Jackal Group CEO Gail Berman‘s transition from Hollywood power player to digital entrepreneur wasn’t easy.
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“Going viral is not a business plan,” Berman told an audience at the 6th annual Power Women’s breakfast on Wednesday at the Montage in Beverly Hills, Calif.
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She spoke on her move from president of Paramount during what she called a “difficult time” to her startup in the digital space at BermanBraun, which she co-founded in 2007 with former Yahoo exec Lloyd Braun.
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“We set about to build a digital company,” said Berman. “To say that no one understood what we were talking about would be an understatement.”
But Berman noted that her own learning curve in the digital space was “extraordinarily humbling – because it was difficult.”
“Hollywood had been up there already and done a lot of damage,” she said regarding Silicon Valley. “We had to build a business from the ground up in a very strategic way at a time that we didn’t understand all of the strategies.”
But despite the tension between northern and southern California, it was facing her own deficiencies in the space that challenged her most.
“I was forcing myself at that moment in my career to learn something new,” Berman said. “I had a skill set that I knew how to produce … I did not have the skill set for this.”
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She noted how difficult it was to communicate with the engineers who were helping her build her platform.
“Just the language differences,” Berman said noting that “programming” to Silicon Valley doesn’t mean content and the word “user” doesn’t mean audience.
“I would get scared about it. I didn’t want to sound stupid, but I was stupid,” Berman said. “I had to educate myself and that was hard.”
Berman sold her stake in BermanBraun earlier this year and has moved into back into producing television with her newly formed Jackal Group, a independent production entity formed in partnership with Fox Networks Group. The partnership also will provide opportunities in digital and feature films as well as live theatrical entertainment. Before joining Paramount, Berman served from 2000 to 2005 as president of Entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company. She helped develop and produce “American Idol,” “24,” “House,” “Arrested Development,” “Bones” and “Family Guy.”
In regards to how women in Hollywood are currently handling the transition to digital, Berman is optimistic.
“I think that people are moving along,” she said. “Building something and being able to value something and be able to sell it …it’s not something that we as women are often comfortable doing.”
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