The Fierce 50: The executives reshaping the business of pay TV

Here are our 50 individuals shaking up video distribution, over-the-top delivery, content creation, the social internet and more.(Questex)

Who are the technologists, strategists, broadcasters, marketing pros and sales folks driving the U.S. pay TV industry?

That's the question we sought to answer with our Fierce 50 list. It's not an easy query to answer, given the profound, ongoing disruption that's challenging the notion of just what the pay TV business is.

Beyond just the executives providing video through traditional cable, satellite and telco platforms, we considered the many different insurgent forces roiling—and potentially saving—the incumbent operators, from subscription video on demand services to virtual MVPDs, direct-to-consumer streaming platforms, social media operations, content pros, next-generation video platform makers and creators of useful apps, just to name a few.

For sure, our monthslong process for selecting these names was somewhat arduous. Moreover, such exercises always fall short of full comprehensiveness—50 names won't come close to completely showcasing all of the innovators who have impacted an industry that is exploding with competition and new delivery platforms.

But we think we've put together a solid cross section of the individuals shaking sectors ranging from video distribution to tech development, over-the-top delivery, content creation and the social internet, just to name a few of the sectors we pored over.

Our guiding thought in creating this list was picking the companies, and the divisions within those companies, that are moving the industry forward—and within those units, tapping one dynamic representative. We wanted to truly span the industry. Also, the entries are listed alphabetically and are not ranked.

In each of the short profiles, our writers—Kendra Chamberlain, Jill Goldsmith, FierceCable editor Daniel Frankel and FierceVideo editor Ben Munson—tried to blend the individual's background with a short summary as to why we think they're driving the U.S. pay TV business, and thus why they should be on our list.

Did we nail it? Read through this list of 50 profiles, and you be the judge.
—Daniel Frankel

Kelly Abcarian


Mark Aitken


Richard Au


Nick Bell


Dwayne Benefield


Kayvon Beykpour


Jeff Binder


Hakim Boubazine


Kelly Campbell


Ashok Chandrashekar


Charles Cheevers


Matt Cherniss


Marc Cohen

Evolution Digital

Tim Connolly


Steve Corda


John Dakss


Rich DiGeronimo


Kristin Dolan


Kathleen Finch


David Gandler


Tony Goncalves

Otter Media

Greg Hart


Kevin Hart


Steve Heeb


Arianne Hinds


Jan Hofmeyr


Vivek Khemka


Jim Lanzone


Kevin Mayer

Walt Disney

Andrew McCollum


Erin McPherson


Jennifer Mirgorod


Heather Moosnick


Joe Inzerillo


Lisa Nishimura


Elizabeth North


Arvin Patel


Chris Pizzurro


Sascha Prueter


Nick Ranish


Brian Rolapp


Scott Rosenberg


Warren Schlichting

Sling TV

Jon Steinberg


Matt Strauss


Brian Sullivan


Kevin Swint


Ricky Van Veen


Meg Whitman


Daniel York


Senior VP of Product Leadership at Nielsen


Abcarian has more than 17 years of experience in industry and technical fields relating to television, digital and cross-platform content, but the majority of that time has been spent with Nielsen.

And Abcarian has helped TV's premier audience research firm make what some might feel is a belated jump into the 21st century. That's a key action considering Nielsen made its name in the industry prior to the rise of streaming and is now working to ensure that it will continue to remain relevant in the aftereffects of this transition.

But before Nielsen, Abcarian spent nearly five and a half years working on customer relationship management applications for Siebel Systems, which was acquired by Oracle in 2005. From there, she jumped to Nielsen, where she has held numerous positions in her more than 12 years at the company.

Abcarian began at Nielsen as a program manager before becoming director of IT and leading development of Nielsen's global market measurement platform. After that, she became VP of application development, where she teamed with other Nielsen divisions to build cross-media measurement tools including fusion and single-source panels.

In her current role, Abcarian is creating strategy for Nielsen's products including National TV Ratings and Total Audience that address cross-platform and multiple device measurement. This, of course, is at the center of video's move beyond the TV and to mobile devices of all sizes and flavors.

Her efforts have shown results: Under Abcarian's watch, major programmers like ABC, ESPN and Turner have signed on for Nielsen's out-of-home reporting service, which Abcarian told is also being offered to local television stations.

"We really see this as a broad coverage play to ensure that these audiences are being counted across our national ratings and our local ratings alike," Abcarian said.
—Ben Munson

VP of Advanced Technology at Sinclair Broadcast Group

Mark Aitken
Aitken has been helping to lead the development of the ATSC 3.0 next-gen TV standard for years, but he's been in the broadcast television business for decades.

Aitken spent 23 years with Comark Communications. Comark, which is now a division of Hitachi, builds broadcast transmission systems.

From Comark, Aitken joined Sinclair in 1999, starting out as director of advanced technology before eventually becoming VP. In 2012, Aitken also took on the role of president at ONE Media, Sinclair's joint venture with Coherent Logix focused on developing the ATSC 3.0 suite of next-gen TV standards. Aitken explained that the ONE in ONE Media stands for Open Network Enabled, which encapsulates the idea behind the venture.

"We entered into that process with an understanding that the industry needed mobility and needed to compete in a rapidly converging world," Aitken said, explaining how ATSC 3.0 technology focuses on all-IP environments and aligns with 4G/5G technologies, all the way down to the data-framing level.

Aitken said that through ONE Media, Sinclair developed the first prototype systems for the ATSC 3.0 standard, including hardware for the technology. He said Sinclair got involved at the very beginning of the ATSC standards process in order to bring together a majority of broadcasters around a common approach.

With ATSC 3.0 officially authorized by the FCC and the standard set by its governing body, Aitken said his focus in 2018 is on real-world consumer and industry applications for the technology.

Specifically, Aitken's first priority is bringing the first mobile next-gen chipset to market. Secondly, it's building an ATSC 3.0 device platform and an application environment to support a variety of new business opportunities, much of which is taking place with ONE Media's partners in India, including Saankhya Labs and Prasar Bharati, India's public broadcaster. Thirdly, Aitken's focus is on supporting Sinclair's spectrum consortium with Nexstar, Univision and others as it continues looking at new business opportunities beyond television.
— Ben Munson

Director of Prime Video Channels and Sports for Amazon

Richard Au
Au took on a fairly significant challenge at Amazon about three years ago when he jumped in with the company's Prime Video service. But Au's history at the company indicates he may well make progress in the space. Prior to joining Amazon's Prime Video business, Au led the web giant's worldwide Kindle business development team in Amazon's devices division. The Kindle, which was introduced around the time of the first iPhone, is typically known as an e-reader that has very little to do with video. But the division Au worked in during his more than 10 years on the Kindle focused on finding strategic commercial agreements that enhanced customers' experience. It's similar to what Au did previously during the five years he spent as director of strategic development at Creative Labs.

Now, as head of Amazon Channels, Au is again looking to improve the customer experience. Specifically, he's responsible for finding new programming sources to add to his company's video hub. So far the operation has added stalwarts like HBO, Showtime and Starz, and newer digital channels like CBS All Access, PBS Masterpiece and Britbox.

And, with Sports added to his job title, Au has helped see through high-profile moves for Amazon like the company's NFL deal that included 11 livestreamed games during the 2017 season. It all figures into Amazon's apparent strategy of becoming a one-stop shop for all video needs.

"We want to enable our customers to easily access and discover great video content on all of their devices without having to navigate through multiple apps or subscribe to large bundles of channels," Au explained.

And, summing up his strategic vision at Amazon, he added: "To continue adding compelling Channels to Prime Video and making it even easier for our customers to discover and watch great content."
—Ben Munson

VP of Content for Snap Inc.

It's been an eventful few years for Snapchat, which has moved well beyond making mobile messages disappear to become a pioneer in dedicated mobile content, shot and presented in a vertical format.

Over the past two years under Bell, Snap has released original content by media companies including Walt Disney, NBCUniversal, Discovery, CBS, Vice, A+E Networks, BBC Worldwide, Turner and Viacom. The company's latest entries unveiled in March include series "True Crime/Uncovered" produced by Condé Nast Entertainment and "James Corden's Next James Corden" from CBS Interactive. Last year, Snapchat show "The Voice," an offshoot of the NBC series, garnered a 2017 Emmy nod for creative achievement in interactive media.

Snapchat has even moved into scripted fare. Snapchat and NBCU—which invested $500 million in Snap last yearrecently launched a digital content studio for scripted shows. The new studio is working with the Duplass Brothers on a first project. 

Snap has suffered some stumbles of late, including a poorly received interface redesign and the waffling of some content partners including CNN. But programming networks don't seem at all eager to give up on the platform, which they say is crucial for finding young viewers in the mobile environment. 

NBC News, for example, said in January that its daily Snapchat news show, "Stay Tuned," had accumulated 4 million subscribers in only five months since launch, with more than two-thirds of the audience aged 25 or younger. 

In various forums, including the latest Television Critics Association's winter press tour, Bell has stressed that Snapchat's upside is greatest for "people who are really thinking about this as a new format" versus "taking clips and repurposing them from TV." He said partners need to create individual, new shows "from the ground up" for the platform, which has about 178 million daily users.

