The editors of Multichannel News chose 40 movers and shakers under the age of 40 who are leaving an indelible mark on their companies, as well as on cable and telecommunications overall. From the plains of Kansas to cyberspace, from networks and operators to gear makers and broadband portals, these “40 Under 40” are a representative cross section of a multitude of industries and disciplines.
By no means a definitive list of young executives to watch, the 40 Under 40 is a sampling of some of the most innovative and formative players at work today. These are individuals who have come a long way in a relatively short time, and who continue to make invaluable contributions in their respective fields of expertise.
Jennifer Caserta, 35
Senior Vice President of Marketing, IFC
By the time Jennifer Caserta joined The Independent Film Channel in July 2004 as vice president of marketing, she had already amassed an impressive roster of cable- and marketing-related credentials.
In her pre-IFC days, Caserta served as vice president of ad sales marketing for Court TV; and before that, she held marketing positions at The Food Network, Oxygen Media, Westwood One and the Radio Advertising Bureau.
As IFC senior vice president of marketing, Caserta heads up all trade and consumer marketing efforts for the network, oversees ifc.com and is responsible for evolving the network’s “tv. uncut.” branding.
IFC’s “'tv. uncut.’ is a multifaceted philosophy,” said Caserta. “It embodies the core of our brand and the way our audience consumes media. It’s more than just a tagline. It’s infused in the unique positioning of our business and IFC’s creative approach to marketing.”
To further extend the network’s brand, she helped develop IFC’s “Film School Curriculum” public-affairs initiative, which brings filmmaking education to high school English classes, as well as the IFC Media Lab online showcase for independent films.
“The most exciting part of being in the cable business these days is the opportunity,” Caserta said. “We live in a world of experimentation.”
Jennifer Chun, 35
Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, Fox Cable Networks
Jennifer Chun heads the legal side of the constant and sometimes grueling negotiations between Fox Cable Networks and cable and satellite operators. In Chun’s six years at Fox Cable, the number of channels has grown from six to 13. And what started as a two-person department now has six lawyers.
“You are charged with responsibility for every word and nuance in that agreement. You read and re-read every bit of language in that deal,” said Chun. As for the brinksmanship involved, she describes it as “kind of like fishing. You want to reel the fish in but you don’t want the line to snap.”
Chun is self-effacing and quick to downplay her own accomplishments while highlighting those of her staff.
Chun’s boss, Fox general counsel and executive vice president of business and legal affairs Rita Tuzon, said, “The thing about Jen is that she talks softly and carries a big hockey stick.” Literally, as Chun plays in three recreational ice hockey leagues.
Albert Cheng, 35
Executive Vice President of Digital Media, Disney-ABC Television
The Walt Disney Co. has been one of the most aggressive companies in digital media in recent months, from offering episodes of broadcast network shows like Desperate Housewives on Apple Computing Inc.’s iTunes to streaming episodes of Disney Channel’s tween comedy That’s So Raven on the Internet.
Leading the company’s charge into that space is executive vice president of digital media Albert Cheng, who has been redefining Disney’s digital strategy since joining the mouse house in 2000. The Hawaiian-born executive, who is also very active in the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications and serves as the diversity group’s treasurer, said Disney and the industry in general are in a great position to best serve the needs of the consumer.
“We have some time to prepare for a very diverse millennial generation, which will be the prominent consumer purchasing base within the next ten years,” he said. “We should be very smart and adept about what their needs are and how they consume their content, and then figure out how to make a real business out of it.”
It’s a good bet that Cheng will be at the forefront of the industry’s digital future.
Greg Clayman, 34
Vice President of Wireless Strategy and Operations, MTVN
Thanks to Greg Clayman, the “M” in MTV might just stand for mobile.
As vice president of wireless strategy and operations, Clayman has been the mastermind behind MTV Networks’ rocket ride into mobile distribution.
When he came to MTV two years ago, Clayman found fertile, if unplowed ground. It was his job to bring wireless thinking into every level of MTV.
“It’s been a process of education and evangelism, and not just creating wireless knowledge and know-how within MTV Networks but also letting the outside world know what we are doing,” Clayman said.
He knew it was working earlier this year, when MTV announced it is streaming 2.5 million video clips monthly to mobile handsets in the United States.
“And at that moment, we were like, 'Wow. We’re the biggest distributor of wireless video content in the U.S.,’” he said. “And then we kind of looked at our international partners and they said, 'We’re the biggest ones over here, too,’ and so that makes us the biggest distributor of wireless content in the world.”
Charlie Collier, 36
Executive Vice President and General Manager of Advertising Sales, Court TV
When Charlie Collier joined Court TV in 2002 from Oxygen Media, it didn’t take long for him to realize that the media buying community needed to hear more network testimony. “Every one knew that Court TV showed trial coverage by day. But in making my first few calls, not everyone knew that we featured original and entertainment programming in primetime,” he said.
