On Thursday, March 26 Cablefax celebrated The Digital Hot List Awards at the Digital, Tech & Trailer Awards breakfast in NYC.
These innovative executives shepherd progress in social media, digital distribution, app development, web content, technology strategy, TV Everywhere/authentication and other cutting-edge multiplatform projects. The Digital Hot List celebrated their successes before more than 150 executives. Chatter flowed on the #CFXawards hashtag on Twitter. View Photos from the Awards Breakfast!
ESPN’s insatiable mobile audience is a priority for Deutsch, who works tirelessly to expand exposure for the company’s content as well as push to enhance the experience of users across platforms, including more live game streaming. Deustch says the industry needs to find a common platform for viewable ads. “Advertisers are seeking it, but there’s no independent and reliable way for publishers and advertisers to verify what is viewable,” he says.
Naide’s Brand Effect study proved smart social media marketing can be both valuable and quantifiable. He has also created social programs to enhance digital and offline programs while uncovering revenue-driving opportunities. “If a digital brand campaign is intended to increase awareness, then a brand lift study is required to determine success,” he says. “It’s important to note that digital campaigns can drive sales, awareness and consideration depending on the platforms and tactics used. Therefore, it’s imperative that success metrics be defined up front along with a thorough understanding about what/how they can be measured by platform.”
YouTube Space NY
Relis has been a key architect of YouTube’s original programming strategy since 2007 and now heads the company’s sweeping 20,000-square-foot creative playground, which opened its doors in New York last fall. Located across the street from parent Google’s HQ, YT Space NY offers an extremely well-appointed spot for developers to finesse their content. This latest YouTube Space follows similar openings in Los Angeles, London and Tokyo—though Relis already has put his unique stamp on the place and no doubt will continue to do so.
Disney/ABC Television Group
A celebrated first-mover on numerous industry innovations during his tenure, Cheng continues to set the pace on digital media deployments that enhance the entire Disney/ABC stable of content, including the robust line of WATCH apps. What’s he most excited about this year? TV Everywhere becoming a reality. “That certainly won’t happen overnight, but we’ve made great strides… and I feel the industry is really close to solving some of the issues that linger.” The industry’s greatest challenge, he argues, is getting measurement issues resolved.
Macey knows that increased engagement across digital platforms means increased ratings for WE tv’s programming, and she’s dedicated to creating inclusive environments online and on mobile, including the “WatchIt With” social offering that connects viewers with show talent. In 2014 she expanded WEtv.com to include meme generators “Tamar Talks” and “Snark Generator,” and other interactive features that propelled site visits to an all-time high. Not surprisingly, engagement is the most important metric to Macey, who says that “to know that our viewers/users are truly interacting with the content we are pushing out is the ultimate win.”
When DreamWorks Animation came looking for a way to connect with the YouTube generation, Robbins’ AwesomenessTV had the perfect solution. Now with Hearst onboard as partial owner, Robbins is busy building out the rapidly growing MCN, which counts more than 800 million monthly views and a subscriber base of more than 114 million. Spoken like a true disruptor, Robbins says, “We need to get in front of the changes that are taking place in the industry. Instead of fighting them we need to take advantage of the disruption in our business to create new opportunities.”
ESPN.com’s first major overhaul in more than five years, to officially launch in April with a mobile-first mentality and greater continuity with SportsCenter, is top of mind for Millman this year. The new site will no doubt incorporate greater pro basketball content thanks to the company’s new deal with the NBA. Millman says the industry needs to better understand both real-time analytics and “how to capitalize on the distribution platforms at our disposal outside of our main platforms.”
Redesigning and expanding IFC’s digital properties, and infusing social media conversation around all facets of the network are among Moore’s accomplishments since he took charge of IFC’s digital business two years ago. The results speak for themselves: a 79 percent jump in site visitors January-October 2014 from the prior year, increased ratings for many of the network’s key shows and innovative launches like the IFC Comedy Crib digital hub. Despite the content or platform, Moore prefers the television to any other viewing device. “No matter what I watch, or where it comes from, or how it’s reaching me, I prefer to enjoy it on the big screen with great sound,” he says.
Being part of the C-level senior team involved in Maker Studios’ sale to Disney last March was just the start of Holt’s banner year. Since then he has worked on exploring collaborative opportunities within the vast Disney family while maintaining Maker’s original focus. “A screen is simply a screen, and a view is simply a view, and despite the models being different, it is always easier to develop a business strategy around consumer demand than the opposite,” he says.
