Sep 24, 2020
By Nicole Bitette
As Samantha Cooper, EVP of global content licensing at ViacomCBS, prepares to receive a Wonder Woman award this year, she opens up about the network of women in her life.
Behind every great woman, is another great woman. Or, in the case of Samantha Cooper, EVP of global content licensing at ViacomCBS: eight great women.
Cooper is one of nine women who launched their careers in the late 1990s in Viacom’s affiliate sales and marketing team. They have since formed an unbreakable support network that has bound the women together through every personal and professional triumph and hurdle over the two-plus decades since, even as most have moved on to leadership positions elsewhere in the industry. These self-described “Nasty Women” (a reference to an insult leveled against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign) are together for vacations and holidays, and during periods of illness or loss. They banter, debate, laugh, vent, and celebrate constantly on an anything-goes WhatsApp group chat that acts as their virtual support system and first-stop professional network.
“We came together at a time in our lives when most of us were young in our careers. It was before we got married or had kids. It's a big support system that is super tribal, but deep and personal. If any of us fell and broke our hip and went to the emergency room, you'd let one of them know, and they'd take care of everything else,” Cooper shared. “When good things happen, it's a rallying cry. When bad things happen, it's a warm blanket. And it's really all about girl power.”
When Multichannel News told Cooper she'd receive the Wonder Woman award this year for her many achievements over two decades negotiating deals with the largest distributors in television, she immediately informed the group. The congratulatory messages rolled in, but mostly the group wasn’t surprised as they all agreed it was a longtime coming.
Nicole Browning, who led the Affiliate Sales and Marketing team in the 90s and early 2000s, hired all of the women in the group: Cooper; Friday Abernethy, SVP of content distribution for Univision; Deena Demasi, EVP of marketing and communications for ViacomCBS’ U.S. Networks Distribution; Meg Lowe, digital distribution, revenue, and growth for NBC Sports Network; Courtney Menzel, EVP of content distribution & partnerships for EPIX; Juliette Morris, CEO of TuneIn; Alden Mitchell Budill, head of business development and content Strategy, CrunchyRoll; and Stephanie Ruyle, EVP, licensing, ASCAP.
Browning was the first of the nine ladies to receive the Wonder Woman Award, in 2002, which honors standout women in the TV and media industry. This year, Abernethy is also a recipient.
“I certainly had a hand in mentoring and bringing them on and I'm so proud,” Browning said. “They deserve every bit of accolades that they receive. I can assure you that they are wonder women in the most profound way.”
For Abernethy, she said accepting the award in the same year as Cooper is “icing on the cake.”
“It really is so special,” she said. “The narrative that women can’t get along isn’t true and we’re a perfect example of the unconditional support we have for one another and that goes for the group as a collective as well.”
"Never in my life have I met a group of people, and most especially women, where the connection and the support was really instantaneous."
CEO of TuneIn
"I give a lot of credit to Viacom and the content distribution team, which has a long history of having female leadership. There was always a real emphasis on women and diversity, even when it wasn’t cool. I always rooted for Viacom while I was there, and when I left. There were many things Viacom has done well for a long time and I think we’re a group of women that were the benefactors of that."
EVP, Licensing, ASCAP
"Having a trusted set of colleagues that completely understand what you’re talking about is a huge tool in making sure that you’re thinking of everything. We have all helped each other as we have migrated through different experiences in our careers."
Alden Mitchell Budill
Head of Business Development and Content Strategy, CrunchyRoll