Getting better all the time," the Beatles sang, and, while that is generally true for the fates and fortunes of women in media, James Brown's This Is a Man's World is still a more apt song title. Even so, across the industry, behind the camera and in front of it, in broadcasting and in cable, in boardrooms and in control rooms, many remarkable women are making a difference, and more are joining their ranks every day.
As we have for the past several years, the writers and editors of BROADCASTING & CABLE have identified 10 special women who, while already wielding a modicum of influence, are at points in their careers where the next move or two might put them in the industry's most powerful positions.
We sorted by branches of the business: technology, syndication, cable operations, cable networks, broadcast networks , local stations, cable and broadcast news, media agencies, cable news, and cable news management.
Thankfully, we had many "contestants" to choose from. Even at a down time in the economy, many women are getting a chance to shine, a hopeful sign for the future. To paraphrase the hackneyed saying, we wish we could have featured them all.
We chose our Next Wave of 2003 by listening—to their bosses, to their peers and competitors, and to what might be termed, for want of a better phrase, "the street." These are the executives we think you'll be hearing about in the years to come. Below are
thumbnail sketches of what they do and how they got to where they are.
Cable MSOs: Comcast Network Investment Guru
Amy Banse knew nothing about cable when she interviewed with Comcast in 1991. And the company had a low profile even in its hometown, Philadelphia.
Having started her career at the city's largest law firm, though, she wanted out of that game. So Comcast looked good, even though back then, Banse said. "Comcast only had 1 million subscribers, and I didn't have cable."
Comcast is now the nation's largest cable operator, serving 22 million subscribers. And Banse has taken charge of its portfolio of investments in cable networks, such as The Golf Channel, Outdoor Life and Speedvision.
The biggest move came in 1997 after an elegant, complicated deal to take charge of E! Entertainment Television even though partner Walt Disney put up all $320 million to buy out other cable operators. Afterwards, Banse told Roberts he needed one person in charge of Comcast's cable network portfolio. He agreed and picked her.
Banse will probably be getting a new boss when Comcast expands its network ties. It's no slam on her talent. Comcast is looking for a seasoned programming executive, and she's not that. Comcast President Brian Roberts wouldn't comment on the search but said confidently, "Amy's a star."
Today, Banse is shepherding videogame channel G4 and TV One, a startup with broadcasting Radio One aimed at blacks. But she's also exploring "channels" that could live on video-on-demand systems, too nichey to justify a full-blown channel but marketable enough to justify some video-server space. "I think you go to Borders in the self-help section, you'll get the idea: Weight Watchers, finance, what to expect when you're expecting. I'm not sure our [future] is going to be advertiser-dependent."—John M. Higgins
Executive VP, programming investments, Comcast
BA, Harvard University, 1982; JD, Temple Law School, 1987
Stepped up from reviewing contracts to pitch in on investments in networks. Eventually, she told President Brian Roberts that he needed to put one person in charge of programming investment. He tapped her.
Technology: At Fox Sports, She's the Real Operator
FOX SPORTS TV GROUP
When an 18-year-old Andrea Berry visited WMAQ-TV Chicago to get some practice interviewing for internships, she got more than practice: She got the job. Nearly 25 years later, she finds herself serving as Fox Sports Television Group's field senior vice president, operations, a role that keeps her busy working on 11 owned-and-operated Fox Sports Networks as well as Rainbow and Sunshine-network stations.
"Coming to Fox and being involved with launching Fox Sports Networks," she says, "allowed me to understand what I really knew and how I could implement what I knew in the past."
That past is impressive. It was while working as a studio technician at WMAQ-TV that she discovered the buzz from working live, something that continues through to this day. In 1984, Berry made the move to New York and joined CBS as studio technical manager at its New York broadcast center. She later became a field technical manager, working on such events as presidential inaugurations, the Winter Olympics, and NFL, NBA, MLB and NCAA telecasts.
Those efforts led to two Emmy awards in 1991 for Outstanding Technical Team Remote for coverage of the World Series and in 1994 for figure-skating coverage at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. It also put her on a road that would eventually lead to Fox Sports.
After working as director of technical operations at CBS owned-and-operated WBBM-TV Chicago for two years, she joined Fox Sports Net in 1996 as vice president, field operations. She was promoted to her current position in January 2001.—Ken Kerschbaumer
Field senior VP, operations, Fox Sports Television Group
April 24, 1961
Degree in computer science, Illinois Institute of Technology
Making the decision to move into field operations. "I was being a bit facetious when I went to my boss and said I wanted to go in the field and travel around the world like the other guys. I expected a no, but, seven months later, I got a yes."
Broadcast Networks: Stepping Stones to Success
Angela Bromstad knew what she wanted to do, and so, after graduating from Southern Methodist University, she moved to Los Angeles, checked the classifieds in the trade magazines and started in show business—eventually landing a job as an assistant at Telepictures.