Collier and his team have been making that case nicely to the jury on Madison Avenue, more than quadrupling ad revenues as the network has been branded and sold as “Court TV News” by day and “Court TV: Seriously Entertaining” by night.
As such, the network courts many direct-response ads in its news daypart, from “major categories,” according to Collier. “Our viewers are engaged and it pays out very well for the pharmaceutical and telco advertisers.”
Viewer engagement is also at the center of the return on investment metrics that Collier has effectively implemented for Court TV: In its first turn, 97% of clients’ fourth-quarter 2005 schedules met or exceeded their guarantees.
Following Time Warner Inc.’s acquisition of the half of Court TV it didn’t own from Liberty Media Corp, Collier is now engaged in a new discovery: working within Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s ad sales unit.
Kip Compton, 34
Senior Director of Video and IPTV Development, Cisco Systems
Kip Compton has been working on cutting-edge technology since high school. Cisco Systems Inc.’s senior director of video and Internet Protocol television development started his own software company at 15. He is convinced the cable industry faces dramatic technological changes ahead.
“We are seeing an inflection point over the next five to 10 years,” said Compton. “I think the technological changes may even be accelerating.”
Compton is in a unique position to know. He spent three years through January 2006 as Comcast’s vice president of video and media engineering. His team of 100 engineers helped develop many of the company’s technological innovations.
“He has compressed very significant experience in a very accelerated way and managed to own more and more of these complicated architecture and service rollouts,” said Paul Bosco, Cisco vice president of cable and video initiatives. “He is an exceptional, innovative technologist in every shape of the word with a fairly unique ability to understand both consumer and technology trends.”
Dave Davies, 37
Senior Vice President of Strategy and Product Marketing, Scientific Atlanta
Dave Davies digs DVRs. The 37-year-old senior vice president of strategy and product marketing at Cisco Systems Inc. subsidiary Scientific Atlanta Inc. has played a major role in quite a few of the cable gear maker’s next-generation products, most notably development of a line of popular digital video recorder set-top boxes.
At first, the industry was not entirely convinced the idea of a kicked-up video recorder would catch on with consumers. “There were a lot of people early on that had a lot of questions about DVR, but the research really supported it and we were big believers in that product,” he noted. “It’s really been a great solution for our customers.”
And since Scientific Atlanta is now a Cisco property, Davies is leading the efforts to integrate SA’s product lines into Cisco’s product DNA to create a roadmap for a new set of next-generation products.
Working with Cisco and fellow subsidiary Linksys, the work now is “figuring out the connected home and how a lot of those pieces are going to fit together,” Davies said.
Karen Driscoll, 36
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Marketing, Nickelodeon
Karen Driscoll has racked up several career highlights in her eight years with Nickelodeon, including management of such properties as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer. She also designed the “La Casa de Dora” campaign, which earned the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing award for multicultural campaigns.
During her tenure, she has worked on such initiatives as “Designer SquarePants,” which featured supermodels and designers posing with the character as part of a fundraiser for pediatric AIDS research; and the placement of the first African-American and Latino characters in the balloon lineup in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Driscoll handles the off-channel marketing for the network’s highly-rated Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards.
She has been influenced by her opportunity to work in a “smart and open environment,” surrounded by champions and mentors, Driscoll said. Great ideas are accepted from all areas of the company, from its president to a receptionist, she added.
Not surprisingly, Driscoll’s motto is “seize the day.”
Nancy Dubuc, 37
Senior Vice President of Non-Fiction and Alternative Programming, A&E Network
Nancy Dubuc has worked in television production throughout most of her career.
“We are in a unique position. There aren’t many jobs out there where you are evaluated on a daily basis,” said Dubuc, who is now senior vice president of nonfiction and alternative programming for A&E Network. “There is a lot of information about what programs are working and not working.”
Dubuc has made a name for herself at A&E by developing a number of reality shows, including Growing Up Gotti and Gene Simmons: Family Jewels, featuring the former lead singer of 70’s rock group Kiss.
The strategy has driven dramatic ratings growth among viewers 18-49.
A&E IndieFilms, a less mainstream venture recently launched by Dubuc, spotlights the work of high-quality independent documentaries.
The key, she said, is that “you have to take creative risk without being a slave to research and ratings.”
Kristine Faulkner, 38
Vice President of Product Development and Management, Cox Communications
Since February 2004, Kristine Faulkner has been responsible for leading the definition, development and implementation of commercial products for Cox Business Services’ customers, and is responsible for product lifecycle management.
