Interview Date: December 1, 2016
Interview Location: New York City, NY USA
Interviewer: Seth Arenstein
Collection: Cable Center Oral History Program
Arenstein: Hi, I’m Seth Arenstein here for the Hauser Oral History Project at the Cable Center. It’s December 1, 2016. We’re in New York City and we’re here with Tamara Franklin. Welcome, Tamara. Nice to see you.
Franklin: Thank you. Great to be here.
Arenstein: Good to have you here. So, I’m not going to warm you up, you’ll be given the hardest question right at the top. You went to Yale as an undergrad. You got your BA in English. You went then to Harvard to get an MBA many years later. So now here’s the tough question: when Harvard plays Yale, who do you root for? It’s the toughest question in the interview.
Franklin: Yeah, I get asked that a lot. My heart’s with Yale. Your undergraduate experience is so special. You’re young, you’re learning a lot about yourself and the world around you, so it’s, yeah, Bulldogs all the way.
Arenstein: From there on, it’s going to be easy questions.
Where were you born, what did you learn in school when you started before you got to Yale?
Franklin: So I was born in Newark, New Jersey. I’m the fourth of five children there. You know, I grew up in a rural area of New Jersey, and I think really the biggest thing I learned doing my academic studies was really more about the social aspects of how to fit in. It was a predominantly white suburban society. My parents grew up in an urban environment and as an African American woman, I was often the only African American in my classroom. So I learned a lot of my social skills and really how to adapt and fit in and yet still maintain what’s unique and core to who I am as a person. And I use those skills constantly as you can imagine.
Arenstein: When you decided to major in English at Yale, what did your parents say?
Franklin: “What are you going to do with that?”
Arenstein: I figured they’d say that. That’s why I asked the question.
Franklin: But they have always encouraged me to follow my passion. I’ve always been an avid reader. I loved to write. I’ve always loved that so I gravitated to what was natural for me as an undergrad.
Arenstein: And are you happy that you majored in English?
Franklin: Absolutely, absolutely. You learn so much, you grow so much reading about the experiences of others and things like that. I read constantly for my work today and that type of thing. So just being a voracious reader, being curious, naturally curious, I think all that foundation came from that training.
Arenstein: In your copious free time, what do you like to read now?
Franklin: Most of my reading is around business-related books because being in digital, you’re constantly trying to keep up with all the changes and transformations, whether it’s underlying technology, the new platforms, changing consumer behavior, so it’s all in my bag now. I think I’ve got a “Fortune,” a “Wired,” and a “Fast Company.”
Arenstein: How about books? Any books on your nightstand?
Franklin: I do have some that I love. There’s a book by James M. Citrin and Richard Smith called The Five Patterns of Extraordinary Careers. The authors work for the executive search firm SpencerStuart. That’s actually a book I review on a regular basis. It really gives you some great milestones as you work through your career. So for younger people who are just trying to make their way, read it now while you’re young, read it every five to ten years, it’s really very interesting. I love Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive. That’s a staple in my giving plan that I give people constantly. Books like that I think that I was—those are what’s interesting.
Arenstein: OK. So you go on to Harvard, MBA. Although you had some stops before that. Let’s not get to that before we get to the earlier stuff. So you went from Yale to Bain & Company…
Franklin: There was really one main stop before Harvard, and that was Knight Ridder newspapers. I was there for seven years so that was really the time—
Arenstein: What did you do there?
Franklin: I had a great experience there. I went there because I loved to read and write, thought I wanted to be a reporter, makes sense. But a gentleman there named Marvin Berenblum, who went on to be a partner in Heidrick & Struggles, saw something in me, and he said, “Look. You can have the reporter job. It pays X. But you know what? We’ve got a management rotational training program. It’s for MBAs. You’re not an MBA yet, but if you’re willing to take a shot, I’ll put you in the program. We’ll see where it goes.” So I said, “Sure, why not?” He placed me in ad sales so I was in ad sales. Started out, I put on a set of headphones, and that rotating dialing on classified where you took the garage sale ads, that was the start. Coming out of Yale, that was my first job. And my parents again said, “You’re doing what? Glad we could spend that money.” But actually it was a fascinating learning about the advertising business from the ground up. Classified, then retail advertising. I then went to go work in production operation, so hung up the suits from calling on major advertisers, and put on steel-toed shoes, hardhat and ran some newspaper operations.
Arenstein: Really. Did you ever get into journalism? Did you ever get into reporting?
Franklin: I never used it officially. I’ve never used it officially.
Arenstein: So I was going to say, getting the BA in English and then doing what you do today, that’s very straight to—
Franklin: Oh, yes, absolutely. It makes total sense, right?
Arenstein: So I guess at a certain point, instead of having somebody say to you, “Wow, you’re not an MBA, but…” You said, “I want to get an MBA.” Tell us about that.