Bell is a Brit who worked in the United Kingdom for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. newspaper business. He was transferred in 2013 to the United States to develop digital products for News Corp., and there met Snapchat founder-CEO Evan Spiegel. He joined the company the following year.
—Jill Goldsmith

VP and Head of PlayStation Vue for Sony Interactive Entertainment

Benefield, a Wharton MBA and former Disney executive, spearheaded the launch of the nation's second vMVPD in March 2015, with Vue entering the market just about a month after Dish debuted Sling TV.

As of December, estimates put Vue's subscriber count at around 670,000, which would put it third in the heated vMVPD race behind Sling TV and DirecTV Now. Of course, with at least one analyst declaring Vue "dead on arrival" upon its introduction, every day is pretty good day. And Vue, which recently scored a Disney/ESPN deal (thus patching a major hole in its lineup), has now grown into one of the more robust offerings among the virtual pay TV services. 

Thus, it's clear Benefield has the Japanese electronics and media conglomerate very much in the game for now.

Prior to launching Vue, Benefield helped expand the company's PlayStation Network by leading a team that structured, negotiated and executed partnerships with third-party services like Netflix and Amazon, ultimately growing the operation's number of services and related revenue by a factor of 10.

Benefield was also responsible for negotiating the content licenses with the major labels and music publishers for PlayStation's subscription music service.
—Daniel Frankel

CEO of Twitter's Periscope

According to Recode, 28-year-old Stanford graduate Beykpour, who was put into the Twitter fold when the social media giant bought his livestreaming platform in 2015, is now running all of Twitter's livestreaming efforts, including livestreams of NFL games. 

That's a key position considering Twitter paid the NFL $10 million to livestream 10 games back in 2016 and is now back in the market, along with YouTube and Amazon, trying to license more games. Twitter is also working with the NBA and MLB on live video projects. And as anyone who works in the TV business knows, if you control the broadcast rights to major league live sports, you definitely impact the U.S. TV market.

According to Recode, Twitter's management has been "gushing" about Beykpour. That's not surprising considering that, after Twitter bought Beykpour out and launched his app, it registered 1 million users within the first 10 days of the app's availability.

Speaking to newsman Charlie Rose a few years ago, Beykpour described his favorite broadcast moment as when Roger Federer used his smartphone and Periscope to present live an interview he was doing with the head of Wimbledon at center court. That highlight is clearly a sign as to where sports media is headed. 
—Daniel Frankel

Executive VP of Home and Entertainment at T-Mobile

Binder set out to remake the pay TV experience in 2016 when he launched Layer3 TV. It was a risky move, as cord cutting and the hysteria around it was in full swing. But Binder has argued that pay TV isn't doomed, only that the old way of delivering pay TV is overdue for an upgrade. 

Citing outdated user interfaces, poor video quality and sluggish multiscreen support, Binder created a new pay TV service that he believed would help re-establish pay TV as the premium, must-have home entertainment service. Some of the secret sauce to Layer3 is its distribution technology. The service was designed to be carried over managed IPTV lines directly to consumers' homes, rather than relying on the whims of an unmanaged network. Layer3 TV last year counted around 13 million passings, which the company said made it the No. 4 cable provider in the U.S.

"We're living in the golden age of TV and, even today, most Americans love cable; they just hate their cable company," he said. 

As CEO of Layer3, Binder entered into a handful of new, innovative distribution partnerships with broadband providers before the company was acquired by T-Mobile in December. Indeed, Binder also saw how important mobile devices have become to the next generation of consumers. With the acquisition by T-Mobile, which has branded itself the "un-carrier," Binder says Layer3 is now positioned to excel in a future that will be dominated by handheld supercomputers and lightning-fast mobile networks. 

"The internet is becoming the mobile internet," Binder said. "With T-Mobile, we're set to take all that to the next level. We're going to un-carrier your TV."

T-Mobile has promised to launch its first Layer3-powered service sometime later this year.
—Kendra Chamberlain

Co-president and Chief Operating Officer of Altice USA

Cell phones are great—but so is talking to your remote control. Ask Boubazine, who has just overseen the rollout of Altice One across the core Optimum footprint in the United States that the Netherlands-based company inherited from Cablevision.

Voice-activated remotes are among the most popular features so far of Altice One, a cube that bundles a set-top box, modem and Wi-Fi router into one sleek package with 4K capabilities, IP phone and cloud DVR. It launched in January with access to Netflix, Pandora and YouTube and will gradually add other OTT services. Altice One's flexibility, its ability to evolve and integrate new services over time, is crucial in today's fast-moving media landscape, Boubazine explained.

Boubazine, who has degrees in engineering and theoretical physics, previously headed Altice's Dominican Republic business, and he has worked on design, construction and operation of next-generation cable and fiber networks in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the French West Indies. For the past two years, his priority has been adapting Altice One—which has been immensely successful for Altice in Europe—for U.S. markets. 

"We've been collecting feedback to make sure we didn't have blind spots, ramping up slowly, fixing the little glitches that appeared as we were compiling customer feedback," he said. "So when we did the marketing launch, we were ready."

Adoption of Altice One in the United States has been "amazing," Boubazine said.

Now, he's exploring the possibility of subscribers being able to install the boxes themselves. He anticipates a soft-launch of Altice One for Suddenlink Systems starting in Lubbock, Texas, in April, and "ramping up to the entire Southern footprint by fall." The initial focus is on attracting new customers, then getting existing subscribers to migrate. "Ultimately, what we aspire to is having all our customers using the Altice One," Boubazine added. 
—Jill Goldsmith

Chief Marketing Officer for Hulu

Last summer, Hulu lured Campbell from a top marketing job at Google to oversee brand and product marketing across the SVOD and, crucially, the live TV service Hulu launched several months earlier.

It's a critical role at a critical time as Hulu turns 10. At Google, Campbell helped grow the company's G Suite business to 3 million paying customers and led the rebranding of its offerings globally. Now she's working to drive new subscriptions, boost awareness of the Hulu brand and content, and develop a strategic vision and voice. She thinks Hulu Live, and the space where it operates, is a game changer. 

"I have no doubt that this is the future of the pay TV industry," she said. "Consumers want to be able to watch their television in one place—whether they are at home or on the go. It's been invigorating to help [them] understand that this is now possible."

As people stream live television, "there are endless new and compelling experiences we can bring to them." Hulu today offers a large SVOD library, originals, sports, news and shows from 50-plus live channels.

Under Campbell, Hulu inked a deal with Madison Square Garden, giving it naming rights to the 40-year-old, 5,600-seat theater. The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, with Hulu branding and content throughout, will host upfront presentations and show launches. Hulu's award-season kudos has also helped drive buzz.

"We see interesting patterns emerging in content consumption when content is abundant and control is entirely in viewers' hands," Campbell noted. "One less obvious pattern that is fascinating from a marketing point of view is around the choices consumers are making. Content choices are not one-dimensional. Viewers are using TV to indulge in binge behavior of mood management—a pattern we are calling 'palate cleansing.' For example, some people might be surprised to know that six of the top 10 shows viewers watch after 'The Handmaid's Tale,' an intense drama, are comedies."
— Jill Goldsmith

Manager of Discovery, Research and Machine Learning for Netflix 

Machine learning is the field of computer science that gives computer systems the ability to "learn" through data without being explicitly programmed. It's something that excites Chandrashekar, who's been working to deploy it at Netflix, particularly around the company's recommendation system that proposes new shows to subscribers.

Those recommendations are a key feature in getting people to watch content they might not have found on their own. And it recently took a big jump forward thanks to Chandrashekar and his team. 

Netflix can now personalize not only what it recommends but also how it recommends it. That is, Netflix has long curated shows by title and description based on members' perceived tastes. But its latest algorithm, deployed in December, showcases a more sophisticated use of images and artwork to keep people clicking "play." According to Chandrashekar, a whiz-kid computer scientist who joined Netflix in 2013 after earning his doctorate at Dartmouth, the new system is able to rank various images from the same show. 

In a post on the Netflix tech blog, Chandrashekar and his colleagues explained it: In the past, "we hunted for the best artwork for a title, say 'Stranger Things,' that would earn the most plays from the largest fraction of our members. However, given the enormous diversity in taste and preferences, wouldn't it be better if we could find the best artwork for each of our members to highlight the aspects of a title that are specifically relevant to them?"

Someone who favors romances may like "Good Will Hunting" if Netflix shows artwork of Matt Damon and Minnie Driver, they said. But a member who prefers comedies "might be drawn to the movie if we use the artwork containing Robin Williams."

It's that kind of innovation, coupled with personalization wrought from the latest developments in technology, that has kept Netflix growing and Chandrashekar on the cutting edge.
—Jill Goldsmith

CTO of Customer Premises Equipment at Arris

Cheevers has been chief technology officer of top set-top box maker Arris' customer premises equipment (CPE) division since 2012. Cheevers has led the company's CPE strategy as the home set-top box has transformed from a simple video decoder to an increasingly complex and flexible whole-home connectivity hub. 

Indeed, the past seven years have seen rapid evolution in how consumers find, consume and interact with content, and Cheevers has worked to ensure that the set-top has evolved in lockstep with those new trends. At Arris, Cheevers has driven innovations including OTT-sourced content on operator-provided set-top boxes; interfaces that combine linear, nonlinear and OTT content; support for next-generation video technologies like 4K and HDR; and improved built-in connectivity. 

