RELATED:Wonder Women Class of 2016
TITLE: Vice President, Programming, Azteca America
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: A two-time Emmy-winning producer, Margarita Black joined Azteca America in 2013 and has helped the network’s primetime ratings rise to their best level in nearly five years. She also led the team in acquiring the highly-anticipated global drama series from Turkey, Kaçak, scheduled to air later this year. Before joining Azteca America, a U.S. Spanish-language network owned by TV Azteca of Mexico, Black served as VP of programming, promotions and new program development for Univision Communications-owned Galavisión.
Black also has a background in live theater and has won recognition as an executive producer of shows from Promax, as well as Caracas, Venezuela’s Marco Antonio Ettedgui Award for theater production. Black received her degree from Venezuela’s Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Over the course of my career, I have learned so much from bosses, co-workers and employees who report to me, all of whom have been mentors to me at various stages of my career. I would like to name one person in particular, Lucia Ballas-Traynor, because she believed in me and gave me the opportunity to grow professionally. She was my boss at one point and now she is a friend.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I love that every day is different from the other. Each day presents a new and exciting challenge. Also the people — I am thankful for the opportunity to interact with so many talented people who are passionate about the work they do and the community they serve.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “Do what you like to do with passion.”
TITLE: Executive Vice President, Commerce Platforms, QVC
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Mary Campbell is responsible for leveraging the unique capabilities of TV, Web, mobile, tablet and social, while translating the QVC brand across all platforms to drive customer engagement and sales. Under her leadership, QVC has transformed into one of the world’s largest mobile commerce players while retaining two-thirds of the U.S. TV shopping market share. She has led the continued expansion of TV programming, including through QVC Plus. And she has led second-screen enhancements, including synchronizing the telecast with the tablet app and launching the company’s Apple Watch app in April 2015.
MAJOR MENTORS: “I have had a number of mentors over the years who took a genuine interest in my career and were open to sharing their experiences and learnings with me. These mentors were also instrumental in helping me make the right connections to grow my professional network.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I view every day as an exciting opportunity to help further enhance the QVC customer experience. Along with my team, I am always exploring new ways to engage, entertain and inspire our customers across multiple screens from our TV broadcast to today’s emerging platforms.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “Love what you do and love where you work. Never underestimate the importance of finding a workplace with values that align with your own. Also, take risks and trust your instincts. Be open to new challenges and trust yourself to meet those challenges. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to learn new things. Stay curious about your company and industry.”
TITLE: Group Vice President, Finance, TWC News, Sports and Local Programming , Time Warner Cable
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Over more than 30 years at Time Warner Cable, Nina Facini has been a manager of accounting; director of financial planning and analysis; vice president of finance; and regional VP of finance in several of the MSO’s key markets. As group VP of finance for Time Warner Cable Networks, she provides overall financial leadership and strategic direction for 38 regional and local news, sports and lifestyle channels, including New York 1 News as well as TWC SportsNet and SportsNet LA in Los Angeles. As regional VP of finance, she served on a strategic task group assigned to return underperforming markets to profitability through improved operational efficiencies and financial controls. She has led several major strategic initiatives involving the consolidation of accounting and finance operations, standardization of major processes and procedures, enhancement of internal controls and reduction of operating costs.
MAJOR MENTORS: “There have been many throughout my career, but a few bubble to the top. Melinda Witmer, TWC’s EVP, chief video officer and COO, TWC Networks, is certainly right up there. Melinda is one of the most skilled negotiators I’ve known. She has a knack for getting to the heart of an issue and coming up with creative solutions that work for all parties. Prior to Melinda, I had the privilege of working with various other industry leaders and mentors, including Patricia Armstrong, Barry Rosenblum and Tom Rutledge.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “As the finance business partner for the Time Warner Cable Networks group, I’m able to engage in all aspects of the business and help shape the group’s strategies. In addition, I get to interact with employees at different levels of the organization and across all functional areas.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “One’s credibility is king. Period.”
