Wonder Women of New York 2022: Kim Kelleher

Kim Kelleher
Kim Kelleher (Image credit: AMC Networks)

Like clockwork, at 9 a.m. every workday, Kim Kelleher settles in for a video call with her direct reports. 

It’s a routine that has been in place for two years, since the pandemic largely sidelined in-person meetings, and Kelleher quickly envisioned a new, even more cohesive way for her team to connect. Her French bulldog may or may not be on-screen, depending on the mood.

“We start our day together,” she said. “The meeting could be three minutes or a half-hour. I’m proud of how we’ve come together and knocked down every obstacle, one by one, as a team. It’s an incredibly supportive and nurturing environment. I’ve always felt a strong connection to my teams, but there’s nothing like what this particular time has done for this particular team and myself.”

Expanding Empathy 

Under Kelleher’s guidance, the team has not only escalated the empathy scale within AMC Networks — which this past year hired diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) head Aisha Thomas-Petit, recently elevated to chief people and diversity officer, with whom Kelleher works closely — but expanded the empathy lens to optimize external business relationships.

“Kim understands that DEI work isn’t just a box to tick, but deeply ingrained in all aspects of our business,” Thomas-Petit said. 

In just the past year, Kelleher led the charge to hold earlier, expansive conversations with brands; created new, net-positive ways to adapt to advertisers’ continuing supply-side challenges; and made more inventory available for household-level targeting — including the first programmatic buys with household-level targeting on linear networks. Advertising revenue at the company, which owns AMC, IFC and SundanceTV as well as niche streaming services like Shudder and ALLBLK, jumped 22% during Q3 2021.

There’s nothing like what this particular time has done for this particular team and myself.”

— Kim Kelleher

“The industry has come together in pretty incredible ways in the past two years,” she said. “It’s a much more supportive environment. That doesn’t mean anyone has taken their eye off the ball of business goals or performance goals, but it does mean we’re going to get there faster because we are working together more so than we ever have.”

It also means Kelleher and her team now come from a place of unprecedented flexibility. “There’s a real-time nature to the way information is flowing that has allowed us to lean into the nimbleness,” she said. “We can start and stop something in 24 hours if it’s not working or if it is working, put even more resources and emphasis into it in 24 hours.”

Kim Granito, executive VP of Content Room, the branded content studio the company launched in spring 2020, noted Kelleher “embodies a unique combination of endless vision and depth of heart. She fosters a culture of collaboration and creativity where her team feels supported and enabled to do their best work.” 

The learning curve of the past year, Kelleher said, is greater than it has been in
the past 20 years. In an environment of accelerated nimbleness, she’s simply trying more things. 

“Not everything’s working, but more is working than we actually anticipated,” she said. “A lot of it is tied to core principles we hold dear. We take a very agnostic approach to how our partners buy with us. You can buy directly. You can buy programmatically. We are ready to meet our partners wherever they are, and a lot of that comes with the real flexibility of our organization not being heavy and thick with layers. We’re able to adjust in a bespoke way.”

Looking ahead, she’s excited to accelerate her team’s work stitching together a national footprint for AMC Networks’ linear business. That way, “we can more precisely target our advertisers’ audiences and help them meet their performance goals with the advanced advertising measures we’re putting a lot of energy and time and resourcing into,” she said.

A Passion for Media

If all this all sounds stressful, rest assured Kelleher — who can often be found reading the trades during her down time — is enjoying the ride. 

“I love media. It’s my passion, it’s my profession and it’s my hobby. And it has been for a very long time,” she said. 

“It’s an insatiable business. It keeps evolving and changing, and it’s never dull. As Pollyanna as it might sound, I just really love what I do every day, and now the pleasure of working with a big team … we just feed off each other’s energy and have a lot of fun doing it.” ■

Cathy Applefeld Olson

Cathy Applefeld Olson is a seasoned entertainment, media and culture journalist, and producer of video content and events. Through her continuing coverage in publications including Forbes, Billboard, XLive, Cynopsis, Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News, Cathy reports on evolving industry trends and personalities in business, branding, talent and technology. A passionate believer in the power of culture influencers to elevate well-being, Cathy recently launched the Forbes column Hollywood & Mind, which features interviews with entertainers, sports figures, executives and others who are boosting the conversation around mental health. She also works with music and wellness community Myndstream, for which she writes the monthly State of Mynd blog.