"Contrary to popular belief, the set-top is not in decline as such right now," said Cheevers, who professes that a robust and innovative set-top box can help ensure that service providers don't lose control over input 1.

That philosophy has helped guide Arris through an increasingly difficult market for set-top boxes. But Cheevers sees a big future for connectivity and the set-top box. He envisions a new renaissance for pay TV CPE that will increasingly become less about video content and more about whole home connectivity, with the set-top box, connected to the largest screen in the home, acting as the central command center for smart home and smart assistance systems. 

"We're seeing the role of the set-top translate into not just being a video decoder, but also being an IoT hub, with the large TV being quite useful as the [display] of the smart assistant. Expect to see applications that link home life to the ever-growing large screen in the home," Cheevers said.
—Kendra Chamberlain

Head of Creative Development for Worldwide Video at Apple

Cherniss oversees the development of scripted original content for Apple Worldwide Video, an aggressive, original programming push by the tech giant. 

Apple hired former WGN executive Cherniss last summer. He reports to former Sony Pictures Television presidents Zach Van Amberg and Jamie Erlicht, who joined Apple a few months earlier. The team has been assembling a slate of high-profile projects for 2019—roughly 12 so far. The latest announced project is an animated series called "Central Park" by Loren Bouchard, but the company's list of offerings also includes an M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller, an "Amazing Stories" reboot by Steven Spielberg, a sci-fi show by Ronald Moore, a sketch comedy with Kristen Wiig, a morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and a series penned by Damien Chazelle, just to name a few originals in the works.

Apple is believed to have devoted about $1 billion to invest in original content. That would be well below Netflix's reported $7 billion for 2018, but Apple says it's not competing. Speaking recently to CNN at SXSW, Apple senior VP Eddy Cue described the company's content investment strategy as big but selective and "very high quality," pointing out that Apple will be the only company with near full control over the hardware and software where its videos will stream.

Cherniss knows the drill, at least in terms of content. He was previously president and GM of WGN America and Tribune Studios, where he led brand-defining original series "Underground," "Salem" and "Outsiders," as well as the Emmy Award-winning "Manhattan."

Previously, he served as senior VP of production at Warner Bros. Pictures and held senior leadership roles at Fox Broadcasting, shepherding development for a slate of Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series like "Glee," "Sons of Anarchy," and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
—Jill Goldsmith

Executive VP of sales at Evolution Digital

Cohen has overseen Englewood, Colorado, set-top vendor Evolution's North American sales operations since 2010, bringing to bear 25 years of CPE sales experience.

His team is on a roll right now, with the company announcing in September that it has signed up 23 U.S. cable operators to use its hybrid IP/QAM video solution. 

Cohen has acted as a key strategist in product and service development for the company's operator customers by keeping the lines of communication open between Evolution Digital and its MSO clients. "We are always looking for ways to help our customers retain subscribers, generate new revenue streams and maximize profit," Cohen says. 

Cohen describes the company as being at the forefront of guiding operators in the important transition to all-IP video distribution. Evolution offers hybrid IP and QAM eBox set-top boxes, and an eVue-TV IPTV video platform, all aimed at helping service providers migrate their pay TV services to all-IP systems. 

And, after hearing that operators were looking for ways to deliver content to streaming media devices, the company launched eVue Now, a solution that enables operators to deploy a skinny bundle of pay TV channels with network DVR capabilities to OTT devices such as Rokus, Apple TVs and Android devices.

Further, in 2016, Cohen championed a distribution deal with the National Cable TV Cooperative for Evolution Digital's eVue-TV IP video platform, and the company counts WOW!, Mediacom, Advanced Cable Communications and RCN as its customers. Evolution Digital has also partnered with TiVo for its eGuide interactive programming guide, which uses TiVo metadata.

Cohen and Evolution Digital continue to work to aid existing pay TV players move into the increasingly complex world of IP.
—Kendra Chamberlain

SVP, Head of Distribution and Partnerships for Hulu

Tim Connolly

Connolly—who oversees content licensing for Hulu with Live TV, including analyzing and selecting content partners, negotiating contracts and assessing performance—has been busy making deals.

The service offers live streams from Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast—which jointly own Hulu—along with the CW, CBS Corp., A+E Networks, Turner Networks and others. Connolly also manages relationships with device manufacturers like Apple, Roku, and Google and traditional MVPDs. 

Other innovative Hulu programming deals negotiated under Connolly's watch include one with Spotify on an inexpensive bundle of its two services for college students, and a partnership with Sprint for the mobile operator to offer Hulu's limited commercials package free to Sprint unlimited data customers.

"I was very fortunate to work on these initiatives last year. And we are just getting started," Connolly said. Also, he takes no credit but is quite proud of the fact that Hulu is the first streaming service to win a best drama series Emmy and Golden Globe for "The Handmaid's Tale." Connolly, who joined Hulu in 2014 after heading digital distribution and new product development for Walt Disney's TV networks, sees the pace of transformation in pay TV accelerating. 

"The changes will keep getting bigger," he said. "Three years ago there was huge change when HBO and CBS both decided to go direct-to-consumer. Now those changes seem tiny compared to Disney's [pending] acquisition of Fox."
—Jill Goldsmith

VP OF Business Strategy and Planning for SES

Corda and his colleagues at Luxembourg-based satellite giant SES have spurred major progress in the adoption of 4K/Ultra HD in North America—a key effort as operators increasingly work to leverage high-quality content to attract and retain customers. As of late October, 35 U.S. pay TV operators were in various stages of trial and deployment with SES' end-to-end Ultra HD programming solution

Corda, an industry veteran who joined SES in 2004 from Hughes Aircraft, was key in the development of the platform. He said he wants the transition from HD to Ultra HD to take half as long as the last big shift, from SD to HD. "When HD first came out, you would first see it on Blu-ray discs, and it took four years until you could get it on your cable system on TV at home. … So I said, 'I think [this] is going to take two years.'" 

It did. Since 2015, SES has been working out technical standards and approaches, smoothing kinks, installing receivers—"making sure everything played together," Corda explained. For operators, customer equipment, transcoding and programming are just a few of the elements that conspire to make 4K so daunting. SES puts it all together in one package—a package that operators including Frontier Communications have chosen.

Indeed, SES worked with Comcast-NBC to transmit the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang in Ultra HD. "Now, we want to create more awareness," he added. He hopes consumers with Ultra HD TVs will start asking cable operators for more 4K content.
—Jill Goldsmith

Chief Digital Officer at Epix

Dakss was appointed chief of digital at Epix in 2016 and has helped the network stay ahead of the curve in the rapidly evolving media consumption landscape. 

Dakss led Epix, which was recently fully acquired by MGM, as it executed an aggressive TV Everywhere strategy, which has placed Epix apps across all of the most popular streaming devices and platforms. The network released apps for Roku, Xbox, Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Android TV and PlayStation, earning it a reputation as one of the first pay TV networks to launch on-demand services for connected TV platforms.

Dakss has helped bring to fruition some of the network's most innovative consumer-facing digital distribution features. For example, Dakss furthered the network's platform reach through the development of a casting feature for Epix's mobile apps. Epix Cast, which uses Vizbee's casting technology, enables viewers to cast movies and TV series from a mobile device to smart TVs and other devices without any need for additional hardware. And unlike other casting technologies, Epix Cast doesn't mirror the mobile device screen. Instead, it will find the best quality copy of the content available online for the larger display. 

Dakss also helped spearhead the network's 4K initiative. Recognizing the growing adoption of 4K TVs in the U.S. market, Dakss made sure Epix became the first premium pay TV network to offer 4K streaming for its library of premium films in its apps in 2018. 

Before joining Epix, Dakss was VP of NBCUniversal's innovative tech incubator Media Labs, where he helped create a slate of revenue-generating digital products, ranging from virtual reality to 360-degree video, social TV, second screen app experiences and enhanced metadata solutions for advanced content recommendations.
—Kendra Chamberlain

Executive VP of Product and Strategy at Charter

DiGeronimo, a former Level 3 executive, is a 10-year veteran of the No. 2 cable operator in the U.S., which delivers pay TV to nearly 17 million homes. 

One of Charter's top product and strategy executives since 2011, DiGeronimo leads product design, development, intelligence and management teams, as well as the business development organization. Among other product lines, he's been instrumental in the development of the company's cloud-based Spectrum Guide video delivery system. 

This isn't brand-new technology, of course. But amid the expanded footprint of "New Charter," the Spectrum Guide system—which is designed to handle all processing in the cloud and utilize older set-tops—is one of the more influential pay TV platforms in the U.S. right now. 

"The guide for cable customers for a long time has been a bit stale," DiGeronimo said at CES several years ago, introducing the platform. "Think of Spectrum Guide as a website. We can change it on the fly. And you'll have a state-of-the-art, modern experience, whether you're on a 10-year-old SA box, a five-year-old Cisco box, or a new World Box."
—Daniel Frankel

Founder and CEO of 605

In late 2016, shortly after leaving her COO post at Cablevision following that company's sale to Altice, Dolan teamed with former Cablevision advanced advertising chief Ben Tatta to launch data analytics firm 605. Dolan manages the company's day-to-day operations, from client relationships and sales to product development and research. With 605, Dolan is essentially carrying on Cablevision's innovative prowess with advanced advertising

Dolan garnered a reputation as a data pioneer during her days at Cablevision. She oversaw the Cablevision Media Sales division that developed a set-top box viewership data strategy that was a forerunner of the kind of audience-driven television advertising that many advertisers now rely on. 