Franklin: Sure. I loved the newspaper business and communication editorially; Knight Ridder newspapers was a fantastic place to work. But I did get the sense of two things. One is, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in that industry for the rest of my life. I felt like with the English major I was going to need to learn more about the traditional business side of the house. So I went to Harvard. Because writing is natural for me, the analytic side I work at, so I figured I should face my demons, went back to business school, took a lot of finance courses—they darn near killed me, but I made it. And much better as a result of it. So undergrad, I say, I played to my natural strengths, I had a lot of fun. Graduate school, I worked very hard. It was not my natural strengths, but I learned a lot in both places.
Arenstein: I’m curious and fascinated by the combination of analytics and writing. Tell me how that helps you in your career.
Franklin: Sure, sure. Analytics were great to understand those patterns, but at the end of the day, you have to communicate. If you’re trying to sell a new idea, a new business idea, you’re trying to convince someone that you need to change the org structure or to create a new position, you have to communicate well. So that’s where really the English comes in, whether it’s written or verbal. Being able to express yourself succinctly and saying exactly what you mean in a way that’s compelling and that people can receive the message in a crisp and concise way, in a manner I use every single day. So I say that I don’t use my English degree officially, but I really do. I do. And I encourage young people: do not take those soft skills for granted.
Arenstein: I was going to ask you that. I see so much mentoring on your resume, and Patrick Mellon and everything. So what do you tell students if they have a choice between a sort of a more technical degree versus a writing degree, or do you tell them to mix it? What do you tell them to do?
Franklin: I’m a big fan of the liberal arts well-rounded background. There are a few reasons One is you’re young. And I think—I won’t get the statistics exactly right, but something like 50% of the people who graduate, undergraduate, within three to five years aren’t really using their undergraduate degree. So I think you’re a little young to really pitching yourself deeply. But if you get a nice, well-rounded liberal arts degree, you learn how to communicate, you learn that analytical thinking, how to ask questions, where to probe. And then as you get a little older, you can then start to go a little bit deeper into an area that you’re really passionate about. So that’s my bias; the more well-rounded liberal arts, go deeper a little bit later when you’re a little bit more mature in your career cycle.
Arenstein: And when you’re hiring, which I assume you do, what do you look for? Do you look for that well-rounded person?
Franklin: Actually the biggest thing I look for is a natural curiosity. Because I think the world is changing so quickly, that ability to just remain hungry, and curious about all things around you, not get too settled into any one mindset, I think is really critical to success moving forward. So natural curiosity, obvious gray matter, you know, brain matter, ability is learn is key because you’re going to constantly be learning, but you need to be able to enjoy that, find some joy in that.
Arenstein: We raced past your childhood, but let’s go back a little bit. Where did the curiosity come from? Did it come from your parents, did it come from a teacher?
Franklin: I had a lot of great people in my life, so obviously my parents. Really, my parents, because of their hardworking background, they gave me the motivation. I knew that I wanted to do more, I wanted to see more of the world. We really couldn’t afford it as a young child so that gave me the motivation and they were supportive about that. I had an older brother who was very driven. He’s one of those old men in a young person’s body, and he was always preaching about, “You’re doing great in this little school here, but the world’s a much bigger place. You’ve got to try harder.” “I’m getting straight A’s.” “It’s not good enough.” So he was relentless. And he drove me. And then the reading; the reading always led to wanting to know more about new things. It was just that cascading effect. So that’s made me curious about a lot of things as well.
Arenstein: From Harvard, you went to Bain, right?
Franklin: That’s correct.
Arenstein: So tell us what Bain & Company is, what it was then, and what did you do there?
Franklin: It’s a strategic management consulting firm. It still exists today, it’s still one of the better ones out there today, in my humble opinion. So the way it works there is you’re assigned to certain clients. And you can work on a myriad of business challenges that those clients are engaging in. And some consulting firms have you focus on a particular vertical. What was very attractive to me about Bain is that you work on two clients at one time, so you kind of double your exposure. And you can work on multiple verticals. Again, then you didn’t have to pick any one vertical. I would argue even today, I would argue I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. So I still had that problem back then.
I got to work on everything from finance companies, furniture manufacturers, grocery wholesalers. So it was a continuation for me of the MBA. It was almost putting the MBA and its frameworks into practice, into real life practice.
Arenstein: You said that as an undergrad, you enjoyed, and as a graduate student, you really worked hard. What were some of the hard things about an MBA education?
Franklin: I had worked for seven years so I was a little long in the tooth. So I was older. One of the hard things was the coursework and the energy level that’s required to get through it. Because I really did have to apply myself. Again, the writing becomes a little more naturally to me. The finance things like that, not as naturally. So I really had to apply myself. And I think also at Harvard, there was a lot of time I spent getting to know the students because I was more mature, so there were questions I had about the world around me and industry and what I wanted to do. And there were classmates who were living those lives. So I spent a lot of my time learning from my classmates as well.
Arenstein: Bain & Company—where was that?
Franklin: It was located in Atlanta. I was in the Atlanta office. Headquarters is in Boston, but I was in the Atlanta office.
Arenstein: Were you recruited at Harvard for this?
Arenstein: At Bain, you mentioned various verticals. Which ones did you like the most?
Franklin: I am still a big fan of the widget being made. I love operations, I love manufacturing. So it’s fun that I’m on the digital side because the widget we make is video content. But I do love the tangible widget, too. There’s something satisfactory. It might be the newspaper days. You produce a product that’s brand-new every day and it has a finite timeline. If it’s not there and on the doorstep in the morning, it might as well not exist. I like the adrenaline rush of that.
