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CBSI Digital Architect Not ‘Just a Media Guy’

With rapid consumer and tech changes putting basic business models under extreme scrutiny, finding the right mix of tech, TV and sound business models has been job No. 1 at all the major programmers. That imperative has also made Marc DeBevoise a rising star in the digital world, first at Starz and more recently at CBS Interactive, where his teams developed the first broadcast network standalone SVOD product, CBS All Access.

“Marc isn’t just a media guy,” says Jim Lanzone, president and CEO of CBS Interactive. “He’s financially savvy, he’s digitally savvy and he’s an expert on the corporate development side,” which has made him “a key leader…during a period of transition for CBS, not only from linear to digital, but also within digital itself.”

He displayed his ability to use a variety of skills to put together a winning game plan at Tufts University—in the classroom and on the basketball court, where he was sixth man, coming off the bench for the Division III Jumbos.

“I played range of small forward, power forward and shooting guard” so the team, which had two 20-plus-win seasons during his college years, “could swing 2 to 4, as a knowledgeable basketball person would say,” he quips.

In the classroom, where he was fascinated by the growing confluence of tech and media, he studied economics and computer science. He added finance to his skills after graduation, working as an investment banker in media and tech deals. Hoping to move into the media and entertainment industries, he returned to school to get an MBA at New York University, where he did internships at Cablevision and Miramax Films.

After landing a job at NBC, he drew on his financial skills to work in the business development group on the acquisition of Universal before becoming more active in digital, helping set up the company’s first centralized digital team.

In 2006, a mutual friend recommended DeBevoise to former NBC president Neil Braun, who was looking for someone to launch a digital operation at IDT Entertainment, which was later sold to Liberty Media and then merged with Starz after DeBevoise took the job.

“He was digital before digital was cool,” says Braun, now the dean of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business. “Marc’s background in cable and broadcast companies, as well as Wall Street,” gave him the perfect combination of tech and business savvy to capitalize on TV and digital media’s convergence.

DeBevoise’s work landed him on several lists of up-and-coming TV execs, and caught the attention of CBS Interactive’s Lanzone, who hired him in 2011. DeBevoise has the no-nonsense , direct speaking style of an investment banker but Lanzone stresses that his people skills and his ability to “galvanize teams” have played a major role in their successes at CBS Interactive.

“Maybe he picked this up playing college basketball but it’s been super important at CBS, because our group operates across the entertainment, sports and news divisions,” Lanzone says. “Without everyone’s trust in Marc” and his ability to work closely with all those divisions, “we wouldn’t have been able to make this much progress so quickly on things like All Access [and] CBSN.”

Those products have also helped CBS bring in younger demos. “The demos for both services are incredibly young relative to the overall demo [and] they’ve allowed us to discover things about ourselves that can be incredibly relevant to the next generation of viewers,” DeBevoise says.

The next generation is also his big priority outside of work: With two young kids, DeBevoise says most of his free time is happily spent with his family. But he’s also managed to carve out time to help young people in New York City as the president of the board at The Door, which serves about 11,000 underprivileged youth aged 12 to 21. “It is a big-time commitment but has been incredibly rewarding,” he says.

DeBevoise says that he got involved with The Door after reaching out to a friend who led outside board recruitment for Robin Hood, which is one of The Door’s larger funders. After explaining that he hoped to work with young people and that he was looking to be involved with a not-for-profit that was “something close by, in my community, if possible…she introduced me to The Door,” he says. “I fell in love with it quickly.”

“It really fits [what I wanted to accomplish by helping] underserved, at-risk youth ages 12-21 and its main location is a building on Broome St. and 6th Ave. which is less than 1 mile from my apartment in the West Village,” he says. “I later joined the University Settlement board—essentially the parent organization to The Door—and we also launched a charter school inside The Door named Broome Street Academy.”

At work, a major priority continues to be expanding the reach of their digital properties, both on new devices and in newer market. “We are already in over 100 markets [for CBS All Access] and will be in 135 by the end of the year,” he says. “That will give us 85% coverage, which is tremendous progress in just over a year.”

“You still haven’t seen another broadcaster roll out as many stations on any platform other than TV as we have,” he adds.

Looking forward, they are working to launch on additional platforms. “You can now subscribe [to it] on Roku and you’ll see us coming to new platforms in the next few months,” he says. In addition, “we are looking at what additional bundles we can do—who we can development marketing relationships with and have co-billing relationships with.”

Developing better systems for analyzing data is also important, both for improved ad targeting and for their content strategies. “We don’t have show-stacking and full-season offerings and the ones we do go after to get back and buy from third party studios…will be based on user trends,” he explains.