TITLE: Senior Director, Satellite Engineering, NCC Media
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Julie Fitzgerald oversees NCC’s engineering and operations efforts for the cable industry’s breakthrough I+ initiative, which integrates the local advertising platforms of NCC owners Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications, as well as other cable affiliates, AT&T, DirecTV and Dish Network. I+ now spans 30 networks in 75 markets and has generated more than $500 million in ad revenue since 2012. Fitzgerald joined NCC in 1995, and helped design and engineer the first cable interconnect local advertising platforms in the Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C., markets. Since then, she has worked closely with MVPD engineering teams to strengthen and expand their advertising businesses. Fitzgerald began her career as a film and video producer in Chicago. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and has five children, four working in media and one who is a mariner on the Kenai River in Alaska.
MAJOR MENTORS: “My most important mentors have been my father, Walt Topel, Jim Wotring and so many that go unsaid.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “What I love most about my job is I am always learning from others, no matter who I talk to. The industry is on fire right now with the latest and greatest technology and without listening you can miss something: even the smallest something, a great idea or solution. I have an opportunity to work with sales, operations, engineering and research, and I am always impressed with the depth of passion.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “Put your wings on and fly.”
TITLE: President and CEO, The Cable Center
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Prior to joining The Cable Center in 2004 — where she served as senior VP of industry outreach and overseer of programming initiatives before being named this past October to succeed retiring CEO Larry Satkowiak — Jana Henthorn was vice president of affiliate sales for A&E Television Networks. There, she led the network sales team for 16 states and two regional offices. Before that, she served as VP of operations and service fulfillment for Jones Intercable. At The Cable Center, she has led Customer Care Central, an industry executive forum focused on customer care which incorporates a group of initiatives funded by the James M. Cox Endowment for Customer Experience Management. She also has overseen efforts to advance the cable industry and celebrate its contributions by providing cable professionals and university students with an opportunity to interact through the Cable Mavericks Lecture Series. She recently edited a guidebook, along with Seth Arenstein, Dr. Charles Patti and Dr. Ron Rizzuto, titled Customer Experience Management: Lessons and Insights for the Cable Industry and published jointly by The Cable Center and CableFAX. Henthorn is a frequent speaker on topics pertaining to customer experience, Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) and cable-industry care innovations.
MAJOR MENTORS: “On the network side, David Zagin was #bestbossever. On the operating side, I learned a lot about executive presence from working with Glenn Jones and his senior team of Jim O’Brien and Ruth Warren. At the end of Glenn’s annual managers’ toast, he would say, ‘In what we do, we have no equal.’ I believe that is absolutely accurate about the cable industry.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “The Cable Center’s mission to tell the story of the cable industry has given me the opportunity to meet fascinating people and share their stories. I look forward to digitizing more oral histories, including the fabulous 2016 Wonder Women and Women to Watch.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, ‘In my experience, there is no such thing as luck.’ Hard work just looks like luck. On the more prosaic side, another great learning was, ‘Raise your hand quickly when new opportunities arise and don’t be afraid of a lateral career move to round out your skill set.’”
TITLE: Executive Vice President, Marketing, Starz
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Based in Starz’s Beverly Hills, Calif., office, Alison Hoffman spearheads all consumer and affiliate marketing for the network. She leads all facets of marketing strategy and planning for original productions, including show positioning, creative and media strategy and digital marketing. She was promoted from her most recent position, senior VP of originals marketing. She and her teams (originals marketing, affiliate marketing and creative services) are continually rebranding the network as it continues transforming into a home for breakthrough original programming. She oversees successful promotional, media and digital campaigns for the entire Starz original series slate, including Power, Outlander, Blunt Talk, Survivor’s Remorse, Black Sails, Ash vs Evil Dead, Flesh & Bone and Da Vinci’s Demons. She joined Starz in 2012 after serving as VP of creative and brand strategy at AMC, where she was an architect of award-winning marketing campaigns for series such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. At AMC, she helped reposition the network as it changed from a movie channel into a home for original programming. A native of Westfield, N.J., Hoffman lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three sons.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Chris Albrecht, CEO of Starz, and Linda Schupack, head of marketing at AMC, have been great bosses and mentors to me. Linda gave me my start in television and has been a source of support and advice ever since. Chris has inspired much of my growth as a marketer, a creative and an executive in the threeplus years that I’ve worked for him.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I love the creative process. The iterative nature of it. You start with a blank slate and then there’s a spark — a sketch, a piece of music, a concept — and through a collaboration with insanely talented people, you create something powerful and emotionally resonant. When we are able to create pieces that intrigue, entertain and sometimes even inspire, that is the best part of my job.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “You can get anything accomplished if you have two weeks.”