With Faulkner at the helm, the Cox Business Services team has seen several significant innovations including products such as Cox Business Internet; virtual-private-network services; Cox Optical Internet (fiber-fed Internet access); Web hosting services; voice services to new markets via circuit-switched and voice-over-Internet Protocol platforms, and wireless plant extension technologies.
“In my career, I’ve had the challenge and the good fortune to help organizations embrace change enabled by technology,” said Faulkner.
Mark Garner, 39
Vice President of Distribution and Field Marketing, Lifetime Networks
When Mark Garner joined Lifetime Networks in 2001, it marked a cable homecoming literally and figuratively for the Detroit native.
Garner cut his teeth in the industry as an affiliate sales executive for MTV Networks in the mid-1990s, where he helped launch TV Land, MTV 2 and Nickelodeon’s Noggin. But he soon left the industry to scratch an entrepreneurial itch that took him halfway across the world to South Africa to start a satellite network with his father, cable veteran Nate Garner.
Now back in the states, Garner, who is a very active member of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications, is overseeing the distaff network’s advanced media platform to operators along the East Coast and the Caribbean.
While Garner says he continues to harbor entrepreneurial ambitions, Lifetime’s move into the emerging digital media business has helped to satiate his appetite.
“What I’m exited about is all the opportunities developing in our industry, particularly when you read the trades and see that someone is doing a new deal on a new platform with a new content provider to create yet another way to get entertainment to a different device,” he said. “To the extent that companies like Lifetime are getting into that feeds my entrepreneurial bug.”
Scott Garner, 36
Senior Vice President of Programming, Disney Channel
Responsible for over 360 programmable hours on cable and broadcast platforms, Scott Garner plans and schedules content on four networks: Disney Channel, Toon Disney, ABC Family and the ABC broadcast network’s Saturday morning daypart, ABC Kids. He also manages scheduling of all on-air promos and advertising traffic for Disney Channel, Toon Disney, ABC Kids and Jetix, working closely with advertising sales, marketing and promotions and on-air operations.
“Our ratings success on air is now complemented with innovative program offerings across linear and non-linear platforms,” Garner said. These platforms include the subscription video-on-demand service and Disney Channel on Demand.
Prior to joining Disney at 1999 as director, research, Garner served Cartoon Network in the same position for two and a half years.
“My job, much like our programming, is really cool as our channel continues to serve up great stories and characters that touch our audiences on many levels, wherever they chose to watch them,” he said.
Jeff Glahn, 28
Product Manager of Voice and Data Solutions, Motorola
Despite being just 28, Jeff Glahn has had a major voice in developing Motorola Inc.’s next-generation gizmos that tap into wireless and wireline technologies to fit an increasingly anything-, anywhere- oriented world.
Glahn got started in cable technology early, landing a systems engineering job with Comcast Corp. right out of college. Two years ago he moved to Motorola, where he has played a key role in developing cable modems, voice gateways and next-generation “seamless mobility” gateways marketed to cable operators and telephone service providers.
In particular, the seamless mobility products, which fuse wireless and wireline technology to create devices that can display any content, anywhere, are in Glahn’s gunsights.
“Now I have the opportunity to use not only my technology background in cable, but obviously with Motorola being able to link that now with the cellular world — it’s just awesome,” Glahn said. “You just love to go to work every day and working with all of these great new technologies.”
Steve Gorman, 37
Vice President of High-Speed Internet Marketing and Product Management, Cox
It’s not surprising that Steve Gorman is making a name for himself in the high-speed Internet space, considering how much he has already accomplished in the course of his career.
As vice president of high-speed Internet marketing & product management for Cox Communications Inc., Gorman has brought his business and marketing acumen to help the operator achieve significant growth with Cox HSI and higher-than-industry-average penetration.
“Clearly, the Internet has provided significant opportunity for cable, and the delivery of broadband is a vital part of our business,” Gorman said. “However, [Internet Protocol] is also a disruptive force that challenges traditional business models for existing cable services and empowers new competitors to meet us in the marketplace.”
He joined Cox in 1999 as product manager of residential data services. Most recently, he was executive director of marketing, high-speed Internet. He was promoted to vice president in 2003
During his years at Cox, Gorman has had a hand in several of the company’s accomplishments in the high-speed Internet market, from transitioning subscribers to a proprietary network once the company became independent from Excite@Home Corp. to the development of tiered levels of CHSI service.
Beth Higbee, 35
Senior Vice President, Scripps Networks Interactive
Upon arriving at Scripps Networks as vice president of new media in 2000, Beth Higbee had already helped launch startup portal Snap.com and guide its merger with NBC to become NBC Internet. She served as a senior product manager for NBCi and directed operations for NBC Entertainment Web sites for Saturday Night Live and Late Night With Conan O’Brien.
Currently, Higbee handles Food Network, Fine Living and Great American Country’s interactive platforms while directing each brand’s Web presence.
