At Turner, Breland Knows Distribution

Building relationships key for network sales COO as technology changes business

Why This Matters

Coleman Breland


Chief operating officer, Turner Network Sales


B.A., English, Pfeiffer College, North Carolina, 1979
M.A., Journalism/ Radio, Television, Film, University of Georgia, 1983

Employment Highlights:

Dean Rusk Center for International Law, writer, 1981-82
Southern Satellite Systems, marketing sales manager 1984-86
Ranson Taylor Walsh, senior writer, 1986-88
Andersen Consulting, director of marketing and communications, 1988-94
Turner Home Satellite, VP of marketing, 1994; senior VP, marketing and sales, 1995-2003
Turner Network Sales, executive VP, sales and marketing, 2003-09
Current post since 2009


Born: Jan. 14, 1957; wife, Jill; son Breece, 11; daughter Carly, 8

Once Coleman Breland decided he wanted to work for Turner
Broadcasting, he applied for every job opening he could find at
the company. In the process, he collected 11 rejection letters.
Eventually, he got his foot in the door, doing a job no one wanted.

Now, 15 years later, Breland is chief operating
officer of Turner Network Sales, in charge of
distribution, an area that has been transformed
by technology from pushing to get linear channels
on cable systems to figuring out how to
work with distributors to get Turner’s content
in the hands of consumers when they want it
and where they want it, while spearheading the
company’s TV Everywhere initiative.

“Now, the most interesting part of my job
is looking at the Gordian knot” created by
new technologies and new devices,” he says.
That impacts content owners and distributors.
“It’s a great time, because the consumers have
more of a voice in how content is experienced
than ever before.”

Breland’s boss, 24-year Turner veteran David
Levy, president of ad sales, distribution
and sports, didn’t know how many times the
company turned Breland down. “My joke is
that if I applied to Turner today, I don’t think
I could get in,” Levy says. But, after 15 years at
the company, “knowledge is power, and Coleman
certainly has a lot of knowledge, not just
on the distribution business, but all of the new
media business,” and provides key insight into
possible incremental revenue and how distributors
will react when negotiating new rights
deals and renewals, Levy adds.

Breland grew up in Murphy, N.C., a small
town where his father, a dentist, was sometimes
paid in crops or shotguns. He remembers
watching Saturday-morning TV as a kid, but
his family didn’t get cable for a while because
his dad felt his kids needed to study more.
(When he got his job at Turner, Breland called
his dad to say, “Guess where I’m working?”)

After getting a master’s in journalism, radio
and television from the University of Georgia,
Breland’s first job was writing for the Dean
Rusk Center for International Law. Then he
worked for Southern Satellite Systems, selling
time on the vertical blanking interval on TBS,
which was used to transmit data at the thenspeedy
rate of 2400 baud.

After two years at an ad agency, Breland
joined Anderson Consulting, where he received
more formal business training. “It was
the Marine Corps of business,” he recalls.

At that point, Breland wanted to get back
into cable television and wanted to work for
Turner, because he was drawn to the atmosphere
of “wonderful creative chaos under
control” instilled by founder Ted Turner.
Working in the TV business is still exciting.
Breland recalls having a recent conversation
with a colleague about how lucky they are:
“We could be working for a bank right now.”

Breland’s first job at Turner was on the home
satellite marketing team, just as DirecTV was
launching. “I knew [Dish Network founder]
Charlie Ergen when he was in the C-band
business,” he says. “I caught the DBS rocket.”

As the industry consolidated, distribution
became a very simple business, but technology
has changed that. “Now there are additional
layers. The conversations are just widely
dimensional,” Breland says. To help Turner
staffers understand the technology consumers
are using, Breland has had a Tech Lab installed
where they can use all of the newest devices
that can access content and understand their
digital navigation systems.

And instead of looking for leverage to gouge
distribution partners, Breland says he looks
at how the fortunes of content creators and
distributors are intertwined. “Let’s be good to
the people that pay the bills,” he says. “It’s not
about linear networks. It’s about how do you
take a brand, have it permeate and become
valuable across devices and across multiple

“We’re much more of a partnership-building
relationship than us-and-them,” says Levy. But
Breland also has to keep rate increases coming.
“We always seem to get our fair value,”
Levy says.

“I think Coleman does an excellent job of
representing Turner,” says Derek Chang, executive
VP for content strategy and development
at DirecTV. “Turner’s been on the forefront of
pushing the concept of authentication, at least
from a programmers’ standpoint. And Coleman’s
clearly been instrumental in that.”

Breland is a tough negotiator, “but what always
makes me give in to him is that he told
me that growing up, he learned how to shoot
a gun before he learned how to ride a bicycle.
I don’t want to have nightmares of Coleman
coming after me,” Chang says.

At home, Breland lives with his wife and
two children. His daughter certainly seems to
have inherited the negotiation gene. He recalls
coming home, thinking he had left the
bargaining table, when 8-year-old Carly presented
him with a written proposal about why
her parents should buy her a Breyer model
horse on eBay. The proposal was complete
with bullet points on what she’d be willing to
do, hand-drawn arrows indicating items that
made it a particularly “good deal” and even a
space for Breland’s signature.

When not wheeling and dealing, Breland
says he’s doing whatever the rest of the family
is into. One of those things is tennis. His
son Breece was in his office recently and asked
why a picture of tennis champion Rafael Nadal
was on his wall. “[Nadal has] this saying, ‘Stay
hungry, stay humble.’ That’s a pretty good
motto to live by,” Breland says.

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