Perpetuating the A+E stable of brands in the digital realm is job No. 1 for six-time Emmy winner Suratt. Under his leadership traffic to websites of A&E, History, Lifetime and the company’s other brands continues to swell, as do digital partnerships with content aggregators and other digital delivery services like Hulu and YouTube. A keen innovator, Suratt excels at brand extension including social game “Pawn Stars: The Game,” the Lifetime Moms blog network, and recently History’s foray into children’s educational apps with the launch of the Planet H brand.
AOL’s hiring of former Viacom exec McCormack could very well signal a renewed commitment to its investment in original programming. For his part, McCormack recently introduced AOL Rise and formed a partnership with Derek Jeter’s sports-focused The Players’ Tribune. “There’s so much opportunity to create innovative, engaging content across all screens,” he says. “We need to make content built from the ground up for new devices and make discovery a lot easier for the consumer.”
SundanceTV’s digital presence gained momentum this past year by racking up an unprecedented numbers of page views, social media followers and “likes.” But Pisarra is really excited that the network’s digital efforts have been recognized by mainstream media. It might seem counterintuitive, but this busy exec likes to unplug during his commute. “Every day, I get 30 minutes each way to pocket the iPhone and pull out the book. The daily, regimented break away from the digital is as close to a meditation practice as I’m likely to get.”
Rensing and his digital team paved the way for Epix to become the first premium network to stream on everything from smartphones to Xbox 360, PlayStation and Roku players. Last fall Epix launched a PremiumTV app for Google Chromecast. More recently, Rensing led the Digital All Access Pass streaming initiative for the EPIX/NHL partnership, making the “The Road to the NHL Winter Classic” series available to more than 1 million younger-skewing fans via multiple platforms. “We’ve made great progress in the last five years, but competition is getting stronger, products are evolving even faster and demand for great entertainment isn’t slowing down,” he says.
Sony Pictures Entertainment/Crackle
With Crackle, Berger has helped shaped a new model for television, not merely as a multiplatform digital delivery method, but also as a forerunner in creating original programming to complement Sony’s vast library. Digital TV consumption is quickly becoming the preferred method of viewing across the globe, and Berger has already positioned Crackle as a leading over-the-top premium ad-supported network. The fact that he also oversees mobile games and apps based on Sony properties only makes his accomplishments that much more notable.
Bruno is dedicated to finding innovative ways to provide customers with the best and most seamless services possible. As the executive in charge of all aspects of Rogers’ IP video strategy, development and implementation, during the past year Bruno oversaw the total redesign of the company’s VOD storefront. He also helped create an innovative, user journey-based product management practice.
Viacom Entertainment Group
Viacom’s newly melded Music & Entertainment Group will no doubt add to Flannigan’s already heaping plate, a challenge he’s more than up for. A key driver of networks including Comedy Central and SpikeTV’s distribution to and original content development for digital screens, he leads product and platform strategy for the brands and their associated shows across mobile screens, apps, O&O websites, social media and third-party platforms. Flannigan also oversees the group’s overall digital business, including its growing digital ad sales sector. Content licensing revenues, direct-to-consumer transactions and new growth opportunities.
Silverman continues to drive A+E Network’s digital business with a content-first focus across all screens. The company’s leadership role in the deployment of TV Everywhere is largely at the hand of Silverman, who also sets the strategic direction for all A+E brands’ websites, broadband video, mobile and other emerging platforms. “Our industry needs to focus on doing what it does best, which is producing premium video content,” Silverman says. “If we continue to do that well, a lot of the other noise won’t matter.”
One year into his post at ESPN, Leimer already has put his stamp on the sports dynasty’s growing premium products business. To help grow and enhance digital offerings to consumer, Leimer wants to see more personalization, using social and location tools to reinvigorate the experience. “I don’t think the industry takes enough time to really understand and process this data to create a more relevant experience for the customer,” he says.
Women in Cable Telecommunications
Hickman took his cues for the WICT website redesign from market research and Google Analytics, making sure the new site used responsive design to make it compatible with various browsers and devices. A wise move, since post-launch data indicated a 112% increase in mobile phone access. He’s also increased visibility of WICT chapters and national events through innovative social media strategies. “TV and cable are at the forefront of technological developments, and great things are in store for those of us who appreciate and use technology every day,” he says.
Sports fans are without question some of the most rabid consumers of content via digital platforms. During 2014, U.S. sports fans engaged with ESPN digital media products a whopping 9.97 billion times, consumed 82.8 billion minutes of content, streamed WatchESPN programming for 12.9 billion minutes, viewed ESPN video clips 4.8 billion times, and spent 28.5 billion total minutes on ESPN mobile apps. Good thing the competent and innovative Schwarz is on the case, overseeing the company’s digital domain.
