Bill Goodwyn wanted to buy a car after his junior year in college, so he hit the pavement in Lee County, Ark., selling condensed encyclopedias door to door. After a summer of seven-day weeks, he proudly drove his new Fiat home to North Carolina. That initial foray into sales proved prescient.
Some 23 years later, Goodwyn is president of affiliate sales and marketing for Discovery Networks U.S., overseeing those areas as well as promotion for the company's U.S. cable networks, VOD (video-on-demand), SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) and HD programming services.
Joining the company in 1987, he has been instrumental in growing its varied properties. In 1992, Goodwyn headed the drive to aid struggling TLC, broadening its reach from 15 million to more than 87 million U.S. homes. After Animal Planet debuted in 1996 with Goodwyn at the helm, it reached 50 million subscribers faster than any other network in cable history. Plus, he has kept Discovery at the forefront of new technology, shaping its digital networks and HD Theater channel.
"Meeting and engaging people and finding value in whatever product you're servicing has a lot of benefits," he says. In fact, he credits that bookselling summer with honing his pitch skills and teaching him to deal with rejection.
"You have to take the personal piece out of it, develop a thick skin and stick with it. If you have that tenacity," says Goodwyn, "you will become a success."
A journalism and speech-communications major at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Goodwyn took a job selling copiers for Xerox after graduation.
An executive on the receiving end of his pitch turned out to be a recruiter for TV Watch, an electronic-guide company owned by Scripps Howard. He was so impressed with Goodwyn's sales abilities that he offered him a job selling the system to local cable operators nationwide.
"I was 23 years old, and I thought, 'Wow, all this travel will be great,'" he says. "I just didn't realize I'd still be doing it 21 years later."
After four years with TV Watch, Goodwyn was tapped by Discovery to be Eastern regional director of affiliate sales and relations, charged with selling the flagship channel. As he ascended the affiliate corporate ladder, he has traversed the U.S., boosting Discovery's record-breaking growth in distribution for its domestic cable channels.
Still, Goodwyn, a man in perpetual motion, manages to take time out for a personal life. He says he owes his most important relationship to the cable industry: his marriage. He met his wife, Leigh, in 1989, when she was working at Turner and her boss set them up on a blind date. The two saw each other at trade functions but didn't date until she landed a job in international marketing at Discovery in 1996. They married the following year.
Goodwyn and his family now live in Charlotte, N.C., though he travels often to Discovery's headquarters in Maryland.
Since being promoted to his current position in June, Goodwyn aims to increase the value of local ad sales and push marketing opportunities, such as mobile marketing tours to drive awareness for digital channels. And he's committed to growing his digital networks from 37 million homes to 50 million. In addition, he continues to focus on Discovery's analog channels, such as Travel Channel and Discovery Health Channel, determined to grow their audience share.
But with cable operators strapped for space for linear channels and intent on selling ancillary products, such as broadband and VOD, getting anything added is a monumental challenge, Goodwyn admits, "no matter how good the product is." But the veteran sales exec isn't deterred: "If you reinforce the value of your service, over time you'll be successful."
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