Dolan said that through her work with set-top data and advertising within the New York market, she discovered that one-third of Cablevision's inventory wasn't being measured. "That was a huge 'aha' moment," she said. "To have a third of your inventory where you can't actually quantify the value and therefore can't actually sell it for its true value—we saw that as a big opportunity." 

As founder and managing partner of Dolan Family Ventures, she led the company's acquisition of New York-based Analytics Media Group, a data firm heralded for its work on former president Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. 

Following that acquisition, and taking the knowledge garnered from the data strategies at Cablevision, Dolan launched 605. The mission, Dolan explained, is to have a national census, utilizing data from a variety of sources and proven analytic capabilities, applied across the country—local, regional and national—in order to enable national advertisers and national networks to better monetize their advertising and for clients to better utilize that advertising. The company received a significant investment from Charter Communications, along with access to troves of its set-top box data, to flesh out its data analytics and measurement services. 
—Kendra Chamberlain

Chief Lifestyle Brands Officer at Discovery, Inc.

When Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks finalized their merger and became Discovery Inc., Scripps' Finch found herself in charge of one of the most expansive lifestyle programming kingdoms around.

Finch is a television industry veteran who has been with Scripps nearly 19 years. Her new title gives her oversight of HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel, Discovery Life, American Heroes Channel, Destination America, Great American Country and Lifestyle Digital Studios in the U.S.

Finch is being handed the reins for almost all of the most important lifestyle brands on cable after working her way through the ranks at Scripps. She started as senior VP of programming at Food Network before moving to general manager of the DIY Network. After that she was promoted to general manager of both HGTV and DIY, eventually adding Great American Country to her portfolio before ending up as chief programming, content and brand officer in 2015.

As Deadline pointed out, Finch is not as recognizable in television as Nancy Daniels, who's now running Discovery Channel and Science Channel, or Nancy Dubuc, the former A+E Networks CEO who just moved to the head job at Vice Media. But the publication cited sources who said Finch has a rare combination of operational focus and rapport with talent and that she will "instantly infuse life into the Discovery side of the house."

As one of the key figures at one of the biggest cable programmers in the world, Finch appears poised for a breakout moment.
— Ben Munson

Co-Founder and CEO of fuboTV

Competing in a virtual MVPD jungle full of telco-, media-conglomerate- and Google-backed competition, upstart startup fuboTV has built a respectable subscriber base of 100,000 users. And despite its modest leverage, it's built a solid programming base focused on sports. "I'm a big fan of fubo," said TV[R]EV analyst Alan Wolk. "They're like the little engine that could. I suspect that they might get bought by someone (Verizon?) who needs a vMVPD play and can supply a broadband connection to go with it."

The man putting fuboTV into play against Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu Live, YouTube TV and Sony PlayStation Vue is Gandler, a New York-based former Time Warner Cable, Scripps and Warner Bros. sales executive.

Speaking last year, Gandler said that after securing $15 million in series B funding from Sky and 21st Century Fox, fubo is ready to take on its next phase of growth as a sports-focused virtual MVPD.

"I would compare year two of fubo as Netflix in its second year of existence, when it decided to switch to streaming and then from streaming to original programming," Gandler said. "We're in that similar situation where we have built out a service, it's growing nicely, we're well known to a specific type of sports fan, and have an opportunity to expand that service for the U.S."

Added Gandler: "We coined the phrase 'sports-first virtual MVPD,' and … we are targeting a basic package that's heavily skewed towards sports, unlike all of the other competitors."
—Daniel Frankel

CEO of Otter Media

Goncalves, former digital head at AT&T, was appointed CEO of Otter Media earlier this year, marking the latest move in his 15-year career centered on the intersection of digital business, premium content and consumer engagement. Otter Media is an online video joint venture between AT&T and The Chernin Group, formed in 2014. 

Goncalves has overseen the development and release of an impressive roster of compelling digital video products. After stints at both Sony and Samsung, Goncalves joined DirecTV in 2007, where he guided the satellite TV company's budding digital distribution business by founding its digital division. He also helped pioneer DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket OTT offering.

Goncalves later joined AT&T following the telco's $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV in 2015 as CEO of Digital Brands for AT&T. In that role, he helped launch AT&T's key new business vertical: DirecTV Now, the streaming pay TV bundle that marries mobile video usage with premium linear TV content. 

As head of digital at AT&T, Goncalves also managed the company's other digital ventures, including Otter Media, where his focus has been on scale. Under his guidance, Otter Media's portfolio has grown to include Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Fullscreen, the digital video bundle service VRV, Ellation, Hello Sunshine—backed by Reese Witherspoon—and Gunpowder & Sky. 

Otter Media reaches more than 90 million unique viewers per month, totaling almost 100 billion video views in 2017. Looking forward, Goncalves will work to bring global scale to Otter Media's digital-first, fan-centric video offerings. 
—Kendra Chamberlain

VP Worldwide Amazon Prime Video

Hart, like Richard Au, spent a long time in device development at Amazon before making the jump to Prime Video.

Hart, who serves as vice president worldwide for Amazon Prime Video, has been at Amazon for more than 21 years; he stepped into his current role leading Amazon Prime Video globally in March 2017. Prior to that, Greg served as a vice president in Amazon's devices division, where he led the team that created and launched Amazon Echo and Alexa.

Now, Hart is spearheading Amazon's efforts to double down on its Prime Video offering. Though he didn't say as much, Hart hinted at Amazon continuing to become an all-encompassing video destination.

"Our role, and goal, is to continue to bring Amazon customers content they love, in an easy, delightful way, available to watch on as many devices as possible," Hart said. "Customers want convenience—we hear it from them. There are too many apps and subscriptions, all managed in different places, which creates mental overhead. Our goal with Prime Video is to deliver a single, great experience that offers customers the broadest possible selection of content, available through a combination of subscription, rental and purchase options."

Hart promised that through his role at Amazon, he and the company will continue pushing to shake up the traditional models for buying and watching video content. He plans to "keep innovating on the way customers watch and enjoy movies and TV, and to deliver even more premium content to Prime Video customers around the world."
—Ben Munson

Executive VP and Chief Product and Technology Officer at Cox Communications 

A former Division I college soccer player and a former Level 3 and Clearwire CIO, Hart is the lead product executive for a privately held cable operator that's quietly the sixth-largest pay TV operator in the U.S., serving around 4.2 million customers, according to one estimate

Hart has his hands in areas ranging from home automation to wireless these days. But he's left a mark in video.

Under Hart's leadership, Cox was the first cable operator to decide it didn't have to spend a fortune on a next-generation video system technology when Comcast had already developed one it could license. 

In October, Cox revealed that its licensed version of Comcast's X1 platform, the flagship video product which it calls Contour, had been distributed to 1 million homes, about a quarter of the company's subscriber base. 

Cox said video customer churn is 20% better among its Contour subscribers.

"We're seeing similar trends as others in the industry [have with X1] thanks largely to our new Contour product," Cox spokesman Todd Smith said last year. 
—Daniel Frankel

President and General Manager of RDK Management

Heeb and his team just announced that their open-sourced platform has now been integrated into 40 million pay TV set-tops and other devices, an important milestone in the evolution of the video industry.

Reference Design Kit provides a common framework for video and broadband service providers to power equipment including set-top boxes, broadband gateways and converged devices. It's administered by RDK Management, a venture created by Comcast, Liberty Global and Charter. With RDK, "service providers and their suppliers have found a prime development platform to drive future growth and innovation," Heeb said.

Heeb, who is also VP of licensing and strategic development at Comcast, credits RDK's success in part to the group's transparent approach to solving common technical challenges as a community. RDK, he said, is helping operators focus on creating advanced UIs, applications and back-end data analytics to enhance customer experience and boost business. The RDK community is made up of 300-plus companies including customer equipment manufacturers, chipset vendors, software developers, system integrators and service providers. Twenty-five video and service providers in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia are either evaluating, testing or using RDK. Going forward, in both video and broadband, Heeb sees service providers continuing to embrace the software industry's best practices and "iterate" faster than ever.

"Our industry is adopting open-source efforts, … collaborating and contributing new innovations back to the broader community," Heeb said. At Comcast, where he's worked since 1994, Heeb manages technology development and licensing initiatives focused on business arrangements for software-based network solutions, software development and video encryption technology.
—Jill Goldsmith

Principal Architect, Video and Standards Strategy at CableLabs

Standing on the forefront of pay TV display innovation, Hinds hopes cable subscribers will, in the not-too-distant future, enjoy sitting down to watch miniature football players score touchdowns—not on their TV sets but in front of them. These days she devotes much of her time to holographic displays: 3D without glasses. 

"We've identified the media format and many external, key stakeholders," Hinds said of such displays. Hinds and cable industry technology consortium CableLabs are working on flat panel displays that will project holographs. "A few more years down the road," she said, viewers "will see the exact image of a scene in front of their TVs. You can see objects as if they are really there."

Perhaps as early as this year, the technology, which partly leverages gaming industry tools and platforms, may be introduced in location-based entertainment venues—concert halls, theme parks and stadiums. Then, TV manufacturers need to jump aboard.

