One notable example of how networks are revamping their operations in response to a rapidly changing media landscape—and the ever-present need to bring the millennial generation in—can be found in Atlanta, where Jeremy Legg has spent the better part of a year in his latest post as head of technology strategy and product monetization for Turner Broadcasting System.
“As digital has become a bigger and bigger part of the business, they needed someone in the technology organization who sits between the deal people, the sales people and the content people to help glue this all together,” says Legg of his charter.
This attitude marks a major change from the past, when tech teams spent a lot of money and had little input in the strategies designed to boost revenue. “The industry is changing faster than I’ve ever seen it,” says Legg’s boss, Pascal Desroches, TBS executive VP and chief financial officer. “To stay competitive we have to evolve the technical capabilities we have, and Jeremy is a natural fit to help us marry technology and strategy.”
To this unconventional job description, Legg brings a résumé that until recently would have been considered unusual for a senior tech executive. He didn’t study tech or business at Brown, where he majored in political science. Instead, he learned how to write code and picked up the essentials of finance while working as a consultant and later working for Oracle. “Ironically, that was when I learned the most about financials,” he jokes. “If you are writing code for financial systems, the debits and credits have to balance.”
Legg then landed at AOL, where he ended up running the business affairs and business development group, before moving to Turner in the affiliate distribution group. Here, he was involved in a number of groundbreaking digital agreements, including the first TV Everywhere deal between Comcast and Time Warner in 2009.
“I look upon my arrival in this current job as the culmination of a series of seemingly random events that now appear strategic,” Legg says, with characteristic self-deprecating humor.
Married to Technology
Others make the more serious point that his background will help Turner deploy new technologies for new businesses. “He’s one of the few people around who is equally comfortable having a discussion about both the strategic direction of the business and the technology we need to develop in the future,” says Desroches.
In those efforts, Legg oversees a team of about 800 working in areas such as linear and digital advertising systems, the Web-hosting infrastructure, cloud-based services, app and website development, content management systems, video streaming, data management and other areas. Separately managed tech teams handle broadcast and satellite operations.
Current top priorities include efforts to deploy technologies that will bring some of the advantages of digital to television, with greater personalization, improved discovery and the implementation of data management systems so that content and ads can be more directly targeted to consumers.
With rapid changes in the air, getting all the various industry players to work together on new business models, such as TV Everywhere or sharing more data, also remains a challenge. “There is a lot of fear right now,” he says. “The industry can deal with that by building the walls around each of us a little higher or by dropping our swords and figuring out how to address consumer needs.”
That focus on basics carries over into his home life. Legg is careful to plan his business trips around his kids’ sports schedule and loves joining his family on the slopes. “Skiing is part of the plan my wife and I have to keep our kids coming to visit us when they get older because it’s too expensive to do on their own,” he says.