If you want to get a sense of where the future of TV is heading, you’d do well to keep your eyes fixed on the career path of Tara Maitra. Whether it’s streaming video, the video-on-demand business or the blending of live TV with over-the-top video, she has been ahead of the curve every step of the way.
These days, mixing live TV with OTT remains an important part of her role at TiVo. Maitra, who joined TiVo in 2005 as vice president of content services, is still in charge of striking big media deals. But, mirroring a trend that has been representative of her career, her responsibilities at TiVo have extended well beyond important tie-ins with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Amazon and Spotify. Maitra also provides oversight to TiVo Research and Analytics, a unit the firm acquired in 2012. In the fall of that same year, Maitra also took over TiVo’s human-resources responsibilities.
EARLY ANCHOR ROLE
Maitra, now the senior vice president and general manager of content and media sales and senior vice president of human resources at TiVo, “was a natural person to step into that [expanded] role,” TiVo CEO Tom Rogers, a mentor of Maitra’s who has worked with her for about 17 years, said. “But it’s her ability to work with people that has really forged that unique media technology cooperation that sets us apart as a company.”
Maitra’s ability to connect content with technology while taking on additional operational responsibilities tracks back to her days at NBC in the mid-1990s, when the programmer was pioneering a premium financial-news service for Wall Street pros that relied on then-nascent streaming video.
Maitra, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism and psychology from Washington and Lee University, started in an editorial role there that included on-air reporting and anchoring. She later broadened her role, tasked with developing and selling new industry-focused “channels” for NBC’s portfolio, including CNBC.
It was there that Maitra began to hone skills that would serve her well as her career progressed, Alison Tepper Singer, a former NBC executive who hired Maitra and is now co-founder and president of the Autism Science Foundation, recalled.
“Tara really had a knack for pulling together content that would be of interest to specific people in an industry,” Tepper Singer said. “I tease her about this — she’s such a deal-maker now, but I was there for her first deal.”
It was also at NBC where Maitra first caught the attention of Rogers, who was then the president of NBC Cable and ran the unit that developled the desktop news product. “That was when it was really forged in my mind that she would have a long-term, successful career path,” said Rogers.
After NBC, Maitra moved on to Primedia, and later to Comcast, where she obtained valuable insight into the still-budding video-on-demand business.
At Primedia, where she was reunited with Rogers, Maitra joined a company with about 350 magazines. Rogers put her in charge of a new digital video unit tasked with developing niche VOD channels and pitching those ideas to Comcast and other distributors.
It was during that period that Maitra “became enamored with the cable industry,” she said. “I really enjoyed negotiating agreements with [cable operators] and trying to figure out how to make video-on-demand a success.”
That work then brought her to Comcast, where, as senior director of content development, she worked with Matt Strauss, now the MSO’s senior vice president and general manager, video services. There, they collaborated on Select On Demand, a service that used licensed and original content to flesh out VOD content categories such as parenting, kids, autos, real estate and even dating.
“What I loved about that role was that everything I had done at NBC and Primedia I got to use at Comcast. But now you were talking about something that was being delivered at a much bigger scale,” Maitra said.
Maitra joined TiVo in 2005, coming on board when the DVR pioneer was just starting to dabble into the expanding universe of over-the-top content. It’s now a focal point of the company’s strategy.
“It really did take the company in another direction,” Maitra said. “I think it’s what helped the integration of linear and broadband, and finding a way to present that in the TiVo user interface in such a way that makes it easy for consumers to access. I also think it’s one of the key reasons why TiVo has been so successful today in working with cable operators.”
‘A CONTENT PERSON’
Some of that work, particularly with Netflix, has garnered global interest and attention. Virgin Media, the largest operator in the U.K., and ComHem of Sweden are TiVo partners that also happen to be among the first operators to offer Netflix on MSO-leased boxes.
“I expect that we’re going to see a lot more content available to our MSO partners through TiVo in 2014,” she said.
Noted Tepper Singer: “At heart, Tara’s a content person. The technology has caught up with her creativity, and that has really allowed her to excel.”
When Maitra isn’t splitting time between San Jose, Calif., and New York, you might find her traveling elsewhere with her husband, Mark Carroll, or spending time with Ginger, their border collie/ golden retriever mix.
She draws from her own career when offering advice to other women who are pursuing a career in the TV industry or otherwise climbing the corporate ladder.
“Be open to new opportunities,” she said. “I think having focus and direction is incredibly important, but have an openness to what else might be might there, because your career can take you on so many different paths.”
TITLE: Senior Vice President, GM, Content and Media Sales; Senior Vice President, Human Resources, TiVo
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Vice President and General Manager, CNBC/Dow Jones Business Video; Executive VP, Primedia Digital Video; Senior Director of Content Development, Comcast
QUOTABLE: “The one thing I have appreciated about my career, and this remains true at TiVo, is that I’ve always felt like I’ve been part of startup ventures within bigger companies.”