"Technology Is the Instigator of Change"
Kevin MacLellan '89, Chairman of NBCUniversal International, speaks with
students about how his Marist experience continues to help him succeed in the
fast-changing communications industry
Earlier this semester, Kevin MacLellan '89, visited campus to speak with students about the important role his Marist experience played in his professional and personal success and about what kinds of career opportunities they might find in the fast-evolving global media landscape.
As Chairman of NBCUniversal International, MacLellan is responsible for day-to-day operations and international expansion for NBCUniversal businesses outside of North America, including theatrical, home entertainment and television. His role involves international oversight of some of the world's premier media brands, including Bravo, Hulu, and Universal Pictures.
"I loved my time at Marist, and I always think that Marist gave me a great deal of what I needed to actually go on with life in a much more happy and successful way then when I got here," MacLellan told a room full of communication majors while giving an overview of his education and start in the media industry.
In tracing the line from his first post-graduation job as a freelance production assistant for MTV to his current position overseeing a multi-billion dollar business, MacLellan said his career assent boiled down to one essential element – "I rarely said no to an opportunity."
That openness to new opportunities led MacLellan to increasingly significant roles at HBO, Sony Pictures,and Comcast, now NBCUniversal's parent company.
It's no accident that MacLellan has spent much of his career living and working abroad. Speaking of one of his early international assignments, MacLellan said, "I got this job to go overseas very much because I went to Marist abroad, and that gave me my leg up, that was my difference versus a lot of the other people in that interview process," including top students from Ivy League schools. MacLellan describes his study abroad experience in England as a truly transformative experience for a young man who'd spent most of his life in his native Brooklyn and never before been overseas.
'Take an economics course'
Having spent most of his career on the creative side, MacLellan told students his biggest piece of advice to them is to take an economics course to help them understand the fundamentals of the business.
That understanding becomes more important as the pace of change in the industry continues to accelerate. MacLellan pointed out that his career began in an era when few people owned personal computers and television offerings consisted of about 60 cable channels and three national networks. Now, of course, smartphones and streaming services offer a seemingly endless array of always available channels.
"Technology is the instigator of change," MacLellan said, adding that he has seen more change in the industry in the last five years of his career than he did in the first 20.
The upshot for today's Marist students amid all this disruption is opportunity. "This industry is exploding," MacLellan said. "Opportunity for you is exploding, particularly on the creative side."
Know the business, MacLellan concluded. Know who owns what, who is growing, and who is declining. Know who is making what deals. To emphasize the importance of studying deeply the industry they want to work in, MacLellan left every student with a copy of top entertainment industry trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter.
After his presentation and answering student questions, MacLellan dropped by the Lowell Thomas Communications Center studios for a sit-down interview with Associate Professor of Communication Keith Strudler, where he talked more about his Marist experience and what the fast-changing entertainment industry holds – including the growing role of virtual and augmented reality – for today's Marist students looking to get into the business.