CHARISSE R. LILLIE
TITLE: Vice President, Community Investment, Comcast Corporation; and President, Comcast Foundation
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Since Charisse Lillie joined Comcast in 2005 as one of its top female executives, she has helped oversee the company’s giving more than $4 billion in cash and in-kind contributions to a wide array of organizations. Prior to joining Comcast, she was a partner at the law firm of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll LLP in Philadelphia from 1992 to 2005. Her remarkable resume also includes stints as a trial attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and as city solicitor for the City of Philadelphia.
MAJOR MENTORS: “In addition to my parents, my most important mentors were two federal judges, Clifford Scott Green and A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., who were always available to offer good advice, introduced me to their network of friends and colleagues and were often advocates and sponsors of mine throughout my career. When I became a law firm partner, my most important mentors were the chairmen of my firm, the late Arthur Makadon and David L. Cohen (current senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer, Comcast), who, to this day, continues to be a mentor and friend.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I enjoy being a part of the strategic business process that executes on Comcast’s mission to support the communities where its customers and employees live and work. Comcast’s commitment to closing the digital divide and providing opportunities for diverse and underserved families is unparalleled in our industry. Growing our partnerships with great organizations focused on teaching digital literacy, and leading our efforts to provide grassroots community support through our national day of service, Comcast Cares Day, is a privilege that I never take for granted.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “The best career advice I have received is to work harder than everyone else, have unquestioned integrity, be my authentic self and trust my instincts. These are lessons from my mother, my first mentor and my toughest critic, who still thinks I should work harder!”
TITLE: President, Al Jazeera America
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Kate O’Brian was named president of Al Jazeera America a month before the news network launched in August 2013. (It recently announced plans to discontinue broadcasting as of April 2016.) She had spent 30 years at ABC News, lastly as senior VP of newsgathering operations. Her oversight included all ABC News bureaus worldwide; business, law and justice, medical, and investigative units; and NewsOne, ABC News Radio and affiliate relations.
She had also been general manager of programming for ABC News Radio; producer for World News Tonight With Peter Jennings, both in Washington, D.C. and New York; and manager in talent development. She began as a television desk assistant in New York and joined the staff of This Week With David Brinkley when it launched in 1981. On O’Brian’s watch, AJAM was honored with numerous awards including an Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism, two Peabody Awards, three Gracies and two Sigma Delta Chi Awards. Throughout her rising career, she managed to maintain a work-life balance, taking time off and adjusting her business obligations as needed to be a mother. She has two daughters, and her first grandchild was born in October 2015.
MAJOR MENTORS: “My parents were always my biggest mentors. A few teachers I had growing up attending an all-girls school and, ultimately, a women’s college also had a major impact on me. Together, they were the ones who taught me the most about how to work with others to achieve the best results possible, and to never isolate yourself. No one deserves an ego. They taught me to always look out for those who can help you grow and succeed and those you can help in return.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I like creating high-quality journalism. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the most talented, passionate and dedicated people in the industry, both in front of and behind the camera, who constantly amaze me. The added challenge of the current media and news environment makes it even that much more exciting and rewarding.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “The best career advice I’ve ever received is also the best piece of life advice, which I remind myself of often. Do what you love, be open and curious, and always do your best to look at challenges as opportunities. And remember that working to achieve and be the best you can be has an element of risk to it, so it’s important to never regret anything — because it is all a learning experience.”
