Cunniff serves as the network’s senior executive overseeing linear and cross-platform scheduling, long-term strategic planning and program acquisitions. She originally got into television because she wanted to use media to help kids get a better start in life. As an Asian-American female exec, she strives to serve as a role model for up-and-coming execs from diverse backgrounds. “If you want to succeed, you need to recognize the possibility and opportunity that change can bring, and be comfortable with the unknown,” Cunniff says.
What’s a recent example of a step forward for diversity in the industry?
I just took my 13-year old daughter to see “Crazy Rich Asians” and she loved it, pure and simple. When I was 13, I saw “Sixteen Candles” and while I loved the movie, I was also deeply embarrassed by the character Long Duk Dong. That was what Asian representation in film looked like. Zero representation would have been better than the multitude of negative stereotypes personified by that character. So to have a film that celebrates Asian characters and stories, is created by Asian writers, directors and actors, and actually makes me and my daughter feel proud to be seen on screen – that feels like an incredible step forward. We just need to keep taking more steps.
What’s your best advice to someone just entering the video content/distribution industry?
Most of my advice is the same advice I’ve always given: Do what you love, work hard, and make sure you’re always learning something new. What I would add today is this: If you want to succeed, you need to recognize the possibility and opportunity that change can bring and be comfortable with the unknown.
What’s been the most dramatic change in your sector of the business today vs. three years ago?
The increase in content volume and consumption on demand. But with an increase in content, there should be greater opportunity for diverse creators, characters, and stories to find their place. So I’m hoping there’s also a dramatic change in representation and programming mix still to come.