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So What Do You Do, Arick Wierson?
The man Bloomberg tapped to run NYC TV takes you through his day- April 4, 2007
Arick Wierson can tell you that working in TV ruins your viewing habits. As general manager of NYC TV, he thinks there are two qualities you need to make it in television, and tells you three of them. What's in your TV future? Jimmy Choos, for one. And, hopefully, fewer connections in his TV room.
Name: Arick Wierson
Position: General Manager
Media: TV, Radio, Broadband & Mobile
Company: NYC TV / NYC Media Group
Education: BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, MS in Economics from UNICAMP (São Paulo State University at Campinas, Brazil)
Hometown: Excelsior, MN (suburb of Minneapolis)
First job: Analyst, Investment Banking (JP Morgan)
Last 3 jobs: Vice President, ABN AMRO Bank, CEO, Comjunta (Internet start-up in Brazil), 2001 Bloomberg for Mayor Campaign
Birthdate: November 23, 1971
Marital status: Married (with a 2-year-old daughter)
What's the first thing you do when you get to the office?
I like to walk around. See who is in, what they're working on, you know -- chit-chat. Our main offices are on four different floors, so people can come and go and not cross paths unless you make an effort to get out and about.
What's the first work-related thing you do before you get to the office?
I check my Blackberry (I keep it on my bed stand). I usually have 30-40 new emails that have come in overnight.
When Mayor Bloomberg tapped you to helm NYC TV you didn't have much if any TV experience. What have you learned about the TV business that surprised you?
It's surprising, in some respects, how risk-averse some parts of the TV industry are. Although it's changing (and quickly, I might add), many TV execs really adhere to a "herd mentality" when it comes to programming, deal-making -- you name it. I'm always of the mind that it's better to try new things knowing that you might fail than to stay with what's tried and safe. Makes life more interesting, too!
What did you learn about running a TV station that surprises you?
I'm not sure there were any surprises. I think the glitz and glamour of industry sometimes fogs people's perception that TV is a business. Sure, there are some peculiarities in a business that lives off of a creative product, but if you place the right bets, plan and execute, you'll find success.
What's the most challenging part of your day? Your job?
There is one main reason NYC TV has been such a success, and that's because of the team we have assembled. Managing expectations, resolving conflicts, making sure everyone has an opportunity for input -- that's the challenging part of a people-intensive business.
How much TV do you watch?
The funny thing is that I never used to watch much TV at all. Now, between work and home, TV and the Web, I probably consume 2-3 hours a day of content.
What do you watch for 'research' for your job?
That's a great question. I've watched one episode of countless programs because I feel the need to know what's out there; I have to see what's working, and what's not. I also try to watch a lot of stuff on the Web. I think that many of the next big ideas in TV will arise on broadband.
How has your TV watching changed since taking your position at NYC TV?
I pay attention to things that drive my wife crazy when we're watching something together: I'll rewind a special effect on CSI to see exactly how a shot was composed, or I'll keep a record of when commercial breaks occur in shows, things the casual viewer probably doesn't even think or care about. And, of course, I always watch the credits in slo-mo now.
You recently partnered with NBC -- how has that changed the station for you?
I think that the NBC deal was important in the sense that beforehand, everyone saw the shows, all the Emmys we were racking up, and our ratings, yet I don't think the local media industry was sure what to make of us. The NBC deal signaled that we had arrived. It has opened a lot of doors for us.
What is in the future for NYC TV? Where do you see it in 5 years, with all the changes facing television, the web, networks?
Right now, NYC TV is basically a linearly programmed channel. NYC TV will continue to grow and expand its lifestyle programming revolving around New York City, but expect us to be offering up that content on an increasingly diverse portfolio of platforms, where the viewer/consumer is in charge. In fact, we believe that going forward, our viewers will also be our producers. We are developing a project focused on user-generated content -- a show called Press Play -- an area that will really take off in a city like New York.
What's your favorite TV show? Why?
