Women now run significant portions of the cable industry. And it’s perhaps a sign of progress that women in high positions are no longer a novelty. To be sure, women’s influence is most prominent on the content side, whether we’re talking about Sheila Nevins and Sue Naegle at HBO or the growing list of female honchos at networks like USA, Bravo, TLC, Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon, BET, History, Food Network, Comedy Central, HSN, QVC, IFC and WE tv—not to mention titans like Disney’s Anne Sweeney and AETN’s Abbe Raven. Fewer women have conquered the MSO side, but that’s changing. We wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if Cox COO Jill Campbell eventually becomes the first female CEO of a major video distributor.
As we point out every year, more improvement is needed. But the sands are clearly shifting, and part of the reason is that so many women who have “made it” in cable are helping guide others as they climb that same ladder of success. This focus has started paying dividends as women in powerful roles afford their female colleagues a chance to step up. Those willing to take on more responsibility can then “pay it forward” by giving those same opportunities to other ambitious female execs below them. It’s a loop that feeds on itself—the same loop that men have cultivated for decades within the so- called Old Boys Network. Women have their own networks now.
As has become tradition, we sent out questionnaires to our Most Powerful Women, and we were blown away by the responses. The time-management advice alone could become a bestselling business book (Hint: Make lists and set goals). The tips for mid-day re-energizers ranged from exercise to power naps to doubling down on caffeine. And the advice for young execs was zen in its dedication to focused achievement. But it was the mentoring stories that really inspired us. In most cases, advice or help from one or two key mentors often made a major difference. And you can rest assured that the women in these pages—many of whom have benefited greatly from mentors who took the time to help them—are now giving back to young female execs. We only wish we could include more of the responses in the limited pages of this magazine. But we’ll make their incredible perspectives available at www.Cablefax.com throughout the year.
This is a tough business. But our 2012 Most Powerful Women remind us with their words and deeds that we’re ultimately all in this together. We rise or fall based on cable’s collective success. And that’s important to never forget.
P.S. A special thanks to my resilient managing editor Cathy Applefeld Olson, without whom putting out these magazines would be pretty much impossible. She’s a powerful woman in her own regard—and an invaluable asset to all of us here at Cablefax. Thanks, Cathy!
Michael Grebb Editor
The Top 50
EVP/COO, Cox Communications
Campbell’s recent promotion to COO not only makes her the highest ranking woman at Cox — but arguably the most powerful woman in cable distribution. We wouldn’t be surprised if she someday becomes the first female CEO of a major cable operator, which is part of why we’re proud to elevate her to the top spot this year. Campbell has the lofty duty of ensuring companywide alignment with competitive strategies to grow the MSO’s base of 6 million customers. She provides leadership for field operations and services, customer care, marketing and sales, as well as public affairs. With a 30-year tenure at Cox, she says her boss Pat Esser has always urged her to trust her gut and be optimistic, telling her, “No one wants to follow someone who doesn’t see a bright future.” Campbell also mentors for WICT, and is on the board of several nonprofit organizations.
Opportunities for young women: “Opportunities in our industry are plentiful. This industry continues to evolve and grow. Thirty years ago, there was just HBO and a few broadcast channels. Today our industry is diverse and full of opportunities. There are traditional cable careers, but there are also new business adventures like home security. The possibilities are exciting for anyone just coming into the job market.”
Juggling busy days: “I have a fabulous assistant. She controls my calendar and tells me where to be!”
Best advice for a mid-day re-energizer: “Block out a couple hours a day for think time and catch up time. Going from meeting to meeting to meeting just drains you.”
President, Disney/ABC Television Group; Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, The Walt Disney Company
Simply put, Sweeney’s empire is vast. A digital visionary with considerable programming prowess, she oversees Disney-ABC’s thriving global business. This year, she spearheaded the company’s plans to launch Disney Junior, a new 24-hour network targeted at the preschool market that combines some of Disney’s most salient properties. Oversight for ABC Studios, ABC-owned Television Stations Group and the ABC Television Network, Disney Channels Worldwide, ABC Family and Disney’s publishing imprint Hyperion are also all in a day’s work for Sweeney, who keeps a finger on the pace of technology. The ABC player for iPad has seen more than 6.5 million downloads, and fans can be sure more digital innovation will remain top of mind as long as Sweeney’s in charge.
Chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios
When you have an overflowing plate like industry powerhouse Hammer, “Multi-tasking can be a surefire way to botch a lot of things simultaneously. The real trick is knowing how to prioritize.” A longtime leader in network programming and branding, Hammer has been overseeing Syfy for 11 years and USA Network for eight years—and she’s a leader at NBCU. Under her watch, USA achieved the No. 1 position in all of basic cable while Syfy has become a global brand, extending its reach to more than 60 territories worldwide.
What drew you to cable? “When I made the move from broadcast TV to cable many years ago, it was a brave new world that attracted real risk-takers. We embraced change, and weren’t afraid to break rules as soon as we made them up. I find that same pioneering spirit invaluable... and exhilarating... in navigating today’s ever-changing media landscape.”
Opportunities for young women: “The same thing young men need to know. ;) Opportunities are gifts...you should never feel entitled and never take them for granted.”
Juggling busy days: “Multi-tasking can be a surefire way to botch a lot of things simultaneously. The real trick is knowing how to prioritize.”
