35 Movers & Shakers of Home Entertainment — 201422 Dec, 2014
For our 35th anniversary, Home Media Magazine is taking a look at 35 of the most influential “movers and shakers” of the home entertainment business. We’ve seen a lot of change over the years. Thirty-six years ago, Andre Blay kickstarted the home video industry by leasing 50 films from 20th Century Fox and releasing them on videocassette so consumers could watch the movies they wanted to see when and where they wanted to. Thirty-five years ago, Stuart Karl founded what was then Video Store Magazine in the garage of his Orange County, Calif., home, giving the fledgling home video industry its very own trade publication. Karl would later rise to fame for launching the Jane Fonda fitness videos, a genre that continues to be a big part of the business today, both on disc and digitally.
The business they founded may have changed, but whether it’s via Netflix or other over-the-top services, cable VOD or physical product, the home entertainment industry still aims to give consumers the content they want when and where they want to see it.
So, with an eye to the future, Home Media Magazine is honoring these 35 executives who shape the home entertainment business of today as well as tomorrow.
President, Samsung Electronics America
Baxter has put his extensive experience in the consumer electronics industry to good use in his eight years at Samsung, where his leadership has seen the company top U.S. market share for HDTVs, including Ultra-HD, and maintain its prominent position in a variety of CE categories, including Blu-ray players and mobile devices.
Before joining Samsung, Baxter spent 10 years at Sony, where he was a key player in helping shift the HD format war in favor of Blu-ray Disc.
“We are relentlessly focused on bringing innovation to market, and we really look to do that with a thought in mind around being first in bringing that innovation out,” Baxter said at a 2014 dealer summit.
With this in mind, Baxter has focused Samsung on creating a wide range of products that can engage the consumer in an entertainment experience across multiple channels and devices.
“I think we see a world of multiscreen connectivity, devices connected to each other and devices connected to the cloud seamlessly,” Baxter said.
Head of Digital Video Content Acquisition, Amazon
It’s been a busy year for Beale as Amazon ratcheted up spending on both original and third-party licensed content for Prime Instant Video. Beale is responsible for acquiring digital video content from studios, broadcast and cable networks and other sources.
In addition to securing agreements with Cinedigm Entertainment Group, Aardman Animation and BBC America, the company scored a coup of sorts when it licensed select content from HBO.
Catalog (only) episodes from “The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “True Blood,” among others, are available on Prime Instant Video, making it the lone subscription streaming service to offer the shows.
“Given the number of customers who purchase these titles from Amazon, we know how much customers love these shows,” Beale said. “We are excited to bring them to Prime members — we think they are going to love them, whether they are experiencing them for the first time or re-discovering them from the beginning.”
Co-COO and President of the Motion Picture Group, Lionsgate
Beeks took more of a macro role in Lionsgate’s home entertainment arena in 2014 following promotions of Ron Schwartz and Jim Packer. But that didn’t stop Beeks, who has overseen home entertainment since the mini-major’s acquisition of Artisan Entertainment in 2003, to continue to champion both physical and digital media.
The executive said media attention focusing on declining home entertainment revenue due to the maturation of the packaged-media market failed to look further down the income statement.
“The story is the operating margin,” Beeks said.
Specifically, he lauded retail results from teen sci-fi franchise starter Divergent. Beeks said the movie got off to such a great start (Aug. 5) that packaged-media sales “surprised us.”
“We’ve shipped a lot of units, but it looks like we’re going to sell through every unit we’ve shipped,” he said.
EVP, Digital Distribution, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Bonner leads the team managing NBC Universal’s North American television and film digital transactional businesses, including on-demand and electronic sellthrough (EST). He most recently played a lead role in launching and managing NBC Universal’s Hulu partnership. Along with other studios, Universal has offered content via EST prior to its release on disc.
“We have made meaningful strides over the past year and remain very committed to driving growth in the digital transactional business,” he said. “Most notably, through aggressive windowing and pricing of our films, we’ve dramatically improved the value proposition of buying digitally to the consumer and have experienced significant growth in the EST segment. Moving forward, consumer education and ease, retail participation and product differentiation remain key to driving adoption and loyalty in digital ownership. It’s essential that our industry continue to innovate the product offerings in a way that uniquely leverages technology and connectivity to create an experience that extends far beyond the single viewing of a film or TV episode.”
