No Avoiding Her Career of Destiny

NAME: Jennifer Mirgorod
TITLE: Executive VP of Content Distribution & Strategic Partnerships
COMPANY: Turner Content Distribution

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Named TCD senior VP of brand revenue and account management in 2005; later elevated to TCD executive VP of content distribution and strategic partnerships.

QUOTABLE: “Mentoring is so important … I like teaching and imparting what knowledge I have and have learned over the years. It’s something that I’ll continue to seek out and hopefully have the opportunity to do more of in the future.”

Looking at at the successful career of Turner Content Distribution executive Jennifer Mirgorod, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say she was destined for cable television excellence.

As executive vice president of content distribution and strategic partnerships for TCD — which encompasses cable networks TBS, CNN, HLN, TNT, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), truTV, CNN International, CNN en Español and Boomerang — Mirgorod leads a team responsible for bringing in more than 50% of Turner’s annual revenue. That’s more than any other division, which says a great deal about her influence in a more than two-decade career at the company.

“Jennifer is an incredibly smart, talented and strategic executive,” Turner Content Distribution president Rich Warren said. “While she sets high standards for her team and holds them accountable, she also mentors and coaches them along the way, which is a trait of a true leader.”

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While growing up, though, a TV career was the furthest thing from the Charlotte, N.C., native’s mind. She had watched her father — veteran broadcast TV station executive Mark Keown — work long and hard hours in the industry, and decided after high school to major in foreign affairs at the University of Virginia with the hopes of landing a government job overseas.

Looking For a Job, Just Not In Television

“I did not want to follow in my father’s footsteps. I saw that and thought, ‘I don’t want to be like Dad; I don’t want to turn into a workaholic,’ ” she said. But a media-based internship eventually led to her first job at a local broadcast station in Charlotte.

“Even after that job I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to get out of this — this is what my dad had done,’” she said. “But I kept finding it a little more interesting and getting better opportunities that moved me into something even more interesting, so here I am, 20-plus years later, still in television.”

After a year at the Charlotte station, Mirgorod would eventually move to Atlanta, where Turner is headquartered, but she wouldn’t actually begin with the company for another five years — in Hong Kong.

Mirgorod said she moved to Hong Kong without a job, but was again determined not to join the media industry, yet her work experience was so vested in the industry that she would eventually settle into an entry-level sales position at Turner in 1995. She thrived at Turner in Hong Kong, but soon realized her future growth in the business meant moving back to the States.

“I’d been gone for eight years and I had missed this whole period of cultural history in the U.S. There were shows I’d never even heard of, and there were things that didn’t make their way to Asia,” she said. “I knew I was hitting that point where — at least in what I was doing in television — it would be hard to move back in if I didn’t do it pretty quickly at that point; I’d been gone for so long.”

Mirgorod returned to Atlanta in 2003 and found a job at Turner Content Distribution in affiliate marketing. By 2005, she would transition into account management, negotiating carriage deals for Turner’s burgeoning stable of cable networks.

“I was experienced in sales and marketing, but I guess I liked to be a little bit closer to the money and the fire, so to speak, and I wasn’t really feeling that in marketing and strategy,” she said. “When the opportunity came up where I could start working on some distribution accounts, I took advantage of it, and that changed the course of my career once again.”

As TCD’s senior vice president of brand revenue and account management, she said negotiations with distributors in the mid-to-late-2000s were less difficult than they are today, given the evolution of technology over the past decade.

“We had some pretty difficult deals [then], but I think the difference now is that because of all the technological changes that have occurred over the last seven years or so, they’ve become much more complex, and that makes them harder,” she said.

Yet Mirgorod has risen to the challenge. In 2014, she was named TCD executive vice president of brand distribution, and three years later assumed the expanded role of TCD executive VP of content distribution and strategic partnerships, where she was instrumental in closing a number of major multiplatform negotiation deals with top distribution clients throughout 2016 and 2017.

Extending Influence as a Mentor

Her influence within Turner extends beyond the negotiating table. She is the executive sponsor of Turner Asia, a companywide business resource group aimed at leveraging the talents of Asian-Pacific American employees. She also mentors young professionals through the Turner Women Today Circle Mentoring program, and is an active member of Women in Cable Telecommunications.

“She is a fantastic colleague to many people throughout the company, and she cares deeply about helping others advance their careers,” Warren said. “She takes the time to listen, and provide feedback, no matter how busy she is.”

Mirgorod also said she has effectively balanced work and family life, spending quality time with her husband George and her two kids, Mary, 12, and Kate, 9. “I didn’t want to turn into a workaholic, and I don’t think I actually have,” she said. “So maybe that’s what I really wanted to avoid [instead of the industry].”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.