Ryan Sharkey, Senior VP, Program Acquisitions & Administration, USA Network, Sleuth and Universal HD
TV fan turned finance guy turned acquisitions expert takes off in dream job
By Andrea Morabito -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/27/2011 12:01:00 AMClick here to read more Next Wave of Leaders
Ryan Sharkey found out fairly early in his career that you’re probably better at a job you love than one you don’t. The senior VP of program acquisitions and administration for USA Network, Sleuth and Universal HD, Sharkey oversees acquisitions of series and theatrical films for all three NBCUniversal cable networks, including, most recently, USA’s deal for the off-network rights to Modern Family.
But Sharkey began his career in finance, first working in a dead-end job at a small bank for three years before moving to General Electric’s corporate audit staff. After a year in GE’s global rotation program, he got a job in production finance at CNBC, where he helped launch Dennis Miller’s short-lived show.
Sharkey joined USA in programming finance, and shocked his boss that a numbers guy could know so much about TV and movies, which had been a love of Sharkey’s since childhood. Within 18 months, he had moved over to programming acquisitions and has since helped with USA’s buying of theatrical network windows for blockbuster ! lms like Fast & Furious and The Bourne Ultimatum.
Sharkey’s background has proven helpful in his current role; he still puts together financials for deals. Using tools he developed in finance, “we can quickly see if a targeted acquisition fits in the budget and if the numbers make sense from a profit margin standpoint,” he says. Sharkey sees new technology as a great opportunity to bring viewers to the network, but, as he’s always aware of the bottom line, a challenge in how to monetize the added exposure.
USA is looking for another sitcom acquisition to complement Modern Family, which hits syndication in fall 2013, which means Sharkey is watching a lot of pilots right now, looking for ones that fit with the USA brand and have a ratings upside. “What’s happening from a business standpoint is the A-level product is moving very quickly,” he says. “Five years ago, we may not have been watching pilots in May, trying to figure out which one’s going to be the best one.”
But watching a lot of TV isn’t so bad for a kid who grew up loving entertainment. And though Sharkey says he was nervous when he first left the protected corporate structure of ! nance, after a few months, he never looked back. He wants to stay on the programming side of the business. When asked if he has ambitions of being a network president, he acquiesces: “Of course—don’t we all?”
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