Like musicians and math wizzes, top technologists often start young. Fox Broadcasting president of digital David Wertheimer started coding computers at the age of 10, right after his school bought an Apple computer in the late 1970s. A few years later, he even insisted that his mother arrange a meeting with Steve Jobs when he visited her at Stanford University, where she was finishing up a stint as a visiting law professor.
“Apple had a little office in Cupertino, Calif., and Steve Jobs met us at the door before showing us around,” recalls Wertheimer, who went on to start his own Internet services company by the age of 15 and began working with his childhood hero Jobs at the NeXT computer co mpany as his first job out of college.
But Wertheimer was also an avid TV viewer who appreciated the power of programming. “I was always taking apart and fixing computers and electronic gadgets, but as a kid I quickly understood the importance of content,” he recalls. “Technology was nothing without the content. Turn the TV off, it’s just a box. It doesn’t entertain you. So I was always fascinated by the symbiotic relationship between technology and content.”
That perspective is not only central to Wertheimer’s strategies since being named president of digital at Fox Broadcasting in 2011; it is also a prime directive at major media companies trying to speed up the pace of innovation so they can monetize their popular television programming on a variety of newer digital platforms.
“David has helped lead the company’s evaluation of how network programming is consumed, and valued, across digital platforms,” says Joe Earley, Fox Television Group COO, who applauds Wertheimer’s efforts in creating the popular FoxNow app and his team’s work in helping analyze cross-platform media consumption.
This is particularly important for Fox, Earley adds, because “Fox has always appealed to younger adults….As we become a cross-platform network of the future, digital evolution—from both the consumer and business points of view—will be key.”
In that task, Wertheimer brings extensive experience in navigating the convergence of content and technology. After leaving NeXT, Wertheimer joined Oracle in 1993 as part of a pioneering effort to build alliances with media companies and producers for the online distribution of content. In 1995, he became the president of digital at Paramount, where he launched the first website tied to a movie and was involved in a number of other groundbreaking efforts.
He was also the founder of Wire-Break Entertainment, an early producer of original online content and in 2007 became the CEO and executive director of the Entertainment Technology Center at USC, where he helped executives at many major media companies understand the tectonic tech trends that were transforming their business.
Those contacts led to his current post, where Wertheimer has been encouraged to bring a more “Silicon Valley” style of management to Fox’s digital operations so the company can quickly embrace technological changes. “I like to think we are running a start-up in the middle of an incredibly dynamic larger business that has a very entrepreneurial culture,” Wertheimer says.
That approach has helped them dramatically expand digital operations, with over 15 million downloads of the FoxNow app and close to 300 million likes or followers on Facebook, Twitter and various social media platforms.
But keeping close tabs on emerging technologies and startups continues to be a major part of Wertheimer’s efforts. “He serves as valuable counsel to senior management on many of the frontier topics facing our industry,” says Earley.
Along the way, his tech work also led him to his wife, who was working at Entertainment Tonight while he was president of Paramount Digital Entertainment in the late 1990s. “She was way out of my league,” Wertheimer says with a laugh. “But one of the things I learned from Steve Jobs is that nothing is impossible if you have a vision for it and she became my wife and the mother of my amazing children.”
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below