TITLE: Senior Vice President, Associate General Counsel, A+E Networks
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Stephanie Plasse joined A+E Networks in 2013, where she serves as the head of the distribution legal group. Before joining AEN, she was VP of networks business and legal affairs for HBO. Before that, she held roles in entertainment and corporate law firms, including Greenberg Traurig LLP; Davis and Gilbert LLP; and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. Plasse provides legal and strategic support for U.S., Canadian and Caribbean distribution of 10 A+E-owned networks (HD and VOD), including A&E, History and Lifetime, on cable, satellite, telco and alternative technology platforms. In this role, Plasse also functions as a key part of the distribution negotiating team. She works hand in hand with the president and EVP of distribution, as well as with the Distribution Sales and Marketing department to achieve success in new deals and renewals through cutting-edge strategy, skilled negotiations and outstanding drafting of complex agreements with major distributors. She was a member of class 27 of the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute. Plasse also is part of WICT New York’s Prime Access executive mentoring program. She also volunteers for the nonprofit Oldest College Daily (OCD) Foundation, parent foundation of the Yale Daily News, Yale University’s college newspaper.
MAJOR MENTORS: “[AEN EVP and general counsel] Henry Hoberman has always recognized hard work and rewarded it with encouragement, guidance and opportunities to grow. [President of distribution] David Zagin has also been a generous champion who has taught me by example how to support the individuals on a team. [Past SVP] Nancy Alpert hired me at A+E Networks, and Tom Woodbury hired me at HBO, and they were both important advisers, too.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “Looking forward to every day as an opportunity to work through complex challenges with an amazing team that is smart, creative, positive and collaborative.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “Two pieces of folksy life/career advice from my father — always improve your weaknesses, and life is a long-distance race.”
TITLE: Executive Vice President, Pricing, Planning and Revenue Management, Crown Media Family Networks
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: At Crown Media, the home of Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Kristen Roberts’s responsibilities span strategic analysis and management of all revenue streams across the company, including ad sales, digital, and distribution. As a result, she makes key business decisions and oversees large amounts of information that propel the company forward, yet often occur behind the scenes. She operates closely with almost every department in order to develop short- and longterm strategies to leverage and optimize cross-platform monetization opportunities.
Working closely with CEO Bill Abbott, to whom she reports, Roberts has been an instrumental member of the executive team at Crown Media and the company’s continued growth. She has been with Crown Media since 2000 and boasts years of experience as an account executive, including at A&E Television Networks after beginning her career at Fox Family Channel. She is also a key adviser throughout annual upfront and scatter negotiations, as she assists in scheduling of ad inventory to maximize revenue.
MAJOR MENTORS: “I would have to say that my most important mentor is my current boss, Bill Abbott. Ironically, he was my first boss out of college and, after a few different jobs, I have now been working for him again for the last 12 years. He has taught me so much about work ethic and treating everyone with respect, and he sets an example not only for me, but for the entire organization.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I feel so lucky that I found this business right out of college because I’ve been able to build a career doing something that I love. I found a job that suits my skills, experience and passion, which puts me in a position to thrive and find fulfillment along the way.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “You’re only as good as the people around you, so make sure you are surrounded by the best. Building a team that is respectful and supportive to each other creates an environment of professionalism and drives success. Plus, it’s a lot more fun coming to work!”
TITLE: Senior Director of Marketing, Business Services, Mediacom Communications
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Since joining Mediacom in 2010, Kristi Salmon has been promoted twice for her accomplishments in developing and growing the success of the MSO’s business services for small and enterprise customers. Most recently, her responsibilities expanded to include heading up the sales promotion, marketing and rebranding of Mediacom’s advertising sales division, OnMedia. She joined Mediacom from World Wrestling Entertainment, after serving in sales and marketing roles at Seventeen Magazine and SELF Magazine. She was also recognized with selection for Orange Leadership, a training program for young, emerging leaders in Orange County, N.Y. Somehow, this single working mother does it all while still managing to be an active member of the community through volunteer and board membership. A graduate of Fordham University, she also is a marathon runner.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Without a doubt my parents. I’m the daughter of a football coach; work ethic and drive are in my blood. They were the ones to set the example for me of what hard work looked like. I was the kid who was interning in New York City while my friends were having fun being camp counselors. My parents gave me the platform to be successful — that is something you either cultivate or not before you walk through any office door.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “As one of the first members of the Mediacom Business corporate team, I hold this position very close to my heart. With the help of my colleagues, we’ve truly built a brand. Nothing is more fulfilling than when I shoot a customer testimonial and see how Mediacom Business has transformed the way a business operates. Dan Templin [SVP of Mediacom Business] has been such a great mentor and allowed me to be very entrepreneurial in this position while guiding me along the way.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “‘You can’t have it all — perfect doesn’t exist.’ I think managing expectations is important as a working mother. It helps you deal with the ebb and flow of your professional career. We strive to have a balance and the reality is that something always suffers. We need to decide as individuals what it is we’re willing to live with, what’s most important and what we aren’t prepared to compromise.”
