Step out of the midtown Manhattan building that houses the Institute for Media and Entertainment and it is a short walk to the offices of some of the biggest names in media and entertainment: everyone from Viacom and News Corporation to Random House and TV networks such as ABC and CBS.
“Everybody is our neighbour,” says Jim Palos, IME’s president. “Place matters a lot, so it makes sense to be in the middle of the action.”
The school’s location is not its only advantage, however. In this business, timing is everything and IME’s is immaculate. Established three years ago, the institution’s executive courses have come on to the market at a time when new technologies are turning many media businesses upside down and years of consolidation has turned small, creative operations into sprawling global enterprises.
Marc Robertson, IME’s executive director, points to some of the challenges faced by the media and entertainment industry.
“It’s about how to manage the brand, how to protect the content, what are the right platforms to use, who to partner with from a technology standpoint and how to monetise it,” he says. “And that’s changing and flipping every day – it’s not for the faint of heart.”
As a result, many of the sector’s leaders are looking to acquire business and management skills. “These are large, vibrant industries increasingly open to professional management,” says Mr Palos. “In an environment of great change it helps to be grounded in the fundamentals.”
The institute has also secured top-notch partners. “We could either take decades to build high-end faculty, or we could go out and get it,” says Mr Palos. “So we looked at schools we could work with.”
In the US, IME has established a partnership with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, with Kellogg faculty such as Steve Burnett, associate dean of executive education and a professor of strategic management, and Julie Hennessey, associate professor of marketing, coming to New York to teach classes at IME.
The institute also has an overseas partner in Iese, the Barcelona and Madrid-based business school of the University of Navarra. “These industries are looking more and more out to the world so we wanted a strong international partner,” says Mr Palos, “And Iese is about as good as it gets.”
In addition to the academic staff, IME brings in industry practitioners. Among them are Edward Desmond, president of Time Inc Interactive, and Susan Hunt Stevens, senior vice-president of circulation and marketing at the Boston Globe and Boston.com.
“We bring actual experience of the industry in, as well as academics, so it’s not just theoretical,” says Mr Robertson, who once ran production companies and produced TV shows. “And when you combine the two, it’s extremely powerful.”
Courses are generally three-day monthly sessions that lead to a certificate. However, a piece of paper is not what these students are after. In researching what potential participants valued most in an executive education course, IME found that while prestigious faculty, relevance of topic and convenient scheduling and location ranked highly, top of the list was networking.
In this respect, Mr Palos believes IME is well positioned. “People want to be with their peers from other companies,” he says. “If someone from Fox or Time Warner goes to a general executive programme, they could bond with someone from a rubber tyre company – but how much does that really help them?”
IME attracts executives from a range of media and entertainment sectors, including magazines, book publishing, newspapers, TV and the music business. It also draws in people from organisations ranging from corporations to small production companies and independent publishing houses. Students come from the US as well as Spain, Argentina, Germany and Japan.
“It’s a nice mix,” says Mr Palos. “And this is important because at a time when sub-sectors are converging, it’s great to have the different verticals represented. It makes for a nice academic interplay that mirrors what’s going on in the marketplace.”