Q&A with Amy Carney

Amy Carney is President, Advertiser Sales, Strategy and Research for Sony Pictures Television (SPT) where she leads its worldwide research group across all of SPT's businesses.  She also oversees U.S. ad sales in SPT's first-run and off-network programs, including The Dr. Oz Show, Seinfeld, The King of Queens, Rules of Engagement and Community.

A media industry veteran, Carney began her career at TeleRep, followed by leadership roles at Univision Online, CitySearch and WTVR-TV. The combination of research and sales experience garnered throughout her career has given her a unique perspective on the industry and propelled her to her current role at SPT.

In this fascinating interview, Carney talks about her career path, her work at SPT, the impact of research, data and programmatic on the business, how her mentor shaped her career and how she achieves work-life balance.

CW: As a syndicator, who would you say is your competitive set?

AC: In syndication, I think our competitive set has become digital.  There is an assumption that the genre we are selling has gotten older, is a little less sophisticated, and that the data that is available to track those audiences is not up to the same level that is available to digital or others who can control their own distribution. And because of that, money has been diverted from syndication to other media platforms. I don’t see my competitors as being other syndicators. At some point we compete for those budgets, but they are probably my biggest allies in trying to get people to refocus on the importance of syndication, the lack of clutter in syndication and the fact that syndication is viewed live, which differentiates it from other emerging platforms and TV media outlets. So I look at competition a little differently these days.

CW: Earlier in your career you worked in research, and now you are the head of research and ad sales at SPT. How has research changed over the years? 

AC: When I started in the business, research wasn’t as much of a discipline as it is today.  The people that I have the great opportunity to work with at SPT in research are so knowledgeable and skilled, and they have to have one eye looking back and one eye looking forward at all times.  When I started out in research, we were only looking at a couple overnight reports, and there were three stations in a market.  It was just not as complicated as it is today; the research we did then was only for the purpose of supporting sales.  Now, the research we are doing at SPT is supporting every aspect of the business, from sales, marketing, distribution and programming, to the overall strategy of the company.  We are almost in some cases like the “canary in the mine,” trying to figure out what’s the right path going forward.  Because the media business is changing so fast, research has a real voice and a seat at the table that it didn’t have when I started out. 

CW: Can you talk about any data initiatives you are undertaking at SPT? 

One of the big challenges we are facing in the media business is to understand what “data” means: what it means to a studio, what it means to an ad sales group, what it means to a distribution team. It used to be that for every program, there was one set of “data” you would use to measure success.  Now, for every show that we have, there are countless data sources supplying us with information.  From Nielsen, to Rentrak, to our primary research, to the advanced analytics we now have, there are many different sources supplying us with information.  Managing the data, organizing it, and getting it out to the different business units so that they can best make use of it, is a very important initiative that we are very focused on.  The question of what’s important, what is noise, and what brings direct value back to the business and to our partners, is something we work on every day. 

CW: Amy, do you have an opinion on programmatic, and how that might have an impact on your business right now? 

Programmatic could be a good thing for the TV business if done right. The ability of fusing data with technology and content is an important next step for TV and TV advertising spend. I really believe it could help syndication if we can figure out how to get the data attached to the content, but there are some challenges with that.  When people do figure out programmatic, and it’s not just looked at as a remnant solution but as a solution that elevates the level of targeting and the amount of information you have about who a viewer is—and giving those tools to the buying communityit could really be a boon for TV advertising spend.

CW: Looking back over your career Amy, do you, or did you have, a mentor and if so, who was it?

AC: That would be my Dad, Don Carney. He was a producer and director of sports and special events.  He brought me to work with him from a very early age.  I was very fortunate to be able to be present at many different productions from The Officer Joe Bolton show, to Local News, to the St Patrick’s Day Parade, and countless NY Knicks and Yankee games, both home and away. Watching my Dad direct a ball game was something that you would never forget.  His preparation was so exhausting that he knew the strengths and weaknesses of each player and he could direct the camera position based on where he anticipated the ball would go.  He was a perfectionist who never missed a day, never compromised a standard, and required that from himself and from his control room. He was also a child of the depression, and a World War II vet. I can still hear his voice every day.

CW: How do you achieve work - life balance, if you do?

AC: I think I do, actually. It is something that I am proud of. My single greatest achievement is my family. I have been married for 30 years and I have two children – my son is 25 and my daughter is 21. I believe it was the CEO of Avon who at one time said, in order to have work life balance, you have to accept that one day you are going to be a really great mom and not so good a CEO, and one day you are going to be a really great CEO, and maybe not such a great mom, but at the end you hope that it balances out. There is some truth to that.  But every day, you wake up, and give it everything you have.

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