Higbee also initiates wireless, broadband and interactive programs as brand extensions and revenue streams. Under her supervision, FoodNetwork.com has become the top online food destination, with record-breaking traffic. She also advised teams that created original broadband series, recipes that can be downloaded to iPods and rich-site-summary feeds from Scripps Networks.
“I’m continually on the lookout for new media outlets and revenue streams that make sense for us and our leading lifestyle content,” Higbee said.
Michael Hong, 38
CEO and Co-Founder, ImaginAsian
Michael Hong hasn’t taken a vacation in three years. His passion as CEO of ImaginAsian Entertainment is palpable. His job is his life.
“Basically, the work itself is something that I would probably do even if it wasn’t paid. I truly love it. I feel like I am doing important work,” Hong said.
When ImaginAsian launched three years ago, the initial plan was that it would be a basic-digital channel.
Since then, the company has expanded to include movie theaters and a film production arm.
Hong sees the theaters, partly, as a way to secure carriage. As part of carriage negotiations with Time Warner Cable in New York, Hong gave the operator naming rights to the ImaginAsian movie theater.
“You have to bring a lot of different things to the table to get cable systems to pay attention to you,” Hong said.
He is convinced the way to get his audience to pay attention is through a multiple platform strategy.
“The Asian space is inherently so heterogeneous. There is a lot of fragmentation and it is not an easy market to reach,” Hong said.
Michael Hopkins, 38
Executive Vice President of Affiliate Sales, Fox Cable Networks
Michael Hopkins never stops negotiating. Fox Cable Network’s executive vice president of affiliate sales is invariably brokering deals between one of the company’s 13 national or 15 regional networks and major cable or satellite providers at all times. Deals relating to new platforms represent 40% of his work.
“It is exciting, we are creating the future,” said Hopkins.
Meanwhile, the bulk of the growth in revenue still comes from securing old-fashioned carriage agreements. Hopkins was part of the team that helped FX expand from under 30 million to over 80 million subscribers. He was heavily involved in the 2001 launch of the National Geographic Channel, which is now approaching 60 million subscribers. “As dramatic as the growth has been in the past five years, [after] the next five years we’ll look back and be amazed,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins was recently promoted from senior vice president. “[We’ve] more than doubled the number of channels [and] quadrupled revenue,” said Hopkins’ boss, president of affiliate sales and marketing Lindsay Gardner.
Richard Jennings, 37
Vice President and General Manager, Comcast Colorado-North Denver Metro
Richard Jennings oversees nearly 400 staffers serving 270,000 Comcast Corp. subscribers with video, data and voice as vice president and general manager for the north Denver metro region.
“I am bringing a sense of retail to the business here,” said the former Walter Kaitz Foundation fellow, who began his career at Sears, Roebuck and Co. “As an industry we need to learn to think like a customer, learn to think ahead of our competition and get into the mode of daily transactions,” said Jennings. “We’ve got to get where we are managing the business transaction by transaction [and] not reacting to monthly reports.”
Jennings joined Comcast last year after having managed progressively larger Time Warner Cable systems in California and Wisconsin before becoming a regional operations vice president.
Scott Binder, the senior vice president for the Colorado system, worked with Jennings at Time Warner and lured him to Comcast. Binder is pleased with the results: “We’ve had very quick growth within his footprint.”
Manish Jha, 38
Senior Vice President and General Manager of Mobile ESPN, ESPN
For Manish Jha, new media is not just a game, it is the game.
The senior vice president and general manager of sports-oriented cell phone service Mobile ESPN, Jha has played a major role in development of new media and distribution during his 15-year career with the sports programming giant.
Three years ago, he was tapped to take over as head of emerging media and helped develop broadband Internet content that eventually led to the ESPN 360 Web portal.
“I was recognized as one of the people that can fake a knowledge of technology pretty well,” Jha said with a laugh.
That led to development of Mobile ESPN, the first cell phone service aimed at sports fans. It also continues a theme in Jha’s career that mixes technology and content.
“One of the things that I became very passionate about four or five years ago was the intersection of technology and content,” he said. “It’s a very exciting place to be.”
Chet Kanojia, 36
CEO, Navic Networks
Chet Kanojia runs Needham, Mass.-based technology firm Navic Networks, which supplies the platform that makes Time Warner Cable’s “Dominos Pizza On Demand in Hawaii” tick, along with interactive advertising systems that are deployed on several Time Warner, Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. systems.
Navic’s goal is to enable programmers and advertisers to add interactivity to the traditional 30-second commercials, allowing viewers to “telescope” to long-form video-on-demand ads with a click of a remote; respond to interactive polls from advertisers; or request brochures from local car dealers.
