As part of CableFAX’s Best of the Web Awards, we’ve compiled a Digital Hot List of executives we think are having a big impact on cable’s march into the digital future. These futuristic hotshots were honored at our Best of the Web Awards breakfast in NYC on Feb 24.

[To download the full PDF of our "Best of the Web" special issue, please click here].

Amy Banse
President, Comcast Interactive Media

Banse clearly sits atop Comcast’s impressive mountain of online achievement, including not only the excellent Fancast video site but also a robust Comcast portal that lets subs consolidate many of their digital doings in one convenient place. In public, Banse projects confidence while acknowledging that the online future is unclear, with flexibility and nimbleness being key. Not easy for a big company. But Banse is up to the task.

Christopher Barry
VP, digital media & business strategy
Sundance Channel

Barry’s star is rising as SundanceChannel.com experiences record user levels, with unique visitors jumping a whopping 246% last year. His doubling of original content across its 17 mini-sites, including Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno,” plus initiatives with YouTube, Yahoo, iTunes, Hulu and others have helped push video streaming up 224%.   

Albert Cheng
EVP, digital media, Disney/ABC

With Disney firing on all multiplatform cylinders these days (despite the tough economy), everyone knows that Cheng is “da man” when it comes to digital. Perhaps most striking is his willingness to reject conventional wisdom, as Disney has remained steadfast in keeping tight reigns on its online video content. Its Disney Player, for example, travels with the content, allowing Disney to keep monetizing those ad dollars across the Web. Smart.

Andy Cohen
SVP, production & programming, Bravo

Andy’s Blog ranges from reviews of Bravo series to being sprayed repeatedly during a cross-country flight “with my seatmate’s sneeze juice. Blech.” The blog’s 12-min per/visit average is impressive, but it also sports interactivity, special fan events and social media tools that encourage readers to virally share Cohen’s musings. And you thought it was simply entertaining. It’s that, too. 

Eric Feng
CTO and SVP, audience, Hulu

Hulu continues to deliver online TV Nirvana for its users (or is it “viewers”), and that’s largely because Feng has focused intensely on the user experience. Videos play smoothly. Advertising is tasteful. And navigation is amazingly simple for a site that hosts so much fare from NBCU and News Corp. The latest Hulu TV ads may peg Feng and his colleagues as space aliens, but we’re okay with that.

Erik Flannigan
EVP, digital media, MTVN Entertainment Group

Flannigan has impressed MTVN execs for years, with past stints at Spike TV and Comedy Central leading to a 2007 promotion to his current role overseeing all MTVN Ent Group’s digital universe. That includes everything from network-branded sites to AtomFilms.com. So far, Flannigan has shown a willingness to take risks, shift with the digital tides and, of course, listen to his ever-fickle audience of Web-savvy, young hipsters. Not bad company.

Karin Gilford
SVP, Fancast and online ent, Comcast Interactive Media

Under Gilford’s watchful eye, Fancast has gained an impressive following despite tough competition from the likes of Hulu, which after all just launched a national ad campaign—during the Super Bowl! But Fancast continues to impress, and Gilford’s position at the nation’s biggest video gatekeeper suggests she’ll continue to make good use of Comcast’s leverage with content owners.

Bruce Haymes
SVP, product leadership, Nielsen

We admit that we’re a bit biased. Haymes is, after all, a former cable guy who left Time Warner Cable last year to join Nielsen. That’s a leap that took guts. His mission: Get the ratings giant’s new Digital Media Manager initiative off the ground. It’s a job that has required Haymes to navigate Nielsen’s many divisions in search of digital harmony. It’s a tough job, but Haymes is up to it.

Kathleen Kayse
EVP, digital media sales, Discovery

When Discovery ad man Joe Abruzzese stole Kayse from AOL last year to run Discovery’s growing digital ad sales operation, he must have been thinking ahead. In that time, the ad market has become more challenged than ever. Enter Kayse, who generated more than $1bln in ad revenue at AOL and has her sights on squeezing every ad dollar out of Discovery’s online family of 13 network sites—as well as its HowStuffWorks.com, TreeHugger.com and Petfinder.com sites. Don’t worry: She’s on the Kayse.

Rob King
VP and Editor in Chief, ESPN.com

King’s job as ESPN.com’s chieftain is enviable—he oversees 200+ employees. Yet, the former newspaper man must ensure the mountain of content they deliver to award-winning ESPN.com and its family of sites is not only well done but easily accessible. A January redesign of ESPN.com has helped, and ‘08’s numbers were strong: unique audience was up 13% and minutes spent at the site grew 46%.

Jason Kint
SVP and GM, CBSSports.com

CBS Sports underwent its own digital transition last Feb when CSTV became CBS College Sports. One year later, Kint continues to ensure a smooth transition on the digital side, among his many other duties. The college sports net, which now lives within the CBSSports.com universe, offers an impressive mix of multimedia content for its fans. CBSSports.com has won several Emmys under Kint’s direction, by the way. We expect more good things.
 