"This type of change only happens once every 30 years," Hinds said, explaining that it's totally different from video, requiring a geometric-based display, not a flat media format. "That's the big challenge."

Hinds is a software engineer and computer scientist who holds key positions at a number of industry technology groups. She's been at the nonprofit CableLabs consortium since 2012, and it's cable, she said, that will provide content for the new system. "I will make sure it works well for cable. I've got their backs covered," she said.
—Jill Goldsmith

Executive VP and Chief Network Officer at Comcast Cable

For years, Hofmeyr led the Comcast team delivering the company's next generation video platform, X1—making the breakthrough, cloud-based video product available across the entire Comcast service area with new services like Netflix, YouTube and a voice-capable remote.

Now he's got a bigger role at a crucial time: He's responsible for all aspects of Comcast Cable's network and operations, including engineering, reliability and quality, to deliver video, high-speed data and voice services to residential and business customers. 

After spending the past eight years on X1, "it's been exciting to explore a new role overseeing our core network and communication platforms. The network sits at the heart of the company," Hofmeyr said. He added that the size of Comcast's network and the rate at which new services are being added requires constant innovation, like machine learning and automation, which he said have driven measurable improvements in reliability. 

"The recent launch of our SD-WAN service is one example of the new capabilities that we are developing. Not only do we now provide reliable connectivity, but we are also putting the control back in the hands of our business customers with enriched network visibility, application-level insights, and dynamic traffic routing to better optimize application performance," he said. "We are still in the early stages of what is possible."
—Jill Goldsmith

Chief Technology Officer at Dish Network

A Carnegie Mellon-trained engineer, Khemka has his hands full as the leading technologist for a company with operations spanning linear satellite and live over-the-top distribution, not to mention a still-mercurial wireless play. 

Khemka led the effort to develop Dish's linear customer premise equipment strategy built around its Hopper DVR. However, with Dish losing nearly 1 million satellite TV customers in 2017, he might not get enough credit for one of traditional pay TV's most robust and innovative platforms. The Hopper, after all, was the first to embrace digital services, integrating Netflix well before Comcast put it into its own X1 platform, for example. 

Also through the Hopper platform, Khemka's team has offered cutting-edge features like support for mobile downloads and nifty voice solutions via integration of Amazon's Alexa. 

On the OTT side, Dish's Sling TV platform was the first virtual MVPD to hit the market three years ago, with Khemka's team taking on what was the very challenging task of morphing a satellite TV company into one that's also now adept at streaming live video over the internet. Indeed, Sling TV remains the biggest vMVPD with more than 2.2 million subscribers.
— Daniel Frankel

CEO of CBS Interactive and Chief Digital Officer of CBS Corp.

Lanzone is charged with coordinating CBS' digital initiatives across its portfolios. Lanzone, who has led CBS Interactive for the past five years, now oversees all of CBS' OTT assets, including the subscription OTT service CBS All Access and its pay TV sister service Showtime, as well as the streaming news channel CBSN.

Lanzone has been in digital for most of his career. He joined CBS when it acquired his company Clicker Media in 2011. Before that, Lanzone was CEO of IAC's When he joined CBS, Lanzone was appointed president of CBS Interactive just a year after the first iPad was released, at a time when only 6% of the network's online traffic was mobile. Mobile now represents over 60% of the network's digital traffic. During the intervening years, Lanzone has propelled CBS' digital business to the forefront of OTT distribution. 

Moving into the direct-to-consumer subscription business was one of the most important strategies for CBS championed by Lanzone. At $5.99 per month, CBS All Access became the first broadcaster-backed OTT service to hit the market, and the service now has over 2 million subscribers. That success can be credited in part to Lanzone's strategy of producing original series for the service: CBS has released three originals for the platform so far, including the latest Star Trek installment.

During his tenure at CBS, Lanzone has been able to transform the network's digital arm into a fast-growing—and profitable—business for CBS, while tracking the evolution of multiplatform content consumption from the days of desktop computers to today's mobile phones and connected TVs. In doing so, he's helped to transform CBS from an over-the-air broadcaster into a multiplatform distributor of premium content.
—Kendra Chamberlain

Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer and International at Walt Disney Company

Disney recently announced a corporate realignment that included the formation of a new direct-to-consumer and international business segment—and it handed Mayer the keys. Mayer now holds watch over ESPN+ and Disney-branded streaming services, as well as Disney's international media businesses and Disney's ownership stake in Hulu (which could become a majority stake if Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox goes through). On top of all that, Mayer's new segment also includes BAMTech, global advertising sales for Disney's media properties, program-sales operations and Movies Anywhere.

During his nearly 13-year tenure with Disney—first as executive VP of corporate strategy and business development, then as chief strategy officer—Mayer earned a strong reputation as a dealmaker for the Mouse. While some of his acquisition targets like Club Penguin and Maker Studios have struggled under the Disney umbrella, other acquisitions like Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm that Mayer has overseen have turned out to be unconditional successes.

Mayer's current run at Disney is not his first. Before serving as head of global media and entertainment at L.E.K. Consulting, Mayer started at Disney back in 1993 as manager of strategic planning for the company's digital and television businesses.

But now, in his new job and with Disney on the cusp of adding Fox's studio and cable networks to its already attractive content portfolio, Mayer has an impressive set of assets at his disposal and a clear mandate to weave them into a direct-to-consumer future.
—Ben Munson

CEO of Philo

Although his character didn't show up in the movie "The Social Network," McCollum nevertheless has the unique distinction of being a Facebook co-founder. And that invaluable experience helped lead him to his current role as CEO of Philo, a streaming TV service.

Philo, like Facebook, started as a project by students at Harvard, which is where McCollum first noticed it. He fell in with Philo co-founder Tuan Ho and soon McCollum became a mentor for the startup before eventually becoming an official board member and advisor. Then, in 2014, McCollum took over the role as CEO.

Under McCollum's watch, Philo took a major step beyond the college campuses it was serving and launched a nationwide $16-a-month service with live access to cable networks from programmers including A+E Networks, AMC Networks, Discovery Inc. and Viacom.

Besides offering some cable networks not available on fellow virtual MVPDs like YouTube TV and Hulu, Philo plans to differentiate through some fairly unique social features including the ability to connect with people on the platform, see what they're watching or what they recommend, share shows with friends and sync up viewing with friends on the platform.

Those features are still in the works for Philo and won't show up until there are enough users on the platform to make them worthwhile. But when they arrive, if they're successful in setting Philo apart from its competitors, it's likely McCollum, with his experience helping launch the biggest social network in the world, will get a good chunk of the credit.

"We're definitely excited about getting the social functionality released. A lot of us use it internally for testing and we're still really excited," McCollum said.
— Ben Munson

Head of Content Strategy, Acquisition and Programming for Verizon

McPherson is in the thick of a battle for eyes and dollars as her employer, Verizon, has been clear about wanting to challenge giants Facebook and Google in the digital video ad market. 

Her stomping ground is Oath, a Verizon corporate subdivision combining AOL, Yahoo and Verizon's mobile video service Go90. In February, Verizon said it anticipates more than $20 billion in annual revenue from Oath by 2020. McPherson used to run business development and video at Yahoo, followed by a stint as chief content officer at Maker Studios. So her current gig is a homecoming of sorts, but in a vastly changed media landscape requiring new kinds of dealmaking. 

McPherson has stepped up, though, helping to expand Verizon Fios' carriage pacts with A+E, Discovery and Univision into multipronged alliances that include original digital content. The A+E deal specifically includes first-look access to original digital content for Oath, which will also work with A+E's digital content studio, 45th & Dean, on programming aimed at millennials. "My hope is we see this trend continue because ultimately we want the same thing: that is, to serve customers [and] reach existing and new audiences," McPherson explained.

Perhaps more importantly, McPherson's team forged a landmark, five-year digital and mobile streaming pact with the NFL, as well as another key partnership with the NBA. These sports agreements in particular were "groundbreaking" for Verizon, "in that we have taken our longstanding sponsorship [agreements] and expanded them to distribution on mobile devices," McPherson said. "We are committed to being the first screen in sports." 

The NFL pact features eight live games through Yahoo Sports with no paywall, as well as original content and highlights. McPherson said she's thrilled by "the openness of sports leagues in forming these kinds of innovative partnerships, as more and more audiences seek content at any time on any screen."
— Jill Goldsmith

EVP of Content Distribution and Strategic Partnerships at Turner Content Distribution

In July 2017, Mirgorod was appointed EVP of content distribution at Turner Networks, where she oversees strategic partnerships for Turner's portfolio of brands. Mirgorod is working to expand the company's relationships with linear multichannel video providers in North America as well as strike new relationships with emerging content distribution platforms such as Google and Facebook. 

Before her new role, Mirgorod was EVP of brand distribution at Turner, which began offering full seasons of new TV shows for Comcast Xfinity OnDemand subscribers back in 2014, and now does so with most of its original programming.

The network has also entered into the direct-to-consumer video business. It has launched two ad-free subscription streaming video services: the classic movie-focused Filmstruck and the cartoon video service Boomerang. Turner is also planning to launch a sports streaming service. Mirgorod has described those OTT offerings as complements to the company's linear TV business.

Mirgorod said the network is now exploring partnerships with OTT providers such as AT&T's DirecTV Now, Hulu Live and YouTube TV, as well as OTT platforms like Roku, Amazon and Apple. Turner is participating in the Amazon Channels program, and Mirgorod is navigating MVPD distribution deals for Turner's OTT networks. 