“It all boils down to bandwidth and memory. What is your return on investment? After doing tons and tons of models, Navic’s belief is that telescoping and opt-in advertising offer the highest value bang for the buck,” Kanojia said.
Kanojia has done doctoral-level work on artificial intelligence, and holds a master’s degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Northeastern University and a degree in mechanical engineering from Regional Engineering College Bhopal in India.
Patrick Knorr, 33
General Manager, Sunflower Broadband
On the plains of Kansas, small independent cable operator Sunflower Broadband has been a pioneer. Early on, 30,000-subscriber Sunflower launched modems, switched-phone service, HDTV, video on demand and digital simulcast. Patrick Knorr helped spearhead those rollouts.
“We’ve made the economics work,” he said. “We are averaging $100 a sub in revenue for all these services.”
Knorr, who joined Sunflower as Internet manager, was promoted to general manager at the tender age of 27 in 2000.
Now, Knorr is also director of strategic planning for family-owned World Co., which not only owns Sunflower but several newspapers and an NBC TV-station affiliate. Knorr’s other hat is as vice chairman of the American Cable Association, the lobbying group for small cable companies.
His business philosophy is simple: “If you can’t develop your business at Internet speed, then you’re vulnerable … If you’re riding the wave it’s a little bit dangerous, a little bit exciting, but that’s why we have a lot of fun operating how we’re operating.”
Kelli Lawson, 39
Executive Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Black Entertainment Television
Kelli Lawson has been a major asset to Black Entertainment Television and its marketing division for nearly a decade. Since joining BET in 1996 as marketing vice president for BET’s now defunct skin care division Color Code, she’s moved up the corporate ladder and now oversees a division of 40 employees as head of the network’s creative services.
Among Lawson’s duties is managing all off-stage promotion for BET’s special events such as the BET Awards and marketing for the network’s pro social and public affairs initiatives like its HIV/AIDS-based “Rap It Up” pro-social initiative.
“Basically, its overseeing the image and preserving the brand equity of the BET core network,” said Lawson, who, while growing up in Cleveland, initially aspired to be a politician.
A wife and mother of two, Lawson says she hopes to continue to master her skills, preferably at BET where she says the work environment and people are ideal for her as she strives to achieve her professional and personal goals.
Gregg Liebman, 36
Senior Vice President of Ad Sales Research, CNN
As senior vice president of CNN ad sales research, Gregg Liebman is responsible for leading staff research analysis and strategy support for CNN News Group’s ad sales division, which includes CNN/U.S., CNN Headline News and CNN.com.
When Liebman joined Turner Broadcasting System Inc. in 2004, he brought with him vast agency-side experience, working with media buyers, planners and advertisers. His background includes stints at Zenith Media Services Inc., Optimedia International Inc., Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide Inc., among others, providing research and analysis for clients like General Mills Inc., Georgia Pacific Corp. and Miramax Film Corp.
On the communications side, Liebman has worked in the research departments of DoubleClick Inc., ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide and MTV Networks’ Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite/TV Land.
“CNN is at the forefront of a rapidly changing marketplace,” Liebman said. “We have taken an aggressive leadership role in providing content across multiple platforms and providing idea-based marketing solutions to our clients, which makes this a very exciting environment to work in.
John Martin, 38
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Time Warner Cable
Time Warner Cable’s John Martin has had his hands full with the Adelphia Communications Corp. acquisition and preparations for an initial public offering later this year. “The breadth of my responsibility is more of a challenge than any other job I’ve had” said the executive vice president and chief financial officer.
Martin has worked with the operator off and on for twelve years, including his time spent auditing the firm as an accountant and covering the firm as an equity analyst. He became CFO last year following a stint as director of investor relations.
Talking to investors remains a large part of his job, but Martin’s role is primarily strategic. “Right now, we’ve got more opportunities than we can execute operationally. I am constantly being asked for capital requests for investment opportunities,” said Martin. “We’ve got to make sure we capitalize on all our business opportunities and at the same time we’ve got to make sure we can create value.”
“John is an extraordinary young man who brings us not only technical financial expertise but also a deep understanding of the financial markets. He is also a quick study and is well on his way to becoming a 'cable guy’,” said Time Warner Cable President and CEO Glenn Britt.
Dermot McCormack, 36
Senior Vice President, Interactive Advertising and Development, Cablevision
Dermot McCormack, the former chief technology officer at Flooz.com, is looking to drive new revenue to Cablevision System Corp.’s coffers through projects ranging from Optimum Homes and Optimum Autos video classified advertising channels to long-form video-on-demand ads sold to cruise lines and other travel companies.
“The Internet every day starts to look more like television. One of the things I’m trying to do at Cablevision is make television look more like the Internet,” McCormack said.
