and the formation of the joint venture with the Smithsonian Institution to create Smithsonian Networks. On her watch Showtime launched its direct-to-consumer app on all of the major streaming platforms.
QUOTABLE: “I’m not an engineer by training, but I have always spent a lot of quality time with engineers. That was my start in understanding technology, or at least understanding what the possibilities could be with technology.”

Julia Veale

Julia Veale

Julia Veale knows a lot of things. But over a career that has spanned nearly three decades in the cable business, perhaps the most important thing she knows is what she doesn’t want.

That has led the Showtime executive — her official title is executive vice president, business, product development & management for Showtime Networks — on a variety of career paths over the past several years. Whatever road she chose, it inevitably led to what has been her goal since she graduated from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in 1993: a role in helping to create what was known in a simpler time as interactive TV.

A New Hampshire native, Veale went to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, earning a degree in economics and political science. But Kellogg was where she found her footing.

“Kellogg was the transition point for me,” Veale said. It was there, after a brief stint as a commercial banker out of college, that she began trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

“I knew I didn’t want to be a management consultant, I knew I didn’t want to be in investment banking, those things didn’t really interest me,” she said. “And along the way, in the early ’90s, the mid ’90s, I became fascinated by the promise of interactive TV. That’s when the first trials for video-on-demand were starting. That piqued my interest. That was what I wanted to do when I got out of school.”

Interactive Interests

Interactive TV was in its infancy at that time, mainly focusing on transactional operations, like ordering pizzas via remote. It became clear pretty quickly that Veale’s career in that fledgling segment of the business wasn’t quite ready for primetime. So after a stint sleeping on friends’ couches and watching her classmates land jobs, she focused on another part of the industry — technology — and landed a position at tech pioneer General Instrument.

“I wrote a paper with a group at Kellogg on TCI [Tele-Communications Inc.] and they happened to be one of GI’s biggest customers,” Veale said. “I sent that paper and my resume to the head of GI and said I really want to work for you guys and I got an interview. It was sort of being in the right place at the right time.”

While Veale wasn’t a techie, her time at GI proved to be invaluable. She was working in corporate development while the company was heavily involved in creating the first digital set-top box.

“I worked with the head of advanced development and a team was formed and it ended up launching one of the first cable modems, so it was sort of in the early broadband space,” Veale said. “Fast-forward a few years, technology advanced and the market kind of caught up to what I was really initially interested in.”

That was 1999, and after hearing about an opportunity at Showtime, Veale took a position there, first working on the programmer’s on-demand products. As broadband started to become more prevalent, Showtime recognized the opportunity and importance of enabling its subscribers to access content on their devices, which led to the launch of the premium network’s authentication service, Showtime Anytime, in 2010.

“That was obviously interesting to figure out what we needed to do, gave us creative control over users’ experience with Showtime and gave us opportunities to gain new insights into consumer behavior because now we have a one-to-one direct relationship with subscribers,” Veale said.

Veale helped create a dedicated product team, putting together folks with experience in product development; product management and user experience design; software development and data engineering; and data science and quality assurance, helping to create that expertise in-house.

“It’s been a progression,” Veale said, noting that Showtime’s streaming initially launched with on-demand programming, with a live feed added later. In 2015, the network officially launched its over-the-top service, simply called Showtime. But Veale recognizes the importance of remembering where you came from.

“Showtime Anytime, our authentication service, gave us a big leg up in being able to launch an OTT service,” she said. “With that we gained greater insight into the entire subscriber life cycle.”

Behavioral Insights

Showtime Networks senior vice president, business/product development Amy Salerno said a knack for keeping ahead of the curve, as well as a talent for building great teams, has been a continuous thread throughout Veale’s tenure at the programmer.

“Julia has been at the forefront of Showtime’s digital product e6volution, staying ahead of changes in the marketplace and finding opportunities to transform the way people buy and watch Showtime,” Salerno said. “In addition to developing and managing Showtime Anytime and the Showtime standalone streaming service on every major platform, Julia has built a best-in-class product team that is focused on continually innovating our user experience and creating data-driven products and features. Julia has created a team culture that fosters collaboration, creativity and is fun to be a part of!”

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