"As we see it, the divide is disappearing," she said, pointing to virtual MVPD services and Netflix integration on set-top boxes. "Everyone is working towards the same goal of providing the consumer with the best video experience possible."
—Kendra Chamberlain

Director of Content Partnerships for YouTube

Moosnick calls it a "delight and honor" to have helped launch YouTube TV, Google's recently introduced foray into the crowded virtual MVPD services market

"It's been the most exciting product I've worked on in my career because we are redesigning the TV experience to a digital, personalized, connected and interactive world," she said. "And we are just getting started."

Moosnick joined YouTube in 2013 as head of music label partnerships and assumed her current role in 2016. She's held top executive roles at Warner Music, CBS Interactive and MTV. YouTube TV, which launched in February 2017, offers 50 broadcast and cable channels, including sports networks NBA TV and MLB TV. Most stream live in YouTube's 100-plus supported regions. "We are finally at a time where high quality and reliable cable-free live TV services exist. As users become more aware of the new and improved TV experiences, I think we are going to see a meaningful acceleration in the shift to these streaming services over the coming year," she said. 

Moosnick sees younger demos, in particular, continuing to migrate. "I think we're also going to be really successful at gaining younger viewers who have abandoned cable subscriptions because of its inconvenience, to try services like ours and realize they love the TV content, but they just were frustrated with how it used to be delivered," she said. With a massive shift underway, the number of entrants are rising. 

YouTube TV, which reportedly counts around 350,000 subscribers, faces tough competition, however, with Dish Network-backed Sling TV, AT&T's DirecTV Now and Hulu Live currently ahead of it in vMVPD marketshare. 

"YouTube is in a tough position because MVPDs and telcos can outflank them with double play deals and high prices for broadband only, even making the double play less expensive than broadband only (at least for the first 12 months)," said TV[R]EV analyst Alan Wold. "But Google has enough money to keep it afloat and they may wind up doing so for the data alone."
—Jill Goldsmith

CTO of Bamtech Media

The April launch of ESPN's direct-to-consumer streaming product culminates months of work for both ESPN and Disney. But for Inzerillo, it's a career high point decades in the making.

Inzerillo since 2016 has served as chief technology officer and executive vice president of Bamtech Media, the Disney-owned video streaming technology firm that powers both the ESPN+ streaming service and the upcoming Disney-branded streaming launching in 2019. It's a position Inzerillo helped drive by racking up a series of major clients for Bamtech over the years including Fox Sports, HBO and Hulu. Indeed, last year Inzerillo oversaw two of the nation's biggest streaming events: HBO's broadcast of the "Game of Thrones" season 7 premiere and Hulu's launch of its Live TV service offering 350 channels.

Prior to Bamtech being spun off from Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Inzerillo spent more than 10 years with MLBAM as executive vice president, CTO and as senior vice president of multimedia and distribution. At MLBAM, Inzerillo developed and launched a range of key technologies, including expanded instant replays in streaming, an iBeacon technology installation, and Statcast, a player-tracking system that allows sports fans to measure every play during a game.

Prior to joining MLBAM, Inzerillo spent eight years as the CTO of the United Center, home of both the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks—thus paving the way for his eventual oversight of ESPN+.
—Ben Munson

VP of Original Documentary and Comedy for Netflix

Netflix may have cemented its reputation with original dramas, from "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" to "The Crown," "Bloodline" and "Jessica Jones." But there's another side of its content business that's burnishing its reputation and fueling growth: It's documentary and comedy, both headed by Nishimura.

In recent years, Netflix has almost single-handedly fueled a renaissance in the documentary genre. The streaming service famously refuses to release consumption data, but Hollywood awards prestige is an indicator of the dent Nishimura's team is making. For example, in February, "Icarus," cyclist Bryan Fogel's tale of doping and scandal involving a top Russian scientist, took the best documentary Oscar, making it Netflix's first Academy Award-winning, feature-length film. In fact, four of the SVOD giant's documentary features (and two shorts) were short-listed for Oscars this year. 

And in 2016, Orlando von Einsiedel's look at rescue workers helping victims of Syrian air strikes, "The White Helmets," won the Oscar for best short documentary. Going back further, "What Happened, Miss Simone?" Liz Garbus and Hal Tulchin's profile of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone, and Evgeny Afineevsky's self-explanatory "Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom," were both Oscar-nominated in 2015.

A former indie film executive, Nishimura joined Netflix nearly a decade ago, picking out foreign films for DVD release before evolving into the role of emcee for Netflix's stand-up empire. In comedy, she's assembled the most powerful stand-up roster in the media business, stealing a position that used to belong to rival HBO. Comics under contract with the SVOD service include Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais and Patton Oswalt, just to name a few. 

With Netflix pushing 118 million subscribers globally, and leading a global content arms race that has forced rival SVOD services, pay TV giants and media conglomerates to vastly increase their programming budgets, what Nishimura does matters. 

"We're extremely friendly to artists," she said early last year. "We release their work fully intact, and we don't censor or edit their work, which might be the case with a typical broadcast network. We fully support the comedians we work with and their vision."
—Jill Goldsmith

CEO and President of CuriosityStream

North leads CuriosityStream, the documentary-themed SVOD platform launched in 2015 by her father, Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks. CuriosityStream offers a smorgasbord of Discovery-like documentaries and nonfiction science, nature, history and technology programming. Hendricks, who made a vast fortune in the pay TV business, has put $100 million into CuriosityStream with the aim of creating a factual programming service for the "social media generation."

North has a background in media. She worked at ABC News and CBS Sports for stints; later she led various ownership and marketing initiatives as VP of her family's Hendricks Investment Holdings.

Since its launch in 2015, North has led CuriosityStream's strategy and operations spanning content acquisition and device reach. North has partnered with content providers including BBC, NHK, ZED, Terra Noa and Flame Media. She has also been credited with spearheading the OTT service's rapid international expansion and adoption. North has struck strategic partnerships with distribution platforms including Comcast's Xfinity, Dish Network's Sling TV and Amazon Video. CuriosityStream is also available across LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio smart TVs and Amazon, Roku and Apple streaming boxes. 

North describes the mission of CuriosityStream as providing "affordable, global access to quality, factual programming." Under her leadership, the company launched its own content production arm, called Curiosity Studios, which has been responsible for developing some of the OTT service's most popular programming, including "Deep Time History," "DIGITS," and "Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places," a series which won the OTT service its first Emmy.

"CuriosityStream is all about quality nonfiction content that is very difficult to find on TV today," North said. "We've taken tremendous care in cultivating a rich library of documentaries that really satisfy the enduring human desire to better understand our world."
—Kendra Chamberlain

Executive VP and Chief Intellectual Property Officer for TiVo

Formed by the $1.1 billion merger of patent company Rovi and DVR pioneer TiVo in 2016, the current iteration of TiVo Corp. collects the bulk of its revenue through technology licensing. Enter Patel, a former Technicolor and IBM IP licensing executive. 

Patel oversees TiVo's patents and licensing business, and he is charged with driving the growth and integration of the company's intellectual property assets in an OTT, mobile and global expansion. Since Patel was appointed in June, TiVo has secured a number of key patent licensing settlements, including deals with Altice, AT&T, Liberty Global and Google. Meanwhile, TiVo is doggedly chasing down Comcast, which has thus far avoided paying licenses on technologies used in its X1 video system. Comcast claims that TiVo's patents are old, and that all the tech in X1 was cooked in the cable operator's own laboratory environment. For its part, Patel and his team won a important ruling against Comcast from the International Trade Commission in December and are determined to make the operator pay for TiVo licenses. 

In discussing his work at TiVo, Patel steered the conversation to TiVo's development of integrated voice search technology, which he thinks will be a key driver of home entertainment going forward. "Voice will inevitably continue to be a major way we control home entertainment environments and is central to TiVo's next-gen experience," he explained. "The ability to discover content using refined search and recommendation that is completely controlled by voice is the intuitive experience that consumers have been waiting for. … Protecting these valuable voice technologies with patents provides TiVo another important route to market for our inventions through our IP licensees."

Stemming from those efforts, the TiVo Bolt Vox, introduced last fall, allows users to search for content across multiple sources, including MVPD, DVR or OTT subscriptions, add apps and change channels by speaking into the remote control. 

Further, at CES 2018 in January, TiVo announced plans to add support for Alexa and Google Assistant. "TiVo is at the forefront of the voice paradigm and its product offerings and IP in this area allow for a strong leadership position that will continue to be leveraged as the market for voice control develops," Patel said.
—Jill Goldsmith

Head of Sales and Marketing for Canoe 

Nothing went right the first five years for Canoe Ventures, the cable industry consortium that was going to reinvent TV advertising. But in 2012, Canoe pivoted to narrowly focus on dynamic ad insertion into cable video on demand. The consortium—now backed by Comcast, Charter and Cox—hasn't really had a bad day since. 

"It's safe to say the VOD ad market is now a $1 billion advertising marketplace when you include national programmers and local MVPD VOD," Pizzurro said last year. 