Cablevision sells spots on Optimum Homes to real estate companies, which allow subscribers to take virtual tours of homes with their remote controls. McCormack said 10% of Cablevision customers have used the service since its debut last year.
In January alone, Optimum Homes had 100,000 unique users, generating more than 5 million page views.
McCormack’s group also recently cut a deal with Fox Cable Networks, selling it space for an FX Preview Channel that runs on Cablevision’s digital platform. McCormack says talks with other programmers for similar channels are in the works.
“Advertising and media really want to go two-way — I think the days of one-way media are starting to come to an end,” McCormack says.
Chris McCumber, 38
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy, USA Network
Named USA Network’s senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy in November 2004, McCumber spearheads the network’s overall strategic marketing vision and oversees the use and positioning of the USA brand — from on- and off-air promotions to initiatives with outside partners.
McCumber launched USA’s first comprehensive multiplatform branding initiative in its 27-year history, the award-winning “Characters Welcome” campaign. He is also the executive in charge of the World Wrestling Entertainment fare, and is responsible for all of USA’s digital strategy.
Formerly USA’s senior vice president of on-air promotion, he supervised the TV campaigns for the launches of Monk, The 4400 and The Dead Zone. He was also appointed to the NBC Universal marketing council, and is responsible for leveraging the USA brand across all NBC Universal platforms.
“The collaborative spirit at USA Network has given me the opportunity to broaden my creative skills and develop a strategic, innovative approach to marketing challenges,” said McCumber. “From the brand transformation, to the WWE, to major digital initiatives here at USA, it’s been a great ride so far, and I consider myself very fortunate to be part of one of the best teams in the industry.”
David Nathanson, 29
Senior Vice President and General Manager, TVG Network
David Nathanson got an early start in the cable business. He sold subscriptions door-to-door for his father’s cable system while still in high school and worked at Comcast Corp.’s Philadelphia headquarters while still in college. Now he is the senior vice president and general manager of the TVG Network.
Nathanson joined the interactive horse racing network last November and by the beginning of May 2006 had re-launched TVG and premiered 11 new shows. In the eight states where it is legal, the channel takes bets online, over the phone and through an EchoStar Communications Corp. set-top box. The network scored its single-largest take during the latest Kentucky Derby with $7.5 million in wagers.
“My hope is to broaden the appeal of horse racing to women, younger generations and get them involved in the excitement of the sport,” Nathanson said. “Our objective is to make horse racing a mass appeal sport.”
Eileen Montalvo, 33
Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, GolTV
Eileen Montalvo openly professes her ignorance of soccer even though she is the executive vice president of sales and marketing for GolTV. The fast-growing, Miami-based cable network is dedicated exclusively to covering soccer news and transmitting some 3,000 hours per year of European and Latin American matches.
Montalvo knows plenty, though, about marketing cable networks. She started working for MTV Latin America at 18. Montalvo joined GolTV when it was only available on EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network. Now it is available on every major cable system, as well as DirecTV Inc. and counts some 9 million households, more than its closest competitor Fox Sports en Español. The network is also attracting first-time advertisers like Gatorade.
In creating the off-air brand, Montalvo focuses on extending fans’ relationships with their favorite teams to the network. “We feel it is important to be personally in touch with the viewer,” she said. “We are totally dedicated to answering every e-mail, every phone call.”
Michael Ouweleen, 38
Senior Vice President of Development and Creative Direction, Cartoon Network
Michael Ouweleen came to Cartoon Network with an eclectic resume, including a double major in English and theology at Georgetown University and a Madison Avenue copywriting background.
As a vice president at J. Walter Thompson Inc., he wrote copy for a wide range of accounts, from Condomania to Kodak. Subsequently, as a copywriter for Korey, Kay & Partners, Ouweleen handled accounts such as Comedy Central.
Cartoon Network is also a particularly apt spot for Ouweleen because he has produced cartoons as a freelancer, including an animated pilot The Voles and an episode of The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat.
In his current role as Cartoon Network’s senior vice president of development and creative direction, he oversees development and production of all original animated programming aimed at viewers ages 6 to 14; and he directs all on-air promotions, program franchise packaging and on-air operations.
Ouweleen also hasn’t given up on producing cartoons — he is co-creator, writer and executive producer of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, part of the network’s Adult Swim lineup.
“You know how when someone says they’d love to work in a candy factory or ice cream factory because they love that stuff, and then someone else says, 'Yeah, but you’d get sick of it’?” Ouweleen said. “I just don’t think that’s going to happen to me. But I do think the job is making me fatter.”
Jean-Briac Perrette, 35
Senior Vice President of Digital Media and Chief Financial Officer, NBC Universal
Jean-Briac “J.B.” Perrette, NBC Universal senior vice president of digital media and chief financial officer, knows better than most that there is not yet much money in digital media platforms for cable networks. And he is unfazed by that knowledge. Perrette is actively ushering in a number of deals.