Previously, as SVP of new media for NBC Universal Cable, Bonner served as the new-media point person for major distributors including DirecTV, EchoStar and iTunes.
EVP and GM, HBO Home Entertainment
Chang oversees both the disc and digital distribution division of HBO. She is guiding the home entertainment business as the company — oft cited by Netflix founder Reed Hastings as a model — navigates the digital world, and as such hits as “Game of Thrones” and “Girls” enthrall consumers.
“Although the physical disc business is no longer at its peak, we continue to seek growth opportunities particularly outside of North America,” she said.
As far as the digital landscape, “The rise of digital ownership allows us to experiment with release windows for our brands,” she said. “Instead of following an arbitrary uniform schedule, it is important for us to assess the correct timing and platform for each title individually. For example, ‘Girls’ and ‘Silicon Valley’ appeal to a younger audience where an earlier EST release is appropriate to capture those consumers.”
Still, the digital world can integrate nicely with the physical business, with one driving the other.
“At Costco stores we are distributing an HBO Digital Card where consumers can choose a full-season digital download of our premier HBO series,” she said. “Allowing consumers to choose a season has never been done before. This is a great example of evolution.”
President, Anchor Bay Entertainment
Industry veteran Clark leads one of the biggest independent distributors, Anchor Bay. The studio is one of the few non-majors ranking among the top 10 in terms of Blu-ray titles released with a strong global reach.
“We offer independent filmmakers one of the largest distribution networks available,” Clark said.
In 2008 Clark launched the Anchor Bay Films division, the theatrical unit of Anchor Bay Entertainment. Two years later he negotiated a home entertainment distribution deal with The Weinstein Company, which has produced some of the distributor’s most successful titles. Under his direction, the company also has output deals with RADiUS, IFC, The Sundance Channel and AMC for the hit “The Walking Dead.”
“Flexibility, nimbleness and strong marketing focus on consumer preferences and value perception related to format choices and viewing habits are essential to effectively compete in today’s market,” Clark said.
Though bullish on packaged media, the studio is also supportive of digital and was one of the industry’s first supporters of early digital releases. After many years of continual success, the company emerged as a fitness DVD market share leader this year.
EVP, Pay Television and Digital, Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution
Cohen is the force behind Disney’s digital efforts, negotiating key deals for the studio’s content with a range of distributors.
His top achievements at Disney include playing a key role in two of the most significant pay-television deals in history: Netflix in 2012 and Starz in 1999, which was renewed in 2010. The Netflix deal has since been augmented with a similar agreement for Canadian subscribers.
Most recently, Cohen led the negotiations with iTunes, Google and Vudu for Disney Movies Anywhere. His team has also negotiated streaming deals with Amazon Prime and Comcast StreamPix for select television programming.
“The adoption of digital movie ownership is growing rapidly, and we are so excited to see the results of every title we release — as the numbers continue to rise,” Cohen said.
Also under Cohen’s leadership, last year the division closed a cutting-edge promotion with T-Mobile to preload Marvel’s The Avengers on all Samsung Galaxy S III phones.
“We are proponents of making our content available across all digital platforms and various business models where it makes sense to do so,” Cohen said.
Co-Owner, Magnolia Pictures
When he wasn’t busy eviscerating wannabe entrepreneurs on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” tech billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban weighed in on net neutrality with equal aplomb.
As the Federal Communications Commission sought public input grappling with establishing new guidelines safeguarding a level playing field for broadband content distributors, Cuban questioned government’s role in the process.
Cuban believes private innovation and market forces remain the best arbiters in the fast-paced technology marketplace. Specifically, he believes high-speed apps could positively affect healthcare, medicine, transportation and safety, among other issues facing society. At the same time, Cuban contends government regulation and net neutrality initiatives intended to protect the Internet will accomplish the opposite.
“I’m more concerned the government will f--- it up,” he told BusinessInsider.com.
SVP of Internet Software and Services, Apple
Cue was instrumental in creating the Apple online store in 1998, the iTunes Store in 2003 and the App Store in 2008. That makes him a pioneer in digital transactions and one of the reasons iTunes continues to dominate electronic sellthrough.
Indeed, iTunes users have downloaded more than 1 billion TV episodes and 380 million movies from the platform since its 2001 launch. Apple says consumers purchase more than 800,000 TV episodes and 350,000 movies per day.
