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Fast Forward Awards 2021: Andrea Downing Q&A

PBS Distribution president Andrea Downing, recipient of Media Play News‘ fourth annual Fast Forward Award, juggles discs, digital and streaming to bring PBS programming to home viewers.

Media Play News asked Downing about running the public television system’s for-profit content distribution arm.

What drives you to succeed?

“I love the journey, the process of transforming organizations to meet market demands while they’re undergoing disruption. I came from a large family where I knew at a young age that I was going to be responsible for getting myself through college. I worked hard to accomplish that and learned along the way that the more I stepped in, the greater the impact I could have and the more rewarding it was.”

Do you believe it’s true that people learn from failures? Have you failed at something and learned from that failure?

“Absolutely. I fail all the time and apply those learnings to my approach wherever I can.”

What is your management style?

“To be both strategic and tactical while empowering others to make decisions. During the pandemic, I continue to be reminded how important communication is and that repetition is a good thing.”

What is your leadership philosophy?

“My philosophy is to be an authentic leader with integrity while being collaborative, and a creative and innovative thinker.”

What’s your favorite PBS program?

“It’s way too hard to pick a favorite PBS show — they are all so amazing. It’s one of the joys of my job that we are distributing such high-quality content and making a difference at the same time.”

What are a few of your favorite things, as Julie Andrews would say?

“I love exploring and learning new things — whether it’s new foods, traveling to new places, or anything, really. It’s one of the biggest lessons, or maybe reminders, of the pandemic for me; I really need to be active and doing things. I’m currently thinking about where I want to go and the experiences I want to have, so that once we’re able to travel again I won’t waste any time getting on the move.”

What about hobbies?

“My hobbies really have to do with exercise. I love to get out and walk, bike, run, golf, kayak, really almost anything outdoors. One of my favorite trips was spent kayaking down the Amazon in Brazil for five days. That was an incredible experience.”

If you weren’t at PBS, what else would you be doing?

“I honestly can’t imagine a better place for me than where I am. I love the complexity of the business, the impact we have every day in the lives of Americans and consumers internationally. We have built an incredible team that is smart, passionate about our mission, and instrumental to our success. What more could I ask for?”

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