She’s just 33 years old, but Tina Sharkey has worked with some big names in media.
Steve Ross. Barry Diller. And now: Elmo. As group vice president and general manager of Children’s Television Workshop Online (www.ctw.org), Sharkey is charged with turning some of television’s most beloved characters into what she calls “collaborative family entertainment” for pre-schoolers, their older siblings and parents. Replete with familiar Sesame Street faces, the CTW site is an educational tool amibitously aimed at building community offline within the home, as opposed to on the Net.
The non-profit organization could hardly have found a more qualified community builder. Sharkey’s interest in things digital goes back to her first job after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. Qualified to work on high-definition TV and video, she later moved on to Frankfurt Balkind Partners, the New York-based ad agency, where as a senior director of client services she met Diller and Ross.
“She’s very energetic and ambitious,” says Aubrey Balkind, president and CEO of Frankfurt Balkind Partners. “People get taken with her.”
Diller was so taken that he brought her over to Q2, the spin-off of home shopping network, QVC. There, Sharkey met iVillage’s current chairman and CEO Candice Carpenter, then president of Q2, and the two eventually conceived and incubated iVillage.
“We said, what if we were to create communities for real people?” Sharkey says. Sharkey spent two-and-a-half years at iVillage and was both a senior vice president of programming and chief community architect there.
With all her experience in building online communities and brand strategy for established media companies, she moved on last year to CTW, a relative unknown in online circles. “I wanted to run something,” Sharkey says. “And I felt like I was ready.” Sharkey had already experienced marketing, business development and programming. She had met with iVillage’s venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and sat in on enough board meetings. She wanted to apply what she knew about start-ups and what she knew about the heritage of a big brand.
“At first I thought, Big Bird, OK,” Sharkey says. “Then I thought, Big Bird, cool.” Sharkey believes her next role will be in a world where television and computers meet. “The installed base of couches in America is bigger than the installed base of home offices,” she says. “I want to see what the effect will be.”
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