Doug Jacobs, who spent 20 years as a lawyer in an ever changing television business, is joining the law firm Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard as a partner.
Jacobs retired as general counsel of A+E Networks last year. Now he says he wants to advise clients as technology continues to transform the media industry. Before working A+E, Jacobs served as general counsel for Court TV, VP of CBS Sports and VP and deputy general counsel at CBS.
While at A+E, Jacobs worked with Cowan DeBaets and firm partner Stephen Sheppard for a long time. "It's a firm that does a lot of the work I'm interested in in the television and related media industries," he said. The law firm has handled cases involving copyrights, trademarks, advertising, domain name, media defense, publicity rights and other commercial issues.
The TV business remains interesting to Jacobs because digital technology continues to alter the landscape. "The legal issues are coupled with the business issues," he said, with the legal issues often lagging behind technological change.
When technology creates a new business, that business often has a dramatic impact on the business of someone else. "The person who's negatively affected by the technology isn't going to sit there and say yes you can do this. So the business people and lawyers have to sit down and over time hammer out an effective contractual relationship that allows the technology to prevail and to grow," Jacobs says. "No one wants to be in the way of technology. Anybody trying to be a Luddite and standing in the way of technology today is truly banging his head against the wall."
Jacobs recalled the negotiations required to enable viewers to watch TV shows on tablets and mobile devices and create TV Everywhere. "There were many wise heads at my company and at the distribution companies who came up with ways to deliver this programming to these new digital platforms in a way that was acceptable to everyone," he said. "It doesn't mean that everyone got everything they want, but that's what compromises are for in business deals. You look for a way to accomplish what you need to accomplish. It's not a zero-sum game, it's a win-win when everybody walks away successfully."
After getting his law degree at Boston University, Jacobs spent time in private practice and then was an enforcement attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission, a stint that soured him on working in the securities business. He thought he might enjoy representing companies in the television business and got a job in litigation at CBS.
Jacobs moved from CBS to Court TV, where Henry Schleiff was CEO.
"Doug Jacobs knows the cable business -- and all of the myriad issues and players involved. He is an industry insider with a can-do approach. I would expect Doug to do very well in private practice," said Schleiff, now a group president at Discovery Communications.
After Court TV was folded into Turner Broadcasting, Jacobs moved to A+E.
"Doug was an enormous asset to us at A+E Networks. He had a superb understanding of the legal and business issues we faced, and was an extremely practical and effective counsel," said Abbe Raven, outgoing chairman of A+E Networks.
"Doug is ideally positioned to counsel clients on the major issues now roiling the industry — including over-the-top content distribution, system consolidation, and international expansion," said Cowan DeBaets partner Sheppard.
"Given Doug's broad range of experience, bringing him on board is a unique opportunity for the firm. And given the high regard in which he's held in our profession and our industry, we are proud and excited to be announcing his arrival," Sheppard added.
Clients of Cowan DeBaets include a broad range of media companies such as A+E Television Networks, Stick Figure Production, Workman Publishing Company, Macmillan and television production projects for Stand Up to Cancer, a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.