If Andrea Greenberg, president, Distribution and Rainbow Sports Networks, Rainbow Media Holdings LLC, had followed through on her early collegiate track, her colleagues and friends would be addressing her as doctor, instead of recognizing her as one of the highest-ranking women in sports television today.
As a junior at Massachusetts' Brandeis University, she still thought she was "going to be doctor — I was actually a pre-med student," said Greenberg, who most recently added the title of Rainbow Media Distribution president to her duties of overseeing Rainbow's majority owned-and-operated regional sports networks in New York, Chicago, New England, Florida, Ohio and the San Francisco/Oakland Area.
"I took all those horrific science courses, and then at some point I woke up and said, 'What am I doing?'"
RETIRING THE STETHOSCOPE
Greenberg eventually traded her stethoscope for a pen and calculator. After college, she joined Rainbow's business affairs department in 1983 at the urging of her sister-in-law, who worked at Montage, which eventually became AMC.
"Back then we were housed in a basement across the street from Cablevision headquarters," said the native Long Islander. "I was actually sitting among storage boxes and we were distributing at the time Montage and the Playboy Channel; we had an ownership interest in [them] and were responsible for distribution."
More than 20 years and a few additional networks later, Greenberg has asserted herself as one of the top female executives in cable, and arguably the top woman in cable sports.
Under Greenberg's leadership, the Rainbow Sports Networks businesses — now with some 250 people in tow — have grown dramatically in scope and magnitude, and also reside in the black financially.
"I worked on the various MSO deals for our regional sports networks, so when the opportunity arose at the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999 to come and join the operating team, I thought that would be a real challenge," she said. "It was something I'd never done before — actually managing multiple business like this. I was happy that the organization gave me the opportunity to do it."
In recent years, Greenberg's certainly been challenged by some very tough carriage negotiations between expensive sports networks and cost-conscious cable operators, including the most recent spat between Time Warner Cable and Rainbow's Fox Sports Net New York and Madison Square Garden Network.
Through it all, Greenberg said that while negotiations have often proved difficult, she hasn't had to deal with much sexism in a sports world that remains clearly dominated by men.
"I've been in the sports business for quite some time. Very often when I looked around the room in the early days I'd notice that I'd be the only woman in the room," Greenberg said.
"But I was always treated with respect and never felt out of place at all. There are a lot of competent people, and it's not necessarily relevant whether they are male or female, but rather good business people who want to achieve a purpose."
Of course it doesn't hurt to enjoy sports. Greenberg said she was a big soccer and baseball fan while at Brandeis — especially since her husband, Murray, was the star player on both school teams.
Today she's added lacrosse and volleyball to her list of favorite sports, due in large part to the fact that her eight- and 12-year-old daughters are major players at the grade-school level. "I love to watch my two daughters play sports. I'm a soccer/volleyball/lacrosse mom."
Off the field, Greenberg is a tough as they come. Due to her leadership abilities and keen business sense, Rainbow has blossomed into a valuable and highly coveted network property. Along with the regional sports networks, Greenberg oversees consolidated affiliate-sales and marketing efforts for Rainbow's AMC, Fuse, Independent Film Channel and WE: Women's Entertainment, as well as the video-on-demand services — MagRack, Fuse On Demand, IFC On Demand and Uncensored On Demand.
She also played an instrumental role in establishing Rainbow Sports as a leader in on-demand with the development of Sportskool, a new VOD service launched in January focusing on instruction, coaching and guidance for a wide range of athletics and fitness activities.
LONG ISLAND LEADERSHIP
Greenberg attributes much of her success to Rainbow Media Holdings colleagues Kathleen Dore, now president of entertainment services, and the company's president and CEO Josh Sapan. She also points to Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman and CEO James Dolan and the MSO's patriarch Charles Dolan, who is now heading the HD satellite service Voom, under the Rainbow DBS unit, as mentors.
"Today, you look at where Rainbow is and how far it's come — it's been great to be a part of that experience," she said. "I always learn from and admire the talented team of people I work with all across the country — both women and men — each of whom contributes to the success of the company and our businesses."
An avid reader, Greenberg would someday like to travel the world on her own time. But for the immediate future, she's focused on administering her practice at Rainbow.
"Right now we're very busy — we're working on new organizational structures, and new products and services for our client base. That's my focus over the next many months."