“You want to place enough bets in different places where in three to five years you are not late to the party, too late. Not all of them are going to pan out, but a couple will be really big businesses,” said Perrette, who helms the division’s worldwide strategy and development of new content distribution businesses, including video on demand, pay per view and HDTV.
During the last year he has completed deals to offer on-demand content to DirecTV Inc. and distribute Universal Studios film content online, as well as re-launching Universal HD.
The key, according to Perrette, is “being able to quickly study the market, work effectively with a lot of stakeholders and get the deal executed. You have to move fast and get it done.”
Pragash Pillai, 33
Vice President of Advanced Engineering — Digital Video, Charter
Pragash Pillai’s enthusiasm is contagious. “This industry is so exciting. All the changes and the experience you gain are so exciting. I am never bored,” he said.
Pillai is never bored, in part, because he never seems to have much free time. He has been busy pursuing a graduate degree in applied science in addition to heading all video engineering at Charter Communications Inc. from headend to set-top box.
Pillai is highly regarded within the industry. He was named the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ “Young Engineer of the Year” in 2003 and received the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications’ Next Generation Leader Award earlier this year. He is prized for his insight as an engineer and a businessman.
“We are listening to our customers more closely and developing solutions that will meet the needs of customers and our business. The viewer experience is changing rapidly,” he said. “People want content from anywhere, anytime, and we have to adapt to that environment.”
Michelle Rice, 38
Senior Vice President of National Accounts and Affiliate Marketing, TV One
Michelle Rice got her start in cable as a fellow with the Walter Kaitz Foundation, which placed her at Black Entertainment Television. At BET, she learned marketing of new technology and worked on the launch of the network on digital-broadcast satellite in Canada.
From there she moved to a role in special markets with NBC Cable Networks, then to In Demand LLC, working on the launch of the video-on-demand service with Time Warner Cable.
Her latest leap was to the African-American targeted TV One in 2004, arriving two weeks before its launch and helping nurture it to its current level of 30 million homes, a penetration rate hit in just two years of operation.
Rice has proven she is not averse to taking risks. “A lot of people are afraid of innovations. I’ve not been afraid and that’s worked for me,” she said.
With all the changes in her career, “I haven’t taken an easy road, but it’s been the right road for me,” Rice said.
Keith Richman, 33
Silicon valley entrepreneur Keith Richman runs one of the top “viral video” Web sites, relying almost entirely on wacky videos submitted by users, ranging from skateboarding accidents to bloopers on local news channels. Drawing 600,000 unique visitors daily, Break.com was recently ranked as the 283rd most popular Web site worldwide by Alexa.com.
Richman says Break.com is profitable, thanks to low overhead that comes from having just 15 employees, coupled with an anticipated $6 million to $8 million in ad revenue this year.
With big media players such as MTV Networks (which owns iFilm.com) turning to viral Internet videos to program traditional television channels, Richman said that Break.com has been approached by several cable networks about striking content deals.
Break.com already supplies video clips to Amp’d Mobile subscribers.
“There’s a huge audience out there that want more content. The more people that get into the space, the larger we become,” Richman said.
Richman was a co-founder of online payment company Billpoint, which eBay Inc. acquired in 1999 for $125 million in stock.
Eric Shanks, 34
Executive Vice President, DirecTV Entertainment
As executive vice president of DirecTV Entertainment for DirecTV Inc., Eric Shanks oversees business activities related to the development of the company’s original entertainment, advanced services and interactive programming. Among DirecTV’s latest innovations are its first original series, CD USA, and an expanded, interactive “NFL Sunday Ticket” service.
Sports has played a central role in Shank’s professional life, starting in 1993 when he was a broadcast associate for CBS Sports. In 1994, he joined Fox Sports Net. Before joining DirecTV, Shanks was vice president of enhanced programming for Fox Television Networks. While there, he was involved in producing live coverage of NFL Europe and The Best Damn Sports Show for Fox Sports Net.
“I have always enjoyed what I do whether it was at Fox Sports or here at DirecTV,” said Shanks. “You don’t ever think about being influential. You just do your job and try to have fun.”
Eric Sherman, 39
Senior Vice President and General Manager, VH1 Classic/Digital Television
A 17-year veteran of MTV Networks, Eric Sherman is responsible for all programming, production marketing and finance aspects of VH1 Classic, VH1 Soul, VH1 Megahits and VH1 Country. He also manages VH1 Classic’s entry into the ad sales arena and any digital music service launches.
“As a music fan, I couldn’t have found a better job,” Sherman said. “What other job lets me hang out with some of my favorite artists, including Def Leppard and Poison?”