President/CEO, A + E Networks
Raven controls one of the biggest portfolios in cable: 10 brands, two of which, A&E and History, are top five networks. With a growing slate of originals and an audience that’s skewing younger, it’s not surprising that industry analysts predict A + E Networks is on track to surpass $3 billion in revenue. “Every day I go to work with one of the most creative teams in media, and they keep me excited about what is around the corner,” Raven says. “We are fortunate as a company and as an industry to have a big impact on popular culture.”
Opportunities for young women: “I meet with young people all the time, and my advice is always the same: Work hard, and you will shine. I started out at the bottom—answering phones and copying scripts. My success came from hard work and a willingness to learn every aspect of this business.
Juggling busy days: “Try to focus on what is most important and put that on the top of your ‘to do’ list. I think technology has made staying connected all the time easier. iPhones and iPads keep us in contact.”
CEO/Chief Creative Officer, OWN
After a triumphant 25 years as supervising producer and host of her top-rated, award-winning talk show, Winfrey’s segue into cable has been a bit uneven. The launch of her OWN network under the Discovery umbrella failed to ignite the ratings and advertising she’d hoped for, but the net has posted impressive improvement in recent months. We’re sure the ever-resilient Winfrey has a few ideas up her sleeve. In fact, she’s already making a power play for the African-American market, solidified by her new programming pact with Tyler Perry, and is reinvigorating some of her familiar brands, like Oprah’s Book Club, on air. We’re staying tuned...
EVP/Chief Video and Content Officer, Time Warner Cable
Witmer oversees Time Warner Cable’s video and content products and strategy, on demand and online video distribution operations, and all content-related business. She has management oversight of 34 regional and local news, sports, traffic, weather and lifestyle channels, including flagship NY1, as well as two new regional sports networks in Los Angeles. As if that’s not enough, she remains focused on ensuring delivery of Time Warner Cable content across multiple devices in the home. “The spirit of entrepreneurship in the industry is a bottomless well of inspiration,” Witmer says. “If you crave challenge, this is an awesome business.”
What drew you to cable? “I am excited by the never-ending opportunity to invent new consumer experiences.”
Juggling busy days: “Keeping in motion.”
A mid-day re-energizer: “Walk the halls. We have a great team and I can always find a good laugh, an entertaining story or an interesting problem to solve. It keeps your wheels spinning and the lights on and is very energizing.”
Best mentor: “Fred Dressler: ‘Love the process’ still works!!”
President, Bright House Networks
Bergman was part of the senior management team that launched Bright House Networks in 2003, and today, she leads on a variety of levels, from strategic planning of the company’s advanced network operations to the innovation and deployment of technically advanced products and services. One mantra that helped lead to her success: “Share likes before concerns. This tool builds a bridge between myself and the person with whom I am speaking... This allows us to build on the positive elements together to reach a better solution.”
Opportunities for young women: “I would love for young women to know that the cable industry needs them! Our industry is both bountiful with opportunities and eager to be supportive of their personal growth. In particular, we need more women in the technology swim lanes.”
Juggling busy days: “For me, this one is basically comes down to physics. It’s about energy management. Through improved self-awareness, I ensure that I tackle my most challenging work when my energy level is high. I also manage my periods of lower energy by going easy on myself and seeking things which refuel me.”
President/GM, History and Lifetime Networks
As the head of two very different networks, Dubuc can switch between the two seamlessly, and connect content with both audiences. Under her stewardship, History has had five years of growth, making the network a top five in all key demos. For Lifetime, Dubuc heads up numerous initiatives designed to help women, such as the film “Five,” which explores the impact of breast cancer. A big believer in equal opportunity, Dubuc’s motto is “Work hard and be prepared for change and speed.”
What drew you to cable? “I was drawn to A&E Networks as an organization. It’s an incredible place with even more incredible people.”
Opportunities for young women: “Work hard and be prepared for change and speed. Step up. If there’s a project to be done, volunteer to do it. You never know what your personal game changer will be.”
Best mentor who has helped you move the needle: “Move the needle is an understatement for what Abbe Raven has done for me. Her partnership is an inspiration.”
EVP, Eastern Region, Time Warner Cable
Hevey helms the mighty Eastern region for TWC, placing this capable cable veteran in charge of half of TWC’s operating portfolio as part of a regional operating structure she helped develop at the company. Hevey says the dynamic nature of the industry drew her in, as did “the learning opportunities and challenges that it provides, and the pleasure of working with colleagues and partners who are passionate about what they do. I love all of it, and I thrive in a world of never-ending change and challenge.”
Opportunities for young women: “My advice would be the same for anyone who is looking to advance in cable: Have an insatiable appetite to learn the business, know what your organization is trying to accomplish and its role in the broader industry, and determine how you can fit in to make a meaningful contribution to both. If you do that, the business will grow, our industry will be further shaped, and you will gain earned recognition and greater opportunities.”
Juggling busy days: “Know your priorities and stay on schedule. Get ready to make a decision, make it, and move on.”
Chairman, NBCUniversal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media
Zalaznick has spent her entire career in media, and these days she manages a $2 billion-plus portfolio at NBCU. How does she do it? “Multi-tasking should never be a goal. Rapid-fire, single-focus tasking can be reclaimed. Simply put, prioritization according to business goals/personal needs is a form of personal responsibility and good business that only you can control.” Under Zalaznick’s leadership, NBCU is breaking financial and ratings records. Not surprising, given her passion for collaborating across businesses to drive revenue, content and synergies throughout the company.