But she really rolled up her sleeves at Freyda Rothstein Productions, first as an assistant and then as a development executive. "Freyda was one of the first major female producers of television, having gotten her start in soap operas," Bromstad says. "She was a major force and my mentor."
Bromstad spent six years with Rothstein, producing some 15 made-for-TV movies for HBO, Lifetime, ABC, CBS and NBC. It was a hands-on company: Rothstein, Bromstad and an assistant.
But the production company's heavy producing schedule required a lot of time away from home and her family, so Bromstad started looking around for a job that would allow her to stay in Los Angeles. After a short search, she landed a job as director of miniseries and motion pictures for NBC. In that position, she developed such hit movies and minis as The '60s, Asteroid
and Atomic Train.
Since then, it's been a steady climb to the top of NBC Studios, where she's now in charge of comedy and drama development as well as current shows. She has had a hand in developing Ed, Providence, Profiler, Boomtown, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Crossing Jordan, American Dreams, Kingpin, Las Vegas, Happy Family, Will & Grace
"Having the familiarity of having sat on a set for 12 to 14 hours a day, I would say that the studio job I have now is the perfect combination," she says. "It lets me use my executive skills and my production background."—Paige Albiniak
Executive vice president, NBC Studios
Aug. 26, 1961, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif.
BA, theater, Southern Methodist University, 1983
"I ended up spending a lot of time in Canada and wanted to stay in town. Someone called me from the network and said Lindy DeKoven was hiring. I called on Thursday, they sent me a package on Friday, I filled it on Monday, and I was hired on Tuesday."
Broadcast News: Balance in the World's Top News City
Vickie Burns is the newly minted news director and VP of news for NBC's WRC-TV Washington, the No. 8 DMA but arguably the No. 1 news market for nation- and world-shaping events, or, as she puts it, "the local news market of the leader of the free world." But Burns also recognizes that it is the market of community leaders worried about mercury poisonings and gang shootings. Providing news relevant to both a world capital and a local community was the challenge that wooed her from her Chicago hometown (DMA 3) and her job as news director of NBC's WMAQ-TV. That and the chance to run the whole show. "VP of news is the No. 1 title. I did not have that in Chicago," she says. Burns didn't seek out the D.C. job but says she "didn't hesitate for a minute" when it was offered.
Burns got into the business almost as an afterthought. As a pre-law student, she began to take communications classes to help with her shyness. It must have worked. She wound up doing a music show on the student radio station. She gravitated toward news, then got an internship at WBBM-TV. After graduation, she joined the station as the assistant to the news tape librarian. "Those were the days of big staffs," she notes somewhat wistfully. She moved up to desk assistant and realized that "what happens behind the scenes is where I want to be. I never looked back."
She was too busy moving forward in her career, which included news writer and producer at WBBM-TV, producer and assistant news director at WMAQ-TV, a brief stint with WLS-TV Chicago, then the news director's job at WMAQ-TV for 31/2 years before making the move to Washington last month.—John Eggerton
Vice president of news/news director, WRC-TV Washington
Sept. 17, 1959, Chicago
BA, communications, Loyola University
An internship in the public affairs department at CBS-owned WBBM-TV Chicago: "We did not go get coffee or pick up dry cleaning. It was: Think about show topics, research them, find guests and create a package of content every week."
Media Agency: At Initiative, Local Bucks Stop Here
Sue Johenning runs Initiative's local-ad spot-buying arm. With $2 billion-plus in annual billings, it's the single largest local broadcast (includes TV, radio and cable) buying post in the business.
"I've always wanted to be in advertising, ever since I was a kid," she says. Indeed, her first job in the business was selling ad space for her college newspaper. Her skills are well-rounded, her passion for literature matched by a strong aptitude for math.
After a stint in Denver working in the in-house media group for a furniture chain, Johenning relocated to Los Angeles as a junior ad buyer with Western International Media, Initiative's predecessor company. That was a little over 20 years ago; since then she has helped build the company into a multibillion-dollar operation.
When she took over the top spot five months ago, she hit the ground the running. "In a lot of ways, I've been preparing for this for a long time." While there's a learning curve in any new job, says Johenning, in her case, "hopefully, it's smaller, and I'm getting over the bumps as quickly as possible."
Perhaps the thing Johenning finds most gratifying about her job is the "instant feedback," from campaigns she helps implement for clients. "You know on Monday how well the cash register was being rung over the weekend. Knowing that we are able to impact that is very invigorating."
