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Executive-in-Residence Program Brings Leading Television Executive Back to School

November 06, 2009
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Fred Reynolds Executive-in-Residence

          Students had the opportunity to talk with Reynolds
          at a Q & A session during his visit as 

School of Business students had the opportunity in November to hear about the future of the media, the influence of technology on the industry, and the impact of the economic recession from one of the industry’s top leaders. Former CBS executive vice president and chief financial officer Fred Reynolds (BBA ’72) hosted a question and answer session at the School as part of its Executive-in-Residence Program.  Reynolds currently serves on the boards of Kraft Foods Inc and AOL and has also served as president and chief executive officer of the Viacom Television Stations Group of Viacom Inc., and president of the CBS Television Stations Division of CBS.

He told students that despite the rise of the Internet as an entertainment medium, he thinks television will continue to be the primary source of entertainment for most people.

“Great content will prevail,” Reynolds said.  “If you have the best content for the mass audience, most people are going to want to watch it on a big 50-inch screen in high-def 1080 and all that stuff with surround sound and that’s what they’re going to enjoy.”

Furthermore, Reynolds said that he believes that access to an increasing amount of content on-demand via the Internet actually helps the television industry rather than diminishes its impact.

“Technology has really helped when you’re a content owner because you want to be ubiquitous,” he said.  “You want your content everywhere people want to watch or listen to it regardless of the device.”

On a similar note, Reynolds said that, contrary to popular belief, new technologies such as TIVO and DV-R are not hurting the television industry’s advertising revenue even though it enables viewers to skip through commercials. He argued that people have always been able to skip commercials whether by leaving the room to get a drink or simply by changing the channel.  In fact, he said that he thinks this technology actually helps the industry because it enables viewers who are not able to watch a show at its scheduled time to record it and view the program later. Reynolds said that it is up to the advertisers to come up with compelling and effective advertisements in order to maintain viewer attention.

“The day after the Super Bowl on Monday morning everyone is talking about the ads,” Reynolds said.  “If you have compelling ads, America [will continue to be] a nation of consumers.”

Fred Reynolds Executive-in-Residence

Reynolds meets with undergraduate and graduate business students.

In response to questions about the recession, Reynolds urged his audience to look to the television industry as an indicator that the worst is behind us.  “The U.S. [economy] is rebounding and the TV business is a leading indicator,” he said.  “Business is improving month in and month out.  Advertising will start to pick up because they want to gain market share.  They’ll launch new products to gain new customers and I think it’s going to have a ripple effect.  The usual leading indicators will lead the way out.”

Reynolds encourages corporations to continue to ask themselves, “What could go wrong and are we taking on too much risk?” in order to prevent future economic downturns.  Finally, he said that key industries such as health care as well as the growth of international markets will also help put the economy back on its feet in the upcoming months and years.

Over the past  year, the School’s Executive-in-Residence Program has also featured Ralph Alvarez (BBA ’76), the president and chief operating officer of McDonald’s Corp.; Joseph J. Echevarria, Jr. (BBA ’78), the U.S. managing partner and chief operating officer of global accounting giant Deloitte LLP; Matthew Rubel (MBA '80), the chairman, CEO, and president, of Collective Brands Inc., the parent company of Payless ShoeSource; Stuart Fraser, Cantor Fitzgerald’s vice chairman; and Patrick Barron (BBA ’75), the first vice president and chief operating officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

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