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Ryan Sharkey found out fairly early in his career that
you’re probably better at a job you love than one you
don’t. The senior VP of program acquisitions and administration
for USA Network, Sleuth and Universal
HD, Sharkey oversees acquisitions of series and theatrical films for all three NBCUniversal cable networks,
including, most recently, USA’s deal for the off-network
rights to Modern Family.
But Sharkey began his career in finance, first working
in a dead-end job at a small bank for three years before
moving to General Electric’s corporate audit staff. After
a year in GE’s global rotation program, he got a job in
production finance at CNBC, where he helped launch
Dennis Miller’s short-lived show.
Sharkey joined USA in programming finance, and
shocked his boss that a numbers guy could know so
much about TV and movies, which had been a love
of Sharkey’s since childhood. Within 18 months, he
had moved over to programming acquisitions and has
since helped with USA’s buying of theatrical network
windows for blockbuster ! lms like Fast & Furious and
The Bourne Ultimatum.
Sharkey’s background has proven helpful in his current
role; he still puts together financials for deals. Using
tools he developed in finance, “we can quickly see
if a targeted acquisition fits in the budget and if the
numbers make sense from a profit margin standpoint,”
he says. Sharkey sees new technology as a great opportunity
to bring viewers to the network, but, as he’s
always aware of the bottom line, a challenge in how to
monetize the added exposure.
USA is looking for another sitcom acquisition to
complement Modern Family, which hits syndication in
fall 2013, which means Sharkey is watching a lot of
pilots right now, looking for ones that fit with the USA
brand and have a ratings upside. “What’s happening
from a business standpoint is the A-level product is
moving very quickly,” he says. “Five years ago, we may
not have been watching pilots in May, trying to figure
out which one’s going to be the best one.”
But watching a lot of TV isn’t so bad for a kid who
grew up loving entertainment. And though Sharkey
says he was nervous when he first left the protected
corporate structure of ! nance, after a few months, he
never looked back. He wants to stay on the programming
side of the business. When asked if he has ambitions
of being a network president, he acquiesces: “Of
course—don’t we all?”
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