This year, Cue upped iTunes’ profile securing apps for HBO Go and WatchESPN, which allow authenticated viewers for the first time to access content from the multichannel video program distribution boat’s anchors (original programing and sports) and stream to connected devices.
“HBO Go and WatchESPN are some of the most popular iOS apps and are sure to be huge hits on Apple TV,” Cue said.
President, Universal Pictures Worldwide Home Entertainment
Cunningham assumed his global responsibilities in 2014, after heading up Universal Pictures International Entertainment, overseeing the company’s home entertainment activities across Europe, Asia and Latin America. He’s now leading the way in exploring new technologies and strategies for the home entertainment market domestically and around the world.
“Clearly, new technology is driving change in consumer behavior around the world, and the audience’s deep affinity for movies remains buoyant,” Cunningham said. “By embracing technology and leveraging it as we’ve done to bridge together our physical and digital products, we’re creating meaningful opportunities to fuel long-term growth for our business. Whether driving the development of formats like UV, 3D and 4K or further enhancing our BD combo pack offerings, we know that flexibility, utility and affordability continue to be critical.”
He sees a continued interplay between physical and digital distribution.
“Based on our experience across the industry this past year, it is clear that digital and Blu-ray are not only co-existing with, but advancing in lockstep with these evolving technologies and behaviors,” he said. “There is significant potential for growth.”
President and Chief Marketing Officer, Worldwide Marketing, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Daily propels Fox’s most innovative marketing partnerships that result in consumer awareness and engagement as well as sales.
This past year Daily managed a partnership with Lego for the release of The Grand Budapest Hotel that drew new audiences to the film, engaged fans of director Wes Anderson and sparked a global conversation around the film. The film became the best-selling Fox Searchlight comedy in 2014.
For X-Men: Days of Future Past, Daily and her team spearheaded a groundbreaking marketing plan enlisting YouTube content creators who re-recreated their own X-Men-inspired videos, increasing fan following and creating greater awareness for the release.
Daily has also steered the marketing initiatives behind Digital HD. For the Digital HD launch of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Fox and Google Glass teamed with YouTube personality iJustine, who traveled though Iceland as the subject of a crowd-sourced adventure through Google Glass. The film’s fan base increased, resulting in additional buzz and sales success on the release date.
Head of Content Business Development, Google
Ducard in 2014 succeeded in selling studios and content holders on the concept of branded subscription streaming on YouTube with the launch of DreamWorksTV.
The channel features a mix of live-action and animated shorts featuring DreamWorks Animation movie characters.
“Studios see YouTube as a good place to extend what they’re doing and build community,” Ducard told the Los Angeles Times. “There is demand there.”
Ducard brings decades of studio experience to the company, most recently serving as SVP of domestic digital distribution for Paramount Digital Entertainment. There, he helped set the studio’s digital strategic course and was crucial in striking new deals with distributors across online, mobile and new-media channels.
President, Worldwide, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Led by Dunn, Fox has been at the vanguard of some of the industry’s most progressive changes.
The studio helped shape the consumer message about electronic sellthrough by spearheading the term Digital HD, which boosted the idea of early digital releases and brought consistency to the way the industry talks about it.
A testament to his influence, Dunn was the keynote speaker at the Consumer Electronics Association’s Industry Forum in 2013 — the only major studio president to achieve that honor.
Dunn has also been key in positioning Fox at the forefront of Ultra-HD. This year, the studio launched the Fox Innovation Lab to work with tech companies to enhance the consumer experience of content. The Lab’s first partner is Samsung Electronics, which is working with Fox to introduce 4K movies to audiences around the world.
“The consumer demand for high-quality premium content continues to increase and evolve,” Dunn said. “Our philosophy is that everything we do centers on the consumer and the consumer experience.”
President and CEO, The Entertainment Merchants Association
Fisher is an industry veteran with nearly 30 years of retail experience and 13 years on the executive team of the EMA. He has been responsible for expanding the scope of the EMA’s membership, identifying and supporting the needs of this evolving membership, as well as the group’s overall strategic planning and direction. Under his leadership, the EMA has hosted the annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit.
“What’s great about our industry is that the consumers’ appetite to enjoy good entertainment at home and on the road hasn’t declined — and won’t,” Fisher said. “Our challenges are to figure out how to help consumers navigate their access options, maximize consumer spending and minimize the costs of delivery.”