TITLE: Founder and CEO, Monami Entertainment
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Mona Scott-Young is executive producer of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop franchise and has a track record of success in all areas of the entertainment business, particularly unscripted television programming. With an eye for great characters and stories, Scott-Young also has a unique ability to create, develop and produce programming that resonates with a large urban demographic. Her current shows (VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood and spinoff series K. Michelle: My Life) attracted more total viewers than the shows of all other unscripted franchises on cable television. Each year, Monami Entertainment continues to produce more hours of unscripted programming for VH1 than any other production team, with more than 100 hours of the Love & Hip Hop franchise (and counting) under its belt. Recent Monami pickups include Ladies of Law by WE tv, as well as the second season of K. Michelle: My Life and the series pickup of Stevie & Joseline Take L.A., a Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta spinoff, both by VH1. Scott-Young continues to be a successful talent manager, publisher, TV host and CEO and founder of a multimedia entertainment company that is home to Grammy Award-winning artist Missy Elliott and publishing imprint Monami Books. When not in the office, Scott-Young is enjoying time with her family and serving on the board of The Haitian Roundtable, The RSQ Foundation and The Grass-ROOTS Community Foundation. She was recently recognized by the National Congress and Convention of Haitian-Americans for her philanthropic work.
MAJOR MENTORS: “My mother is probably the most influential person in my life. Her accomplishments and perceived failures have provided both life lessons and motivation.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “Whether as a manager, helping artists deliver their music to the masses, or a producer creating content and garnering exposure for a project, I would say it’s the ability to provide a platform for talent to realize their dreams. To be able to entertain audiences in the process is just icing on the cake.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “‘Give it up … you’re not cut out for this.’ Nothing is more motivating than proving detractors wrong and defying odds.”
TITLE: Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, Showtime Networks
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Reporting directly to chairman and CEO Matthew C. Blank, Christina Spade is responsible for all financial matters relating to Showtime Networks’s businesses. She also serves as a primary liaison to CBS Corp., working in tandem with CBS chief operating officer Joseph Ianniello. Spade also oversees Showtime’s information technology division and is a board member for Smithsonian Channel. She previously served as senior VP, affiliate finance and business operations. Before Showtime, she was an audit manager with Pricewaterhouse Coopers in the Entertainment, Media and Communications practice.
MAJOR MENTORS: “The most important inspiring career mentors to me have been certain partners at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Jerry Scro (former Showtime CFO), Tom Christie, Matt Blank and Joe Ianniello. Though not mentors, some of the best lessons I learned about how to be a good boss and leader were from the bad bosses I worked with!”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “Two things I most love about my job are the people I interact with and the puzzle-like nature of my job. The people across Showtime and CBS are among the most talented and compassionate people that I know professionally. Given the financial goals and challenges that go with managing a highly successful company like Showtime, I approach achieving and trying to beat our financial goals as a puzzle. I love starting the year with a challenging budget and then working with everyone to figure out how we are going to tackle it and try to exceed it.”
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: “Develop relationships outside of your comfort zone and outside of your immediate job. You never know where your career path will take you and it is a great asset to be able to have people from different disciplines to connect with and learn from. When that next opportunity comes, you want to be ready for it and as you move up, it is more about having excellent working relationships. The most effective work I see being done right now in our company is multidisciplined, wherein multiple viewpoints are encouraged and discussed. Relationship-building is critical to fostering this type of collaboration.”