Arenstein: So how long were you at Bain?
Franklin: I was at Bain two-and-a-half years.
Arenstein: Two-and-a-half years. And you went after that where?
Franklin: To Motorola. There were a couple things going on. There were life circumstances. In Harvard, I was dating my husband. We got married right after I graduated from school. He lived in South Florida. After Harvard Business School, I wanted to get back to South Florida. After Bain, I wanted to get back to South Florida. And eventually start a family. Consulting is a wonderful industry. I learned a lot. The hours are very tough, though. So starting a family, it would have been hard. I reached out to my alumni network and found out about Motorola. And they had a significant presence in South Florida. So it allowed me to take a job in strategic planning, which was natural coming out of Bain. I also could get myself physically back to South Florida.
Arenstein: So you’re back in South Florida now and what were you doing at Motorola?
Franklin: So I started out doing strategic planning, helping this division think about how the universe was changing and the role which they were playing and how they could win in that situation. But very quickly, my boss there, to his credit said, “You know, I think there’s something around operations—you can continue to do strategic planning, but you might want to try operations and execution, just running part of the business on your own. And he assigned me to a new company. It was called “Boost Mobile.” They were founded in Australia. They’re a prepaid mobile company here in the U.S. now, but they needed to pick a handset manufacturer, they picked Motorola, and my boss allowed me to work with them to create their product portfolio. So that’s where I really got the love of technology is in working with the hardware and software engineers developing handsets. I don’t have an engineering background, but they’re more than willing to teach you if you’re willing to learn. I learned just tremendously from some of my colleagues there at Motorola.
Arenstein: Let me ask you about that because I know that you’re involved with WICT and NAMIC and I know that, at least a few years ago, one of WICT and SCTE’s push for women, particularly, was, so what if you don’t have a technical background? If you’re interested in tech, pursue it, and you seem to be like a living example of that.
Arenstein: Could you comment on that?
Franklin: Sure, sure. There are a lot of really good technical people who know how to code and know how to build things, and when we’re talking about that transition, we’ve not talking about asking someone to learn coding overnight. But we’re talking about someone to connect the dots. The technology is only as good as the problem-solving. It’s not about technology for technology’s sake. You have to understand the consumer and the need, and you’re connecting the dots between that and what the technology is capable of. So you don’t necessarily need a hard grounding in technology to help connect those dots. I mean, there are wonderful people you can guide towards the product creation. I think that’s what I would love to see a lot more women get into: the vision of it, the strategy, especially the match of consumer need with products and solutions.
Arenstein: What are some of the things that you enjoy doing at Motorola?
Franklin: Oh, there are so many. My trajectory and growth curve was a lot, so I was learning the wireless industry which I had really no background in. I was learning to manage tech teams, e-commerce was coming out at the time and I was managing a tech team that created this division’s first e-commerce website, not Motorola’s, but this iDEN division’s first e-commerce website. So I was learning about the Internet and things like that. So it was a very steep learning curve for me at the time. And that’s where, too, I started to think about maybe one day I would like to run a division of a company or something. I liked amassing a team of really smart people, getting them rallied around a vision. There was a health care initiative that we started called “Moto Health,” and it was about wireless telemetry. So using wireless to manage chronic diseases like COPD and diabetes and things like that. So I learned a little bit about the FDA.
I tend to want to put my little tentacles in a lot of different areas.
Arenstein: Looking at your career from the outside in, it looks—correct me if I’m wrong—you start selling newspaper ads, which is the part of the newspaper that really is starting to suffer from the Internet. So it’s basically you were in an area that lived, you see this thing coming at you, and you dive into that thing that’s coming after your lunch, basically.
Arenstein: But I’m just looking at it from the outside. Was that your thought or am I just interpreting it 20 years later?
Franklin: No, there’s some degree of reading of the tea leaves, and it’s not like I’m just this wonderfully omniscient—I have a lot of people around me, I read a lot, you have a lot of conversations with colleagues, you start to think about where the world’s moving. What I encourage people to do is you have to get out of the environment that you’re in, get out of your office, get out to conferences, attending things like the Fortune conferences, because you just start to hear—get to Silicon Valley. You start to hear patterns and trends and then you apply them to your own world, and then you think, “OK, the value creation was here, but it’s starting to migrate into other areas and how do I then migrate learning, grow individually and professionally so I can be part of that game?” And it’s energizing to be in an industry like today, in terms of cable and media, that’s going through such a tumultuous change. In all that chaos, there’s opportunity, right? Can you figure that out? Can you help your organization figure that out? That’s the fun of it, really.
Arenstein: So now you move on to Scripps eventually. What do you do there? What did you do when you started there? And when did you start, and what do you do?
