What It’s Like to Work in the Changing Landscape of Television (Interview)

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So you want to work in television, huh? Sounds glamorous, right? Well I’m not here to try and deny that at all. Instead I’m here to give you a glimpse into the world of working in the industry by interviewing an accomplished T.V. professional. Katerina Johnson landed her dream job as an Audience Research Analyst for a major cable network. I chatted with her about what it’s like working in television, her advice to fellow millennials looking to break into the industry, the impact streaming services are having on T.V., and more.

Tell me a bit about your job. What does being an Audience Research Analyst entail?
I provide viewing analysis and trends to various departments; mainly network management, program planning, communications, finance, and marketing groups. Nielsen provides us with viewing data and my job is to digest and analyze it, and then present it in a way that anyone could understand. I also look through the data to find trends that could help to inform how viewers are behaving and what else they watch on television.  For us, viewing data is like a window into someone’s living room. It helps all networks create and air content that television viewers want to see, and it also helps pave the way for innovation.

How did you end up working in television? What made you want a career in T.V.?
When I was young I actually wanted to be an actress. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t a realistic career option for me, so when I was reevaluating my major in college, I thought about what I loved. I love television – I always have. I always preferred television to movies, because after two hours a movie ends, but you could spend years with a television show! You start to develop relationships with characters and stories, and it provides you with a weekly escape. I knew it was the industry I wanted to be in, and then I just had to figure out what aspect of it would work for me. I tried out production, but it was not a good fit. Research actually found me; an internship opportunity arose my senior year of college, and I haven’t looked back since.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the job?
My favorite part of the job is definitely feeling like I speak the language of television. While the content of a show is obviously so important, the industry still speaks in numbers. How many people are watching, how often do they watch, what else are they watching? I love that not only do I speak the language, I provide the information that allows other people to speak it.

I honestly don’t really have a least favorite part. I’m really blessed to work with some great people who make my job enjoyable. I mean, it’s more math than I ever thought I would be doing in my career, but I’ve really learned to embrace it, and it’s actually started to help me in other aspects of my life as well (I’m a whiz at splitting the check and adding tip at dinner now!). There are obviously days when I get frustrated or bored, but I think all jobs have that. You know you’re in the right career when you’re willing to push past those days because you know the good days are so worth it.

What work perks are there? Are there any downsides? 
I think if you asked anybody in the industry their favorite perk, it would probably be getting to screen content before it goes to air! It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does happen it is hands down my favorite part of the job. It’s also just such a perk to work in television. It’s a great conversation piece when you meet someone new! It’s also so rewarding when you’re watching something you love and you remember that it’s on your network. I also love when I watch the Emmys or Golden Globes and shows or actors from my network, or a network I previously worked for, win. It almost feels like I’m winning.

A downside would be that there really isn’t a slow time. The television industry is 24/7. At any time work could get super busy, and unfortunately there’s really no predicting when that will be. I’m always trying to predict what times of year will be busy and what will be slow – and I’m almost always wrong!

Do you find that streaming services like Netflix are impacting this industry?
Definitely – but I think it’s largely positive (although I wouldn’t say that sentiment is common among industry officials, haha). Services like Netflix and Hulu are creating quality content, and they are pushing networks to step up their game and create better content, as well. Once upon a time, the only thing that mattered in the industry were the big four networks – ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. Now it’s really anyone’s game; there are so many options out there! As a lover of television, I think it’s truly amazing that it has become so accessible. I love that if I miss an episode of something I love, I can log onto Hulu or HBOGo or FXNow and catch up. The streaming services are forcing networks to develop their own streaming model – everything is growing and improving. Also, the whole idea of “binging” is wonderful. I love that you can start a show three years after it began. You can binge the library, and then join the rest of the viewers at the show’s scheduled time. That being said, streaming services are really shaping the language of television. Now, it’s not just about the ratings but it’s also about the streams, the clicks, the twitter buzz. I think it’s very cool that shows that would normally be cancelled due to low ratings get longer lives because of streaming and social media.

What advice do you have for millennials who want a job in television?
Internships, internships, internships. I cannot stress enough the value of an internship in this industry. It can be very difficult to get your foot in the door, but once you get in, hard work will get you far. I applied for any and every television internship I could get my hands on in college, even if I wasn’t sure it was the department I wanted to be in. I just wanted my name out there and my resume on desks. Also – this seems like a no brainer – but watch lots of television! It’s so important to know what’s out there. You can’t work in the industry if you’re not familiar with the content. EVERYTHING that airs is important – reality, drama, comedy, talk show. It is so so important to have knowledge about a little bit of everything. I could not be good at my job if I didn’t watch a ton of television. And hey, there are much worse job requirements out there! 

Do you think that working in television is a solid career for millennials, especially with this shift to streaming services?
Absolutely. Here’s the thing – television is here to stay. The way we watch it may change, but we will always be watching it. It is a forever evolving field, and I think it’s so fun to work in an industry that everyone has some sort of connection to. If anything, I think the shift to streaming makes this an even better industry to work in, because new opportunities are opening up all the time. You may not realize it, but you need to think of things like Netflix as another channel. I really believe this is a golden age of television, and I think it’s a great industry to grow with.

What’s one thing you wish you knew during your job hunt that you think would’ve helped you?
I wish I would’ve known not to be so discouraged. When I was approaching graduation, I was applying for all the jobs at every network and not hearing back. I was really down on myself and very discouraged. Just when I was about to give up, I got an interview, and subsequently got the job. It’s so important to remember that there are a lot of opportunities out there, and you just have to find them. Everyone is applying for things, and a ton of people are in the same boat as you; discouraged and not hearing back. You really have to power through and keep your head up. 

Want to learn more? Connect with Katerina on Twitter

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About Author

Michelle is a proud Fordham alum who has currently found herself in the midst of the nonprofit world doing all social media and event planning for The Parent-Child Home Program. When she is not glued to twitter, you can find her on her third iced coffee of the day, arguing about sports, or pretending she's in Greece.

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