For Mike Shaw, president, sales and marketing, of the ABC Television Network, broadcasting is a family affair spanning three generations.
When he was 12, in 1967, his father, Reid, then general manager of General Electric Broadcasting, was profiled in this magazine, known as Broadcasting at the time. Thirty years earlier, in 1936, his grandfather, Donald S., a senior advertising executive at NBC radio, had been profiled.
Shaw's uncle (Don Jr.) headed affiliate relations for ABC-TV in the 1960s and went on to become a radio-station owner. And Shaw's three siblings (Steve, Gayle and Andy) are all in the radio business.
For Shaw, though, it wasn't a case of destiny, even though he started hanging around television stations when he was about 10. At that age, he says, "like most kids, I was going to do almost anything other than what my dad did."
Nevertheless, he spent time at stations as a kid, watching local news and other programs being produced. And thanks to Uncle Don, he even got an early peek at ABC's new fall schedules: Visiting his cousins, he would get a private screening.
During his college years at Syracuse University, Shaw worked summers at GE's WRGB-TV Albany, N.Y., operating film and tape machines and studio floor cameras.
Once out of college, it didn't take him long to figure out he didn't want to do what he had spent four years preparing for, a career in finance. He landed a job as ad-sales account executive in the Chicago office of rep firm John Blair & Co. Two years later, in 1979, he left for a similar position at WLS-TV Chicago and, two years after that, headed to co-owned ABC Spot Sales.
In 1983, Shaw joined CNN and helped open the news net's Chicago sales office. In those days, it was not unusual for CNN founder Ted Turner to go out on calls with sales executives. "Ted was very advertiser-friendly and also opened a lot of doors," Shaw recalls.
In 1984, Shaw joined Television Program Enterprises, the syndication arm of TeleRep founded by Al Masini. There he sold ad time for shows like Entertainment Tonight, Solid Gold
and Star Search, which commanded ratings that most network shows would kill for today.
He jumped to Camelot Entertainment, the ad-sales arm of King World Productions, in 1987. At the time, Camelot sold time for a lot of shows outside of the King World stable, including all the Disney-owned Buena Vista Television syndication programs (Live With Regis and Kathie Lee, the Disney Afternoon).
In 1991, Buena Vista set up its own ad-sales operation and hired Shaw to run it.
Buena Vista parent Disney acquired ABC in 1996, and Shaw was soon noticed by network executives. In 1999, he was hired as executive vice president at ABC's network ad-sales department. In 2000, he succeeded the retiring Marvin Goldsmith as president, sales and marketing, the ABC Television Network.
Shaw was there during the exhilarating days of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and dotcom ads. But viewers soon tired of Millionaire and the recession hit, and the result has been a couple of very challenging years for ABC.
But Shaw takes the pressure in stride. "I've been doing it for 25 years. I love the sales process. It's business, it isn't personal." And each spring brings new hopes: "Every year, you go into the upfront, and you're pretty optimistic about your new schedule."
And diversions take his mind off the job's pressures. He's an avid skier. On weekends, if you're up early and touring the byways of Connecticut, you might just catch him on BMW motorcycle with a small gang of fellow bikers.
But don't mistake them for Hell's Angels: The "gang" includes his brothers and a few suburban-Connecticut pals, including Dan Rank, the former head of national broadcast for ad-buying firm OMD.