Interview Date: October 20, 1999
Collection: WICT Collection
Anne Sweeney Oral History
October 20, 1999
WICT Oral History Series
The Cable Center Hauser Oral and Video History Project
Interviewer: [00:00:05] What personal qualities led to your success?
Anne Sweeney: [00:00:09] I have a great love of the unknown and I like doing things that require me to be braver than I was before. And the cable industry has always been a series of wonderful challenges and problems that didn’t have answers. And I think that suited me very well.
Interviewer: [00:00:34] What is it about you that sort of is challenged by the unknown world?
Anne Sweeney: [00:00:41] I’m challenged by the unknown world because I love to stretch. I hate to feel that I’m not growing and I hate to feel that I’m not challenged. I always need to feel that there’s something more to learn.
Interviewer: [00:00:54] And in terms of this cable industry, that is the unknown. Give me some specifics about this world that you found challenging.
Anne Sweeney: [00:01:04] When I started working in television in 1978 as a page at ABC, there were three broadcast networks, and cable was a wire that ran into your home. There were no cable networks at that point that were widely known and used by consumers. Two years later, Nickelodeon was on the block. Nickelodeon existed as a cable network. Two years after that or three years after that, MTV was born and then VH1 and Nick at Nite. And we started to see an explosion of creativity and probably more importantly, real attention paid to the television viewer. And that’s what excited me. The fact that we could super-serve consumers, that people in television actually cared about what specific ideas their consumers were interested in, not just shows and not just time slots.
Interviewer: [00:02:07] Many young people, and not only young people, and a lot of working women see you as a role model. What kind of advice would you give to both young people and young professionals who want to get into this business and possibly be at a level that you’re at now?
Anne Sweeney: [00:02:26] I always advise people to begin by listening and to ask many, many questions. And when you start to work in this industry, pay special attention to your mistakes because they are your greatest moments. There’s nothing better than a big, noisy mistake that people write about. Because it does force you to reexamine the way you do business, to reexamine a situation and to think through it in a way that would lead you to a different outcome. I think I’d also recommend that as a working mother, they seriously remember to take life one day at a time and cherish the days that when things come out well and just learn to live with the days that don’t.
Interviewer: [00:03:16] You mentioned being a working mother and it’s not on this list of questions, but personally, by having you here. How you balance that, having both, because I know both are so important to you?
Anne Sweeney: [00:03:29] Some days I balance things very well and other days, I’m not a good juggler. But I do have a very unique understanding with my husband of what our family is about and how we all work together. And we are all committed to making it work. And my family is my number one priority. And I believe that my success in my career is due to the fact that I made my family a priority.
Interviewer: [00:04:02] How has your management style evolved since you’ve entered this industry?
Anne Sweeney: [00:04:07] I’ve always believed that being a good manager is akin to being a good teacher. And as the years have gone on, I’ve looked at every business challenge, every change in technology as an opportunity for education. And as I’ve watched people on my team grow and develop, I’ve made sure that the classroom that we’re in is full of possibility for them.