The beauty of local broadcast, she says, "is that we are able to help our clients connect with their consumers and we can do that one location, one market at a time. Looking to the future of local broadcast, Johenning says, "Consumer connections are key. Local broadcasters that can develop creative and effective ways of connecting to the consumer will come out ahead."—Steve McClellan
Executive VP/director, local broadcast, Initiative
Sept. 9, 1953, Ames, Iowa
BA, English and journalism, Iowa State University, 1976
"It's been a natural progression for me. I've really had the opportunity to help shape the department. That really is the career builder, if you will, in my case."
Cable News: O'Brien Wakes Up CNN's Mornings
Even before CNN came calling, Soledad O'Brien knew she would want to anchor CNN's American Morning
newscast. "It was hard news with a sense of humor," says the former host of NBC's Weekend Today. At CNN, O'Brien says, she would get to travel, cover big stories and get more time on the air.
O'Brien recently accompanied First Lady Laura Bush on a whirlwind trip to Paris and Moscow and now anchors 15 hours a week.
And, in the midst of all of it, she and her husband, investment banker Brad Raymond, are parents of two young daughters.
The daughter of a Cuban and black mother and an Irish-Australian father, she is one of six children who all attended Harvard University, some for undergraduate and others as graduate students. O'Brien started out a pre-med major but, after interning at Boston's WBZ-TV, left school early to take a producer job at the station. (She finished her degree in 2000.)
O'Brien first joined NBC News as a field producer for medical correspondent Robert Bazell. Then, urged by news executives, O'Brien transitioned into an on-air role, first at KRON-TV San Francisco and later at the then-new MSNBC as the host of technology show The Site
At NBC News, she traveled with the pope to Cuba in 1998 and recalls it as one of her toughest assignments, because of the extreme poverty there. She had a tough time meeting relatives: "It is hard to be with relatives you can't save," she says.
O'Brien faced another very difficult moment last April, when her Weekend Today
co-host David Bloom died of a pulmonary embolism while covering the war in Iraq. She says his death reinforced her passion for journalism. "We get to tell people what is happening in the world and be a part of their lives. It is an important mandate and something very valuable."—Allison Romano
Co-anchor, CNN's American Morning
Sept. 19, 1966, St. James, N.Y.
BA, English, BA, American Literature, Harvard University
"All your jobs end up creating the person you become." Local news taught her how to write. At MSNBC, she learned how to anchor breaking news. And, she quips, "I can fetch a mean cup of coffee."
Cable Networks: From Russia, With Talent
DISCOVERY TIMES CHANNEL
As a graduate student studying Russian, Vivian Schiller spent a year in the former Soviet Union leading tour groups for American professionals. She thinks the experience helped her as a TV executive: "I learned public speaking, crisis management, cross-cultural skills."
At Discovery Times Channel, Schiller draws on those skills and more. She heads a channel co-owned by two powerful media companies, Discovery Communications and The New York Times Co. And, as head of a digital network, she is constantly selling her ideas: to viewers, to cable and satellite operators, and to advertisers.
She started her TV career in Russia, working as a fixer—the person who does myriad odds and ends that need local and linguistic expertise—on documentaries. Soon after, she joined Turner Broadcasting as associate producer and fixer and hit the road with teams making documentaries for TBS Superstation, TNT and CNN. Eager to gain business experience, she also dabbled in international distribution, home video and marketing.
Besides films on Russia, Schiller worked on nature, wildlife and sports documentaries.
In time, the Turner documentary team moved into the CNN operation. Immersed in a newsroom for the first time, Schiller caught the news bug.
Colleagues encouraged her to choose a career path, but she resisted. "People said, 'Pick the editorial side and become a good filmmaker or the business side and get an MBA," she recalls. "I kept not choosing, and it turned out well."
Indeed, at Discovery Times, Schiller flexes her programming and business acumen. At heart, though, she is still a producer. "I still give notes on scripts and cuts, but I am learning to let go a bit."—Allison Romano
Senior VP/GM, Discovery Times Channel
Sept. 13,1961, New York
BA, Cornell; MA, Russian, Middlebury College
Former Discovery Networks U.S. chief John Ford sought out Schiller, then head of CNN's documentary department, when Discovery and The New York Times Co. partnered to relaunch Discovery Civilization Channel.
TV Stations: Thriving in a Climate of Change
don't think anybody likes change," says Susan Schwartz, VP and general manager of WGCL-TV Atlanta. But that hasn't stopped her from embracing its challenges and capitalizing on its opportunities.
She spent 16-plus years rising through the ranks to run KTVK(TV) Phoenix, surrounded and supported by a management team that, while remaining virtually intact, helped take it from No. 5 in the market to a dominant No. 1. Then, during the musical-chair affiliation switches of the 1990s, the station lost its ABC moniker. It was back to work to help rebuild it into one of the top independents in the country.
