By Michele Hush
The first thing to know about Abbe Raven, President and CEO of A&E Television Networks, is she’s not the type to let “no” slow her down. Consider the way she got her start in cable TV. As this former theatrical stage manager and schoolteacher told The New York Times last September, she called and called and called one particular cable network. Finally she met with an executive who told her, “You don’t have enough experience.” Abbe responded, “I will do anything,” and she meant it.
She started out making script copies and answering the phone while gradually learning the business. This is why people starting their careers should take Abbe at her word when she advises: “Be willing to start at the bottom and be willing to work your way up. If you learn the business from the bottom up, it is a huge advantage. Be loyal to those you work for. Be patient. My motto is ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ ”
The second thing to know about Abbe is her mother was a great influence on her life. “My mother was a bright young woman who had ambitions to be a writer or a lawyer,” Abbe says. Those ambitions were set aside when the Depression and World War II forced her to drop out of college. Abbe’s mother raised her two daughters before reviving her own ambitions. “She went back to college at night when I went off to the University of Buffalo,” Abbe explains. When graduation ceremonies for mother and daughter were scheduled for the same day, Abbe insisted on going to her mom’s “because I knew how long she waited to get there.” Looking back on things, she says her mother’s story taught her three powerful lessons: “One, it is never too late to pursue your dreams. Two, new beginnings are possible at any age. Three, education is a key to a richer and fuller life. ”
Abbe’s proudest professional achievements so far are being a part of the original team that launched the History Channel and the reinvention of A&E in 2003. “Both played a big part in my later becoming CEO of AETN,” Abbe admits. On the personal front, she’s proudest of “having a phenomenal family life — a great husband and a wonderful son.”
Abbe has won numerous industry awards and honors. Most recently, New York Women in Film & Television recognized her with a MUSE Award and The Hollywood Reporter named her one of the Top 5 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment. In 2009 she was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. But she says the Matrix Award stands out. “The fact that it comes from New York Women in Communications means so much because I’m a New York City kid. I grew up in Queens, attended New York City public schools and even got my masters here at Hunter College,” Abbe emphasizes.
“This is the city I love and where I spent my whole career, and to receive this award from my fellow New Yorkers and peers is truly special.”