Franklin: My transition to Scripps was very interesting. I try to also tell younger people, “In your transitions, don’t be afraid to take a minute and reflect a little bit about the transition, what you learned, and maybe why you find yourself in this situation.” At Turner, Time Warner, I found myself in a situation where there was some management change—that will happen in many people’s careers many times, so that’s a pattern. And when the chips fell, where I landed was not a place that I thought was going to be optimal for my professional growth. So you start to ask yourself, why did that take place? And what it had been was, I think I had been working on the wireless deals for Turner and that was great, but the wireless deals the revenue generated was still a very small portion of the overall. And I did not have a firm grounding or understanding of the bigger picture, the bigger industry and the business and how that operated. The call from Scripps was going to allow me to do that. So I was going to go to Scripps—I’d been working on the wireless deals—at Turner, go to Scripps, and work on the affiliate deals. So these are the deals that are going to negotiate the big deals with operators like Comcast, etc., and the programs that people who own the content. And I went there not to do those deals—I had no background or history in these deals—but to handle the technology pieces of those negotiations. So, video-on-demand, interactive television, TV Everywhere was just starting to become an issue to be negotiated. So Lynne Constantini, who was a former Time Warner—who I love—she’s a big mentor of mine. I’ve learned so much about negotiations from Lynne. But she brought me over to negotiate those assets. What was nice about it, it was a year in which Scripps had a lot of their Food Network agreements up, so I had a six-month baptism—and this is affiliate negotiations.
Arenstein: Absolutely. I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Franklin: But it was tremendous. It was painful at times, but it was a tremendous learning opportunity. I really understood that a good sense of the industry, what the key issues are, and that really is what has helped me grow over this last several years in my role at Scripps.
Arenstein: OK, so we kind of flew by Turner, but you mentioned it, good. So you’re now at Scripps and so the English major is now brought in to do technology. It’s great. It’s fabulous.
Franklin: It’s fun. It’s tremendous fun. What’s interesting, too, about the technology as you’re trying to communicate that, maybe to more senior levels of the organization, or people who are less familiar with it, sometimes the technologists speak in tech speak, right? And you see people gloss over. So it’s nice to be that bridge. You can say, “Here’s why this is important to you, here’s why you should care, here’s why you should invest, here’s the implication.” And it has nothing to do with the technology background so much it is as, again, connecting the consumer need to the part of understanding the trends in the industry.
Arenstein: Now when did you get to Scripps, what year?
Franklin: It was 2009, March of 2009.
Arenstein: And what do you do there today? What’s your main focus today?
Franklin: So it’s involved a bit. I came on to do the affiliate negotiations for the technology portion of it. My work there with Lynne, she said, “I think you can handle the affiliate side.” She handed me the Comcast account. So I managed the negotiations with Comcast for a number of years. Then took on some of the digital distribution. So this is the new platforms like Netflix and Amazon and things like that. So traditional distribution, digital distribution. And then in 2014, and 2012 or 2013, there was some talk at Scripps about what to do with digital. It was fairly successful, but it wasn’t profitable. And we wanted it to be profitable and even more successful. But it was very decentralized. So there were two different camps. Do you bring it all together, do you leave it where it is? We decided to centralize it in January, 2014. I was lucky enough to land that role. So in that centralized role, really the main impetus was, try to set a very clear vision for where we want to take the business, clean it up a little bit. We were a little top-heavy. Like many companies, we had brought all the resources with the “it will come” scenario around the Web and new digital, and for many of us it has not come to the degrees we had hoped. So get it profitable, get some strategy and some vision going, and we’ve had a great successful run for a number of years. That’s what I’m currently doing now.
Arenstein: OK. So give us specifics. What are some of the properties you work with and how does the consumer interact with them?
Franklin: Sure. We are so blessed at Scripps to be in the business that we’re in, which is lifestyle media. So we play largely in food, home and travel verticals, and you can imagine people eat, people vacation, people have homes, renting or owning, constantly. So we’re in people’s lives every single day. Our digital presence is pretty pervasive. We enjoy heavy engagement from our users. We have about 60 million monthly visitors who visit us on our websites or our mobile applications or iPad apps. Of course, you have all the TV Everywhere now properties. You can watch our content in an application on your phone or on your iPad or when you’re outside or inside of your home. So all those digital properties are all part of the digital portfolio that we offer. Recipes for food, you can imagine are very—so we not only compete in the traditional linear space, we have digital first competitors. So people who started as digital companies that compete with us on the digital side of the house directly, like Epicurious for recipes. So we’re always balancing the media linear side of our lives, but also the digital side of our lives.
Arenstein: So tell me when a deal, or not even a deal—let’s put it differently. When a program is proposed for Food Network, for the linear channel, how early do you or somebody from your team, get to the table and say, “Oh, this would be good for us on the digital side because of x-y-z. Maybe the recipes will be great.” How early in the game do you all get in there?
Franklin: Not early enough. There’s some discontent, I would argue, shared discontent at the company about that. In fact, it’s lent itself to conversation most recently about, is having a centralized digital team really the right thing to do? Maybe it should just be everything we eat and breathe should be digital, right? I mean, you start, to your point, from the very beginning of thinking about a show, you want to think about its digital extensions and what you can do with the digital. And today we’re not quite there, but we’re getting there and we will probably re-structure to get there even more quickly and make it much more of a pervasive thing. Digital really shouldn’t be some standalone thing. It’s part of everything we do. Most content is moved digitally today actually.