Opportunities for young women: “The same thing I would tell young men looking to break into cable: distinguish yourself through great ideas that drive your business at whatever level you’re at. Don’t ever just do the minimum of what’s asked of you, even if you do that pretty well. Think about how to contribute more. As you rise, push yourself to continue to be a ‘big idea’ person who never loses the ability to execute. Don’t put life obstacles in your own way before they’re actually an obstacle. The choice to work is your choice, not the company’s choice for you or even your family’s choice for you.”
A mid-day re-energizer: “Read something awesome from a blog/news source/magazine that makes you think differently, makes you mad, makes you laugh, even about something not directly related to your business.”
EVP/General Counsel, Fox Networks Group
Being a woman was never an obstacle for Tuzon, the highest- ranking female executive at Fox Networks Group. “I come from a blue collar, immigrant, mixed race family. The mantra was, if you worked hard you could grow up to be anything you wanted,” she says. “My mother’s steadfast conviction in this never wavered because I was a girl, and then a woman.” Did someone say carriage agreements? Tuzon leads Fox’s 50-person legal team — which she recently restructured — and supervises all legal matters and several business operation units for both the broadcast and cable networks.
What drew you to cable? “In the ‘90s cable was the fast- moving, new horizon with lots of upside potential. The people were genuine and positive and that sealed it. Still true today.”
Juggling busy days: “I have learned to triage: quickly decide what needs my personal attention, and effectively delegate to the best team in the business.”
A quick midday re-energizer: “Two years ago I replaced the chips and cookies in my bottom drawer with nuts and berries. Works like a charm.”
Former President, TV Networks Distribution, NBCUniversal
Baker’s very recent departure doesn’t diminish her contributions to NBCU over the years. And we have a distinct feeling she’ll land in another big job before too long. But as a key cornerstone of NBCU’s cable division, Baker was a force in deal-making, distribution, marketing and executive leadership. She spent her career transforming NBCU into the multi-platform content powerhouse it is today and, in an industry where success hinges on relationships, she still believes electronic communication should not take the place of human contact. She also waxes nostalgic when it comes to our industry: “The fierce independence and determination of the early pioneers [of cable], and the innovation and vision of the people in this industry is a legacy of which we all should be proud.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “15-minute power walk and green tea kombucha!”
Chairwoman/CEO, BET Networks
Lee oversees one of the most influential multiplatform media companies in the world, including cable television networks, digital offerings, and a home entertainment business. She spearheaded a total overhaul of the BET brand several years ago, and continually raises the level of sophistication in the way African-Americans are reflected in its programming — including its biggest-ever slate of original shows on the flagship network and Centric. Recent ratings gains for “The Game,” which BET has run with after its CW demise, and original “Let’s Stay Together” should help the network stand strong when Tyler Perry launches his new programming arsenal on OWN.
Group President, Discovery Channel, TLC and Discovery Fit & Health, Discovery Communications
O’Neill had an especially fruitful year at Discovery, which delivered its best-ever fourth quarter in 2011. TLC has continued to deliver as well, maintaining 28 series that averaged 1 million P2+ viewers. She is a “homegrown talent.” Having started at Discovery as an unpaid intern while earning a graduate degree, O’Neill was hired into the Discovery operations department upon graduation. “Discovery Channel’s amazing content drew me fresh out of grad school. The allure of producing original material for a curious audience has not lost its appeal,” she says.
What drew you to cable? “Discovery Channel’s amazing content drew me fresh out of grad school. The allure of producing original material for a curious audience has not lost its appeal.”
Juggling busy days: “I gave birth. I can do anything.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer? “6th floor vending machine.”
President, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group
Zarghami has been with Nickelodeon for 26 years, which means she’s been on the supply side of children’s programming for almost two generations. She manages the network’s staggering $20 billion business as producer of original kids and family content across television, feature films, digital, consumer products and recreation. Recently she’s turned a keen eye to developing original content as sandbox rival Disney threatens to topple Nick’s No. 1 reign, and to providing programming for busy moms with the new launch of the NickMom night-time block. This spring Zarghami gave the commencement address at her alma mater, the University of Vermont, advising grads to trust their gut, keep it real and “never underestimate when the stars align. It doesn’t happen that often.”
EVP/President, Time Warner Cable Media Time Warner Cable
The dynamic Gillman heads up TWC’s entire ad sales force and leads the effort to deliver advanced advertising, data and interactive solutions for advertisers and network partners. Gillman has completely reengineered her group for greater efficiencies and effectiveness. “As cable celebrates 60 years of innovation, it continues to look for new and better ways to use connectivity to enhance consumers’ lives with multi-screen TV and media experiences and higher speeds,” she says. “Consumers enjoy TV and the Internet better with cable.”
Juggling busy days: “The best way to juggle a busy day is to anticipate as much in advance as possible. Your guess, if informed, is as good as anyone’s. Then, align the team on common goals and filters, agree on roles and responsibilities, delegate appropriately, and focus your time on eliminating the obstacles that stand in the way of the team achieving the goals.”
President, Food Category, Scripps Networks Interactive
Johnson has been integral in turning the food genre into a pop culture phenomenon, which has resulted in numerous recent successes in SNI’s food category. For one, Food Network’s “In the Kitchen” app was the No. 1 paid food app in iTunes, and the network enjoyed its highest-ever first-quarter ratings earlier this year. Johnson has overseen several key brand extensions at Scripps, including a partnership with Major League Baseball and the brand’s new wine portfolio, Entwine. “Cable as a pioneering industry was always very open to women, and it remains so to this day,” she says.
