The digital landscape is varied. Offering many options for digital consumption, digital players provide content streamed with a subscription, on transactional, one-time video-on-demand and for purchase via Digital HD (also known as electronic sellthrough). Thus, we have recognized high-level strategists that span all these forms of digital consumption, from Reed Hastings, who heads leading subscription VOD service Netflix, to top executives at the studios who are growing digital ownership.
Reed Hastings, Netflix
Hastings in 2014 continued to oversee Netflix’s global expansion, with subscription VOD launches planned in Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain in the second half of the year. The CEO boldly projected international operations — Netflix’s perennial money loser — would be profitable this year, excluding new territory rollouts. In fact, Netflix now considers Canada — its first foreign foray — to be a mature SVOD market. With the disastrous 2011 pricing and ill-fated disc rental spinoff a distant memory, and a global subscriber base topping 46 million, Hastings in April instituted another price increase with little subscriber blowback. He also returned to his social media soapbox, chastising ongoing efforts by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to restore teeth to net neutrality while at the same time turning a blind eye to cable and telecom ISPs’ growing influence over the last broadband mile into consumer homes.
Meanwhile, Netflix shares continued their bull run, with the stock up 71% year-over-year through May 22, and the service adding 4 million subscribers in its most-recent fiscal period. Hastings said 50 million subscribers is within reach, although Netflix’s ultimate goal of surpassing HBO’s 130 million subs is still a work in progress. “We are eager to close the gap,” he told investors.
Mike Dunn & Mary Daily, 20th Century Fox
Led by Mike Dunn, worldwide president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, and Mary Daily, president of worldwide marketing and chief marketing officer for the division, Fox has helped shape the consumer message about digital sellthrough, or electronic sellthrough (EST). Dunn and Daily spearheaded the term Digital HD, which has brought consistency to the way the industry talks about digital ownership and sales of movies and TV shows. The moniker has been embraced by the industry as the agreed-upon marketing term, and the branding appears on physical packaging, digital downloads, advertising, social media outreach, publicity and merchandising. Digital HD has also helped boost the idea of early digital release of titles before they come out on physical media. While not every studio equates Digital HD with early release, Fox does, helping to promote the practice of offering digital consumers content before it comes out on disc. This practice has been embraced in varying degrees by all the major studios, but Dunn and Daily’s leadership has been instrumental in growing early digital ownership of content.
A testament to his digital influence, last fall Dunn was the keynote speaker at the Consumer Electronics Association’s Industry Forum in Los Angeles, the only president of a major studio to ever be invited to do this keynote. He is also the only president that is on the Board of Industry Leaders for the CEA.
Thomas Gewecke & Ron Sanders, Warner Bros. Entertainment
Working under Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who helped drive Warner’s digital strategy before becoming the top executive at the studio, Gewecke and Sanders direct digital activities at Warner and in the industry at large.
Gewecke, as chief digital officer and EVP of strategy and business development for Warner Bros. Entertainment, is responsible for driving Warner’s worldwide digital strategy and growth. Gewecke is charged with coordinating the company’s various digital distribution strategies to maximize the value of Warner Bros.’ content across all current and emerging digital exhibition platforms. He also oversees Warner Bros. Technical Operations and Corporate Business Development as well as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s direct-to-consumer, business development and Flixster groups. Flixster supports the buy-once-play-anywhere service UltraViolet, backed by most of the major studios.
Sanders, as president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution, spearheads the global digital transactional business (EST and VOD) and the global home entertainment distribution activities of Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Television and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.