Arenstein: So now, I told you we had Ken Lowe in here before. One of the things we talked about was international growth. Are you involved in that?
Franklin: I have been recently. Most recently I was asked to work on a project to look at some over-the-top opportunities internationally. Marketplaces are obviously geographically are very different and how they mature and evolve. Internationally one could argue there are more over-the-top opportunities just because of the relationship between operators and programmers than there is in the United States. So part of my purview was to take a look at some of the markets that we’re in and even some that we’re not in and think about what those over-the-top opportunities might be. But I’m very jazzed up about what Scripps is doing internationally. The acquisition of TVN, I’m sure Ken talked about it, but it’s been marvelous. We had a bunch of their executives in town yesterday in fact, and they are just doing some amazing things out there in Poland. It’s really interesting because I think the initial thought is, “Oh, they can learn a lot from what we’re doing here.” But what we’re finding is, we’re learning a heck of a lot from what they’re doing over there.
Arenstein: Talking about Poland and talking about international growth, it seems to me that it’s a good segue into diversity, it’s a good segue into inclusion. I mean, I look at your resume and I see so many good things going on there and so much that you’re doing. So number one, how do you find the time and number two, seriously, let’s talk about some of the things you are doing with NAMIC, with WICT, with Tech It Out, with SCTE.
Franklin: As much as I love my job at Scripps, it’s so much fun to be part of an industry that has so many supporting organizations. On the diversity side, you name WICT and NAMIC, two of the big ones. I talk about working with quality people within Scripps or Turner or whatever organization. And that’s fantastic. But what these organizations do and my involvement with them has allowed me to really extend that exposure. So people like Maria Bresnan and Martha Soehren and Mary Meduski over at WICT—when do you get a chance—the firepower of women in those board meetings is phenomenal and extremely humbling. And it really keeps me energized to do more and try to just keep up with my peers on some level. And that’s almost impossible to do. And then of course NAMIC obviously has been doing some amazing things, particularly for the African American and Hispanic communities in the industry. And Eglon Simons, who’s now running that, is just amazing.
Arenstein: I ask a lot of people this and the answer comes out the same every time. So I’m going to have to ask you. In other words, people who didn’t start in cable, started in other industries, have you experienced or have you seen in other industries, the interest in diversity and the diversity organizations, Diversity Week, have you seen anything like that in other industries?
Franklin: I’ve not experienced any parallels in other industries yet. I have not. And when you can attend a meeting and you’re sitting there with Michael Powell and Dane Snowden, just the heft and the magnitude, people who are very, very passionate and very serious about doing this. And I do think in some ways it’s in keeping and appropriate that cable is so far advanced than other industries because of the impact of content and pop culture and how generations after us will view us in the context of a lot of that. That’s what going to live on. I think it’s so important for us to really get that right. The faces in front of the camera, behind the camera, making the decisions. It’s important for us to get that right. So we have a lot of hefty leadership trying to do that.
Arenstein: So give me a progress report. How are we doing?
Franklin: You know, I think we’ve been doing OK. I don’t know if there is any industry that’s just knocking it out of the park. With our meeting with vendors in Silicon Valley, whatever, I tend to often be the only sometimes woman, the only African American woman. It was that way when I started my career, it’s that way today, so we’re sitting here many, many years later. So I think there’s still progress that we need to make. I’m most concerned for the industry right now only because of the consolidation. Typically, statistics will say that when those things happen, it’s often the women and the minorities who kind of fall to the wayside because of that lack of supporting foundation. Now we do have people like Ken and we have Pat Esser over at Cox. We just have great leaders; I’m just naming a few off the top of my head, but I could name a bunch who really do lean in on this topic. Hopefully they will keep an eye on that as the industry morphs. I’d probably give us like a B- right now, which is a high grade for diversity in America.
Arenstein: When you started, at Yale, and then in your first job in newspapers, what was it like being an African American woman? What was it like being a woman, and what was it like being an African American woman?
Franklin: Boy, that is a loaded question. Because of my upbringing, I try not to be overly conscious of being the only woman or being the only African American in a room. It comes out in sometimes not so subtle ways, sometimes—I can remember consulting in general, just because you have a lot of smart people who are used to being heard and getting their ideas out there. Someone once told me, just helped describe for me what I experience a lot. And that would be kind of the “mansplanation,” mansplanation, which is, “What she meant to say was…” “What I meant to say was what I said.” A “bropropriation,” which is, you have an idea and you say it. And kind of, OK, people think and then they move on. Five minutes later, he says it. All of a sudden, people are like, “That’s a great idea!!” I swear I just said that. Or, “manterruption.” Which is they just interrupt you in the middle of every sentence every five minutes.
So you experience that a lot as a woman. So back to communication; there are ways you can manage that. One of the ways that I’ve learned is in the cadence of your voice. You can slow things down. You can speak a little more quietly. People are forced to lean in and focus on you. So there are ways to manage that. But it comes across in little things like that. You know, I have been in meetings before and people assumed I was there to take notes and then assumed I was there to manage the catering. “OK, no, not really. OK.” That still happens today. You have to learn not to take it personally.
