He's a board member with me for the sports management program at Syracuse University, a great friend and a great guy. David Levy, the President of TBS, has done some incredible things to change the game in sports media. (He also does some tremendous charity work and other projects).
Under his watch, the pre- and post-game broadcasts for basketball on TNT have become a must-watches for NBA fans. And, the new deal for CBS/Turner with the NCAA, has turned the Turner family of networks into a major force in sports.
David has done a tremendous job spearheading those projects, among others, and I wanted to get inside his head with the below interview; learn about his mindset and what it takes to become a great negotiator. This interview is a must-read for sports fans and people trying to break into the business.
Brandon Steiner: What is the state of television viewing today?
David Levy: The television business is still very healthy but it keeps evolving. At Turner, we are a global content leader across all screens and platforms. Audiences still want access to great content.
What's different, they want to access content when they want, and where they want. It is incumbent upon media companies like Turner to not only produce great content but also make it available across a variety of different screens, platforms and services.
BS: The CBS partnership for the NCAA Tournament rights was a landmark deal for the industry. How did you do it?
DL: It was a very long process but well worth it. At Turner, we believe in acquiring premium sports content that resonates with our audience, advertisers and distributors and certainly the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship is one the most popular events every year.
Simply, I think it came down to having a clear vision on what Turner and CBS’ objectives were first. Once we understood each company’s objectives in acquiring the rights we were able to work out an overall partnership with the NCAA.
And we haven’t looked back since. This partnership continues to exceed all of our business objectives.
BS: What are your top three elements of a successful negotiating strategy?
- Understanding and identifying the objectives for each party involved.
- Being prepared to deal with potential alternatives during the negotiating process and what the opposite side really wants to know
BS: Is there a particular benefit to having built your career at one company?
DL: For me, I’ve been fortunate to work at Turner for the majority of my professional career. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to work both domestically, as well as internationally across almost every part of our company.
Along the way, I have learned from some of the smartest and creative people in our business. Each area I have worked in over the last 28 years at Turner prepared me for the current responsibilities and challenges that come along with the current position I have today.
BS: What advice would you give to the young people that tend to move around a lot early in their careers?
DL: Be patient and take the time early in your career to learn from others.
BS: What are some of your biggest day-to-day challenges? What is your process for working through them?
DL: It’ not so much day-to-day challenges but making sure as a company we are living up to our responsibility that we have to our audience, advertisers, and distribution partners. We have terrific brands and businesses and each day I want to make sure we are thinking about these three core groups to our business. In any leadership role you are entrusted with, I think it is imperative to listen, communicate and provide the necessary resources to meet the challenges your company may encounter head on.
BS: Reflecting on your time at Syracuse (our alma mater), how did the school prepare you for the working world?
DL: The diversity of students and the marketing classes I took which had me contact executives and companies outside the varsity gave me a foundation to understand the working world.
My internship (which included credits to graduate) at a local advertising industry really helped prepare me.
BS: What is your favorite part about leading TBS?
DL: Working with a terrific group of people all across the company.
BS: What will the future of television viewing be?
DL: The television and media marketplace continues to evolve at a rapid pace. One thing is for certain it won't look the same five and 10 years from today. Today’s audiences expect shows and content to be accessible on their terms. As a media company, we must ensure content is available at all access points. We have seen the introduction of all kinds of new platforms and services for video with both emerging distribution partners—including the likes of SVOD providers such HuLu and Netflix, as well as with our traditional cable, satellite and telco partners. What’s consistent is that the more options we give audiences to access premium, quality, video content the greater their consumption.