Juggling busy days: “I have a few mantras I use to maintain maximum efficiency, which allows me to accomplish what I need to do at work and at home. One is, match the time of the meeting to the potential value of the meeting (low value, low investment of time). Another is, handle a piece of paper or electronic correspondence only once. Make a decision.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “Sushi.”
COO, Telemundo Media
Prioritizing is how Hernández manages to keep up with her busy days. “You may not get to everything, but you’ll at least get to the most important things if you order them,” she says. And Hernández has a lot of important things on her plate. She’s strategically grown Telemundo’s market share, with Telemundo and mun2 having their best Upfront season ever in 2011, delivering more than 20% growth year-to- year. She also leads Telemundo’s digital and emerging business team, which drives the net’s presence on digital, mobile and social platforms.
What drew you to cable? “The power of brands. Cablers are some of the best brand builders, each really differentiating its brand essence, promise and as a result distinct audience.”
Best mentor: “My dad always told me to follow your passion... That advice has been key in my career.”
Chairwoman/ CEO, WOW! Internet, Phone and Cable
Industry veteran Abdoulah has assembled a motivated, committed team that keeps WOW! on the cutting-edge of both technology and customer service. As current chair of the American Cable Association, she balances institutional wisdom and spunk to represent independent cable companies on legislation and regulations. “What initially drew me in was the fast paced, ever-changing environment and the terrific people involved in the business,” she says. “Those two factors remain the key reasons I am still excited about this industry. But I have to admit the pace of change and the volume of information/data is a killer for an old broad like me to keep up with!”
Juggling busy days: “Try not to compromise self and use the airline rule: ‘Put your own mask on before assisting someone else.’ This is not always easy to do with all our obligations and responsibilities at work and at home. But if you don’t take time to meditate, work out, take time for yourself, preferably in the early a.m. before everything begins to hit you, it is hard to be equipped to handle it all with much grace.”
President, Advertising Sales, NBCUniversal
Yaccarino’s star continues to rise. After less than a year at NBCU, she took the reins as President, Ad Sales, this fall, leading ad sales and market strategy for the conglomerate’s entire cache of broadcast, cable and digital properties. How does she juggle her busy days? “Endless to-do lists, checking in with my kids, staying on top of email no matter how full my inbox, being tethered to my iPhone so I’m always reachable, and frankly, my incredible assistant,” she says. In her previous exec role at Turner, Yaccarino led the development of numerous initiatives, including “inContext,” the industry’s first-ever contextual platform that helps feature the right ad, in the right place, at the right time.
A quick midday re-energizer: “I’d love to be able to say, ‘Close a deal for a lot of money that works for the client and my company.’ But if that can’t happen, then a venti iced skinny vanilla latte always helps!”
Best mentor: “That’s easy. Mark Lazarus, Chairman of the NBC Sports Group. He’s smart, and always maintains his sense of humor, sensibilities, professionalism and competitive spirit regardless of how challenging and intense the situation. He’s an incredible role model and a good friend.”
EVP, Content Distribution and Marketing, MTV Networks
Denson’s days are pretty packed, as she oversees all multiplatform distribution of MTV Nets’ myriad media brands. She cut her teeth analyzing business opportunities and strategies at Baxter Healthcare Corp. but the “march of progress in technology and consumer behavior” beckoned her to cable. “I can’t ever imagine getting bored with this industry.” The secret to Denson’s success? “Be decisive. There’s no better way to plough through a long to-do list. I surround myself with smart people who give me the right information to make decisions quickly and move on. I think we’re right more often than we’re wrong!”
Juggling busy days: “Be decisive. There’s no better way to plough through a long to-do list. I surround myself with smart people who give me the right information to make decisions quickly and move on. I think we’re right more often than we’re wrong!”
A quick midday re-energizer: “Lack of energy is never a problem! But if you have good advice for a midday chill out, I’ll take it.”
SVP, Content Acquisition, Comcast Cable
Gaiski gives her family a lot of credit for her success. “My folks always told me to be fair, kind and work really, really hard.” And hard she works. One of the industry’s most tenacious negotiators, Gaiski has earned a reputation for being fair but firm, attributes that have helped her shine in the midst of transition at Comcast. She now oversees a multibillion-dollar content acquisition budget, negotiating and administering programming contracts, and coordinating field operations and communications for Comcast’s three operating divisions. Aside from her programming prowess, Gaiski also has a keen sense of how technology decisions impact content.
Juggling busy days: “I prioritize and reprioritize every hour of the day.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “A spirited debate with a programmer!!”
Best mentor: “My folks always told me to be fair, kind and work really, really hard.”
President, HBO Entertainment
Naegle oversees all series programming and specials for HBO. That places critics and ratings darlings “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Veep” under her umbrella, as well as Aaron Sorkin’s latest television treatment “The Newsroom.” Despite HBO’s incredible run lately, Naegle knows well there’s no time to rest on laurels in the cable business. And she’s got a slate of new projects under development to thwart the growing league of competitors, including an adaptation of Jennifer Egan’s acclaimed novel “A Visit From the Goon Squad” into a series.
President, Comedy Central
Leadership and vision are among Ganeless’ greatest strengths as she bolsters Comedy Central’s core assets to keep the brand in the forefront. With the burgeoning Comedy Central Summer School program, and her role at the Posse Foundation, Ganeless gives women opportunities to get their foot in the door and provides them with an invaluable, first-hand education. “Hard work gets noticed and gets you more responsibility,” she says. “No job is too small to do well.”