Schwartz's first broadcast opportunity came from a neighbor in her Columbus, Ohio, hometown. A salesperson for WTVN-TV (now WSYZ[TV]), he got her a summer job in the film department. She was hooked. After college, she joined the traffic department. "It is the only way to learn about everything that goes on in a TV station." She moved up to program director before joining KTVK when her husband, a newspaperman, was relocated by Scripps Howard (he is now with Cox).
Her current station—since April of last year—has seen its share of changes, too. The historically low rated WGCL-TV is a former independent that grabbed the CBS affiliation, a former Tribune station now owned by Meredith, and one that has had "a lot of different directives," she says. It's another challenge that she apparently relishes: "I can't think of anything more exciting than building, pretty much from the ground up. We can keep trying things, refining the ones that work and throwing out the ones that don't. That is the ultimate opportunity, especially for creative people."—John Eggerton
VP/GM, WGCL-TV Atlanta
July 13, 1954, Columbus, Ohio
BA, rhetoric and communications, Kent State
Deciding to go to KTVK(TV) Phoenix. "To be able to work with people to take that station from No. 5 to No. 1, then lose [its ABC] affiliation and still have an incredible television station."
Cable News Management: Who's Bill O'Reilly?
The O'Reilly Factor
In 1996, when Amy Sohnen was producing a little-known talk show called The O'Reilly Report
on a fledgling news network, she had to explain a lot. What was Fox News Channel? Who was Bill O'Reilly? Seven years later, says the Brooklyn native, "we've gone from obscurity to No. 1."
Sohnen joined Fox News in early 1996, when Chairman Roger Ailes and his troops were in the midst of converting a record store into a news studio. Her job: launch a live O'Reilly-hosted talk show. It was a daunting assignment. She had a green staff. There were no computers until a week before launch. Guests were reluctant to appear on a new show on a unknown network.
But, as a product of the New York local news business, Sohnen was a veteran at building news programs. She got her first TV job while still in high school, interning for WABC-TV New York. After graduating from SUNY Albany, she returned to the station. Later, she was a newswriter at WPIX(TV) New York ("It was small-market journalism in a major market. We had manual typewriters") and also spent nine years at WCBS-TV, working every shift and every newscast.
"Nothing better equips a person for cable news than local TV," she says. "It is trial by fire. Sink or swim."
At Fox, Sohnen has also been dispatched to other shows and dayparts. She launched Matt Drudge's short-lived show and later served as senior producer of weekend programming, from business news to a pet show. When U.S. forces went into Kosovo, she produced breaking news. In 2000, she returned to The O'Reilly Factor.
The second tour, she says, has even more exciting. "Who would have ever known it would blow up this way?"—Allison Romano
Executive producer, The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News Channel
Oct. 8, 1960, Brooklyn, N.Y.
BA, political science and sociology, SUNY Albany
While she was working at NBC's talk-show channel America's Talking (now MSNBC), former boss Chet Collier recruited her to move to startup Fox News Channel and launch Bill O'Reilly's show.
Broadcast Syndication: She Gives Dr. Phil Advice
Carla Pennington Stewart
When she was 20, Carla Pennington Stewart started in TV as an audience booker for Front Row Video, a show produced by ABC O&O KGO-TV San Francisco. That found her walking around the rough Tenderloin district on Saturday mornings "hawking donuts and coffee" and looking for potential audience members.
From there, she landed her first producing job at the age of 23, producing segments for PM Magazine
at San Francisco's KPIX-TV. She moved to Los Angeles to become PM Magazine's bureau chief when local TV in San Francisco "kind of dried up," she says.
That show's supervising producer was Linda Bell Blue, now better known as the executive producer of Entertainment Tonight. Blue was working at PM Magazine
in San Francisco and moved to Los Angeles herself to produce Hard Copy. Accepting the job as executive producer of Paramount's Entertainment Tonight, Blue took Steward along. Eventually, Stewart ended up as co-executive producer of Entertainment Tonight Weekend.
She interviewed for the top job for Paramount's Dr. Phil
but didn't know for months where she stood. Finally, Dr. Phil McGraw told Stewart via videophone from Chicago that she had won the job.
In the top slot, she's applying one of the important lessons she learned from Entertainment Tonight: "I came from an environment where it was imperative to keep the show fresh," she says. "I came from a place of always staying one step ahead of the competition."
Work has one unusual fringe benefit: direct access to Dr. Phil's counsel. "Dr. Phil's parenting advice is good and unique," says the mother of twins. "I use it all the time."—Paige Albiniak
Executive producer, Dr. Phil
June 22, 1962, Berkeley, Calif.
BA, broadcast arts, San Francisco State University, 1983
"I was at Entertainment Tonight, and Terry Wood, of Paramount Domestic Television, said she was meeting with Oprah and Dr. Phil. I said, 'Oh my god, Dr. Phil. My mom is a huge fan, and that show is going to be a huge success. Hey, do you need an executive producer?'"