In our ongoing 1stFive interview series, MediaVillage.com identifies rising stars in media and asks them for insight into their career paths. How did they land in media? What did they study in school? What do they perceive as the greatest challenges to the media industry? In this installment we check in with Douglas Ponsot of Sony Pictures Television. Douglas has been with Sony for over four years and currently serves as a research analyst supporting the ad sales team. A New York native and TV junkie, he shared with us his thoughts on everything from mentorship to measurement.
Tell us about your hometown.
I grew up in Chappaqua, New York, which is a small suburb about an hour north of Manhattan. Chappaqua is a relatively close-knit town where you know everyone in your graduating class by their first and last name.
What were your career aspirations growing up?
When I was very young, I wanted to play for the New York Knicks. That dream ended when I was old enough to realize I wasn’t going to grow to be 6’6”. I always knew that I wanted to make a career out of something that I loved, and I was a TV addict, so growing up I was focused on getting into the media world in some capacity.
Where did you go to school and what did you study? What was the most valuable thing you learned in school?
I went to Indiana University, Bloomington (Go Hoosiers!), and studied Telecommunications with a focus on Industry and Management, and a minor in Business. The most valuable thing I learned in school was to take advantage of the resources provided to me. In school, this meant building relationships with professors and meeting with them regularly, and learning how to be successful in the field they were teaching. It is just as applicable in the office setting, where I try to learn from everyone around me who has years of experience and knowledge to share.
What is one thing you wish you would have known the day after you graduated from college?
I wish I knew that I would find a job I loved and to not stress about the entire process. Everything happens for a reason.
How did you land your first job?
I was constantly checking the Sony Pictures Television job board to see if any entry-level positions had become available, knowing that a trainee position would be a great way for me to prove myself and start to build a career. I was fortunate enough to get an interview for a research trainee position at SPT, and have been with the team ever since (over four years).
Why did you decide on a career in media?
I have always loved watching television and movies, so I knew that media would be a career path that I would never get tired of. It was very important for me to find a career where I would come to work every day and enjoy what I was doing, and I definitely found that at Sony Pictures Television.
Tell me about your company and current role.
Sony Pictures Television produces and distributes programming worldwide in every genre and for every platform. I am a research analyst and support SPT’s ad sales team, which handles the commercial inventory and brand integrations in SPT’s syndicated series including The Dr. Oz Show, Seinfeld, The King of Queens, Rules of Engagement and Community. In my current role, I track our current programming as well as work on primary research for it.
What about research and data excites you?
I like to solve problems. I always get excited when people come to me with a challenge or question and I am able to be analytical and come up with solutions for them.
Is there a particular project or assignment you've enjoyed at SPT? What was it and how were you involved?
I have really enjoyed working with our primary research panel, which we leverage to get a more qualitative view of our programming from our viewer’s perspective. When we conduct panels, I write the initial survey, program it and then analyze and deliver conclusions using the completed survey data.
What advice would you give to your 15-year old self?
I would tell myself to invest in Netflix and Apple when their stock was a fraction of what it is today. Seriously though, I would tell my 15-year old self to do what I love, and not to feel pressured to do what other people may have felt I should choose as a career. I believe when you do what you love, you will ultimately be successful in that field because you are passionate about it.
Do you have a mentor? How have you learned from each other?
My mentor is a former colleague who really helped train me when I started at SPT and helped me develop many of the skills I have today. She was always available and accessible to me, and always more than willing to help me. Over time, she began to ask for and value my opinions, which gave me confidence to take more ownership of future projects.
What advice would you give to your superiors as they tackle today's challenges in the industry?
I think for anyone the most important thing is to always keep an open mind and accept change. In today’s industry you really have to be willing to adapt quickly and try to stay ahead of the curve, or at least on par with it to be successful. Just because something has worked in the past does not mean it will lead to success in the future.
What do you see as challenges in the media business today? How do you think they can be overcome?
One of the biggest challenges in media today is the fact that audiences are watching on their own schedule, whenever and wherever they want. That's exciting for viewers but presents all sorts of problems to accurately measure all the viewing that's happening. Measurement companies like Nielsen, comScore and Symphony are trying to provide new solutions for cross-platform measurement. We've explored some of the data and are excited to see more to better understand how audiences are engaging with our programs on different platforms.
What media trends are you most excited about?
I am very excited about the continued growth of SVOD and the fantastic original content available on that platform, some of which Sony is producing. I think that SVOD allows for some very creative storytelling that would likely not air on traditional broadcast or cable networks.
What is your favorite new trending app or technology?
I don’t have much experience using it yet, but virtual reality really interests me and I can’t wait to see how it is going to change entertainment in the coming years. The one time I sampled the technology, it put me on stage at a concert with a 360-degree view of the crowd, the artist and the venue, making me feel like I was really there. I’m excited to see what PlayStation is going to offer.
Who would be your three ideal dinner guests?
Kobe Bryant, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Ferrell.
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