What drew you to cable? “It seemed like an exciting industry to work in then, and it still does today. Every year, there is more great original programming on cable than there is anywhere else.”
A quick midday re-energizer: “Get some fresh air, get outside, take a walk around the block.”
Managing Director/ Head of Funds Comcast
Banse’s previous post as president of Comcast Interactive Media, the division responsible for operating online tools and businesses focused on entertainment, information and communication, served as a strong foundation for her role as the strategy leader for the operator’s venture capital initiatives. After founding CIM in 2005 and leading Comcast’s online strategy over the next five years, she ably segued into her current role overseeing the $500 million Comcast Ventures Fund and the $250 million Peacock Equity Fund.
Driessen is responsible for overseeing all of ESPN’s financial operations worldwide and serving as financial adviser on strategic planning for acquisitions, new business ventures and programming initiatives. She also continues to play an integral role in the company’s broadband Internet strategy, noting, “Technology is the game changer for our industry, and being able to predict those changes, see those changes unfold and being able to react to those changes for our consumers is a challenge as well as a motivation.”
Opportunities for young women: “The opportunities for young women in our industry our limitless. That being said, the individual need to have realistic expectations of the timing of those opportunities, seek out mentors to help them navigate the best opportunities and have the courage to seize the opportunities as they present themselves.”
Juggling busy days: “The ability to focus on the top priorities requiring your attention and setting aside an hour in the morning or at the end of the day to deal with items that come up last minute. Also being comfortable to delegate, and letting your staff make decisions and learn from them frees up valuable time in your day.”
President, Distribution Sales and Marketing, Univision Communications
O’Connor has been a key architect in growing Univision’s substantial empire. She joined Univision in 2008 and championed the company through its first-ever retransmission consent negotiations, building a team that helped change the distribution game not only for one media company serving Hispanic America but for the entire landscape of Spanish-language programming. She has advocated for developing new networks across all screens so Univision can offer distributors more of what it already does best: super-serving the passion points of U.S. Hispanics. “Every day we’re all challenged to be technologists, programmers and marketers always driving to optimize the consumer value proposition,” she says.
Opportunities for young women: “Be a curious consumer, experiencing a variety of content (not just your favorites) on all platforms. It will help you appreciate the evolving business models, which are changing daily.”
Juggling busy days: “Never leave home without my Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, and Macbook (luckily I carry a big bag!).”
President, Bravo and Style Media
Cross-platform synergies are a particular focus for Berwick, who has been a major force behind Bravo’s unscripted dominance and considerable pop-culture relevance across key demographics. (And yes, the “Real Housewives” franchise continues to reign supreme). Berwick also helms Style Media, where she focuses on identifying and optimizing style- and fashion-conscious content from across the company. She juggles her busy days by compartmentalizing, anticipating and being flexible. The best advice she ever received? “Care a little less about what people think of you and focus on results.”
Juggling busy days: “Compartmentalize, anticipate and be flexible. And always have an energy bar in your bag for when lunch becomes the lower priority.”
A quick midday re-energizer: “Go run an errand whether going to the bank or getting a coffee — just walking around for five minutes away from your desk can give you time to think an issue through more clearly.”
EVP/General Counsel, Turner Broadcasting System
Global leadership strategy that emphasizes conflict management has helped stretch Turner’s reach to more than 100 branded channels in 30-plus languages and 200-plus countries, and Sams has contributed greatly to that empire. She handles Turner’s legal matters internationally and is key to acquisitions and joint ventures, production and clearance of content for news, entertainment and animation networks, intellectual property protection, and litigation and employment matters. The cable industry is always changing, she says: “This keeps us on our toes and continues to make our industry exciting.”
Opportunities for young women: “There are many opportunities for women who are willing to learn, ask questions and think creatively. We need people with a unique perspective, who think flexibly and want to be challenged.”
Grossman applauds “the power of cable as a medium to tell stories. We can bring the DNA of a brand to life through great product, stories and storytellers.” With that mantra, she has transformed the multichannel retailer and continues to break new ground with revolutionary marketing, product and technological initiatives that build viewership across multiple distribution platforms. She has also made big inroads to attract top brand and celebrity partnerships to HSN, and helped foster female entrepreneurs by partnering with them to present their products and ideas to the network’s audience.
A quick midday re-energizer: “Walking around our campus and connecting with people. I get ideas, information, the pulse of what is happening—it’s like an instant energy boost!”
Best mentor: “I had the privilege of working with Phil Knight at Nike. His focus on equal parts innovation and inspiration and his belief in evangelical culture as a brand imperative definitely has had an impact on my leadership style.”
CEO, U.S., QVC
Formerly ranked on Fortune’s List of 50 Most Powerful Women, Watts is an example to female executives within retail, broadcasting and beyond. By optimizing the company’s infrastructure, she oversaw strong growth in QVC’s U.S. business this year with first quarter revenues increasing 4% from the prior year. She also led e-commerce business growth, with revenue increasing 13% during the most recent quarter. Watts also offers insight to female entrepreneurs through the Liberty Interactive Women’s eCommerce Network.
