Creator of the transformative slogan “Characters welcome” and head of the team that made USA Network the number one cable TV destination, Chris McCumber ’89 became president of USA Network Sept. 9.
Co-president for the past two and a half years, McCumber was previously executive vice president of marketing, digital, and brand strategy. He and his team came up with the brand identity in 2004, which led to industry kudos including Addy, Clio, and Web Marketing Association awards as well as exponential growth in viewers.
A government and law graduate, McCumber didn’t have dreams of becoming a network television executive, but he landed his first real “job” in television through an internship that Professor Jim Lennertz set up for him at the NBC affiliate in Allentown. “My assignment was to produce news stories about local government and cover the police beat,” he says. “I still remember the thrill of producing live television, and it gave me my first window into what has become a very fulfilling career.”
A former music director/DJ at WJRH and a budding filmographer, McCumber sidestepped into what proved to be a natural progression thanks to a Lafayette connection at MTV.
“At MTV, I started writing promos, started getting stuff on TV, got into marketing, and within that year knew I was never going to go to law school,” he says.
As a production assistant, McCumber’s break came when MTV spun off Ha!, which eventually became Comedy Central.
“I was sitting in the same room with the heads of programming, marketing, research, and ad sales,” he recalls, “and you could see how a network was built from the ground up. You sink or swim, which is an incredible way to learn.”
McCumber regularly helps Lafayette students who have an interest in the field. He sponsors externships, has helped students gain internships and jobs at NBC Universal, and has taught seminars for media courses on campus.
“I am very grateful for the education and experience that Lafayette gave me,” he says, crediting Josh Miller, professor of government and law: “He taught me how to write, to debate and present my ideas, and taught me how to think critically.” McCumber adds that his communication and writing skills were honed at Lafayette. “Both are critical tools in a business that is all about creating and marketing great content.”
McCumber is part of a Lafayette legacy family that includes father Bruce ’61, brother Tim ’92, and sister-in-law Meghan Shallow McCumber ’93.