People & Respectful Relationships, Key to A+E’s Success

CEO Nancy Dubuc speaks to executives at IESE NY Center


Nancy Dubuc

Ms. Dubuc was the featured guest at IESE’s New York Center’s Global Business Leadership Forum on December 2, interviewed by IESE Prof. Bill Baker. A+E Network is privately owned by Disney and Hearst; industry pundits estimate the company makes annual profit of $1.2 billion annually.

"A+E’s success comes from our emphasis on the three P’s," said Ms. Dubuc: people, programs and partnerships. In the media and entertainment sector, Ms. Dubuc is a rising star. At 44, she is just the third CEO in the company’s 29-year history.

A+E consists of six networks. Of the 50 top entertainment shows currently airing, A+E has 18 shows on that list. A+E has shown great cleverness and originality in the slate of programs their networks show: e.g., the wildly successful Duck Dynasty, Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men, Swamp People, Project Runway, just to name a few.

When asked why she thought Duck Dynasty, the biggest hit ever for A+E, is such a huge success and cultural phenomenon, Ms. Dubuc said that wholesomeness, intrinsic to each episode, plays a big part of the show’s wide popularity.

"The family values part of the show is unexpected, and there is not a lot of that on TV right now. People can watch it with their kids," she said.

During the hour long breakfast discussion before a crowd of executives, Ms. Dubuc shared her insights about how she leads this successful content company that distributes its programs to 160 countries in 37 different languages.

"It’s no secret we are a rapidly evolving business," said Ms. Dubuc. "It used to be networks were the brand, then it was the shows, now it is the people. We need to control that." "We treat our talent and producers as partners", she said.

"You have to have more transparency with your teams and partners. Everybody needs to know the score, the playbook and the strategy.....I want everyone to know the cards I play with," said Ms. Dubuc who takes pride in the way company treats their many producers and show-runners. "These professionals who form the backbone of content creation, the core of A+E’s business, have in the past often been treated as second rate citizens", said.

"I take a different approach. Without the producers, there is no increase in revenue. At one point, we took the producers away on retreat. They could not believe we were paying for their flights. They were shocked people treated them with respect. This was a turning point for our business...we told them how we planned to grow," said Ms. Dubuc.