Office With a View: Pamela Duckworth says that embracing rejection and failure in her career has pushed her to work harder
Pamela Duckworth, the head of Fubo Sports Network, is one of the rare examples of women rising to the top in sports media. She credits her career success to “having a thick skin” in the male-dominated industry.
“You have to have a thick skin because when you’re doing sports, especially if you’re doing live sports, everything is coming at you so quickly that you just have to roll with it,” she told TheWrap for this week’s Office With a View. “You have to be like, ‘OK, I can fix this’ and be solution-oriented.”
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Duckworth, who also oversees the OTT streamer’s original sports programming, noted that when she started in her career, she was “one of like two or three females” working on car racing.
“I worked my way up and I was really fortunate to have a woman named Geneva Brignolo who was one of the producers when I was just like a field reporter-type producer. She took me under her wing and I learned so much from her on how to handle everything out in the field,” she added. “So I was just really lucky. I just have a lot of people who just believed in me and just pulled me up through the ranks.”
When asked how she developed her thick skin, Duckworth couldn’t pinpoint a specific experience. She said it’s simply her “approach to everything.”
“I take my work seriously, but I don’t take it personally. You hear ‘no’ a lot in this business,” she said. “It’s a cliche, but it’s true — for every idea that gets made, there are a dozen that don’t. So by not taking rejection or failure personally, it’s allowed me to keep going and trying new things. I love when people tell me something isn’t possible, because it makes me work that much harder.”
Read on for more about Duckworth’s career and her plans for Fubo Sports in 2023 and beyond.
What is an important lesson that you’ve learned in your life or over your career that has impacted the way you work in your current job?
The No. 1 thing that I live and work by is all based on relationships. I believe that however you treat people, its how you would like to be treated. I don’t care what level you are.
I was very, very fortunate in my career that I have seldom had to do an actual interview for a job because it was all based on who I knew from the place that I was at the time. That even started in college when I was working at a public broadcasting station. A sports production company came into town and even though I was putting “Sesame Street” on the air at 6:30 in the morning for the PBS station, this company came in and said, ‘We’re going to do a car race this weekend’ and hired me as a P.A. And then from just working that one weekend, they decided that they liked how I worked, they took me on the road and that’s how I got into car racing.
And then from car racing, one of the guys on the car race was starting a little company called QVC and he said, ‘Hey, I think you would be great as a producer there.’ So I moved over to Philadelphia and started that company but continued to do car racing on the weekends. So I kind of always kept my toes in a couple different areas of television.
How did you make the leap from broadcasting to an executive role?
I think it’s been a natural evolution. I’m a producer at heart and so much of producing is managing. As I rose in my career, I never wanted to stop doing what I love most and have always been in roles that involved both production and management.
What is your advice for people looking to advance in their career?
My advice is just get out there and talk to people, network, take any job to start out with to see if you like it. What if you went to school for four or five years to get into this whole business and then you get your first gig and you find out you don’t like that certain area of what you graduated in, right? Just trying all of it when you’re young is the smartest thing to do. And like I said earlier, work on all your relationships, but just try it out.
You don’t want to be stuck in a job where you’re not having fun. That’s another one of my things, I have to have fun and I love the camaraderie of television when you’re building this stuff together and you have this great crew. It’s just one of my favorite things. I think you have to have the passion in order to be successful in this field — you have to truly, truly enjoy it.
What are Fubo Sports’ plans in 2023 and beyond?
Last year, we really kind of leaned into voice of the athlete. “No Chill With Gilbert Arenas,” T.O. and Hatch, and T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] and Orlando [Scandrick] and R. J. Hampton. We’re going to continue to grow those franchises and then we’re going to bring on some more athletes because we honestly believe that giving them a platform where they can show who they really are, right? It’s not just what you see on the court, it’s not what you just see on the field. They have have political views, they have their likes and dislikes when it comes to entertainment and we give them the opportunity to do that. We don’t tell them not to say things. We don’t hinder them in any way. We literally tell them they can talk about anything and I think they really like that, they like to have that platform.
We’ve been testing a bunch of fighting, like MMA fighting. Like for instance, we have Shawn Merriman, an ex-NFL star. He has his company Lights Out. We have a deal with him. We have the PFL Challenger Series, which is doing extremely well. That’s a competition series where all the fighters go against each other for the potential to win a million dollars in a contract with PFL and we do bare-knuckle boxing, which is super crazy, but people love it. Darts does well. Poker. I don’t sit around and watch people play poker, but everyone loves to watch poker. So we test all this stuff, it does well and then we’ll create blocks for the viewers.
We started our relationship [with Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort] about a year and a half ago and then sealed the deal last August. And we’re going to be co-producing originals, Ryan will be starring in one of them, which is going to be huge because he has not really done a TV show per se besides “Welcome to Wrexham,” which obviously is a massive hit and it’s awesome. So working with Ryan, George [Dewey] and James [Toney] and their whole team has been amazing, putting this network together, and we’re going to launch this summer. So it’s been kind of crazy — but a good crazy — creating every single thing together that you have to do to launch a network. And I think it’s going to be great and we feel very fortunate that they teamed up with us to do something like this.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Lucas Manfredi is a TV Business reporter with TheWrap. He has a Bachelor of Science in Television-Radio from Ithaca College. He can be reached at email@example.com.