Friday Night Lights on NBC. It has great storytelling, believable actors, and it's beautifully composed.
What do you read that informs you about your industry -- not just industry periodicals, but anything.
I read B&C, TV Week, Multichannel, etc. like everyone else. TV Newsday does a good job of aggregating what's out there in print and online. Every TV exec should keep an eye on TVTracker. Some blogs that I like to look at are Paidcontent.org and TVNewser. I also pay a lot of attention to Internet Protocol Television-related news [where a digital television is delivered via the Internet], and there the main source is CedMagazine.com.
What's the last book you read (really, finished)?
Acquired Tastes by Peter Mayle. It was perfect beach-reading material for a recent family vacation in Mexico.
Where do you think TV is going? Not just government TV, but the medium in general? Describe how we'll view the tube in 10 or 20 years.
Wow. 20 years? It's funny a question because I always tell my students (I teach an MBA program on the economics of TV and Radio at MCNY) to never try to predict what is going to happen in TV more than five years going forward.
Anyway, here are some things that I feel comfortable betting on in the next few years (but I won't tell you what happens when!):
- 1) Sooner rather than later -- easy to use technology bringing your Internet downloads to the HDTV large-screen. Apple, TiVO and others are bridging this gap and it won't be long before this technology goes mainstream.
2) Not tomorrow, but not too far off -- seamless user interface for transitioning between broadband, broadcast and cable linear and on-demand channels. It won't be too long before LX.TV and YouTube are much like other on-demand channels you see on cable.
3) Not for quite a while, but when it happens, strap yourself in -- transactional TV advertising: you like the pair of Jimmy Choo sandals that Carrie is wearing on Sex in the City, just press pause, click on the shoe in the video, and buy.
So many young people want to get into television -- believing it's all green rooms with melon, George Clooney and champagne. Describe the TV business to those who may be thinking about jumping in.
I am a bit of a contrarian when it comes to getting involved in the media biz too early in your career. Unless you are a young starlet with the clock ticking, I think the best skill set you can bring to the media business is life experience itself. Go work in consulting, finance, government, advertising -- even PR. See the world. Live abroad. Learn a second language. These are the intangibles that the media executive of the future will bring to the business.
What qualities do you believe successful talent in TV must possess?
- 1) Energy and drive.
2) Smile and be friendly.
3) Reread 2. I don't know how many times the slightly less talented, or slightly less good-looking talent has snatched away a job from a slightly better qualified person because of personality issues. Everyone works long hours and no one wants to hang out with someone with attitude.
What qualities must executives possess?
I think that the core characteristic of a solid TV exec is strong right-brain / left-brain balance. Execs need to have the creative instincts to know what will work, how to package and present something, and the analytical and organizational skills to shepherd along the creative process and create value. That may seem obvious, but I've seen several textbook examples of people who fail as they move into executive roles because while they excel in one area, they have few skills in the other. Balance is the key.
What do you think is the most interesting story on TV, about TV right now?
Well it appears that Studio 60 is headed for greener pastures, so I'm not sure what that says about the TV industry turning the lens back on itself. That being said, I think 30 Rock has some shelf-life.
What do you do at work when you don't want to do anything?
I guess when I feel myself fading there's nothing like a jolt of Red Bull.
What do you read first everyday? What section of the paper do you read first?
The Post, Times and Journal arrive around 5:30 AM every morning. I read them differently depending on the day of the week. For example, the Monday Times business section is generally very media-heavy. And since NYC TV is, after all, a local network, I always get to the Metro Section.
Okay, what does the TV room look like at home? How many premium channels? Who gets the remote?
In the main living room we have a 42" Samsung HDTV connected to surround-sound speakers, DVD player, stereo with a CD player with an iPod connector. I also have a Canupus analog/digital converter hooked up to a Powerbook so I can capture parts of shows that I like and email Quicktimes to people on staff. As far as channels, I have pretty much everything that Time-Warner Cable offers.
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