Pat Fili speech for New York Women in Film and Television

8:35 pm Speeches - scripts - annual reports

Thursday, Feb. 17

Pat leads with a casual summation of her background and then goes into…

I’ve also been asked to talk about the day-to-day mechanics of my job. Mechanic might be a good word to describe some of what I do – everything from fixing deals with affiliates to repairing relationships with agents and stars.

By definition, I’m responsible for all programming and business areas of the network. This includes television network sales, affiliate relations, marketing, broadcast operations and engineering, Daytime, Entertainment and News. I also coordinate with ABC Sports and Children’s Programming.

What’s all that mean? It means my desk is messy, my door is almost always open and my phone rings practically non-stop. It means that by the end of the day, my hair is pulled back on top of my head, my kids and husband have called at least twice, and I’m still wading through my daily 200 or so emails in the hopes of getting home in time for dinner.

Every day is different, even though I often repeat many of the same tasks over and over. I pour over budgets (not my favorite job). I screen pilots (much more interesting). I read script proposals (exciting if it’s another “Practice,” not so exciting if it’s another “Wasteland.”)

Luckily, I live only 7 minutes from the office. So my weekday always starts the same way: I drop my kids off at school at 8:10 a.m. and by 8:30 I’m either at my desk or, more than likely, at a breakfast meeting. Like most of you, I spend half my life in such meetings: meetings with agents, meetings with executives, even meetings with nuns from my old high school. (They want me to get more involved with the school system. Of course I said yes. I learned years ago never to say no to Sister Mary Margaret. )

Just about every day I have a sit-down lunch with someone, or attend a lunch meeting. You can’t imagine how often I wish I could just enjoy a ham sandwich and a diet Twinkie at my desk while watching “All My Children.” Actually, I really enjoy most of my lunches, especially those I have with the directors and managers of various departments. That’s when I find out what some of the 3,900 people who work for the network are really thinking, when I find out what issues are important to them. At those lunches, which I have once a week, employees can ask me anything they want. They can tell me what’s on their mind, what’s making them happy and what they’d like to change.

I especially value face time – meeting one on one with the 10 executives who report directly to me. At those meetings I always refer to an ever-growing list of pending issues in each area, whether the area is finance or news, sports or daytime dramas. I call that list my Bible. It tells me what’s important to the network, to our viewers and to the people who work for me and with me.

Here are four examples I can think of (tick them off on your fingers).

Who will replace Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America” – if and when they decide to leave? How will we get the audience used to new faces? New hosts?

Peter Jennings decides he wants to write a book. We have to figure out when, and how we will develop a television series around it, like we did with his last project, the enormously satisfying “The Century.”

Right now, we’re also trying to decide what to do with our hit primetime show “Spin City.” As I’m sure you’ve read, Michael J. Fox is leaving the show at the end of the season to devote more time to his family. Is Charlie Sheen coming on board? How much would it cost us to get him?

In March, ABC is again hosting the Academy Awards, a 3-½ hour primetime broadcast. Each year, millions of people worldwide tune in to ABC to ogle the stars, make fun of the clothes and, hopefully, to laugh at Billy Crystal’s jokes. What am I doing this week? Deciding who will get the 21 pairs of tickets I’ve been given. And before you ask, no, I don’t have any extras.

In my job, it’s very important to me to be connected, to guard against becoming isolated or what I call “ABCentric.” By its very nature, this business — the communications business — is a very inter-dependent business. Cultivating contacts over the years and guarding those interpersonal relationships almost always guarantees results when I need a favor for the company or if I have a question.

As you might imagine, I often get calls from friends and former colleagues seeking career advice. I always try to take the time to give it, whether it’s in person, on the phone or through an email. The most important message I send: network, network, network. That means meeting for lunch, developing personal connections and getting out of the office to find out what people are thinking, what they’re watching, what they’re saying.

I’ve been in the TV business – both broadcast and cable – for nearly 25 years. And I can’t recall a more exciting or dynamic time. You’ve all heard of digital TV, but I doubt any of you actually own a digital television set. Yet. Don’t worry, you will. It’s as inevitable as a color TV was in the 1950s. Right now, the network is working hard to refine its digital strategy. I’m looking to hire what I call a “digital guru” – someone to catapult us into the digital era.

Another one of my many job descriptions is overseeing Human Resources for the network. That means I often have a hand in deciding which jobs to post, what people to hire and even how much to pay them. As you can imagine, I’ve had more than one meeting lately with Regis Philbin’s agent.

Every other week I spend 2-3 days in Los Angeles, where I’m relocating next fall along with most of my senior managers. So in between all my meetings, I’m also trying to find time to look for a new house and new schools for my two kids.

If I’m not traveling, my day usually ends — technically anyway — at 7 p.m., when I go home to spend a few hours with my children before they go to bed, and to have dinner with my husband. Since it’s really important to me to be home as much as possible with my family, I only accept one evening invitation a week. Some things I do drag my husband to. If it’s another black-tie dinner, he’s not so happy. But if it’s an All-Star Hockey game, like it was last weekend, he’s delirious.

Most nights, I work until 12:30 or 1, either reading scripts, screening tapes, reading the trades, emptying my In Box or answering emails.

And then, a few hours later, I’m at it once again. Luckily, I have a lot of stamina and I love variety. One thing is for certain: I’m never, ever, ever bored.

Thank you very much. Any questions?

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