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The Revisionists: Jennifer Kavanagh, Secret Agent for TV Networks

SIX QUESTIONS AND A FUNNY STORY:  

The Revisionists: a series looking at the minds that shape the world we see: TV veterans, agency leaders, innovators in content.

Today, we meet the amazing Jennifer Kavanagh, a familiar face to TV industry innovators.

She is an expert in building and executing business strategies, products and marketing models for major media companies.

She understands the attention economy from all sides of the table- as an exec at a TV network and as an advisor/consultant for startups and Fortune 500 clients.

Jen was the EVP and US General Manager of Beamly, the social content network for television where she grew the business 10x in 12 months. Beamly recruited Jen from NBCU where she was SVP, Digital at NBCU’s Oxygen network.

During her tenure, she successfully raised Oxygen Media’s digital profile to be recognized as a leader in innovation within the TV and digital landscape.

You may know her from her work while at BRaVe Media Ventures, where she worked closely with fellow network innovators Jesse Redniss and David Beck spearheading a strategic content division until the acquisition of BRaVe by Turner. She was also the driving force behind the first ever LiveFronts

Today you may find her gracing the marble floors at Viacom, Turner or Discovery, armed up with plenty of data-driven reasons why something did or should happen and creative solutions for how it can. She’s also equipped with something so many in the “old TV regime” are missing these days: optimism and a recognition that in the end, the entertainment business is fun.

With a warm personality and a killer instinct for the future, Jen Kavs is a secret weapon for networks trying to make sense of the shifting tides of the attention economy.

What inspires you?

Compelling stories, ideas and products that spark consumer passion and (once thought) unconventional uses of technology that change the way we watch and connect with content.

I’m always inspired by smart people that challenge the status quo and take risks others run away from.

What are you doing now?

I started a media and entertainment consultancy a year ago. Since then, we’ve been focused on building innovative strategies and roadmaps that help businesses grow and compete in an increasingly fragmented marketplace. We focus on cross-platform marketing, content creation & distribution, social strategy & organizational development.

We’ve been fortunate to have amazing clients including brands within Discovery Communications, Viacom and Turner portfolios.

What’s the biggest change you’re focused on?

New marketing and content paradigms. I’ve spent a lot of time helping brands and media companies better understand the audiences they have and/or the audiences they want. There are some amazing platforms out there now that give marketers and content creators a view of not just WHO the audience is, but rather what connects them. Not paying attention to what unites audiences on the level of interests, passions and emotions is like building a house on half of a foundation.

I call this audience work “step zero.” It guides content development, marketing strategies and revenue models in a more informed way.

Where is the puck going?

Over the boards and into the stands at the moment…but that’s a good thing. It means the game has changed and the rules are changing with it. Increased marketplace fragmentation and bold moves by both the FAANGs (I sort of loathe the acronym btw) and the traditional TV businesses mean we’re actually getting closer to a point of consolidation. The “Paradox of Choice” is real and it’s a problem for both consumers and platforms. This is where better “discovery” options come into play. We all talk about the need for great content (that’s a given), but there is so much that has yet to be fully unlocked because it’s not easily found by those who stand to love it.

I see this as a huge advantage for Facebook Watch and their ability to surface relevant content in an environment where people already spend an average of 50 minutes per day – it’s the ultimate mousetrap.

Out in “the stands,” a new eco-system is also emerging. I believe podcasts will continue to be of growing importance to TV/SVOD content strategies. They’re a natural breeding ground for development material and also serve as a powerful marketing asset. In a way, the relationship could be completely self-sustaining. Podcasts inspire programming and extend consumer engagement with the programming and genres audiences love. The explosion of True Crime is evidence of this, and isn’t going away anytime soon.

I truly believe we are entering the era of “EARfluence.”

What’s the hardest part for networks?

Financially and organizationally responding to the rapid pace of change in both business models and consumer attention. These are fundamental shifts in the way they’re organized and the way they make money. That said, there are some interesting things happening on both fronts. The launch of more standalone SVOD plays (see AMC) will likely lead to more learning and adaptation of these, and other network offerings. On the sales front, more “storytelling units” (e.g. Great Big Story/CNN) mean more opportunities for brands to partner around the creation of content that really connects with intended audiences. Throw in addressable advertising at scale and you’ve got true transformation.

Lastly, as the marketplace moves towards more targeted and engagement driven KPIs, the use and proper interpretation of insights in the creation and marketing of this content will be imperative…remember “step zero?”

What the fuck?

Snapchat.

Funny story

Two years ago I wrote a piece for TV[R]EV titled “Moneyball for “TV”: How Facebook Can Change The Way Shows Get Made Forever,” fully believing we were less than 12 months away from what is now Facebook Watch. Here’s to hoping it was worth the wait. 😉

Follow Jen on LinkedIn or on Twitter @JenKavs