Best mentor: “When I first started out in the executive training program at May Company, the SVP of marketing, Jo Lawley, took time to mentor me and help me to grow as a merchandising professional. Jo was the first executive who helped me understand that my passion for creativity and my passion for numbers were not mutually exclusive, and the ‘unlock’ was the ability to tap into both of them. Later, during my time at Limited Inc., Cheryl Turpin, then CEO, inspired me to really push myself and stretch beyond my comfort zone.”
Chairman, NBCUniversal News Group
A direct report to Steve Burke, Fili-Krushel recently landed in the pole position of overseeing NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC and the Weather Channel. With her new responsibilities, the former EVP of NBCU says “it’s important to find the best ways to serve our audience top-quality news and information any way they want to consume it, which is why we believe in strategies like TV Everywhere.” A big believer in mentoring and sponsorship, Fili-Krushel “encourages people to be authentic and clear about their priorities.”
Juggling busy days: “Planning is key for me. Things that need to get done — both personally and professionally — go on my calendar so that I actually have time set aside time to get things checked off my list. Then, I recognize and accept that it’s not all going to get done all of the time. I also encourage people to be authentic and be clear about their priorities. For example, when my children were young, I left the office at a reasonable hour to spend time with my kids and would then hop back on e-mail later at night.”
EVP, TV Distribution, NBCUniversal
“Never say never” is Zimmer’s motto, say many industry colleagues who’ve had the opportunity to witness Zimmer in action guiding the web of distribution deals for Comcast-NBCU’s vast well of properties. She’ll jump on a plane to meet a client and work all night to close a deal, and she excels at building relationships and putting to good use the strengths of the team around her. Zimmer’s advice for women looking for a cable career? “The world is their oyster. This industry caters to dynamic people who are willing to work hard. Have confidence, ask to help on every project and the rest will take care of itself.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “Coffee, a good work out and make sure you surround yourself with awesome people who can deliver a good punch line.”
EVP, National Accounts, Field Sales and Canada, A + E Networks
Negotiating long-term, multiplatform deals is only part of Conkling’s responsibilities. She also supervises AETN’s distribution strategy across multiple platforms for the company’s 10 networks and oversees field sales, national accounts and distribution strategy. Among her major achievements is the expansion of the Lifetime Movie Network. “It is incredible to think how many services, devices and platforms have been introduced and adopted in the last few years alone,” she says. “I am excited to be a part of this evolution.” Outside the office, as a WICT board member, Conkling helps drive strategy and speaks at numerous industry events.
Best mentor: “When I first started in cable, a mentor sat me down and told me to never be afraid to lose my job. Specifically, he said that once you operate from a place of fear, you won’t take the risks and the chances you need to take to maximize growth and value for your company. It is some of the best advice I ever got.”
Finch has briefed legislators on career opportunities for women in media, and often speaks at universities and other forums. Oh, and she also runs one of the fastest-growing cable nets. “Being super organized, not being afraid to delegate and always asking for help when you need it are very valuable tools, both at home and at work,” help her get it done, she says.
Best mentor: “My first job out of college provided me with the amazing opportunity to work with Steve Jobs. It was Silicon Valley in the ‘80s and it felt like the center of the universe. Being there to see Steve — the king of that universe — interact with his team was an unbelievable experience. Soon after I found myself working alongside Andy Rooney. We happened to live near one another and became carpool buddies after he offered me a ride one evening. Those car rides, just me and Andy for 45 minutes of uninterrupted time, were probably the most valuable mentoring experiences I ever had. I was incredibly fortunate to spend time with two legends — both extremely different from one another but equally brilliant — and they provided experiences I will be forever grateful for.”
President, Documentary and Family Programming, HBO Entertainment
Nevins joined HBO back in 1979 and has gone to glory for the network time after time. As the head of HBO’s lauded documentary department, she has a razor-sharp eye for the story behind the news (including the now infamous West Memphis Three murder case), illuminating issues ranging from the kids’ stance in divorce in “Don’t Divorce Me” to an inside look at the Kennedy dynasty in “Ethel.” Colleagues describe her as a true television legend—and she has nine Oscars, 13 Primetime Emmys, 22 News and Documentary Emmys and 18 George Foster Peabody awards for HBO to back the claim.
President/GM, Animal Planet and President, Science Channel, Discovery Communications
Kaplan has had a banner year. She developed a distinct identity for Science Channel, which led to a rise in distribution. Not to be outdone, Animal Planet had its best-ever year in ratings among key demos. In addition, Kaplan champions the MentorNet Program in which junior-level staff receive guidance from senior-level executives across the organization. Kaplan’s mantra? “Don’t buy a dog and bark yourself. You’ve got to hire the best people and empower them to do their best work. And even then, you need to be prepared to work your tail off.”
What drew you to cable? “Cable started off as a cowboy culture and it still has those characteristics. There are a lot of extraordinary pockets of creativity in cable. Where else are you going to find the kind of creative risks and business innovations that happen in this business every day?”
Best Mentor: “My mother, who had multiple careers and had actually gone back to law school when I was 6 years old, told me, ‘Sweetheart, women live a really long time’.”
EVP, Turner Broadcasting System
During the past year Regal has focused particularly on the next generation of leaders within Turner. She spearheaded a leadership development program providing coaching and development opportunities through classroom training across all units. Regal unified core strategic functions around a common mission and focused on enhancing Turner’s brand and reputation. Once, “a mentor demonstrated how quickly an organization can gain alignment and accomplish greatness when people stop worrying about who gets the credit. It’s tough to get there, but when it happens, the work is fun and rewarding,” she says.
