Adventures in Cable: Discovery’s Dangar Finds Challenge in Distribution Game

Jennifer Dangar
Senior Vice President, Domestic Distribution
Discovery Communications

Jennifer Dangar had planned to become a lawyer after college, but decided she wanted adventure first. SO, she moved to New York City and got a job working in the cable industry. Two decades later, she’s never looked back.

“I looked for the most interesting job I could find, figuring that I would work for a year in the city and then go to law school,” she said. “I took a position at Viewer’s Choice, and it turned out to be a terrific job. The irony of my career is that I never did go to law school, but I do contracts all the time now.”

As senior vice president of domestic distribution for Discovery Communications, Dangar is responsible for the distribution and strategic management of its portfolio of networks to affiliates. She oversees national accounts, affiliate marketing, local ad sales and field sales. She manages all aspects of Discovery’s affiliate relations, including programming negotiations, new product rollouts and marketing.

Before her most recent promotion a couple of years ago, Dangar supervised digital media distribution, just in time for the industry’s expansion into new platforms and distribution methods.

“When I was doing digital media in 2004, it was a huge challenge. But I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish in that arena,” she said. “The business was just taking off and it really moved the needle of the whole industry.”

Dangar’s vast knowledge base gives her the edge in making sure the relationships between Discovery and its distribution partners remain strong, said Bill Goodwyn, Discovery’s president of domestic distribution and enterprises. “You need a well-rounded executive who can talk about all those issues, and Jennifer has the experience, knowledge and intelligence to make sure we continue to create value for our distributors and affiliates,” he said.

After a couple of years in New York, Dangar moved to Washington, D.C., with the intention of working on Capitol Hill. She still had intentions of going to law school at that point. But the lure of the cable business continued to pull at Dangar. She went to work for C-SPAN. Eighteen months later, when Discovery was launching The Learning Channel, Dangar was attracted to the career possibilities that the company offered.

“In the seven years I was there the first time, I had 11 jobs,” she said. “I did a little bit of everything, and it was great training and great experience.”

Her talents were appreciated beyond the walls of Discovery, though, and Turner Broadcasting System lured her to Atlanta to serve as vice president, national accounts and strategic marketing.

“That was when I started doing contract negotiations,” she recalled. “[Andy Heller, now Turner’s vice chairman] gave me the AT&T [Broadband] account, and that was the biggest account I had ever overseen. But Andy told me he knew I could do it, and I did.”

Five years later, Goodwyn convinced her to come back to Discovery although she remained in Atlanta. “[Discovery] fits my style, which is getting things done quickly,” she said. “I learned early on that feedback is a gift, and everyone here does that. I take that very seriously — both giving and getting feedback.”

The fact that Dangar was in Atlanta didn’t faze Goodwyn, who was happy to open an office in the Peach State if it meant getting her back in the fold. “We all travel so much,” Goodwyn said. “I was more concerned about her talent. At the end of the day, we have to have the right people to get the job done and we have to concentrate on the right issues.”

Discovery has always done things “for the smart reasons and the right reasons,” Dangar said, and that played a big role in her decision to take Goodwyn up on his offer. That way of doing business tends to be easier for private companies than public ones, she said.

That philosophy didn’t change much after Discovery became a public company. “We have one of the leanest affiliate staffs in the business, and I would also say one of the best,” she said. “No matter how pressing the business is, it is a pleasure to work here.”

Dangar is a member of both the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing and Women In Cable Telecommunications. She served as chair of WICT’s national board of directors in 2007 and 2008, and WICT’s Atlanta chapter last year honored Dangar with its Inspiration Award for Woman of the Year at its Red Letter Awards. She was also a fellow in Class VIII of the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, and has won CTAM Mark Awards and Association of Cable Communicators Beacon Awards.

“Being involved in WICT has played an important role in my career,” Dangar said. “It has nurtured a different side of what I’ve been able to accomplish and provided me with new skill sets.”

Dangar’s skills and can-do attitude come in handy as the industry continues to become more complex. Gaining distribution for new networks is a real challenge, and relationships between content providers and distributors continue to become more complicated as new product offerings and platforms expand, she said.

“My challenge is having so many priorities,” she said. “We have so many networks and so many goals and we want every network to be maximized. We want to balance our needs with those of our clients.”