Yes, There Is Life After The Media Business

Count me among the hundreds of former Fox executives in the post-Disney-acquisition world, as well as thousands of others whose roles have been eliminated in recent years through convergence and consolidation in the television business.  

But don’t count me out… I am energized by the possibilities that lie ahead.

A bit of background first: I was deeply fortunate to have enjoyed a career of more than three decades in media -- initially selling advertising on behalf of Blair Television, and later selling programming on behalf of -- among others -- Genesis Entertainment, Turner, Paramount, and NBC Universal before returning to advertising sales, including my most recent post at Fox’s Twentieth Television.

At Fox, where I was vice president, sales and integration, I managed major advertising agencies in New York and Boston for the company’s syndication portfolio -- we did upwards of $400 million in revenue -- and directed integrated media executions across all company platforms, cultivated many new advertisers, developed new revenue streams via non-traditional advertising clients, and drove the formation of several new technology partnerships. It was challenging, enjoyable work, and I like to think I was good at it.



And I was a media-fraternity “legacy,” so to speak. After an illustrious career as a senior CBS executive, my father helped Ted Turner build his empire. While this provided me with a life-long front-row seat to the fascinations and complexities of the TV business, no lesson was more important than that of prevailing during adversity.

Whether overseeing television coverage of political conventions or Cape Canaveral, or jumping from the Tiffany network to a then-uncertain cable enterprise, my father faced countless dramas -- and difficulties -- along his journey.

From the day I entered the media business I met and worked with great people, formed valuable, close relationships, and I learned a lot -- about business and life … and I loved the ride.  

But in today’s consolidating media world, characterized by dramatically shifting business models, the TV business, unfortunately, is no longer the robust environment it was just 10 years ago. Despite an appreciation and grasp of the market forces spurring the convergence in TMT (technology, media and telcom), my particular function and experience was less essential within a vastly larger empire.

The news that Disney delivered to us last fall, while not completely unexpected, was disappointing. Having been through job shifts previously, I knew the next part of this journey would be far from fun.

However, I felt this challenge would be healthy -- and one that I could manage confidently. Even with young children at home, I knew it was time to step back and take the time to really evaluate where I could find opportunities to find a robust environment for the next phase of my career. 

Interestingly, last February I had the special opportunity of inviting former NBA Commissioner David Stern -- a dear friend to the Wusslers, father and son -- to share some of his wisdom with my Twentieth Television colleagues as we assembled for what we all undoubtedly knew would be our last formal gathering.

A man who weathered many adventures and lessons during his own storied career, David left us with the message that we too have the potential to survive -- in fact thrive -- in times of challenge and change.

David's advice was, essentially: “Be confident in the skills and abilities that you have formed in this job; they are highly translatable to other industries.”

David’s advice validated what I knew in the back of my mind -- that my “skills” could be transformed to fit other circumstances. No longer should I worry about my credibility as a candidate just within the media sector -- I had translatable talents that could serve me and businesses elsewhere. 

It is true -- those of us in media and advertising have fundamental and valuable marketing and sales experience. We have worked closely with clients to invest up to hundreds of millions of their marketing dollars.

We understand the metrics, cycles, audiences, demographics, competitive insights, trends, strategies and costs necessary to generate sales. With only slight variations to KPI’s, our essential experience can be adapted across many industry categories.

Moreover, marketing, advertising and sales successes are key components of and leading indicators for a company’s value and stock price. The experience and expertise we bring indeed are highly valuable to existing and emerging companies in countless other fields.

So…I jumped at an opportunity to apply these skills toward a role in the financial services industry -- an industry that not only mirrors advertising more closely than some might assume, but an industry of which I always wanted to be a part.

In effect, I’m “translating” my media investment experience, and sales and interpersonal insights to new work in the investment space with yet another dynamic team of colleagues. 

After equipping myself to sit for and, thankfully, pass the Series 65 (Uniform Investment Advisor Law Examination), I was able to join forces with a former colleague and friend, Lorenzo Esparza, who had successfully transitioned from TMT to financial services -- so successfully that he and his colleagues have been able to build a thriving Los Angeles-based investment-management firm with rapidly growing practices in private equity, venture capital and real estate. 

I am tasked with, among other roles, further building the New York footprint of the firm, Manhattan West Asset Management, and exploring investment opportunities within -- yes, indeed -- the TMT sector.   

The takeaway -- what David shared that day and what I have encountered in my own journey -- is that it’s all about making opportunity. So I wanted to seize this opportunity to confirm to interested readers that yes, while at the moment it may not be apparent, opportunities do await. 

My own “advice” to readers facing a career upheaval or contemplating a career shift boils down to the oft-heard aphorisms that always bear repeating: Take time to step back; Think outside the box; Believe in yourself; Translate your skill sets; Work your contacts, even those that go back decades; and Network, well beyond your comfort zone.

There are opportunities to leverage the deep skills and relationships you have developed over your career. Green fields with great promise can beckon.

1 comment about "Yes, There Is Life After The Media Business".
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  1. George Hayes from GTH Consulting, June 25, 2020 at 11:13 a.m.

    Rob is absolutely correct (and eloquent) about this.  I had a successful media career and then switched to a whole different profession -- fundraising -- where I found all my skills and knowledge were transferable amd valuable.  What's more, the work was even more satisfying.  The nonprofit world has become increasingly more sophisticated over the last dozen years.  If you are in a situation where you are considering a career change, take a look at entering the nonprofit arena.  You will be prized. 

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