Adam Ware loves the underdog. He started out at station rep firm Petry in the mid '80s with some of its smallest accounts, including Love's BBQ. He joined Fox as it was expanding to three nights and struggling to find an audience. He subsequently teamed up with Barry Diller's Silver King Broadcasting to help start up Diller's City Vision strategy for local TV stations. And he joined UPN when its owners were squabbling over losses and threatening to shut it down.
Ware himself is a bit of an underdog, having never graduated from college. Leaving Vassar College after two years, he moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at UCLA but, after one semester, opted to leave school and get a job. He wound up selling health-club memberships in Los Angeles.
Ironically, it was through the health-club position that he got into television. He sold some memberships to Petry executives, who were impressed with his sales skills and offered him a job. "I said yes in about two seconds because I knew selling health-club memberships wasn't a career."
After three months at Petry's training program, he became an account executive in 1986. Besides Love's BBQ, he handled the Disney account, among others, and then took a special interest in upstart Fox Broadcasting Co. Petry had specialists who followed the ratings, trends and programming of the Big Three networks, but no one watched over Fox, Ware says, even though the firm represented the Fox O&Os. So he asked his boss if he could take on the job.
"At first, they said why is he wasting all of this paper, getting all of the clips and ratings," he recalls. "After a while, the Fox guys said they liked this service, and suddenly the Petry guys were, like, 'Yeah, we do this all the time. Isn't it great?'"
Fox soon hired Ware to work in affiliate relations. The network, airing prime time series on only three nights, was in financial straits.
"I think the day I took the job there was a headline in the New York Post
that said Fox had lost $99 million and that they were going to close the network down within the next 12 months," he says. "Even my 92-year-old grandmother called and questioned my going there."
Ware spent six years traversing the country for Fox and then joined Diller's USA Broadcasting (formerly Silver King Broadcasting). "I interviewed with Barry a number of times, and he explained the City Vision strategy, how local TV stations had lost their local connection and how he wanted to change that with his stations. I thought he was really onto something."
He spent the next two years traveling among Los Angeles, New York and Miami, where the City Vision plan was first implemented on Diller-owned WAMI-TV. He helped acquire the Miami Heat broadcast rights for WAMI and worked on similar strategies for other Diller stations. With his contract up in 1999 and newly married, Ware opted for a job that kept him in Los Angeles.
Joining UPN as chief operating officer, he got to work on the network's finances and national distribution and marketing efforts. This fall, despite an ownership change, the departure of many top executives, and constant rumors that it is going under, the network is off to its best start since its launch in 1995. The addition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
and new Star Trek
has attracted record ratings and attention.
"By no means are we home yet, but our losses have been cut in half in the last three years. We are doing all of this with 115 employees; we are doing it despite a lot of controversy. All the while, people here are still focused and doing their jobs," he says. "I think they believe in the notion of being the underdog."