Chief Digital Officer and EVP, Strategy and Business Development, Warner Bros. Entertainment
Gewecke helps craft Warner’s digital game plan to maximize the value of the studio’s content across all current and emerging digital platforms.
In May 2011 he supervised the studio’s acquisition of mobile movie service Rotten Tomatoes, as well as Flixster, the first site to support the buy-once-play-anywhere, cloud-based service UltraViolet, backed by most of the major studios. In a team effort with Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution, Gewecke has helped make the studio’s content available for purchase through more than 100 digital retailer partners, among other digital initiatives.
“Our focus has really been trying to extend the successful history of the DVD and Blu-ray marketplace,” he said. “There was a lot of historical evidence that consumers wanted to own their favorite movies and TV shows. Our efforts over the last four or five years are making the consumer proposition as compelling as it can be digitally so consumers never have to buy a movie twice and have all the rights of ownership that they do on disc.”
Gewecke also helped Warner lead the industry in offering on-demand movies day-and-date with the DVD release, bundling digital copies with disc worldwide, and making movies available directly through new channels, including Facebook and as international App Editions on the iOS platform.
Senior Category Director for Movies, Walmart U.S.
Greth spearheads Walmart’s packaged-media and digital movie sales in stores as well as online at Walmart.com and Vudu.
He coordinates promotions and retail exclusives and oversees supplier relationships for all of Walmart’s movie business, and Walmart remains the studios’ No. 1 customer of product globally.
Greth is also responsible for the growth and development of Walmart’s disc-to-digital program.
“Obviously for us it’s a great way to drive traffic in the store, but it’s also meant to unlock value in the content consumers already own,” Greth said at the time of the disc-to-digital launch in 2012.
Most recently, Walmart in October launched InstaWatch, which lets consumers who purchased a DVD or Blu-ray Disc at Walmart access the digital file at Vudu.com after scanning the store receipt through an app.
“As the world’s largest movie destination, we will continue to work with our studio partners to provide unique retail programs that allow our customers to celebrate the most-anticipated releases of 2015,” Greth said. “Whether it’s through our broad selection of new releases or licensed merchandise, customers can rely on Walmart to carry the items they want at great low prices.”
Hastings likely upped his frequent flyer miles crisscrossing the Atlantic as Netflix launched service in six European countries — France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. While dealing with pragmatic Germans and cajoling anxious French cinephiles about the virtues of subscription streaming, Hastings kept a wary eye stateside on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ongoing attempt to draft new net neutrality guidelines. The CEO has been a vocal supporter of legislation that would level the playing field for companies and services delivering streaming content over the Internet — and do away with what the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has suggested: Tiered streaming channels based on commercially viable fees.
“It would be better to have no rules than the ones being proposed by the FCC, which simply legalize discrimination on the Internet,” Hastings wrote in an op-ed.
As a former executive at Warner Home Video, Horak’s hire this year as president of Redbox brought an end to subscription streaming (Redbox Instant), and renewed focus on its core product: physical rental of movies and video games. Coming from a studio business predicated on weekly new releases, Horak has sought to use the kiosk vendor’s ubiquitous presence across the retail landscape to expand the transactional business model throughout North America.
With 42,000 kiosks in operation in the United States, Redbox has expanded in Canada, ending the year with more than 1,400 kiosks north of the border. Horak seeks to add significantly to that tally in 2015.
That’s no small task in a home entertainment market increasingly dominated by all-you-can-stream video services offered at cheap monthly prices. But Horak eyes a solution.
“Redbox offers value to content producers and game publishers by attracting marginal consumers who don’t want to pay acquisition prices but still want to consume content on a paid transactional basis,” he said.
President, Worldwide Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures
Maguire is responsible for the global sales, marketing and distribution of Blu-ray, DVD, digital and VOD and TV licensing of studio content on all platforms.
“We are experiencing the most remarkable and exciting time in the business of movie and television distribution,” he said. “While technology has rapidly changed the landscape, what hasn’t changed is the consumer’s desire for great content. Fans have more ways to watch our content than ever before, and our goal is to continue to feed that appetite with outstanding content that is readily accessible on all platforms. Given the explosion of screens and increasing demand for high-quality entertainment, the outlook for the future is very bright.”