Arenstein: Let’s talk about the Patrick Mellon program. What does that mean to you? Explain what it is, and what does it mean?
Franklin: Sure. It’s NAMIC’s main mentoring program, named after a luminary in the industry. It also has a lot of weight because of that. It’s a mentoring program. So they match you with people in the industry, but not at your own company and often not even in the same function/role. Because it’s really not about teaching someone how to do their job. This is about teaching someone how to manage their way through the challenges that one will inevitably have, regardless of what you look like, quite frankly. But this is coming through NAMIC so there is a focus on diversity. And we do talk about those softer issues, because you know you have to do your job well and you have to manage the challenges in corporate America everybody manages—the politics…but then there is another layer that you have to manage it as a diverse workforce member. Some of the things I talk about: how not to take them as personal slights and move on and how to get a sponsor, because a sponsor is different from a mentor. A sponsor is critically important to people in their careers. I would describe them as that is the person who will allow you to take those risks in your career because if you fail, they’ll be there to help catch you and make sure you’re not maligned forever as a result of it. That’s key, because a lot of minorities don’t have sponsors there if they don’t take the risk, or don’t take the jobs because they’re afraid of failure. You really can’t be afraid of failure. You manage your way through fear. Fear is always going to be present, but you’ve got to push through.
Arenstein: As I said, we had Ken Lowe here before. So I’m curious: what’s it like to work at Scripps, what’s the culture like there, integrity and values? I know Ken mentioned a very, very important—what’s it like to work there?
Franklin: What I’ve always found at the company is you can say and print whatever material you want. You can put it on the walls. It starts at the top; it’s where it begins and ends. And Ken really does live and breathe those things. You see it in how he conducts himself. I’ve worked with Ken not only at Scripps, but watching him work with WICT, watching him work with NCTA, which is now INTX. But he lives and breathes those and he really means it. And you see the compassion in how he—I’ll tell you a personal story. Three years ago in the summer, my husband was feeling very lethargic. He’s a stay-at-home dad, so he’s really taking care of our kids in the last fifteen years or so. And he just was feeling a little lethargic. Long story short, fast forward, after many doctor’s trips and things, he had a glioblastoma multiform tumor in his brain and we lost him three months later. He felt tired in May, and by August, he was gone. The way Scripps stepped up in that scenario, when you’re getting calls from Ken at the hospital saying, “Do you need family that you want me to transfer? I will send a jet.” These are the conversations we’re having as I’m sitting at Vanderbilt. That’s the kind of company I work for. It’s amazing. I’ve been very lucky. It’s funny—I think you’re put somewhere for a reason. During this particular period of my life, to have spent the time at Scripps, I can’t imagine having been anywhere else during this time.
Arenstein: You mentioned being a sponsor, being a mentor. What’s are the differences? What are they and what are the differences?
Franklin: Sure. Mentorship I think about helping people navigate the landscape that they’re in. Maybe it’s within their environment, maybe it’s thinking about a change within the industry. And you’re really providing some advice at helping them think through. Sponsorship, though, is almost more important on some level, I think particularly for diverse candidates it’s important. What sponsorship does, it’s that someone who is not only there to provide advice for you, but they’re going to protect you. They’re using some of their personal equity to lay on the line, to make sure you get the opportunities you need and that where you fall short, that you’re not maligned forever for it. It’s not a career-ending mistake. So really those mentors allow you to take those assignments that you might not otherwise take if you want to play it safe. Knowing that you have that buffer, that there’s someone in the room at the C-suite levels who, when they say, “Yeah, I don’t know if Tammy can cut it,” they’re going to go, “Wait. Hold on.” And they’re going to put it in perspective for them. And you will remain whole when they walk out of that room. That’s a thing very critical for diverse candidates.
Scripps Lifestyle Studios. Tell me about that. When did that start, and what is it?
Franklin: It’s really interesting on many levels. It started as a realization for many people in my organization, including Vikki Neil, who runs the editorial side of the digital team, that we simply weren’t keeping up with the plethora of new platforms that consumers were engaging with our content. So as consumers were viewing our content on the Web, then they were viewing our content around the Web, meaning not only on our owned and operated properties, but in other places. And we were trying to reach them there. Then all of a sudden there was a seismic shift to their viewing it all on social media. And that seemed to have happened overnight. I think I woke up one morning; it wasn’t literally the case, but it felt like it to us. It happened so quickly, and we were nowhere prepared to create that much content that quickly at that velocity on so many diverse platforms. The traditional cable business has spent a lot of time talking about the barest economics between that and digital. Pre-content, massive scale, massive return on investment. Digital is the exact polar opposite, right? You have to create a lot of content, very fragmented, very small scale, and still try to monetize it. So, Scripps Lifestyle Studios, we actually had all the pieces at Scripps that we had for many years, but we were losing the press, the court of public opinion because we had competitors—not just video competitors, but print competitors who were coming into video in our verticals who were making a lot of hay about these studios they had. And here we had the Food Network Kitchens for many, many years and we could leverage them as well. So really we brought together our disparate assets, branded them—Scripps Lifestyle Studios—and then really did re-allocate our resources that we put more people towards the effort of creating that content with greater velocity on multiple platforms.
