Head of programming at Network Ten, Beverley McGarvey, started at the bottom and always focussed on the job at hand. In the seventh story in our Power Women series, she tells us how hard work and positive thinking fuelled her rise to the top.
From childhood, Northern-Ireland-born Beverley McGarvey was motivated, ambitious and obsessed with TV. “It was almost always more interesting than homework,” she admits.
No teen would disagree with her but McGarvey’s passion for the small screen went beyond momentary escapism and cemented, from an early age, as a determination to work in the business she idolised.
From the age of 14, her parents insisted she work part-time. "That taught me that you spend a long time in work, so I decided I had better study hard to make sure I could do something I loved," she says.
With her sights set on TV, she began, unphased, at the bottom. “I was given great advice early on which was to be focused on the job in hand and first-rate performance would lead to the next opportunity,” she says. “I started as a runner and learnt the industry from the bottom up.”
In 19 years she’s progressed from a promo producer at Indian media conglomerate UTV to network head of programming at Ten, taking over from David Mott in October last year at a time of great challenge and great change for Ten.
All eyes are on the Belfast-born exec to see whether her programming decisions can shift the tide of Ten’s fortunes in the coming year. A big job.
So what kind of shows does she want to see more of? “I love Australian drama and always like to see more quality drama in diverse genres on our screens. I also love traditional family entertainment shows,” she says.
According to McGarvey, great content will always be king. But the distribution methods will present the biggest challenges to broadcasters and production houses in the coming decade.
“The exciting thing about TV right now is that people are consuming more content than ever. People want to watch great shows and engage with them in an immediate and meaningful way. The challenge is to consistently deliver that experience in an evolving landscape.
“I think the industry will remain focused on brilliant content and the distribution mechanism will have moved forward to giving the consumer even more control than they have now.”
When it comes to maintaining a work/life balance, McGarvey says her performance at work depends fundamentally on the degree of down time she allows herself. “You cannot give anything professionally if you are burnt out and exhausted,” she says.
Travelling with her partner, visiting family in Ireland, yoga and pilates all help her relax. Positive thinking is also essential. "I consider negative thinking to be corrosive," she says.
When it comes to working in the ego-fueled domain that is TV, McGarvey believes the keys are respect and strength. Whether dealing with men or women, “you have to be firm in your values and confident enough to politely maintain a strong stance on issues as required,” she says.
Although two of the major production houses are now run by women, men still far outweigh women at executive and board level in this industry, but she’s never felt ostracised by the blokes around her.
“The senior male executives at Network Ten and at the other networks have genuinely never behaved in a boy’s club way with me,” she says. “I respect and have good relationships with all those I deal with and feel that respect is returned.”