Maguire joined Paramount in October 2006 as president of Paramount Home Entertainment International and successfully restructured the international organization to nearly double the division’s overall market share year-over-year with increases in every category. In 2009, Maguire was named president of Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment Worldwide, a position in which he integrated business operations and finance into a global organization. He was promoted to his current position in 2011.
President, Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution
Disney has flourished this year with Marinelli at the helm. The studio had tremendous success with Frozen, which became the top-selling digital and Blu-ray title of all time in the United States.
“We were also especially proud to launch Disney Movies Anywhere this year with the goal in mind of creating an easy and fun Disney digital movie experience for our customers,” Marinelli said about the digital movie service that launched in February.
Under Marinelli’s leadership in 2012, the studio struck a groundbreaking multiyear licensing agreement with Netflix, making it the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for the studio’s first-run, live-action and animated films in the pay-TV window starting with Disney’s 2016 theatrical releases. This year, she and her team negotiated an agreement that gave Netflix’s Canadian subscribers access to Disney films in the pay-TV window.
“Today consumers want content available at their fingertips, and we want to give them as many options as possible — whether physical or digital — as new platforms are continually emerging,” Marinelli said.
McAdam has put his company at the forefront of discussions on how digital video will get into the home in the future, battling Netflix and other over-the-top services in the fight over net neutrality while at the same time setting up the launch of Verizon’s own OTT service.
As the battle over net neutrality raged, McAdam nevertheless set up a deal with Netflix to offer the company’s data-hogging content better access to Verizon’s pipes for a fee.
“You can’t just regulate the carriers,” he said. “They’re not the only [ones] making sure the net is healthy.”
Speaking in September at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia Conference in New York, he said the days of the 200-channel bundled subscription TV business model are numbered. The telecom executive said next year Verizon will offer a wireless TV service with about 20 channels targeting mobile device consumers.
“That really goes after the Millennials. It’s targeted content,” he said.
VP, Entertainment Merchandising, Walmart U.S.
Nagelson oversees the media and entertainment business for Walmart, which is the top sellthrough retailer and the studios’ No. 1 customer. He is responsible for developing merchandising strategies, managing supplier relationships and aligning operations for Walmart stores.
“We continue to leverage our more than 4,500 stores and fast-growing digital entertainment service, Vudu, to serve our customers with the latest entertainment, exclusive offers and industry-leading prices,” Nagelson said.
Nagelson helped launch the company’s disc-to-digital program in early 2012 through the retailer’s Vudu.com. This was the first disc-to-digital platform formed in association with the studios. The initiative supports UltraViolet, which helped push the rollout of the cloud-based digital storage service.
Walmart’s Vudu most recently signed on to support Disney’s digital movie service, Disney Movies Anywhere.
“The home entertainment industry is constantly evolving, and so are our customers’ needs,” Nagelson said. “Customers are looking to be able to access entertainment content on their terms — whether it be through physical DVDs and Blu-rays, on-the-go on their mobile devices or a hybrid of both.
Nagelson also leads the Walmart Entertainment Council, which selects which big event films will be supported across categories at Walmart.
Co-Head of Home Entertainment Operations, President of Worldwide Television and Digital Distribution, Lionsgate
Packer likely has seen more of China this year than a seasoned foreign diplomat. With a mandate to manage licensing Lionsgate’s film slate to digital outlets, including SVOD, Ultra-HD and transactional VOD, Packer has been instrumental in forming the mini-major’s first subscription streaming service in the country.
Dubbed Lionsgate Entertainment World, the digital service would include transactional video-on-demand and electronic sellthrough, featuring the studio’s catalog of movies and TV shows, including The Hunger Games, Divergent, “Nashville,” Rosemary’s Baby and “Mad Men,” among others.
“It’s another way for us to get content into the China market with a great partner,” Packer told Bloomberg. “We’re always exploring opportunities in China. It’s a growing content market; it’s a content market you have to be in.”
VP, Digital Video, Amazon
With Amazon launching 4K video streams, in addition to a rumored ad-supported adjunct streaming service to Prime Instant Video, Paull has his hands full entering 2015. But implementing cutting-edge digital distribution has been a mainstay on Paull’s resumé. Prior to joining Amazon in 2012, he was EVP of global digital business for Sony Music Entertainment, where he oversaw the development of the company’s digital business worldwide, developing new and innovative digital products, business initiatives and models with both existing and new business partners.
