Women to Watch

Lucia Ballas-Traynor

TITLE: General Manager, Galavisión

WHY SHE'S WATCHABLE: Galavisión is numero uno among cable-only distributed networks targeting Latinos, the fastest-growing ethnic population segment in the United States. Under her tenure, the network has marched to a different drummer than parent Univision. Rather than copy Univision's programming formula, or that of rival Telemundo verbatim, Ballas-Traynor champions original, U.S.-made shows that reach young Spanish-speakers, often in bilingual mode. The fare runs from Galascene, an entertainment/lifestyle roundup, to Al Desnudo, video verite portraits of Hispanics reaching critical junctures in life. Latino filmmakers have an outlet for their short subjects in Cosmos, which premiered last year, the only program of its kind on Spanish network TV.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVMENT OF 2001: "I would take you back to 1997 when, in the same week that I was promoted to general manager, my son Michael was pronounced profoundly deaf. My greatest achievement––[in 2001] and all the years since he was brought into my life––has been a mixture of balancing my family life, including making significant decisions to benefit my son's health, while maintaining the positive momentum of my Galavisión career."

CHALLENGE AHEAD: Stay daring and different to catch young Latino eyeballs as other networks, including Telemundo sister cable channel Mu2 (formerly Gems), go after the same crowd.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Takes care of her two children, Carolina (age 6) and Michael (age 4, better known as "Mikito," whose hearing capability has improved over the last two years), plus a self-described "gringo" husband who brings an even-keeled approach to the household.

Deborah Blackwell

TITLE: General Manager, SoapNet

WHY SHE'S WATCHABLE: Her network, featuring same-night plays of the ABC daytime drama lineup, is on a roll. The subscriber count grew nearly 300 percent over the last year; nightly ratings often average a .7 to 1.0, and the channel is in the top 10 among all ad-supported services in ratings for women in the 18-to-49 and 25-to-54 age groups. And despite a depressed ad marketplace, Blackwell opened SoapNet up to spot sales last September and saw the majority of available time quickly dry up.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT OF 2001: "Helping SoapNet grow to over 20 million homes . . . On a personal note, I made a transition from an Internet start-up back into the TV world—which I love and where my roots are—and I'm grateful for how much I've learned along the journey."

CHALLENGE AHEAD: Turn SoapNet from a home for ABC material into cable's soapbox medium, working in NBC and CBS series, original primetime drama and additional related series—all while enduring the wrath of ABC broadcast stations upset over the prospect of losing more of their daytime audience.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Gardens at her Santa Monica home—when not bike riding along the city's beach; feeds her addiction to swap meets; travels on short notice, such as in heading for Paris last Thanksgiving on the spur of the moment.

Meredith Flynn-Ripley

TITLE: President/CEO, Into Networks Inc.

WHY SHE'S WATCHABLE: In on the ground floor of Road Runner, Flynn-Ripley is pioneering a promised land for high-speed Internet access, and eventually interactive TV. Into allows high-speed users to download games, educational content and other services from various providers, so they get more bang and variety for their access bucks. Cable systems nationwide are counting on her company to make current high-speed households happier and lure new customers in.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT OF 2001: "Motherhood, market share and a myriad of blessings earmarked 2001 for me. It opened with the birth of my first child, flew quickly with the challenges and successes of leading Into towards profitability . . . and ended on another high note with new responsibilities as president and CEO. And as they say, the best is yet to come."

CHALLENGE AHEAD: Increase the affiliate base quickly, then expand the application menu and make it suitable for ITV as well as access usage.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Takes on public speaking engagements for cable, broadband, advertising and interactive media trade organizations.

Ann Foley

TITLE: Executive VP, East Coast Programming, Showtime Networks Inc.

WHY SHE'S WATCHABLE: She runs Showtime Original Pictures for All Ages, one of cable's most lauded enterprises. Foley's job covers a lot more territory than that, but that responsibility alone—overseeing of made-for-cable family films shown in primetime (one new film per month)—is worth the watch. She sees to it that the films set high standards of quality, with top actors, writers and directors in charge. Her quality commitment virtually assures Showtime of cleaning up in the Daytime Emmy children's programming categories (where these films are eligible). Last year, Foley's All Ages output earned 19 Emmy nominations and six awards, including two for children's special. One of the two was
A Storm in Summer, marking the TV directing debut of Oscar-winner Robert Wise.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT OF 2001: "I am lucky to be able to spend my days in the company of strong, creative people looking to make movies that are relevant to families. I spend my life treasuring my children and finding in them the richness of spirit, the great good complexity that make the work efforts resonant."

CHALLENGE AHEAD: Spearhead new family programming directions for Showtime and its sibling digital pay networks, while maintaining the quality of Original Pictures for All Ages.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Plenty, but Foley says she prefers to keep that side of life to herself.

Ann Sarnoff

TITLE: COO, VH1/Country Music Television

WHY SHE'S WATCHABLE: Brand building and brand extending are Sarnoff's stocks in trade, having done it successfully at Nickelodeon for most of the 1990's. She has the green light to

do both for VH1 — which, thanks to shows like Pop-Up Video, Behind the Music, Strange Frequency, My VH1 Music Awards
and a series of music-focused biopics, is finally out from under MTV's shadow — and CMT, still one of cable's niche underachievers. Both networks also are coming off momentum from their respective fund-raising concert specials tied to the events of Sept. 11 (Concert for New York City
and The Country Freedom Concert).

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT OF 2001: "Integrating the operations of CMT into MTV Networks, and working closely with president John Sykes and the new senior VP/general manager (Brian Philips) to develop a strategy to take CMT to a new level of success."

CHALLENGE AHEAD: Build original programming franchises at VH1 and CMT with natural merchandising/licensing business offshoots, which can make up for a dormant ad sales environment.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Serves on the board of Public School Artworks, an organization dedicated to enhancing art/art education in the New York City public school system.

Audrey Weil

TITLE: President, AOL Broadband

WHY SHE'S WATCHABLE: Responsible for carrying out AOL Time Warner Inc.'s game plan to make America Online as big a force in high-speed Internet access through cable operators as it is among dial-up users. With cable operators adapting to a multiple Internet-service provider environment and Excite@

Home breaking apart, Weil has the cards in her favor to catapult AOL into the ISP that operators must carry. She definitely knows her way around AOL, having been with the online power since 1988 in a number of capacities, and before her current role, presided over once-rival ISP CompuServe, which became an AOL division before the AOL-Time Warner merger.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT OF 2001: "The introduction of AOL's high-speed broadband service into the top 20 Time Warner Cable markets in just two months. It marks a turning point with broadband, providing consumers even more choices and delivering the same ease-of-use and convenience that AOL members have come to expect."

CHALLENGE AHEAD: Convince operators that AOL should not just be in their multiple-ISP high-speed packages, but the lead brand they market. That might be tough in some places, given AOL's earlier open-access advocacy, which upset many operators and helped throw Excite@Home off course.

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Based in Columbus, Ohio, Weil serves on the city's chamber of commerce, the local United Way chapter and the Columbus Technology Leadership Council, a venture she co-founded.