Suzanne Kolb
GM of E! Online and MyStyle.com; CMO, E! and Style

Under Kolb’s direction the E! site has become a 24/7 operation with breaking news blogs and video news reports posted 12-16 times daily from the E! News newsroom. There are also humorous blogs, interactive games, behind-the-scenes interviews and the Mystyle.com site, which Kolb launched in ’07, offering beauty, fashion, shopping and weight-loss tips.

John Kosner
SVP and GM, ESPN Digital Media

If there’s a guru of digital sports, Kosner is it. Just look at his and ESPN Digital Media’s bulging trophy case, which besides his CableFAX Digital Hot List recognition includes Sports Emmys and countless other honors. Kosner’s work resulted in consumers watching 120mln video streams per month at ESPN.com, nearly half of all the minutes spent in the entire online video sports category. Kosner was also instrumental in driving ESPN’s mobile site to reach about 65% of the mobile sports audience.

Peter Levinsohn
President, Fox Interactive Media

Levinsohn, who took over Fox Interactive Media in 2006, has used his years of experience in the FIM trenches to coax Fox’s digital division through rough waters. FIM famously owns the MySpace social networking site, and it saw stiff competition in ’08 as Facebook invaded MySpace’s, uh… space. But don’t count Levinsohn out. He has turned MySpace into an effective marketing vehicle for News Corp’s entertainment content. And isn’t that the point?

Philip Manwaring
VP, digital media, Gospel Music Channel

Quality can triumph over a slow economy. Just ask Manwaring. He re-launched Gospel’s site, which registered record revenue last year despite the economic meltdown. Gospelmusicchannel.com also recently posted a 300% gain in usage and more than doubled unique visitors. Give an assist to the mobile site Manwaring launched last year that allowed fans to text votes for the Gospel Video Music Awards.

Craig Parks
VP, digital media, IFC

Original Web content often comes from outside cable, but Parks’ effort to change that—at least from IFC’s perspective—deserves kudos. In fact, his work on original series and IFC Media Lab Studios drove ’08 ad sales up by 200% while simultaneously increasing page views by 22%. Under his watch, IFC has increased from 2 to 6 its number of Web series, and users have uploaded 1800 of their own videos to IFC.com. Talk about staying on brand.

Jean-Briac Perrette
President, NBCU Digital Distribution

In the cable world, just utter the initials “J-B,” and people know exactly who you’re talking about. Perrette continues to be one of the most influential execs in the digital entertainment universe. In ’08, he supported the digital distribution of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and renegotiated a deal with Apple to get NBCU’s content back on iTunes. And he’s intensely involved with NBCU and News Corp.’s successful Hulu venture. Yeah, we’re impressed.

Jennifer Robertson
VP, digital and emerging media, WE tv

As part of a strategic brand extension strategy, Robertson and her crew re-launched and redesigned WEtv.com in May, adding a bevy of social media tools, an original web series that spurred a 130% jump in video streaming and other features. Robertson also heads WE tv’s VOD business, which enjoyed a 681% increase in distribution last year.   

Brian Rolapp
SVP, NFL Digital Media

Put simply, Rolapp is the guy to know at the NFL when it comes to digital. He shapes the league’s long-term digital strategy, and manages NFL.com in addition to numerous high-profile partnerships with Apple, Sprint, Amazon and others. He’s not afraid to take risks, spearheading “Sunday Night Football Extra,” an initiative to stream live games online. Meanwhile, he’s also involved in distribution for NFL Network and its VOD assets. Again, a good guy to know.

Neal Scarbrough
VP, digital media, Versus

Scarbrough has barely gotten his feet wet at Versus, having joined the net in Sept after serving as VP/Editor-in-Chief at Wasserman Media Group/Sportnet. At CableFAX, we always root for people with editorial backgrounds. As such, we expect great things from Scarbrough as he continues to put his stamp on the refreshingly robust Versus.com, and the net’s overall digital strategy. No pressure, Neal.

Jessica Schell
SVP, strategy, NBCU Digital Media

If you don’t know Schell yet, we’re betting that you will soon enough. From her Manhattan homebase, she helps oversee NBCU’s digital strategy and has been a key force in trying to move NBCU away from a reliance on traditional advertising and toward more full-scale marketing services. In this tough ad environment, such creativity is key. Schell is in the right place.

Michael Spirito
VP, business dev and digital media, YES Network

Thanks to Spirito, The NY Times, Amazon, Yahoo!, Major League Baseball, Advanced Media, DirecTV, Google Video and YouTube are just some of YESNetwork.com’s partners. Traffic to the Emmy-winning site’s ’08 Yankees Spring Training coverage, with its 60 original videos, rose 77% last year. A Stanford MBA, Spirito’s digital successes led YES management to add business dev to his title in September.

Sock Puppy
Activity TV.com site mascot and blogger

The next time you hear print journalists complaining about their (mostly unpaid) duties online, think of ActivityTV.com’s site mascot and blogger extraordinaire Sock Puppy. The little canine has a sock for a body and a couple of buttons for eyes, but he blogs with the relevance of Huffington, the immediacy of Drudge and the insight of Perez Hilton. Even better, his blog for pre-school kids and their parents is filled with links to fun activities.

[To download the full PDF of our "Best of the Web" special issue, please click here].

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