Opportunities for young women: “Be intellectually curious; be open to learning; understand your consumer; and embrace new technologies. Be flexible about taking risks and pursuing non-traditional career paths. Believe in yourself and have confidence in your ability to succeed.”
Juggling busy days: “The power of saying ‘no.’ I have to relinquish the fear of ‘missing out’ by not being everywhere. Also, making lists. I love the sense of accomplishment when I check things off.”
EVP/General Counsel, Showtime Networks
A cable player for almost 30 years, Marcus is critical to Showtime’s programming and distribution deals. She also helps shape the network’s policy and strategic initiatives, including new distribution platforms, and she oversees legal aspects of Showtime Anytime’s broadband service rollout.“ Cable programming keeps getting better and better, tackling increasingly important and provocative themes, and attracting first-rate talent who gravitate to cable for the chance to do quality work,” she says.
Juggling busy days: “I am the queen of Post-It notes. I have them everywhere—on my desk, on my computer and of course my night table—so when I’m inspired to compose to-do lists in the middle of the night, I am ready.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “Besides my Post-It notes addiction, I am a major consumer of Tea’s Tea, which is full of antioxidants and amino acids, but zero calories. An added bonus: the inspiring Haikus that appear on the bottles, written by other Tea’s Tea drinkers.”
Veteran C-SPAN exec Swain stepped into the role of president and co- CEO in March, and now shares responsibility for all day-to-day operations of the public affairs cable network. On the content side, she oversees programming for its three television channels and C-SPAN radio. Her advice for women seeking to break into the business? “Cable is a growth business. Do your homework, observe what’s going on in the world around you, work smarter than the next guy or gal, and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to,” she says.
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “Go for a walk, even if you only have time to go around the block. Nothing beats a change of scenery, a little fresh air and some exercise to give you some perspective on your day.”
Best mentor: “My boss Brian Lamb was — and continues to be — a great mentor. No one cares more about the people he works with, customers he serves, and work product he creates. His enthusiasm for what we do, even after 35 years, is inspirational.”
EVP/GM, Communications and Data Services, Comcast Cable
Under Avgiris’ leadership, Comcast continues to roar ahead as one of the largest broadband Internet service providers in the U.S. as well as a competitive force in voice services. “We have what it takes to deliver to customers what they want today, what they will want tomorrow, and even the things they don’t even know yet they will need,” she says. Avgiris, who came to cable from the fork-lift industry, is leading Comcast’s new consumer offers with Verizon Wireless, and her team also manages the Internet Essentials program, providing low-cost Internet service to low-income families.
Juggling busy days: “I find that looking out ahead to see what’s coming at me helps me to get to the right priorities at the right time. Every day I look at the rolling week ahead—what needs planning, what needs delegating, what needs action, what needs follow up.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “Starbucks does the trick. So does a protein bar. The best is a walk around the office floor to stop and talk to someone outside your immediate sphere. You’d be amazed at what an unrelated 10-minute conversation can do to focus you.”
EVP/COO, Universal Cable Productions and NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios
Roberts’ accomplishments include the launch of a digital production studio to create original content for several platforms, solidifying the studio’s ability to produce series for outside networks and continuing the studio’s expansion. But she firmly believes the cable industry is a team. “Networks are built brick by brick, and every person brings their expertise to the table to get it done,” she says. Her mentor, NBCU’s Ron Meyer, told her, “Don’t let your ego get in the way of your future, and always try to see the big picture.”
Juggling busy days: “When I first started, I was constantly on the phone—receiving or making calls, nonstop. I used to make it my practice to return every phone call by the end of the day to make sure I stayed on top of the workload. Now it seems that emails have replaced phone calls as the primary communication tool, and I make sure I return every email by the end of the day. Personally, I find it rude when people don’t respond within 24 hours.”
President/GM, WE tv
Martin lives by one bottom-line piece of advice: “Fall in love with change. Ask yourself, what’s the next big thing, and then embrace it.” Widely respected throughout the industry for her proven ability to establish a network by growing its brand and audience across multiple platforms, Martin has created a robust, engaged community of fans around the network’s mantra, “Every kind of family, all kinds of drama.”
Juggling busy days: “As a woman, multi-tasking comes with the territory. I recently heard Cyndi Lauper refer to it as ‘the struggle for the juggle.’ For me, it’s about taking a break from the chaos to focus my thoughts and prioritize. Then I jump back in with a refreshed sense of purpose. I also always try to keep a positive outlook and sense of humor in any situation. Simply smiling helps me get through a hectic day.
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “The real pick-me-up is a call from one of my two daughters (and they know tweets don’t count!).”
President, National Advertising Sales AMC Networks
One of cable’s most influential advertising leaders, Manos’ responsibilities include leading all traditional and digital advertising efforts for key brands AMC, WE tv, IFC and Sundance Channel—the latter two she added last year. Shrewd and strategic, Manos fully understands the value of talent and has leveraged that knowledge to bring a variety of new sponsors to the networks, helping propel revenue growth. Manos has spent her entire career in media ad sales. Prior to joining AMC Networks she worked at A&E, Manhattan Inc., WABC-TV and CBS Cable.
EVP, Business and Legal Affairs/Deputy General Counsel, Fox Networks Group
Helping to secure World Cup rights for 2018 and 2022 and taking part in Fox’s re-upping with the NFL are only a few feathers in the cap of Teran, the second-highest ranking executive in the Fox’s business and legal affairs division. She is responsible for all business and legal matters pertaining to Fox Network Group’s cable and broadcast network distribution, digital new media, and corporate/ business development. Her best advice for a quick midday re-energizer? “Try to find someone to make you laugh.” Teran, who is bilingual, also helps Fox navigate complex international markets with diverse political challenges.
