Melinda WitmerExecutive VP and Chief Video and Content Officer, Time Warner Cable 7/11/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
There are television executives who spend their whole lives dreaming of
working in the TV field, gradually working their
way up from the mailroom to the top. Melinda
Witmer took a different approach.
When Witmer, now executive VP and chief
video and content officer at Time Warner Cable,
was in law school, she didn’t think about television,
or even entertainment law in general. “I
wanted to be a real-estate mogul,” she says.
Witmer, a Southern California native, returned
home after finishing law school at the
University of Pennsylvania and began practicing
real-estate law when love and geography
changed her life. “Love brought me east,” she
says. “I got engaged and moved to New York.”
There she began working in a remote area of the
law, dealing with aircraft financing.
It was quite a jump from there to HBO, after
a friend suggested she interview for a job there.
“I knew absolutely nothing about the cable business,”
she recalls. “During the interview, I asked
how the picture gets through the cables into
televisions.” They hired her anyway, and upon
arrival she asked, “Hey, do we own Showtime?”
But thanks to an “amazing series of mentors,”
Witmer not only caught on but also crossed
over. When she would sit in on studio deals
or licensing agreements, she gradually began
giving input not just on legal issues but on
the projects themselves, a practice she got to
continue when she jumped to TWC in 2001,
before moving over to the programming side.
Recently, Witmer has devoted increasing attention
to sports. Last year, when TWC’s deal
with ABC/ESPN/Disney was up for renewal, she
negotiated a new pact that incorporated the “TV
Everywhere” philosophy to enable the MSO’s
subscribers to access ESPN live simulcasts and a
multitude of ESPN networks via computer.
This year, when she learned that the Los Angeles
Lakers’ local-TV deal was expiring, she
stepped in and came up with a unique plan, creating
two regional sports networks for the NBA
franchise—one in English and one in Spanish,
featuring game coverage as well as original programming.
“The Hispanic community is important
for us, and they have a real desire for sports
content in Spanish,” Witmer says.
Witmer’s most recent move was closer to
home, but it will have an even bigger longterm
impact. In the spring, TWC hired former
Fox Sports executive David Rone as president
of sports, reporting to Witmer. “To continue
growing we need leadership, someone with
a presence in the sports world,” she says of