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Redrawing Turner’s Animated World

Christina Miller's promotion during Turner’s massive reorganization in 2014 sent her in what seemed like a very different direction. She went from strategy, marketing and program roles with Turner Sports and NBA Digital to leading Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang as president and GM.

What appeared to be a left turn was actually more of a U-turn to an area she knows well, though. Miller had served a stint at Cartoon and had worked at HIT Entertainment for nine years.

“That’s where I grew up, kids entertainment,” said Miller.

And though she sees a lot of commonality between sports and kids/young adult programming, she recalls a major project from her sports tenure that drove home a defining difference: Turner’s partnership with CBS on college basketball’s March Madness.

“It was this big moment and decision to really think about how you can change…every game live, all four networks at once, staggered start times,” said Miller. “All of these things you would do differently to an audience that was watching it for 30 years. So that was really about introducing change and innovating, but that’s to some degree changing habits.”

Now, in running Cartoon, Miller sees her job as enabling the network to create habits.

“When you look at kids, there’s none of that. You’re creating that,” said Miller. “You can’t let your adult brain get in the way sometimes about the relationship different demos have with technology or communicating that change to them. Kids are mobile natives. They are digital natives. They’re plural. They communicate visually. They expect this content to be everywhere and work everywhere. We don’t need to teach them that. We need to teach ourselves that they expect that.”

Miller credits her flexibility and ability to connect with viewers to three mentors over her career: HIT Entertainment’s David Jacobs and Turner’s David Levy and Lenny Daniels.

“They all have in common a sort of people-first approach,” said Miller. “I think with Lenny taking a risk moving me into sports made me more agile and adaptable. And all three of those guys made me work well with change.”

Whether it’s network websites and apps, 15-second microplatform Cartoon Network Anything, VOD, mobile games, virtual reality, linear or Turner’s Hulu partnership, it’s about “total consumption” for Miller.

“Our fans are watching our content on all platforms.” she said. “It’s not a different person on different platforms. So how do you make sure you’re giving them a cohesive experience?” The central question, she adds, is “How do we know that we’re programming and treating this whole ecosystem as a single brand and allowing people to come in and come out across the spectrum as easy and intuitively as possible?”

David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting, has worked with Miller for the past 10 years and saw her career take off when she worked in Turner Sports and NBA Digital.

“Think about her having 30 bosses, because she was really being managed and herding all the NBA owners and teams and getting them in line for whatever projects she was working on,” said Levy. “When I took on my new role at the company, I thought [she was] the perfect person for me to bring back.”

Levy has been equally impressed with Miller’s time leading Cartoon.

“She’s brought Cartoon back to double-digit rating increases,” Levy noted. “In this marketplace, any time you have any kind of ratings increases it’s tremendous. And she’s done that in a kids business that is very fickle.”

As for when Miller has free time, it’s mostly about traveling and taking in all things media.

“Travel is up there as the highest one when I’m free and when I’m looking for a real way to wind down. Exploring the furthest ends of the Earth, I’m up for it,” said Miller. “Doesn’t really matter to me how long the flight is, I’m ready to go.”