“Our main focus [at Amazon] is always on the customer, and we spend the majority of our day figuring out how we can innovate on their behalf,” Paull said. “On the digital video side, that means harnessing our capabilities in creative ways to build out a comprehensive video service with great movies and TV series and convenient, easy-to-use features that customers love.”
President, Worldwide Television and Home Media Acquisitions, Paramount Pictures
Reinhard oversees the worldwide sales and licensing of all content handled by Paramount across pay-TV, broadcast, cable and SVOD platforms, along with worldwide acquisitions for home media.
“There has been a massive shift in consumer entertainment consumption habits,” she said. “Add to that the ability to watch content virtually anywhere on portable devices, and we’re seeing an explosion of opportunities to create new distribution models and monetization strategies. Our goal is to respect the existing distribution models while boldly embracing the future of content delivery.”
Previously, as EVP and GM of domestic home media distribution, Reinhard successfully integrated physical and digital formats and pursued expanded opportunities for the Paramount catalog through SVOD and other licensing deals.
President, Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution
Sanders oversees the global distribution of home entertainment product from Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Television and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE).
He is responsible for all the studio’s transactional home entertainment businesses globally (video, digital and games). His purview includes oversight of sales, marketing, finance, supply chain management, legal and human resources. Warner Bros. has enjoyed the leading market share among Hollywood studios in the video and digital home entertainment arena since 2004.
From 2005 to 2013, Sanders served as worldwide president of Warner Home Video. Following the restructuring of the studio’s television and home entertainment operations in May 2013, he added oversight of WBIE’s global distribution activities, as well as Warner Bros.’ global electronic sellthrough and transactional VOD businesses. Additionally, Sanders works closely with DC Entertainment with regard to the retail distribution of DC Entertainment-branded products.
Sarandos upped the ante from his role as “TV disrupter” to fire a salvo across the bow of the theatrical release window. Sarandos announced Netflix would co-finance, produce and stream sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend to subscribers day-and-date with its screening on select Imax theaters in 2015. He subsequently announced a four-picture feature film production deal with comedian Adam Sandler, who would also star in the titles to be released on SVOD simultaneously with their theatrical launch.
“Theater owners stifle this kind of innovation at every turn,” Sarandos said. “What I am hoping is that [the Green Legend simultaneous release] will be a proof point that the sky doesn’t fall. These are two different experiences, like going to a football game and watching a football game on TV.”
Co-Head of Worldwide Home Wntertainment Operations, President of Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Schwartz, who joined the board of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, was upped from his previous position as president and GM of home entertainment sales and distribution to co-head (with Jim Packer) of worldwide home entertainment operations.
Under Schwartz’s watch, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire sold an estimated 3.9 million DVD and Blu-ray Disc units in its first weekend (March 7) of North American release, and had the biggest digital launch in the mini-major’s history (until Divergent), with opening weekend digital sales increasing nearly 40% over the first “Hunger Games” film.
Schwartz upped Lionsgate’s 2011 distribution agreement with Miramax to include 250 new titles for distribution on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, electronic sellthrough and transactional VOD. In October, he facilitated a new multiyear agreement with Redbox — affording discs to more than 44,000 kiosks on the day of their retail release date.
“We remain committed to expanding the choices for our consumers,” Schwartz said.
MAN JIT SINGH
President, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
As the industry evolves globally and digitally, Singh was a natural choice to oversee all aspects of Sony Pictures’ worldwide home entertainment division.
“Having built our Indian TV channels into high-performance, high-margin businesses, I am confident in his vision for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and his ability to provide strong leadership for the division as the marketplace continues to evolve,” said Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, to whom Singh reports.
When he was named to his current post in January, Singh brought a proven track record of international know-how, holding more than 20 years of global operations experience working in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. He also possesses a robust background in technology, entertainment and consumer products. This well-rounded combination has placed Singh in the position to push SPHE to the next level.
“We work closely with our retail partners to continually improve the value proposition of ownership for consumers,” Singh said. “The right value strategies can reposition home entertainment for growth again.”
AMY JO SMITH
President, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group
Smith has been at the helm of the DEG, the industry-funded group founded to promote and enhance home entertainment, since its inception in 1997.
“It has always been a primary mission of the DEG to keep the membership abreast of emerging platforms and services so they can make informed business decisions,” Smith said. “Now more than ever we are working hard to bring information and tools to DEG member companies in hopes of keeping the dialogue flowing and allowing members to have meaningful discussions about how best to evolve the ecosystem that defines home entertainment.”