You might not think wrestling fans would be into social media, but WWE’s 5 million-plus Twitter followers would prove you wrong. So would its nearly 35,000 Pinterest followers. Donlan’s knowledge of how viewers use social media is key in planning these and other digital offerings. “At WWE our KPI is smiles on faces,” he says. “At the risk of oversimplifying, how many people did we reach and how much did they enjoy it? On the digital side, we don’t have a tool to measure smiles, but engagement, time spent and sentiment serve as a solid proxy.”
Beamly (formerly Zeebox)
Following Kavanagh’s promotion last fall, her mission expanded to cover all of Beamly’s U.S. business as a social and content network for TV. “My love affair with this business has always been fueled by the way digital platforms can bring content and connections to life,” she says. “Major progress has been made around the delivery of content in more places, and we’ve seen what the power of smart social, cross-platform storytelling and integrated marketing can do. Now, more than ever, there is the opportunity to connect these data points and configure more personalized and targeted experiences for consumers.”
Robertson is dedicated to making immersive digital content an integral part of the WE tv experience. WE’s recent rebrand is grounded in digital, and thanks to Robertson’s creative initiatives—including the “Watchit With” digital extension and previews of scripted drama “The Divide” across platforms including Roku and WEtv.com— average monthly visits to WEtv.com rose 55 percent last year over 2013 and its social platform follower growth soared 94 percent. An industry exec who truly walks the talk, Robertson says she unwinds and disconnects from her technology by watching TV. “A good binge will do it every time,” she says.
As the man behind the ubiquitous Adobe Flash, Loeffler has impacted nearly every person with a computer or mobile device. No wonder he feels the recent partnership between Adobe and Nielsen will prove important. “Everyone is interconnected and switching between different mediums/platforms, which means pure viewership numbers are not always the only measure of success,” he says. “That said, Nielsen DCR coming to every digital screen through Adobe is a game changer. With it, digital platforms finally have the same value as broadcast TV.”
Turner Broadcasting System
From negotiating acquisition rights for digital content to implementing TV Everywhere across Turner networks, Legg is in charge of Turner’s nonlinear content and distribution. “The industry isn’t short on new technology ideas,” he says, “it just can’t figure out how to escape the old ones. We need to focus on the consumer, and that requires opening up previously closed platforms, partnering with non-traditional players to deliver unique viewing experiences and providing consumers the ability to search for content across platforms.”
Najarian capped a successful 2014—including E!’s strongest year yet on the digital front—with a promotion that put him in charge of the news division and news information programming for the linear network, as well as the digital side. And E!’s pop culture-loving demographic seems to fit right in with the social media trends driving so much of the zeitgeist. “With mobile and social it’s an always-on consumer driving always-on content discovery and consumption,” Najarian says. “I’d say that puts us in a good spot, but of course opportunity like that opens the door to many new competitors.”
With the ever-innovative Todd in control of Showtime’s promotional digital content distribution initiatives, the network is in excellent hands. His use of mobile wallets from Apple and Google to promote network series “Penny Dreadful” turned heads, as did his plan to release the series premiere on platforms including Hulu and YouTube ahead of its television debut. A firm believer that digital platforms add rather than detract from the linear experience, Todd says, “A holistic view of a user’s experience across multiple platforms is crucial to understanding the modern viewer and their engagement with the content.”
Conroy’s mission is to ensure Univision’s rapidly growing audience gets the content they want via the platforms they want it on. To do so, he has his eye on total reach vs. singular platform measurement as well as platform-bending deals such as Univision’s new partnership extension with Hulu to distribute five original series from Flama, its English-language over-the-top network. “At Univision, we are positioned at arguably the most important inflection point in media today: the intersection of Hispanic, mobile, social and digital video,” he says.
Viacom Music and Logo Group
After 20 years in the industry, Frank is a pro at navigating emerging markets. Her leadership in expanding the social presence of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo TV is paying off in spades, notably for MTV’s Always On initiative to increase nonlinear viewing—which helped propel worldwide traffic to MTV Digital 84% since its launch last April. “Antiquated measurements aren’t accurately reflecting how fans are consuming media,” she says. “We need to continue to unite and collectively push for and develop stronger measurement tools.”
