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Digital Drivers 2016: Independents


Chris McGurk, CEO
McGurk is responsible for transitioning Cinedigm into a multiplatform distributor of non-theatrical movies. Recent platform launches include Docurama, available on iOS, Roku, Xbox and Samsung; CONtv; and a third OTT channel, Dove Entertainment Channel. He also helped forge an OTT partnership with TV4 Entertainment and the planned launch of the Bright edutainment OTT channel.  

Bill Sondheim, president, Cinedigm Entertainment Group
Sondheim became president of CEG when Cinedigm acquired Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment in 2013. Sondheim’s executive experience running several independent studios allowed him to establish strategic relationships at the senior levels of Netflix and Amazon as they initially launched OTT services. In addition, his 20-plus years working closely with Christian content producers was the driving factor in developing Dove Channel, Cinedigm’s fast-growing faith-and-family SVOD offering.

Yolanda MacÍas, EVP, acquisitions, forecast, planning and digital sales
Macías is responsible for sourcing, evaluating, negotiating and acquiring content from independent producers and studios for all distribution platforms, including digital. Macías is responsible for the content acquired specifically for Cinedigm’s OTT channels and also oversees all third-party digital sales, covering transactional and subscription accounts as well as TV broadcast sales domestically and internationally.

Erick Opeka, EVP, digital networks
Opeka directly oversees the company’s dedicated OTT staff, focusing on user experience, infrastructure design and operational execution. Opeka was a pioneer of independent content aggregation, which played a formative role in establishing his platform expertise and relationships that are crucial to Cinedigm’s OTT channel implementation.

Faye Walker, SVP, marketing
Walker is one of the industry’s leading experts at launching new networks and entertainment platforms. For the last year and a half, she has focused on the digital space, successfully launching two direct-to-consumer OTT channels: CONtv and Dove Channel. Prior to that, she spent many years strategically building and launching cable networks and TV programming for high-profile entities such as FEARnet, Universal Sports Network, MGMHD, This TV, The Tennis Channel and GSN (formerly Game Show Network). In addition, Walker also served as SVP of worldwide television marketing at MGM Studios, where she oversaw domestic and international TV sales, cable and VOD channels, distribution, syndication and ad sales.


Sofia Chang, EVP, worldwide digital distribution and home entertainment
In addition to her longstanding home entertainment responsibilities, Chang in June 2015 took on a wider role in overseeing digital distribution. She is responsible for HBO’s digital distribution on platforms such as Apple, Amazon and Google — as well as HBO’s own year-old OTT service HBO Now. Since joining HBO Home Entertainment in 2000, Chang has held numerous executive positions from marketing to program planning, shepherding the home entertainment release of hit series such as “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective” to classic series such as “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “True Blood” to original miniseries such as Band of Brothers and The Pacific. She is on the board of the Time Warner Foundation and serves as CFO on the board of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

PBS Distribution

Andrea Downing, co-president
Downing heads up the leading distributor of public television programs on DVD, Blu-ray and digital platforms. Downing redirected the company’s sole focus on physical goods to a multichannel, multiformat distribution unit, creating significant growth in the digital distribution divisions, and she leads the team in building its successful digital business. She has been instrumental in increasing revenue by expanding the digital footprint through partnerships with Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Google, Verizon, Comcast and others.  She has also laid the groundwork for future growth through aggressive drama and children’s acquisitions and led her team to maximize the value of the PBS hit “Downton Abbey,” with tactics including digital partnerships.

John Suydam, VP, digital distribution
Since joining PBS in 2005, Suydam has been a key driver in building a successful digital business, using his 15-plus years of experience in TV programming sales, business development and marketing. He leads PBS’s content licensing efforts across online, mobile and OTT platforms. Suydam is charged with negotiating all distribution deals with the leading transactional and subscription services, including Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Google. He secured several multimillion-dollar SVOD deals, including an exclusive multiyear deal with Amazon for “Downton Abbey.” Prior to joining PBS, Suydam was senior manager of business development at National Geographic Channel, where he launched the company’s digital sponsorship program and secured its first-ever VOD advertiser.

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