Juggling busy days: “Prioritize. That means realize that you are constantly having to rejigger your ‘to do’ list—and you have to get comfortable with the discomfort. As issues arise during the day, issues that were at the back of the list may move to the front, or issues may move from someone else’s list to yours. Embrace it—that’s how you make sure the most important things are getting done.”
President, Travel Channel
Named president of the network in 2010, Ong led Travel Channel to its most successful year in 2011. She was also integral in Travel Channel International’s acquisition and launch of The Layover app and helped secure the net’s partnership with the National Parks Foundation for “Destination Summer.” Ong advises deliberation: “Answers you are looking for can sometimes become apparent as you have time to gather more information, and sometimes things resolve themselves.”
What drew you to cable? “What drew me to cable were the unrestricted abilities and appetite to experiment and try new ideas. To a large extent that is still true, but the stakes are higher and tolerance for experimentation can be hampered depending upon the company and environment you work in. If you know that, pick the right company for you and that will make all the difference in the world.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer: “A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar; raw honey and warm water... guaranteed to give you a boost!”
COO, BBC Worldwide Americas
BBC Worldwide America President Herb Scannell calls Sarnoff “one of the smartest business people [I’ve] ever worked with, and one of the most collaborative.” She oversees ad sales, affiliate sales, TV sales & co-productions, consumer products, and digital operations. BBC.com’s North America edition had a record year, and BBC Worldwide America’s ad sales team saw a 35% increase vs. the prior year.
Best mentor: “A mentor of mine has been Gerry Laybourne. In my early days at Nickelodeon, when I was a new mom (with a 6-month-old and 3-year-old), I was working on the budget presentations and spent a few late nights at work. I showed up at Gerry’s desk the morning of the presentation, and she told me I didn’t look so good. I told her that I had been working late that week and hadn’t gotten much sleep. And then she said something totally unexpected: ‘Ann, you need to bring your kids into work’... That was really important advice that I took to heart. I brought my two kids into work with me every so often, both at Nickelodeon (which was pretty easy to do), and every job thereafter so that they could see where I work, get to know the people I work with, etc. A few years after Gerry gave me that advice, my daughter Rachel entered an essay contest sponsored by Viacom and Working Mother magazine entitled ‘Why My Mom Works’ and she won. To me, that was a great testament to her really understanding why I love what I do and feeling a part of it.”
SVP/Chief Programming Officer, Suddenlink Communications
McCaskill implements strategies for multiplatform content, bandwidth management and advanced services deployment at Suddenlink — a job that grows more intricate each year. She manages content relationships with media ownership groups, TV stations, cable networks and studios, and negotiates for video content across multiple platforms. Oh, and let’s not forget those 76 retransmission consent agreements she’s worked. Her secret to success? “I try not to get distracted by things over which I have no control and to focus instead on the immediate tasks at hand,” she says.
What drew you to cable? “When I started in cable in 1980, I was drawn to the opportunity to be part of a new and exciting industry with great potential to dramatically change the television landscape. I continue to be excited as the industry develops the technology and launches new products and service to better serve our customers. I learn something new every day, and it is never boring.”
Juggling busy days: “I try taking a break during the day to take a walk — if only a short one — to relieve the stress and put things back in perspective.”
Debbie Adler Myers
EVP/GM, Science Channel
Myers has expanded Science from a network of white lab coats and beakers to a pop culture playground, without sacrificing its scientific core. 2011 was the net’s most-watched year, and Science has seen 15 consecutive quarters of YOY growth. It’s also one of cable’s fastest-growing nets, expected to hit 80 million homes in 2013. “You have to be bolder in cable because it’s more critical than ever to push limits in able to break through and create buzz,” she says. “I love that challenge.”
A quick mid-day re-energizer? “We have experienced a baby boom in recent years at Science. There are 10 children age 4 and under belonging to members of our network team. One of the really great things about Discovery Communications is the on-site daycare that we have in our headquarters — so we get to see these little ones on a daily basis. At least once a week, we bring all the kids up to our floor, and it is magic. Everyone comes out of their offices and cubes and takes 20 to 30 minutes to just get on the floor and play with the kids. It keeps things light and fun — and is an amazing way to maintain perspective amidst the day-to-day pressures of running a cable network.”
Former President/CEO, TV One
Lucas was just leaving TV One as we were going to press, but she has certainly made her mark at the network by building out its brand, including doubling the amount of original programming. The first original series under her purview, “Find Our Missing,” was recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists. Lucas’ contributions to cable have a long history. And through her mentor, Decker Anstrom, she learned to “drive strong business results while demonstrating a high level of emotional intelligence and embracing diversity in every way.”
What drew you to cable? “To me, the cable industry was an exciting, transformative growth business in the initial stages of building strong brands. Today, it’s all those things, but with evolving mature brands and many new thriving brands.”
Juggling busy days: “I know this sounds crazy, but as a former engineer, I develop GANNT charts with details about my work, my life and my kids’ activities.”
More of the Most Powerful Women
Top Women in Technology
Cablefax 100 – 2019 Nominations Due
January 25, 2019
Cablefax Leaders Retreat 2019
April 29, 2019