Aaron McNally, MBA 02, remembers subscribing to cable television for the first time as a 20-year-old UCLA undergraduate. “I got straight Cs that semester,” he says. “I was totally infatuated.”
McNally managed to pull himself off his couch, however, and parlayed his love for television into a successful career in the industry. Working his way up since his college years, McNally landed a dream job as director of television platforms at News Corp. in May 2003. His assignment was to help oversee News Corp.'s international satellite TV business.
But in Rupert Murdoch's world, business changes fast. After a month on the job, McNally was re-assigned to a transition team focused on the company's upcoming acquisition of DirecTV. By December 2003, News Corp. had bought a 34 percent stake in Hughes Electronics, DirecTV's parent company, and by January, McNally was transferred to work there.
So far, he's got no complaints.
In his new job as head of international and Spanish-language markets, McNally's job is to tailor the company's programming to appeal to specific groups of viewers in the US “If you're Greek or Italian or speak Russian we will have a channel offering for you in your language,” he says, adding he'd love to start an opera or a high school basketball channel, too. “Ten years from now, you'll have a Chinese basketball channel for the Chinese audiences here” he says. “Television is going to get much more fragmented.”
McNally got his first television break interning for Barry Levinson's movie company, Baltimore Pictures. By 1993, he was working at Fox, where he became director of programming for Fox Sports International. When digital cable started to develop in the late 1990s, he saw an opportunity for a niche channel focused on international sports.
He pitched the idea to his boss and together they started Fox Sports World, which brought worldwide soccer matches, cricket, and rugby to avid US-based fans. “We launched four networks around the world,” he says. “It was fairly exhausting.” After six years on the demanding job he decided to take some time off. He traveled in Eastern Europe and lived in Spain , where he studied Spanish. After he returned to the US , he entered the MBA program at the Haas School .
McNally, 34, now spends much of his time today on a plane, splitting his time between an office in Los Angeles and his home base in New York , where News Corp. is headquartered.
In his day-to-day job, he has found himself face-to-face with Murdoch and other top execs because News Corp. lacks the layers of middle management typical of other large corporations. “In our company it's normal to talk to top managers,” he says. “It's a difficult challenge for someone who is fairly junior like me.”
But McNally credits his MBA for helping him thrive in cable TV land.
And he's still a TV addict. His favorite show? “The Simpsons,” he says. “No question.”
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