Arenstein: And I would assume tailoring it to each of those platforms.
Franklin: Tailoring it to each of those platforms. Which is why your scale is so small. You can’t create it once and just distribute it. You have to create it uniquely for each file format.
Arenstein: You can do that, but it doesn’t really work very well.
Franklin: We tried it. We weren’t successful.
Arenstein: Doesn’t work.
Franklin: Doesn’t work. It doesn’t resonate with the—we made the mistake of not starting with the consumer. You always have to start with the consumer and that really will drive and tell you what you need to do. We thought we could kind of take that television model, produce once and distribute it and it would work—
Arenstein: Chop it up.
Franklin: We failed miserably.
Arenstein: But you are in a situation, especially with food, I’m not sure about with home, but I think with home as well. With food and travel, where short videos are golden.
Franklin: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you’re right. All three verticals—food is a no-brainer because of cooking and recipes obviously. But, yes, travel snippets as well. And also home. People are getting into design and décor. Home, where it manifests best, is almost the arts and crafts aspect of home. How do you do that cute little holiday decoration that I saw on the video to support that? Yes. It’s been a lot of fun.
Arenstein: Completely different.
Franklin: And the team has just transformed. I wish I could remember the stat about how many video views, but let’s say if we were fifth or sixth in terms of video views against folks like Buzzfeed and all those others, I think we’re one or two now. So we know we can do it, but we had to put the structure in place—but that was the lesson learned, right? So the good news is we have the competence, we know our verticals, we know our audience, we didn’t really have the structure and resources that let our teams do what they needed to do. That’s a management mistake.
Arenstein: So let’s put on the prognosticator’s hat here. You’re involved in technology now. The English major in technology. I said it facetiously, but I think it’s fabulous. I think it gives a lot of people a lot of hope and it may get some people who are majoring in English to tell their parents, “Look. I saw this woman…”
Franklin: And she claims…
Arenstein: And she claims that communicating is really important in whatever job you do.
Franklin: I stand by that statement.
Arenstein: I totally agree. We’re coming up to the holidays. And all kinds of gadgets and toys and everything. What excites you about what Scripps Network’s Interactive can do five, ten years from now? What are we going to be doing? Are we going to be watching television or are we going to be watching our phones, forget about television, what do you think? Just spitballing.
Franklin: It’s interesting. So you’ve got your traditional customer base. And we’re aging; I’m in that base. And we will still watch television. I talk about the new normal. So where we now, our business and economics of our business are driven around us having scale of 100 million households, I do think in the next five to ten years, we are going to see a new normal that’s going to drop below 100 million. 75 million, I don’t know what the number will be, but it will be less than—and we need to think about how to make that a viable business at that scale moving forward. So we need to work on that.
I think from the other platforms, the multi-platforms of that nature, we do have to understand that people are going to want to engage in our content in many, many places. We are going to need to be there, start with the consumer first. Whether Millennials will age up and fall into the same lifecycle patterns as I am in right now, I don’t know. But I do think the benefits that they have accrued, engaging in the content the way they have today, they want it to be more interactive and immersive. They’re less about the nicely polished, I-sit-back-and-I-observe. They’re more about the I want to participate, I want to have some say. I don’t know that that’s going to change. So, I think as we tell stories, it’s going to have to change regardless of platform to meet that need of that consumer. I just don’t see them going backwards on that. That’s how they grew up. That’s going to be the new expectation. So I don’t know what devices per se. I think user interfaces will change. You’ve seen we were one of the first to have skills on Amazon Echo but that whole voice-centric activation, I think that’s going to be—touch was the thing back in the day, when I was at Motorola. Now it’s voice. I think you’ll continue to see user interfaces change…
Arenstein: Virtual Reality?
Franklin: Absolutely. We’re looking at it certainly. We haven’t invested a ton in it yet, but I think we’re thinking about it; again, how technology changes storytelling and changes how you interact with the consumer is almost a constant thing. You’re constantly thinking about that. As I read these magazines—I talk about “Fortune” and “Wired,” I’m always thinking about something to talk about in another industry. How does it apply itself? How might it come to manifest itself in the interaction we have with our consumers? What does that mean for us? What do I need to be thinking about?
Arenstein: Emeril Lagasse always joked years ago, and now I don’t think it’s a joke—
Franklin: It’s not a joke anymore, right?
Arenstein: He talked about “Smell-o-Vision.” He said, “I wish you were here in the kitchen so you can smell it.”
Franklin: I remember that a little bit myself. When I was at Motorola, we talked about that. That’s how far these things date themselves. You’re just looking forward to, again, technology for technology’s sake. You probably can do that. What’s the right application of that that enhances the experience and isn’t just we can do it, because we can do it? But it lends some value to what the consumer—I think that’s what we’re searching for. Where would you apply that in a way that would lend value? And who knows, maybe you think about recipes and things like that. Maybe.
