SBD/August 23, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Time Warner Cable Exec Melinda Witmer Profiled, Known As "Lightning Rod" In Industry

Industry execs view Witmer as a tough negotiator for TV rights
Time Warner Cable Exec VP and Chief Video & Content Officer MELINDA WITMER is profiled by Shalini Ramachandran of the WALL STREET JOURNAL, who writes Witmer has "become a lightning rod for criticism within the industry." TWC since '10 has been "in more blackout disputes with broadcasters than any other cable operator." Execs who have done business with Witmer said that she "stands out from many of her counterparts at other pay TV operators, negotiating like a courtroom trial prosecutor, quick to identify loopholes and potential snags." Witmer contends that her "adversaries aren't 'a bunch of dummies sitting across the table from us who are fresh off the rhubarb truck who don't understand what they're doing.'" But she added she "unfortunately" spends a lot of time with programmers "who agree to things" but later "they spend a lot of time trying to backpedal out of it." Witmer: "We go out of our way…to resolve things amicably." Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations JEANIE BUSS said, "She's tough, there's no doubt about it," but "she knows how to get a deal done and she's creative." Ramachandran writes, What "particularly rankles media executives now is that ... Witmer is interpreting Time Warner Cable's digital rights in aggressive ways, sometimes finding clauses in old contracts to justify her positions." CBS President of Television Networks Distribution RAY HOPKINS, who is in negotiations with Witmer in the ongoing TWC/CBS carriage dispute, "has had dealings with her at the YES Network," where he served as COO for nine years. Industry execs said that Witmer "is known for scouring old contracts when deals are coming up in search of points that can be used as leverage." A former TWC exec said, "She's got a litigator's mind, always looking for the hook. When people are tired, she can outpace them. People are afraid of her" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/23).
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