Acting as the face of Canoe since it made its big-time pivot more than five years ago, Pizzurro rarely gives out monetary figures. But the company's public quarterly reports tend to look like the proverbial hockey stick, with the number of VOD ad impressions delivered across operators growing exponentially each three months. In the fourth quarter, for example, impressions spiked 37% to nearly 7 billion.

Canoe delivers VOD ads to more than 36 million homes served by the top three U.S. cable operators covering each of the top 50 designated marketing areas. Canoe stewards thousands of ad campaigns each quarter on behalf of over 100 national television networks, including A&E, ABC, AMC, CBS, CW, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, Hip Hop, HGTV, Kabillion, Kid Genius, MTV, Music Choice, NBC, Starz, TNT, TVOne and Univision.
—Daniel Frankel

Director of Android TV for Google

Prueter is Google's top man for its Android TV product, an exciting if not controversial offering aimed at updating the TV viewing experience for consumers, with characteristic Google flair.

Prueter has a background in pay TV middleware and worked directly with major pay TV providers in deploying IPTV systems in international markets. And before heading up Android TV, Prueter led the Android Program Management division for the Android mobile platform. That resume positions Prueter to be keenly aware of the operator side of pay TV as well as the user side of operating systems.

Indeed, Google's Android TV is a TV platform extension of the company's Android operating system for mobile and connected devices. The platform, which is powering smart TVs and set-top boxes, helps TV operators reimagine the TV experience by blending traditional linear TV service with Google's open ecosystem approach and the world of OTT features and services. 

"Android TV bridges these two worlds with an intuitive and highly customizable user experience, and through innovative features designed to simplify the consumer's media interaction," Prueter said. That means simplifying the design, adding more customization options to the interface and making navigation more intuitive.

Despite the distrust of Google harbored in the telecom industry, and the threat Android TV poses to the RDK set-top paradigm, Android TV has enjoyed some traction in the ecosystem. Last fall, for instance, Comcast announced a new Android TV app for its Xfinity TV Partner program, which lets users with supported devices use their Comcast video service without a set-top. In September at IBC, Arris unveiled a trio of UHD/HDR set-tops powered by the Google technology. And in February, Evolution Digital announced a line of eStream 4K devices for Tier 2 and 3 cable clients that come certified with Android TV software. 

In the Android OS, proponents say, operators can position their own branded services more prominently while still featuring Google services like Google Play, which is a gateway to OTT experiences ranging from Netflix to YouTube. 

One of the key initiatives Prueter has championed as head of Android TV is the introduction of Google Assistant to the TV OS, which enables viewers to use voice commands on the TV set in a manner that's similar to how Android users currently use Google Assistant on their smartphones.
—Kendra Chamberlain

Director of Products and Partnerships in esports for Turner Sports

Turner is carving an important path into the mainstream for esports and Nick Ranish is a big part of that effort.

In his new position, which he started in April 2016, Ranish is tasked with creating and managing relationships with game publishers and other esports community partners on behalf of Eleague, Turner's esports content and live tournament brand. Ranish will help develop a full schedule of new events and products including live tournaments and content initiatives.

Ranish is particularly well prepared for his role at Eleague. He had a seven-year career as an esports competitor, playing "WarCraft 3" and "StarCraft 2" professionally. He's worked in esports content production for Major League Gaming, where he served as an on-camera personality and producer for shows focusing on "StarCraft 2." He served as senior product manager for Electronic Sports League, leading client services for the company's business-to-business video production offerings. He also worked as an esports manager for Warner Brothers Games.

Esports is not new and many companies like ESL have been at it for a long time. But Turner's involvement means more esports content and tournaments are finding broader audiences and casual viewers, while people like Ranish are helping Turner approach esports in a way that doesn't alienate the hardcore fanbase.

— Ben Munson

Chief Media and Business Officer for the NFL

Rolapp was promoted last year to chief media and business officer at the NFL, after years of work as EVP of media for the league. He's responsible for evolving the NFL's business as content consumption changes, particularly around things like commercial loads, multiscreen watching and the rise of the mobile. He's also known for bringing digital savvy to the broadcast TV content behemoth.

As executive VP of media, Rolapp oversaw the NFL's digital products, including the subscription OTT service NFL Network,, the streaming productions of Thursday Night Football and the NFL's YouTube channel. Rolapp was also in charge of the NFL's commercial-free RedZone Channel. Additionally, he's been credited with spearheading NFL Network, which offers full NFL games online to stream after their linear TV broadcasts have finished. 

That amounts to a lot of influence over the media and telecom industries—despite the National Football League's well-publicized two-season ratings decline, it remains perhaps the most visible and reliable broadcast TV draw.

Rolapp is now considering new monetization strategies amid criticisms faced industrywide over ad loads. Under his guidance, the NFL is experimenting with new ways to monetize regular season games and content in a world increasingly dominated by short prerolls, ad-skip buttons and on-demand viewing.

Part of that strategy has been to expand NFL content to new platforms. The league has signed streaming deals with digital platforms Yahoo, Twitter, Verizon and most recently Amazon, to complement its high-ticket linear broadcast licenses, which are tied up until 2022.

He has also been able to successfully split Thursday Night Football games between NBC, CBS and digital partners. And in mobile, Rolapp has helped expand NFL live game distribution to platforms such as Verizon-owned Yahoo Sports, ESPN and NBC Sports mobile apps.
—Kendra Chamberlain

Platform GM at Roku

Rosenberg was promoted to his current post in December during an organizational restructure that saw the company consolidate its advertising and content distribution services under Rosenberg in his new position. Rosenberg, who has been with the company since 2012, is now charged with rolling out innovative products, driving user engagement and generating more revenue for the company's thriving advertising business. 

No doubt, it's a key position for the nation's most widely distributed OTT operating platform, controlling 37% of the market, according to Parks Associates.

During his Roku tenure, Rosenberg helped steer the company away from relying on hardware sales for revenue. By building out Roku's ad business, he helped the company diversify into platform services and advertising, thus bolstering the company's business as tech giants Apple, Amazon and Google compete in the streaming media player market.

Rosenberg describes Roku's larger mission as reinventing TV advertising and ensuring it remains relevant in an increasingly digital world. While ad-supported services are the fastest growing on Roku's platform, there's increased pressure from consumers to reduce ad loads.

Rosenberg believes that as ad loads drop, the value and impact of those ads must increase. To that end, Roku is fleshing out its advertising and media services for its content channel partners. The company recently launched Roku Ad Insights, a new measurement offering that helps marketers and brands track the impact of their advertising on OTT by leveraging the company's first-party viewership data garnered from its 19 million active user accounts

Rosenberg is now working to help reimagine advertising on Roku's platform in response to shifts in consumer behavior around ad load.

"Marketers have been used to targeting, measurement, interactivity in digital," he said. "We're bringing those capabilities at scale to the TV ad industry, which must pick up these fundamentals in order to compete for ad spend."
—Kendra Chamberlain

Group president of Sling TV

Schlichting, a seven-year Dish Network veteran, oversees all aspects of the Sling TV business, including strategy and performance. He also oversees all content acquisition and renewals for Dish and Sling, as well as ad sales.

A former Comcast and Morgan Stanley executive, Schlichting covers a lot of ground for a pay TV operator that's still the fourth-largest in America, despite some deep subscriber losses lately at its core satellite TV platform. 

And that's why his work at Sling TV is key. Not only is Sling the oldest and most established virtual MVPD in the market (it has more than 2.2 million subscribers now), it also has perhaps the most innovative programming model. Under Schlichting's firm command in programmer negotiations across platforms, Sling TV has held the line on its $19.99 base price tier at a time when some vMVPDs are creeping their price points up toward the neighborhood of traditional bundles.

Indeed, under Schlichting's command, Dish has tried to hold the line on spiraling programming costs more aggressively than perhaps any other programmer, with Dish going to the wall with station and network groups on a number of occasions in recent years. As Dish has engaged in numerous retransmission blackouts and carriage interruptions, Schlichting has emerged as one of the pay TV's true street fighters. 

"We agree that it is time for consumers to stop being treated as pawns," said Schlichting in a letter to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo last year, as Dish battled broadcaster Hearst Television amid a blackout.

And in March, he was a star government witness, testifying that allowing AT&T to buy Time Warner Inc. would give AT&T too much leverage over rival distributors in carriage negotiations for Turner Networks and other Time Warner assets.

Notably, Schlichting also leads Dish's advanced advertising business, which could render Sling TV—which has low margins but high potential for addressable ad targeting—a far more profitable venture down the road.
—Daniel Frankel

Founder and CEO of Cheddar

Media veteran Steinberg has pioneered the formation of what he calls the PCN, or "post cable network," with the launch of Cheddar, an online streaming news site. 

Steinberg, who was formerly president and COO of BuzzFeed and CEO of DailyMail US, launched Cheddar in early 2016, which capitalizes on younger consumers' preferences for online news video rather than TV news. 

Cheddar streams live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Facebook and, and has been dubbed the "CNBC for Millennials." Cheddar has raised some $32 million, with investors including Comcast, Amazon, Altice, AT&T, Lightspeed Venture Partners and WGI Group.

Cheddar, which began as an ad-supported service, offers news across financial, tech and lifestyle verticals. The network has just under 150 million monthly views thanks to distribution deals with Twitter, Amazon, Twitch and Dish Network's Sling TV. It's also available on Comcast's Xfinity platform. 