Arenstein: Tamara, this is a fascinating journey. You’ve had a wonderful career and you’re young and I don’t mean to say that it’s anywhere near over. I hope it’s not. So, Tamara, TV Everywhere. I know you were sort of there at the creation, present at the creation, or at least in terms of Scripps Networks Interactive. And how did that come about? There’s a couple of stories you want to tell. Mentioning a good friend of both of ours.
Franklin: Absolutely. So, TV Everywhere. Right as I was transitioning from Turner to Scripps, it was starting to become—Jeff Bewkes was making a lot of hay about it and was really pushing it forward. And Time Warner, Turner, were really starting to move forward. As I made the transition to Scripps, I carried that concept of it being an important one working in Scripps. And it was not welcomed. It didn’t have such a warm reception initially. I think the programmers didn’t really see it impacting their business anytime soon. We weren’t seeing the cord cutting or the migration to new platforms yet, but I thought there was enough data out there to suggest it would come in. And I knew more importantly that it would take us a few years to get the product out there and get it right. So I didn’t want us to wait until it was impacting us to start to do that.
So, John Lansing, who I enjoyed a tremendous relationship with, John’s a great mentor and in this case, I learned he was a great sponsor as well, because I was trying to communicate and to advocate that this was something we need to do, we needed to fund it, and I remember very distinctly one meeting. Senior leaders were all there and I was on my soapbox telling them why this was very important, and it kind of came to the point of, are you willing to kind of place the bet on that, Ms. Franklin? And I remember John Woods distinctively standing up and saying, “This is really important. I think she’s on to something.” And he put his personal equity out on the table to get that done. We got funded. Now several people who were naysayers said, “That was the right move to make.” But it would have not happened without John’s sponsorship. Again, that helped raise my credibility in the organization and I don’t know quite frankly, if I would have been as bold in my sales pitch had I not had John in that room, knowing that he was a sponsor and a supporter. I want more diverse candidates to know what that feels like, because that is a tremendously bolstering and empowering thing.
Arenstein: Let’s jump to a somewhat related topic and that is piracy. Does that worry you?
Franklin: It does. What I’m finding now that we have an international presence on a significant scale, the U.S. is much less of a concern than some of the other markets we play in. Some of the other markets, sometimes piracy is fairly open, and almost legal. It’s a little bit frightening actually when you start to think about that. I think that we can control piracy a little bit better with things that we we’re doing, like TV Everywhere. Otherwise, the content out there, in tighter windows. I think that for the most part consumers will pay for content. I think they recognize the value of quality content, but when you do hold those windows back too long, and it’s a show that’s popular. So if you look at the “Game of Thrones,” and things, people will find a way. So if it’s not available to them, even in a legal way where they can pay for it, they will find a way to access it. So we’ve got to think about business models that work for everyone in the ecosystem. But again, starting with the consumer, I keep sounding like a broken record, but if you start with the consumer, they’re asking you for this content. They’re willing to pay you. We in the ecosystem have to find a way to allow them to do that. And I think that piracy will be much less of an issue.
Arenstein: OK. Hobbies? Family life? Tell me about that. We touched on it briefly. Besides reading, I know you have so much time.
Franklin: I’m a frustrated struggling writer and author.
Arenstein: What sort of genre?
Franklin: My biggest passion right now is attempting to write a business book. But I understand that’s one of the tougher genres to get published in, particularly if you don’t have any really heft behind your brand, behind your personal brand. But really, this is about—I realized several years ago, probably actually starting in my Motorola days, that younger and younger people were getting more senior positions from a management perspective. That is, touching and impacting the lives of individuals. And they weren’t really equipped to do so. They may have the gray intellectual matter. They had the IQ, but not the EQ. And they were really negatively impacting—a lot of the negativity was coming from not because they’re bad people, but because they were insecure in their newness and their lack of knowledge. And how do you deal with that? How do you help them manage through that in a way that they could actually be productive and positive in the workplace? It’s written kind of Stanley Bing-ish, which is a Fortune columnist writer. That’s not his real name. But it’s written kind of tongue-in-cheek, so it’s meant not to be too preachy but to be fun. But it does have a serious underlying message to convey. I need to finish it.
Franklin: So I’m a struggling author. I’m raising two teenagers, which is always lots of fun. 15 and 16, a girl and a boy. Social media is very real in our household. The etiquette around it, how you use it, what to do, what not to do—I found myself doing a lot of preaching about that. I get a lot of that “Mom, you just don’t understand. This is how we do it.” Some things—I don’t care the platform—some things are just right, and some things are just wrong. So we have those conversations a lot.
What I’d like to do as a hobby is travel more. I have not worked internationally on a meaningful basis, nor have I personally traveled outside of the United States in a significant way. I would really love to do that. So in my—I call this is the third of my career, the backend third, I would like to travel a lot more. I’m going to work on that. You’ll have to challenge me on that.
Arenstein: I will challenge you to get that book done, too. It’s been a pleasure.
Franklin: Same here. Thank you so much.
Arenstein: —thank you so much. I enjoyed going on the ride with you.
Franklin: Thank you, Seth. Really my pleasure.
Arenstein: Thanks for coming in.
Franklin: All right.
END OF INTERVIEW