Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight: Bryony Gagan (C ’95), Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs at Netflix

Bryony Gagan oversees all of Netflix’s business and legal affairs efforts related to content production, acquisition and distribution. Ms. Gagan is responsible for all music and other collection society licensing arrangements as well as guild and labor issues related to the service. In her role, she manages the negotiation of licensing and related arrangements with the studios, networks and producers that provide movies and television shows for Netflix’s subscription service in the US and various International territories, including Latin America, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

My career feels a bit more the result of luck and timing, with a hefty side of hard work, rather than any one big break. But joining Netflix in January of 2008, when we were just starting to stream moves & TV shows to laptops, was probably the best move I’ve ever made. The way I got there was a bit unusual: I was doing due diligence on another offer, and I reached out to someone who had been on the opposite side of the table on a deal I had handled and had just moved to a content acquisition role at Netflix. In the process of asking her for her sense of this company that I was considering, she suggested Netflix might need someone like me. A few short days later, after meeting a bunch of Netflix execs and being wowed by all of them and what they wanted to do, I was on board.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?

The toughest part for me is scaling to efficiently meet everything that is coming down the pike. Netflix is nothing if not ambitious, which is one of the things I love about it, and that means we’re willing to try new things all the time. Our programming, our deals and even our role under those deals have evolved pretty significantly in my seven years here. That’s one of the more rewarding aspects of the job: there is no shortage of issues of first impression, and we are always learning something new. It does mean, however, that spotting needs in advance and finding the right talent to lead those areas for my team is critical and a very big part of my job.

What is a current project you are working on that you are excited about?

Oof. I certainly can’t speak to anything we haven’t announced yet, but I will say that if you’re familiar with recent press stories you’ll be aware that we’re just dipping our toes into original movies. Some of these will hit theaters the same day they land on Netflix, and some will premiere exclusively on Netflix. That’s pretty exciting for us.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

Georgetown taught me to be curious and to communicate cleanly – two qualities that have been particularly valuable to me in doing what I do. I wouldn’t be able to structure complicated deals or advise on new issues nearly as effectively as I need to without understanding, for example, what’s going on in the media and entertainment space generally. I also wouldn’t be particularly persuasive – either to colleagues or externally – without being able to net out complicated and sometimes ambiguous information.

In fact, when I interview folks, I’m frequently asked what makes someone successful on my team and at Netflix. These are the two qualities – in addition to the necessary substantive knowledge, analytical horsepower and good judgment – that I cite.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

Learn as much as you can about the industry and where it’s going. Read everything. And work to understand the business from the perspective of something other than just a consumer of entertainment. That background and knowledge will provide context for the deals you do, and make you much more valuable to prospective colleagues and employers. (It will make your job much more interesting, too).

How is the digital world affecting your industry? How are you approaching this transformational change?

Openness – to experience, to feedback, to other views.

Trait You Most Admire in People:

Work in, or work closely with, your organization’s key revenue-driving departments.

Trait(s) You Most Admire in People:

Resourcefulness, and a will to win.

Favorite iPhone/iPad/Blackberry/Android App:

Waze, for my commute, and lately Vhoto, for taking photos from video.

Favorite Georgetown Professor:

I’m sure he wouldn’t remember me but Professor Bass taught a great English course my senior year. He also posted the syllabus on this thing called the “World Wide Web,” which threw us all for a loop…

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

Au Pied De Cochon for late night steak frites. I hear it closed recently. How sad.

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

Other than Au Pied De Cochon? I’ve got so many of them: arriving in the blazingly hot & humid August of ’91, to a dorm with no air-conditioning; having a sophomore year roommate who was cox of the men’s crew team and got up every morning around 5am; bagels for 35 cents at Vital Vittles; hanging out at Kramerbooks & Afterwords in Dupont Circle; and having so much free time….