In Depth

Women in Television: Sandra Stern

Who: Sandra Stern, chief operating officer, Lionsgate Television

Women in TV

Why: Those “Mad Men” didn’t just didn’t end up on AMC by luck. While creator Matthew Weiner rightfully gets the bulk of the credit for the show, Ms. Stern—along with Lionsgate President of Programming and Production Kevin Beggs—made sure Mr. Weiner had the creative and financial support to produce one of the most lush-looking shows on TV on a basic-cable budget. Ms. Stern has been instrumental in putting together a business model that allows Lionsgate—one of the few indies left in TV—to exist as one of the key suppliers to cable. In addition to “Mad,” the studio produces signature series for Showtime (“Weeds”) and Starz (“Crash”). Lionsgate also increased its presence on broadcast TV this summer via the NBC anthology “Fear Itself,” a so-so ratings performer that nonetheless provided the Peacock with a financially attractive alternative to summer repeats.

Ms. Stern has been aggressive in finding new ways to finance series, exploiting tax credits and finding international equity financing. “I need to know that in failure, we won’t lose money,” Ms. Stern said.

What: When asked what stands out most in her office, Ms. Stern offered two answers. “To me, the most interesting thing is a picture I took of my grandmother that sits on my desk. It’s what grounds and centers me,” she said. “Somebody else might say it’s the picture of me done all in chocolate and candy. It was a gift!”