Published on October 31st, 2013 | by Melody Cade0
Margie Moreno – VP of Programming & Development, Executive, Producer
By Melody Cade
Margie Moreno is the Vice President of Programming, West Coast, for mun2, the fastest growing Hispanic entertainment cable network in 2012. In her role she oversees all West Coast programming including current programming and development. She has served as a producer and network executive. Prior to mun2, Moreno was Head of Development for Imagina US/ Promofilm US, an international television production company. Before working in the international marketplace, Moreno was the Director of Original Programming at TBS Superstation. Before that she worked at Mandalay Entertainment where she helped create Mandalay Television. Margie Moreno is one of the most gracious and accomplished executives with whom I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. Her take on diversity is enlightening.
Q: What brought you into the industry? What was the career you wanted right out of college?
Actually, I always wanted to work in entertainment. I grew up in Culver City, which is built around the Sony Studios. I always knew I wanted to create television and film from a very young age, including animated film. When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to get a paid internship at Showtime, in the original programming department. That early television opportunity really excited me. I was excited about the diversity in programming, also the quick pacing in terms to getting things done. So, I decided to focus on television literally during that internship, which was my last year in college.
Q: What was your first paying job in entertainment?
The position of paid intern was almost like the position of a part time assistant for the department, this being the original programming department. When I graduated, they offered me a job to stay on as a full time assistant. I stayed there for a year then decided I wanted more of a hands on participation on the projects. I ended up being hired at a production company, one of the in-house production companies for HBO. I was the assistant to the Senior VP of Production, basically I was the assistant to the producer of all the projects.
Q: What inspired the jump from producer to network executive?
It’s funny, I’ve gone back and forth my entire career. What I’ve found from my career path is, after a few years I felt like my growth was becoming a bit limited. After working on the network side then with the production company as an assistant to an executive producer, I ended up following that executive producer to a bigger company, this being Mandalay Entertainment. We launched the television division. This allowed me to be a part of a start-up. I use that term very loosely, Mandalay being a powerhouse of a media company. I learned a lot about launching a division. Then I ended up going back to the network side because I wanted more of the network structure of being a buyer and focusing on specific programming. I ended up going to Turner, TBS Superstation, as Director of Development. Then from there, I decided I wanted to grow in my producing capacities, this time on the international landscape. I ended up working for Promofilms, developing and re-versioning international formats for the US, heading up the development department. Then I came to Mundo.
Q: What’s an average day at work for you? What are your primary responsibilities?
I don’t even know where to begin. My primary responsibility as a VP of Programming, is first to make sure all of the current shows on the grid are doing well. If they aren’t getting the ratings that we like, trying to do everything in our power to make sure they do. Looking at the creative, looking at the show itself, making sure other departments are helping to support it is in line with this.
Another aspect is coming up with strategies to help support it. Whether it be marketing, whether it be press or talent, I also look at the digital audiences. We are a 360 network. In chorus with other departments we come up with strategies to help our shows do well.
I also look at shows that are in pre-production. They haven’t hit the grid yet. I make sure the right teams are in place, the right budget, the right creatives, the right talent. I make sure all of those elements are locked up. I look at development for the next 2-5 years in terms of making sure we are getting projects that are appropriate for us. In terms of pitches, talent, checking in with key producers from key agencies. Last but not least, working with long-rage planning for the dept. I currently oversee the West Coast staff and all original programming. I make sure we are on the same page as our Telemundo partners and our NBCUniversal partners. That’s more on the corporate side.
Q: What choices have to be made when creating television for a Hispanic audience?
I like this question. I’ve worked at general markets networks, this network is different. We are targeting a very specific audience, not just in terms of ethnicity, but also in audience view. We define ourselves as being young, authentic and Latino. Those three words guide every choice we make when it comes to what kinds of shows we choose to develop and put on the air. We look at the trends that young Latinos are interested in, how they are unique, and all of our shows have to be authentic and culturally relevant to our audience.
Q: What goes into creating a programming schedule that includes bilingual content?
This again goes to deconstructing our audience when it comes to their viewing habits. Members of our audience, who are young and Latino, have different viewing habits. We program to who is watching at different times during the day.
Q: Talk about adapting international shows for the US market. What’s the process?
I’ve done this for both reality and scripted. With reality, it’s a matter of taking the structure and making it relatable to the US audience. It’s similar with scripted, a network can love the structure and premise, but not the content of the show. The things that are relevant in other countries might not be relevant here.
Q: Was this fun?
It was so much fun. It’s like reinventing a puzzle. You have all of the pieces there, you’re just moving it around so they fit.
Q: In your opinion how valuable is networking?
Extremely. For the last eight years I’ve been a part of a group called, Step Up Women’s Network. I helped create the mentorship program. We’d pair girls with senior level female executives in a six month program. As part of this process, they had to go through classes on how to get the best results from the program. Just having this networking opportunity within a group setting was incredibly helpful.
Q: Talk a bit about the importance of having had experience as an assistant when pursuing a career on the executive track.
For me being an assistant is like being an executive in training. I was an assistant for six years. A lot of people will say that was wrong, that you should only be an assistant for two years. I loved being an assistant for those 6 years. The person I was an assistant to, the Executive VP at that first company was one of the best mentors I’ve ever had. I learned every little detail about being an excellent executive producer. From finding projects, to the relationships, to drafting contracts, to addressing last minute production issues, I learned. It was boot camp for being an executive.
Q: Over the years, how has diversity on the executive level informed the entertainment industry?
It’s been challenging. I’ve been a part of a couple of executive networking organizations focusing on diversity over the years, and I’ve been very surprised how little they’ve changed. It’s the same people, it’s a small group, not a lot of people. The good thing that I have seen is that same small group is still in the industry and has continued to grow within the industry. I just wish the group would grow.
I wish diversity would be more of an issue, especially at general market networks. I know it’s a mandate. I just haven’t seen it reflected in the executive talent pool. But, as I’ve said, there are many key executives placed in those positions. I just wish it would grow.
I recently was asked to join the board of directors for NALIP, The National Association of Latino Independent Producers. One of the specific reasons I agreed to join was because I felt that from a ground level, current executives need to start cultivating new talent to join us, we need to train them and inform them and educate them on what’s needed. I’m hoping that being on this board will enable me to be involved in events and conferences and one-on-one opportunities to start creating more of this talent to feed into the executive level.
Q: In your experience, have minorities interested in working in entertainment been drawn to or even been aware of the executive track?
In my experience when I’m meeting with new, amazing, creative, diverse thinkers most have the tendency to want to do it themselves, whether it’s writing or independent producing. They feel they need to go outside of the system to get their idea executed. I don’t agree with that. I feel there are opportunities within the system, you just have to know how to approach it. You have to know what you want. Do you want to do something very specific or more commercial. I think most people don’t consider the executive track for that reason.
Q: What’s the best advice you could give to someone starting out?
I believe no one can ever know everything. Be open to suggestions from other people.