Besides hanging out with metal bands, among Sherman’s proudest moments was seeing VH1 Classic reach 40 million homes. “I look forward to continuing to grow the VH1 Classic brand while developing additional multiplatform areas including VH1 Soul and our new high definition channel MHD,” he said.
Sherman started out in MTV’s Atlanta affiliate sales office in 1987. In 1998, he became director of operations for the MTV Digital Suite of music networks, and played a central role in expanding M2 into the college market and overseeing its transition to MTV2.
Salaam Coleman Smith, 36
Executive Vice President, Style Network
Salaam Coleman Smith joined E! Networks in 2003, after a 10-year-stint at MTV Networks, where she was a programming and creative executive behind the launch of new cable channels domestically and internationally.
Coleman Smith, who was formerly E! Networks’ vice president of programming, was actively involved in the launch of several original productions, such as the E!’s 101 Most… and E!’s 50 Most… franchises, while helping retool existing properties such as The E! True Hollywood Story for younger audiences.
She was named senior vice president of Style in January 2006, and was recently promoted to executive vice president. During this time, Coleman Smith has led the network to significant gains in the first quarter of 2006, with increases in all key demos across all dayparts. Fueling the performance growth, in part, was a substantial increase in female and adult (35-49) viewership.
“Our programming combines strong storytelling with useful information in a category women love,” she said. “It’s a winning combination.”
Peter Stern, 34
Executive Vice President of Product Management, Time Warner Cable
Peter Stern oversees a slew of new product and feature launches as Time Warner Cable’s executive vice president of product management. This year alone, there will be dozens in the pipeline.
“Pacing is one of the most significant challenges we have” Stern said. “We believe our ability to innovate when and where it counts will be our source of competitive differentiation in the future.”
According to Stern, some new features such as caller ID and the “Start Over” service, which allows viewers to jump to the beginning of a program, are self-explanatory and require no particular marketing efforts. He concedes digital voice requires a hard sell and intense effort.
“[Digital telephony] is still to this day the toughest. [It] represents such a cultural and operational shift for this company to become a telecommunications provider,” Stern said.
Adam Stotsky, 37
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Creative, Sci Fi Channel
As Sci Fi Channel’s senior vice president of marketing and creative, Adam Stotsky oversees all strategic marketing, on-air and off-air advertising and promotional activities and supports the continued growth of the brand’s advertiser and subscriber base
According to Stotsky, Sci Fi has moved from a genre niche to a top-tier cable network during the five years he has worked there. He sees the 2002 debut of The Taken as the turning point for the channel. That Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries was the “watershed moment” for the channel, drawing 30 million viewers to the channel to be introduced to a “whole new idea of fantasy,” he said.
Stotsky and an “infectiously passionate” 40-person team used the series to reposition the network into a “much more human, relatable, fantastical” destination, he said. The effort won the channel more dedicated viewers, an Emmy for best mini-series and acknowledgement by the American Marketing Association for most effective media campaign of the year.
High-profile programming such as Battlestar Galactica continues to spread the impact and prestige of the channel. That show’s become a global franchise, with a recent launch in the United Kingdom.
Shawn Strickland, 33
Vice President of FiOS TV Product Management, Verizon
Shawn Strickland is a key behind-the-scenes player in delivering Verizon Communications Inc.’s new FiOS TV and FiOS Internet products from the drawing board to the customer.
“My team is responsible for looking out at the competition, the customer requirements, the technologies that are emerging and defining the product roadmap on where we want to be on a quarterly basis,” Strickland said.
After its debut last fall in Keller, Texas, FiOS TV has rolled out in towns in California, Florida, New York, Massachusetts and Texas.
Strickland said a key to Verizon’s FiOS strategy is to train every technician to be able to install pay TV, high-speed Internet and phone products, as well as explain to customers how each of its products work.
“We view that local force as a distinct competitive advantage,” Strickland said. “Having somebody in the home, solving what are difficult customer issues about setting up an HDTV for instance, is an advantage over satellite operators.”
Benjamin White, 36
Vice President of Digital Media, MTV Networks
Like the broadband Web site he oversees, Ben White talks as though he is in a permanent state of overdrive.
It’s a good thing he is. The vice president of digital media for MTV Networks, White oversees all digital programming, production and product development — and that includes the burgeoning MTV Overdrive broadband Web portal.
Launched in April 2005, Overdrive has become a major nexus for broadband music video content.
Case in point is the recent debut of simultaneous companion shows to the on-air programs, starting with the popular Total Request Live. So while Mariah Carey is appearing on TRL to promote a new video, Overdrive will stream an extended interview with the singer about her music.
Rather than leftovers, “it’s dessert, or it’s a whole other meal,” White said. “With all of the show-related content, that is the goal — it is to extend the experience and find different ways to serve our audience the content they want.”