Bravo and Oxygen Media
Viewers love interacting with Bravo and Oxygen personalities (and each other), and Hsia is continually finding new ways to keep them happy and engaged. Whether’s it’s Bravo’s new Daily Dish app or countless other initiatives, Hsia knows who watches and knows how to reach them via social media, polls and contests. Hsia says that kind of multiplatform storytelling is blurring the lines between traditional and digital media. “I see this as an exciting opportunity as much as a threat,” she notes. “It’s really about how we embrace digital and connect it with meaningful content that consumers truly value.”
It has been a busy year for McKean, and he likely won’t get much rest in 2015 either. Under McKean’s guidance, AMC.com is one of the top cable network websites, with “The Walking Dead “ site frequently a top show destination. He continues to oversee the development of immersive content including web series—and webisodes for series “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead”—games, second-screen experiences and apps, as well as the network’s TV Everywhere initiative. To top it off, he spearheaded the creation of AMC Digital Studios and its first series, “Trivial Pursuits of Arthur Banks.”
As the head of the team behind all of Comcast’s consumer video, high-speed data, voice and home products, Jenckes is always developing new ways to provide subscribers with added value. Last year he oversaw the continued rollout of the X1 Entertainment Operating System (including Cloud DVR and live in-home streaming), an Xfinity WiFi hotspot expansion and the new Wireless Gateway.
Garner oversees all of AETN’s nonlinear distribution and digital platforms, a realm that that just continues to widen. The company’s own TV Everywhere initiative is an industry pace setter, as is the inclusion of its networks apps—including A&E, Lifetime and History—in a growing number of distributors’ TVE offerings. Also under his purview—OTT platforms, plus AETN’s swelling e-commerce initiatives and its social media tie-ins. As well as evolving distribution models for the company’s core networks, Garner is also setting the strategy of newer brands including Lifetime Movie Network, H2 and Bio.
As Comcast continues to extend its cloud-based X1 platform to more customers, Strauss is already looking for more ways to integrate even more delivery options in the future. For one, he pioneered the sale of digitally downloadable TV shows and movies. And in his hands, Comcast’s TV Everywhere should actually be available everywhere and on every device imaginable. Subscriber TVE usage is already up 20 percent this year over last year this time—a good indicator. “People typically default to the best screen available,” Strauss says. For him, that’s usually the television.
Overseeing Turner Sports’ acquisitions, marketing and overall business strategy is only part of Hong’s day job. He also manages the company’s impressive digital sports portfolio, which covers just about everything from The Bleacher Report to March Madness Live. As a sports guy, he has priorities when choosing where and how to watch programs. “It depends on the use case and program genre: TV if with others or for live sports; tablet (and headphones) for solo binge watching of entertainment programming.”
Bishara’s innovative thinking has led to groundbreaking Synacor projects like Cloud ID Social Login and Cloud ID Auto Authentication. While ever-evolving content delivery options may terrify some executives, it seems Bishara can’t wait to see what’s next. “I’m excited about the prospect of personalized consumer offerings (that are modular) and available on any device, consisting of a mix of live TV as well as VOD,” he says. “As compelling as this choice is, it will also present greater fragmentation from a consumer experience perspective, and the ability to bring these discrete elements together will add tremendous value.”
Bonner does more than manage digital delivery options for Universal’s massive catalog of film and television. Over the past couple of years he’s overseen strategic partnerships with top players and launched the Ultraviolet initiative to standardize technology for cross-platform content sharing. And it was Bonner who sealed Universal’s partnership with Comcast to launch an electronic sell-thru business. “People still want great quality content and technology continues to enable ways to reach and engage with our audiences like never before – that is exciting,” he says.
Spirito’s impressive performance at the helm of YES Network resulted to his being promoted to oversee all 14 Fox Regional Sports Networks. In addition to producing more than 900 original YES video pieces, Spirito has secured technology-focused partnerships with Livestream and Spreadfast to expand viewer experiences. “Content is now and will remain king,” he says. “The rapidly innovating technology landscape simply provides more platforms, more touch points and more ways to connect with viewers and ultimately monetize premium content.” The fact that YESNetwork.com video views are up 147% from last year indicate Spirito is onto something.
Hunt’s leadership of the team that designs, builds and optimizes Netflix’s user experience is a key part of how and why the company has grown into a menacing rival of premium cablers like HBO and Showtime in the past few years. But he’s constantly looking for ways to improve the viewer experience, be it easier navigation or even greater picture quality. To Hunt, 4K streaming isn’t a pipe dream, but an inevitability he’s already preparing Netflix for.