Cheddar is now exploring partnerships with local linear TV stations in markets in California and New York. The company has attracted top advertising clients like Fidelity to the platform, and raked in $10 million in ad revenue last year alone. Steinberg has also launched a subscription tier for the service, which is distributed on video platform Vimeo.

The concept of the PCN is an evolution of the cable news networks that dominated in the latter portion of the last century, but Steinberg believes the model will extend to other content genres. PCNs are the future of live programming, according to Steinberg, and news and sports are just two genres that will require a PCN approach in the near future. Steinberg has even hinted that the company may explore expanding into DIY and food verticals in the future. 
—Kendra Chamberlain

Executive VP of Xfinity Services for Comcast

Strauss is now the executive driving force behind Comcast's consumer-facing Xfinity product line. But he made his bones at Comcast as the product manager who led the shaping of the company's bold X1 video platform.

At a time when customers—and other cable companies—were leaving the pay TV business in droves, chased away by economically more-efficient OTT services, Strauss spearheaded what was essentially a doubling down on video, offering customers a premium, cloud-based experience replete with algorithmic gizmos and on par with anything Netflix and YouTube were offering. In fact, in the Strauss era of Comcast's video strategy, the cable giant stopped trying to beat those guys and smartly assimilated competitor OTT services into X1.

Indeed, the X1 platform ended a decade of video subscriber declines at Comcast—the company actually grew its pay TV base in 2016.

Strauss is well known for his innovative approaches to addressing consumer shifts while maintaining pay TV's core business. Comcast's recent ad-free options for AMC and FX are among his recent projects, as was the launch of Comcast's Xfinity Instant TV, a streaming pay TV service that offers a basic cable lineup, cloud DVR features and premium add ons.

One key aspect of Strauss' work was integrating the various Xfinity products with one another in order to give consumers instant access to those services while removing some of the friction between them. This whole-ecosystem approach to Xfinity products has helped Comcast in its quest to resemble tech giants like Apple and Google in terms of how it creates innovative consumer products.

Strauss is now working on building out a whole home platform that will see the service provider marry its Xfinity entertainment services with its burgeoning home automation business—a la Google or Apple. Noting that the number of connected devices in the home will only continue to rise, "the challenges of connecting and managing all those devices will only grow more frustrating and complicated without a seamless and integrated way to manage and control them all," Strauss said. "Xfinity, as the home operating system, will continue to integrate and simplify the digital home for its customers."
—Kendra Chamberlain

President and Chief Operating Officer of Fox Networks Group

When he was promoted in early December, Sullivan gained control over assets including FX, Fox Sports and National Geographic Partners that may soon be sold off to Disney for $52.4 billion.

But for now, it's business as usual for Sullivan, who oversees one of the more powerful network groups in the pay TV bundle. Sullivan heads up Fox Broadcasting, FX Networks, Fox Sports, National Geographic Partners and Fox's international channels group.

"Brian is an incredibly talented executive and has been instrumental in leading the direct-to-consumer efforts across our brands," said 21st Century Fox President Peter Rice in a statement. "Brian's track record at Sky and his proven expertise in building digital video consumer products has made him an invaluable part of our senior leadership team, and I look forward to working with him to continue to focus and operationalize our revenue, distribution and D2C efforts."

As part of his promotion, Sullivan received a seat on Hulu's board. 21st Century Fox co-owns Hulu along with Comcast, Disney and Time Warner. (Sullivan replaced Randy Freer, who left to become CEO of Hulu.)

Sullivan has been with 21st Century Fox since 2015, when he joined as president and COO of the Fox Networks Digital Consumer Group. In that role, he helped oversee the launch of Fox's new streaming experience that offers live and on-demand viewing of all FNG networks and programming within an authenticated app.

Prior to joining Fox, Sullivan spent decades in Europe's pay TV industry including roles as CEO of Sky Deutschland—where he helped spur 70% subscriber growth during his tenure—and as managing director of BSkyB's customer group. Before his time in Europe, which also included a short stint as a member of the CEO advisory board for Samsung Electronics Europe, Sullivan spent more than four years as an accounts manager for Showtime.
—Ben Munson

SVP and GM for Disney's SVOD Service

If Walt Disney Co. is on the cusp of a major transformation in how it delivers its content, Swint is leading the charge.

In January, Disney hired the former Samsung, Apple and Walmart executive to lead the development and operations of its upcoming and still-unnamed direct-to-consumer subscription video service, set to debut in 2019. The technology for the service will come from BAMTech Media, which Disney acquired a majority stake of in 2017.

Disney's OTT platform will become the exclusive U.S. home for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of Disney and Pixar movies, starting with a strong 2019 slate that includes "Toy Story 4," a "Frozen" sequel and a live-action version of "The Lion King."

Disney will end its distribution deal with Netflix next year to keep its product in-house. It will invest in an annual slate of original movies, TV shows and short-form content for the new service and feature library fare from Disney, Pixar, Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD television. Star Wars and Marvel may eventually join the mix, along with 21st Century Fox assets—if and when Disney's pending acquisition of that company closes.

It will be a service that could potentially rival Netflix, and it's under Swint's oversight.

But Swint clearly likes to take on new challenges. At Samsung, he managed content and launched the Milk streaming video and music services. He was at Apple for five years, running its global movie business and launching HD movies and iTunes Extras. And at Walmart, he oversaw the pioneering digital transition of the retail giant's massive physical media businesses, launched a music competitor to iTunes and a movie and TV download service.
—Jill Goldsmith

Head of global creative strategy for Facebook

Van Veen brings years of experience to Facebook despite his young age.

He began his comedy website CollegeHumor in 1999, while still a student at Wake Forest. By 2006, he sold a controlling stake in the company to Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp for $20 million, before breaking away to become CEO of CollegeHumor's production company spinoff Notional one year later. At Notional, Van Veen helped shows like the Food Network's "Chopped," which has morphed into a cottage industry for the channel, including the recently launched "Chopped U" on Snapchat.

Then, in 2016, before his 36th birthday, Van Veen was hired by Facebook to help grow the social media giant's video ambitions. At the time, that included generating more interest from media companies and creators in the Facebook Live and 360-degree video platforms. By the middle of 2017, his job included corralling those same creators and media companies to make content for Facebook Watch, the social network's new video service.

Recent content launches on Facebook Watch include ESPN's "First Take: Your Take" and an expanded deal with Major League Baseball to livestream games. Both of those deals aim to leverage Facebook's social features to differentiate, a strategy that Van Veen has been pushing.

"A show should activate a community—a psychographic or demographic or affinity group or a new community formed around a show," Van Veen said at NATPE in January, according to Variety. "The most important aspect of Watch is that social element … There's just so much you can do when you have content and conversation happening at scale on the same platform."

If Van Veen can continue attracting big-name content creators and finding innovative ways to creatively use Facebook's social features, he'll be able to add a successful Facebook Watch service to his resume before his 40th birthday.
—Ben Munson

CEO of NewTV

After six years in the PC business, Whitman is making the transition to mobile as the newly appointed CEO of NewTV, a new mobile video platform backed by Jeff Kaztenberg's Wndrco.

Much of the details around NewTV have been hush-hush, though Whitman and Katzenberg seem confident that the service will launch in the second half of 2018.

To many, Whitman was an unconventional choice for the position. Kaztenberg has said he's eager to leverage her operational expertise and understanding of technology and consumer behavior in launching NewTV. Success will require not only a carefully crafted content strategy but also a keen eye for balancing consumer demands around video with sustainable monetization strategies for a mobile-first video service. 

Whitman has an impressive track record. She began her career at eBay in the late 1990s, back when the internet auctioneering platform was an early startup. In her 10-year tenure as CEO, she transformed eBay into an 18,000-employee-strong venture, raking in $8 billion in revenue. 

In 2011, she joined Hewlett-Packard, using her time as CEO to steer the PC maker to growth. She famously split the company into two businesses: hardware-focused HP Inc. and software-focused HP Enterprise, where she continued her work as CEO until 2017. 

Her new job as CEO of NewTV will certainly present some challenges. Katzenberg hopes to pioneer an entirely new content format, one that marries rich, premium drama with mobile platforms.

But media isn't exactly a new hat for Whitman. She and Katzenberg are former Walt Disney Co. executives—and Whitman was once in the running for CEO at Disney in the wake of Michael Eisner's departure. Whitman also sat on the board of DreamWorks Animation, which Katzenberg founded in 1994.
—Kendra Chamberlain

Senior EVP and COO of AT&T Entertainment Group

York already had a pretty powerful role as chief content officer of DirecTV when AT&T bought the place for $49 billion two years ago.

Now, though, AT&T's top program licensing negotiator is serving roughly 25 million-plus pay TV subscribers in the U.S. alone. So if you want to launch a nationally distributed channel in America on linear or virtual pay TV, you're probably going to have to go through York—a man who has been purported to bring programmers on the other side of the bargaining table to tears with a "mashing your face into the cement" negotiating style. 

But he has also testified in court hearings and seems nice. 

Prior to joining DirecTV in 2012, York worked at AT&T from 2004-2012 as president of content and ad sales. And prior to that, York served as VP and general manager of Time Warner Inc.-owned HBO from 1997-2000, a golden age for premium networks as it pioneered the now-ubiquitous brand-building programmer strategy of must-have original series like "Larry Sanders," "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos" driving subscriber growth.
—Daniel Frankel