She grew up in a pretty traditional working-class household in London and was never under any impression she wouldn’t have to support herself. When she was ten years old, she won a scholarship to a fee-paying, private school and although she didn’t enjoy it at the time, it was useful because it placed more emphasis on academic performance than the state-run school that her brothers and sisters attended. The school’s motto was “knowledge is no longer a fountain sealed”, which was a reference to opening up education as much to girls as boys. Today, she is the international commercial director, Bloomberg Television. Lindsey Oliver is my Leading Woman for this week.
Oliver is responsible for Bloomberg Television’s distribution across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and has been leading the channel’s international content localisation initiative. She has overseen the completion of several agreements which aim to combine Bloomberg’s expertise and strength in international business and financial content creation with local news providers in key markets, including Bloomberg TV Africa, Bloomberg HT in Turkey, and AlArab in the Middle East.
She is both an experienced media professional and trained lawyer and has worked for large media organisations in both capacities. After ten years as general counsel at CNBC Europe, Oliver became the head of its distribution team. She then joined Al Jazeera English at launch as commercial director based in Doha, Qatar. After successfully rolling out the channel, Oliver moved into the Internet television arena with Jalipo, an online content provider, before taking up her current position at Bloomberg Television in 2008.
In helping to distribute Bloomberg TV across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Lindsey speaks of her challenges. “We have seen tremendous growth in Bloomberg Television’s EMEA distribution in the last few years,” she says. “When I arrived at Bloomberg in 2008, our English-language television channel was available in 28 million households across Europe, Middle East and Africa, and now we are available in 211 million households in the same region. The biggest challenge was to increase the distribution of Bloomberg TV to all of the major distributors in EMEA and getting the distributors to understand that a business news channel can be of interest to a much wider audience than just financial sector professionals.”
Then she adds, “Finding a balance between pushing boundaries with new projects without compromising Bloomberg’s reputation in any way is also a challenge, and always being prepared to walk away from a deal that is lucrative but doesn’t match with the values of the Bloomberg brand is essential.”
While at Al Jazeera, Lindsey admits that she thoroughly enjoyed being the international commercial director at its launch. “It was a spectacular project and a real challenge,” she tells me, adding, “When I left, I feared I would never have such an exciting job with such variety and potential again. It was wonderful, therefore, to find the position of international commercial director at Bloomberg TV which has much variety and potential for growth. A combination of Bloomberg’s unsurpassed reputation for quality, intelligence, impartiality and integrity together with the exciting opportunity it provides to grow its television and digital business across EMEA are the reasons I chose to be at Bloomberg.”
Lindsey says her background in Law gives her more confidence during the negotiation process. “I can make assessments on certain legal aspects of a deal without having to take time out of meetings to get separate legal advice. Of course, all agreements at Bloomberg are always checked by our legal department too, but it makes the negotiation of a deal much quicker and streamlined if I can make a provisional judgement on the spot.”
Not quite long ago, Lindsey was in Nigeria and she recounts her experience. “The overwhelming impression was of energy and enterprise,” she says, “and I must admit I was surprised by the enthusiasm and optimism about the Nigerian commercial sector. Everyone I spoke to told me that there was huge potential in the Nigerian market and in other markets throughout Africa and that the time was right for Bloomberg Africa TV to launch there.”
Engaging her clients in international business comes easy for Lindsey, who also creates content with local news providers. “Finding the right partner is key,” she tells me. “We look for a partner who can bring local knowledge, expertise and understanding of what viewers will want from local Bloomberg Television programming. Bloomberg Television brings international information, data and analysis – we have 146 news bureaux worldwide and more than 2,400 reporters, correspondents and producers – but it’s the combination of this together with our partners’ local knowledge and expertise that is crucial.”
Lindsey is ardent about women, and she tells why: “I’m British and we Brits all love an underdog. My passion is more for people who are at an unfair disadvantage for whatever reason and I try to support them as best I can – obviously, that’s not just women, but I suppose being a woman myself, I have some experience of discrimination. Having said that, I can’t say that being a woman has ever really got in my way, but then I was fortunate to have a good education and I believe that can help enormously,” she says.
At one time or the other, we have all had important moments not to be forgotten in a jiffy. Lindsey shares hers. “A few years ago I had a meeting scheduled with Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. I was supposed to change planes in Nairobi but missed my connecting flight. To cut a long story short, I found myself stranded in Nairobi for a week without credit cards, cash or a mobile phone. I’ve never forgotten how bitterly disappointed I was to miss that meeting. A couple of years later when I finally visited Johannesburg, I spent an afternoon in Soweto at the ‘Hector Pieterson Museum’ which commemorates the uprising in 1976. I found it incredibly moving and to some extent it made up for my missing that meeting with Nelson Mandela.”