Giving Tech a Positive ChargeCBS' CTO helps management use technology to grow businesses 8/08/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Much of what has been written about technology and
television in recent years has revolved around the negative
impact of technological change on the traditional TV business. But if CBS has its way, the
appointment of its first chief technology officer, Doug Rousso, will help turn that
debate on its head, as Rousso uses new
technologies to expand traditional businesses
and create new opportunities.
"When we hired Doug, we wanted
someone who could step back and look
at technology not just as a way to make
your email work or infrastructure function,
but someone who could look at
technology as a revenue driver, as something
that would afford us new business
opportunities as well," says Joseph
Ianniello, CBS Corp. executive VP/CFO.
Rousso arrived at Black Rock in April
and admits that it is too early to be detailing
the specific technologies he will focus
on to achieve that goal. But his resume
details two decades of using technology
to build businesses at TV companies and
Hollywood studios, and deploying software
and enterprise systems that helped
boost revenue from ad sales, TV syndication,
digital distribution, network programming
and other areas.
"I've always been intrigued by how
you take technology and apply it to
business problems and strategies,"
Rousso says. â€œIâ€™ve always been interested
in looking at the commercial value of technology, how do I exploit technology
for commercial gainâ€¦.How, for
example, do you monetize your [intellectual
property and content] across a
multitude of distribution channels in
the most efficient and effective manner?...
How do you use technology to
bring that all together to maximize
pricing for your assets on different distribution
platforms and make the right
decisions to maximize your CPMs, ad
revenue and license fees?"
Rousso's firm belief that technology
can be an invaluable tool to solve practical
problems began early. As a kid he tinkered
with electronics, and in the early
1980s he became fascinated by PCs as an
undergraduate studying business at the
University of Southern California. After
college, he applied that interest as a commercial
real estate broker, creating a rudimentary
software program that helped
him pull together data for sales pitches.
â€œWithin a few months, I was the top
listing broker," an accomplishment that
so impressed his boss they had him set
it up so all the brokers could use the
system, Rousso recalls.
In 1991, Rousso took his tech skills
to the entertainment industry, joining
MCA/Universal. He got experience in
a wide range of TV, fi lm and entertainment
operations and also went back to
get his master's at USC, where he characteristically
had a dual concentration
in information systems management
and the business of entertainment.
After MCA, Rousso put in stints at
DreamWorks SKG, where he oversaw
the implementation of the new studio's
IT and tech infrastructure, and then
NBC, where he ran the broadcaster's
technical and network services and deployed
a software system to help executives
program the fall schedule.
"Instead of figuring out your fall
schedule by sliding around programs on
magnetic board, we set up a system for
doing that electronically so you could
analyze the impact on potential CPMs of
various lead-ins and outs," he says.
Rousso took this work to an even
more sophisticated level at Warner
Bros.' domestic syndication unit, where
his systems for inventory and sales
management were so successful in
boosting revenue that he was promoted
to VP/chief architect for the whole studio
One of his key goals at CBS will be to
use technology to provide the various divisions
with better decision-making tools
for creating and exploiting new content,
and to build a framework across all the
divisions for managing that content.
While that is a big task, Ianniello says,
"We're off to a good start. I've been getting
some very positive feedback with
the people Doug has been meeting with,
and I'm very optimistic we're going to see
some tangible benefits."
"This is a big multiyear project that
involves unifying the financial engines, asset management, the sales engines
and the [customer relationship management] functions of the company," Rousso
says. "We are at different states of maturity in each of the lines of business
and we are on different architecture....My first-year goal is to create the road
map, to put the vision in place and measure what the return will be so we can
start to make these investments.....There is a lot of work to do, but I think the
things we are doing this year and into next year are transformative in nature
that will have an impact throughout the company."
Meanwhile, when Rousso is not taking a
deep dive into the technologies that might help CBS's management transform its
businesses, he is, well, often taking a deep dive.
"I am a native of southern California
and grew up in water and snow sports in a big way," says Rousso, who regularly
worked summers in the diving industry as a young man and is a certified diving
instructor. "Now that I'm living on the east coast, I don't get to dive so
much, so we spend a lot of time traveling to places where we can dive.
"I'm looking forward to teaching my
three boys when they reach 13, which is when I started," he adds.
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