Gaining Responsibility By the Numbers at Crown

Bill Abbott, now CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, was one of the first people Kristen Roberts met when she started her new job at the old Family Channel.

Roberts was fresh off the campus at Villanova and Abbott was a VP of ad sales, and she recalls having brief introductory meetings with the senior staffers in the office. Roberts, promoted in January to executive VP, pricing, planning and revenue management at Crown Media Family Networks, obviously made an impression.

“She was very smart, very good with numbers,” recalls Abbott. He adds Roberts is one of those unique people who are not only good with numbers, but “she’s also got a great personality and is very good with people and with sales.”

Abbott says that execs at Crown tease Roberts about being a backroom person now, as opposed to one who is out wining and dining clients. “At this point in her career, her focus is on the internal workings of Hallmark,” he says.

At a different point in her career, Roberts pushed to escape the office. Starting out, she didn’t know much about the TV business, but a friend of her sister’s helped her land a job as a sales assistant at Family Channel.

“I loved that job. I really felt like I was so fortunate to find this business,” Roberts says. Working with Excel spreadsheets appealed to her analytical side, but the job’s social benefits were fun too. “As a young person right out of college, I thought it was pretty great to go on the lunches and meet people my age, so I loved both aspects of it.”

Roberts got promoted to sales planner, but she really wanted to be in sales. So she went to FX as a planner and got promoted to her first sales job. After about a year, she rejoined Abbott and Ed Georger—another Family Channel alum, now executive VP for sales at Crown—at the Odyssey Channel. Roberts was the first salesperson they hired as they helped rebrand the network to become Hallmark.

She left again to sell A&E and History until she heard the VP for pricing and planning position had opened at Hallmark and got the job. “Even though I did like sales, I always kind of thought, in the end, I would like to go into pricing and planning, and I could work for people that I knew and I respected and liked working for,” she says.

Accounting for Spots

Abbott says pricing and planning “is such an important function that’s underappreciated and overlooked in the business.” With two networks, an inventory of half a million spots per year has to be accounted for with ratings estimates and price updates needed to make sure revenue will be maximized.

“Although sales doesn’t technically report to Kristen, Kristen does set the strategy, sets the strategy for the upfront, sets the strategy around dayparts,” Abbott says.

Being able to handle that gave Abbott the confidence to restructure his management team and make Roberts responsible for strategies in other areas, including distribution and digital, programming and promotion.

“Certainly it’s that understanding of all areas of the business that is, from my perspective, what makes her so valuable. She can make decisions, and I’m comfortable that she has considered all the different elements,” says Abbott, who signed Roberts to a contract that keeps her at Crown Media at least two more years.

Heart’s in the Right Place

Roberts was instrumental in Hallmark Channel’s recently announced plan to try to capitalize on Valentine’s Day, helping to determine the type of programming needed, how it would be sold and how it would be promoted to create an event that’s not just a one-year success but a sustainable franchise.

With the added responsibilities, Roberts has a lot of new balls in the air.

“There’s obviously a learning curve,” she says, adding, “It’s fun to make sure that we’re taking advantage of every opportunity and monetizing all the great programming that we have.”

Roberts is busy at home as well. She and her husband, Jason, whom she met at Family Channel (he now sells financial services to hedge funds) had three kids within 19 months. “It was kind of crazy,” she says. Now the twins, Anna and Lily, are almost 6, and their son, Sam, is 4.

“Weekends are shuffling between four or five birthday parties,” she says, “or shuttling them to sports, mostly skiing, swimming and tennis,” which, coincidentally, she enjoys doing as well. With a young family, Roberts has a new appreciation for what Hallmark Channel represents in the TV world. “This is a unique place and having networks that are family-friendly is great,” she says. “And I work with people I’ve worked with a long time. We have a lot on our plate and we work really hard, but it’s very respectful.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.