Currently, the DEG is working to promote such recent digital initiatives as Digital HD, UltraViolet, Ultra-HD 4K and high-resolution audio.
President, Cinedigm Entertainment Group
Sondheim heads the home entertainment unit at Cinedigm, which has seen expansive growth in recent years. CEG has become a leading distributor of independent content after a string of acquisitions and partnerships, which include content from Docurama, National Geographic,
Discovery, NFL, Shout! Factory, Jim Henson and many more.
“We are now one of the industry’s strongest independent distribution businesses, with unparalleled mass-merchant physical capabilities, along with strong theatrical and digital expertise,” Sondheim said in April after Cinedigm signed a distribution and production deal with Rapid Eye Film.
Cinedigm holds a strong foothold at retail with direct relationships with more than 60,000 physical retail storefronts and digital platforms, including Walmart, Target, iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.
The company has also embraced digital platforms, with three over-the-top subscription streaming channels: Docurama, CONtv and the Dove Movie Channel.
“We see many developing revenue platforms across the entire digital spectrum,” Sondheim said.
SVP and GM, video services, Comcast
Strauss in 2014 helped the No. 1 cabler introduce the concept of binge-viewing to Xfinity subscribers separate from Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video by signing a content license agreement with Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting.
Under the deal, broadband subscribers have unlimited access to original catalog programs from TNT, TBS, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network and truTV. Unique to the deal is that Xfinity subs have access to full current seasons of more than 400 TV shows on demand.
Programs include alien invasion thriller “Falling Skies,” “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” “Ceelo Green’s The Good Life,” and upcoming maritime drama “The Last Ship” from Michael Bay.
“The vast majority of the value, we believe, is in the current season,” Strauss told The Wall Street Journal. “More and more programmers are leaning into on-demand.”
In February Wojcicki became CEO of YouTube, the world’s largest aggregator of online video. While her sister may have been married (now separated) to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, the fact remains Google was founded in Wojcicki’s Menlo Park, Calif., garage on Sept. 4, 1998.
History aside, Wojcicki is tasked with energizing existing business models as well as creating new ones aimed at better monetizing YouTube’s immense unique user base of more than 1 billion monthly. Google says that more than 6 billion hours of video are consumed each month — most of it user generated.
Scuttlebutt suggests Google will launch a standalone SVOD service in 2015 — a legitimate threat to Netflix considering the search engine’s deep pockets, studio connections and online traffic.
“YouTube has really reminded me of Google in 2004, where there were huge opportunities, but we couldn’t really do everything. We didn’t have all the right people in place. So, now [we do, and] it’s an opportunity to prioritize,” Wojcicki said in a ReCode.net interview in October.
Senior EVP, Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Industry veteran Wong is charged with global marketing for SPHE’s digital and physical distribution strategies, new technologies, studio content and acquisition of titles.
With a focus on maximizing the digital entertainment experience, she plays a critical role in creating marketing strategies for SPHE’s digital products. Wong was part of the team that launched SPHE’s and Walmart’s Vudu Extras+ for UltraViolet titles — an industry first. The service further enhanced the value proposition of digital ownership, which the studio sees as key to the success and strength of the home entertainment industry.
“We are constantly re-examining go-to-market strategies in the ever-evolving home entertainment landscape,” Wong said. “We remain committed to continuous innovation, delivering new product offerings, and ensuring ease of access for both physical and digital product, maximizing different platforms and retail partners to meet consumer needs.”
Chief Content Officer, DirecTV
York manages all of DirecTV’s content activities, including strategy, investments, negotiations, acquisitions, operations, development and original content.
The company is at the forefront of delivering 4K content. DirecTV announced a partnership with Samsung TVs and is launching a new satellite for large amounts of VOD and live streaming, giving the company ample bandwidth for 4K.
“We continue to lead the industry in changing the way people watch TV in and out of the home, and 4K is a significant step in that evolution,” York said. “Our 4K picture quality is nothing short of remarkable, and we’re proud to be the first multichannel video provider to launch 4K Ultra-HD VOD into customers’ homes. We are looking forward to expanding 4K services in 2015.”
Prior to joining DirecTV, York was president of content and advertising sales for AT&T, where he developed the video and content strategy for AT&T U-verse.