Bright House Networks
Stiegman oversees the editorial direction of ESPN’s portfolio of digital (and print) properties, including text, audio, video and multimedia content. Guiding the more than 200 editors he manages through the company’s new website redesign is a priority these days, as is developing greater cross-platform integration among ESPN’s news, information and programming offerings and continuing to elevate the company’s long- and shortform story-telling of sports stories.
Glashow has expanded the digital presence of all Discovery’s U.S. networks by striking advantageous broadband and mobile content deals. “Audience behaviors are changing at breakneck speed, and we have the challenge and opportunity to meet our audiences with proven and new content across a variety of platforms,” she says. While she prefers watching TV at home with her family, she says her own viewing habits have changed. “On the go, I love having content available on my iPad—especially when traveling with kids!”
DiGeronimo earned his recent promotion through his leadership and coordination of Charter’s all-digital transition team. Their efforts gave Charter the most live HC channels and the fastest Internet and WiFi in the nation. Asked what excites him about cable’s digital future, he says, “The combination of new forms of content aggregation, superior networks (wired and wireless), cloud-based UIs, better self-support, and rapidly evolving consumer behavior makes our industry the greatest place to work.”
As chairman of the American Cable Association, Gessner educates policymakers on issues vital to the independent cable community. And while he’s well known as a bit of a techie who has helped spearhead technology efforts around TV Everywhere and other initiatives, you might be surprised that he describes himself as “linear and analog,” arguing that “the most important thing the industry can do in 2015 is improve customer service. To me, that is a holistic concept. We need to find ways to improve our human contact but also the reliability of our systems in general, as well as packages that better serve the consumer.”
Not only did Lamprecht secure NBCU’s first online video distribution deal with Sony in the past year, he’s also managed to build up the company’s VOD content offerings to more than 250 series. Meanwhile, total VOD full episode views pushed past the 1.5 billion mark. Asked what he finds most exciting about advances in digital technology when it comes to the industry, Lamprecht says, “Incredible rapid change, [and] the interplay between traditional and non-traditional models.”
Kotay’s innovative thinking has allowed Comcast to provide its customers with next-generation platforms and services as he weds the company’s technical execution strategies with its software services. By aligning video, mobile and online portals, Kotay has given subscribers a cohesive and user-friendly product suite. “This may be the most exciting time in the history of our industry,” he says. “The revolutionary digital convergence of services and experiences that we’ve been talking about for 20 years is finally unfolding.”
Maitra is especially pleased about how expanding the TiVo OTT experience with Amazon Prime, Vudu, and iHeartRadio has given subscribers fully integrated linear, VOD and OTT content. But having reliable metrics on time-shifted viewing is crucial. “By measuring what viewers are engaging with, we can better deliver personalized and relevant content and advertising that will deliver action,” she says. “Measurement is leading to new levels of personalization that is helping operators stay competitive and helping advertisers adjust their media planning for a maximum return on investment.”
Amazon Original Movies
On the heels of Amazon’s success with Prime Instant Video series like “Transparent,” the company is now focused on expanding its development of original movies. Hope was recently appointed to head up the creative development of 12 high-quality films per year. His stellar reputation as an independent maker of award-winning feature films can only solidify Amazon’s position among top creators of original content, whether episodic or feature films.
As CTO at Hulu, Lim helps to ensure that the customer experience keeps up with increasingly high expectations. And he’s more than qualified to do so: Before Hulu, he made his bones as SVP, product engineering at Sony Network Entertainment International where he oversaw all North American engineering and operations, including client and service engineering for the PlayStation Store on PS3 and PS4, as well as many of the network features of the PS4. And before that, he spent eight years at Microsoft Xbox driving all development for the Xbox LIVE service and Xbox 360 operating system, Kinect, dashboard, marketplace and developer SDK. Can
you guess where was he before that? Nintendo, where he helped deliver the GameCube. In addition to Lim’s incredible perspective on how interactivity and content intersects, he’s also a math and computer science wiz from Carnegie Mellon U., with a Master’s degree in Science and Engineering from U. of Washington. Despite his experience, Lim’s not playing games.
Since her 2014 hire by Cisco, Kanouff has focused her tremendous technical knowledge and strategic planning skills to advance all areas of Cisco’s video software portfolio, from content streaming to content security. Her move from Cablevision to Cisco returned one of the industry’s most influential engineers to the supplier side of the industry, where she’s been influential in several new deals including Cisco’s agreement with Charter to supply key products in support of Charter’s next-generation video solution.
June 14, 2019
The FAXIES Luncheon
October 22, 2019
Most Powerful Women Celebration Luncheon
December 05, 2019