Who puts together a television network schedule?

Fox launched "The Simpson's" against the highly-rated "Cosby Show," a move that proved successful. See pictures of more children's television shows.
© Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Fox

In 1989, the fledgling Fox network aired the first cartoon sitcom in primetime. "The Simpsons" was an instant hit. But for Fox, Sunday night success wasn't enough. The network executives decided to set their sights on the king of primetime comedy, "The Cosby Show," the highest rated sitcom on television for the past six years. In 1990, Fox moved "The Simpsons" from Sunday night to the 8 p.m. Thursday time slot, in direct competition with Cosby.

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"The Simpsons" didn't come close to beating "The Cosby Show" that first year (although it did win a few prized age groups) but the bold scheduling move was part of an overall marketing strategy. For Fox, the message was, "We're here. We're young. And we're coming after the big boys." Nearly 20 years later, "The Simpsons" is widely recognized as one of the most popular shows in TV history, and some of the credit for its early success belongs to that much-publicized scheduling coup.

The person in charge of putting together a TV network's schedule is the director of network programming. The job goes by many names, including president of TV entertainment, senior vice president for TV programming or vice president of program scheduling. Director of network programming is one of the highest positions in television production and requires a broad range of business, creative, technical and interpersonal skills.

In today's media climate, the director of network programming also needs to be highly adaptable. Never before have there been so many entertainment options for the consumer. To stay relevant with the audience, network programmers are branching out from television into digital content delivery such as the Internet, mobile devices and video on demand.

So what exactly are the job responsibilities of the director of network programming and how do you break into this high-power, high-pressure career? Read on to hear all about it.