Newer digital platforms have raised fears that longstanding business models are ripe for disruption, but Liongate’s Jim Packer is a veteran distributor who welcomes them. He believes rapid technological changes have started a whole new era in studio distribution of movies and TV shows.
“The great thing about Lionsgate is that we don’t look at these new platforms and say, ‘Let’s wait and do something later,’ ” Packer said. “We’ve actually embraced them and worked to figure out ways to make new product for them.”
The studio’s success in that arena has come on several fronts. Theatrically, Lionsgate has adopted a very flexible, innovative windowing strategy. In TV, it has produced a number of original shows for subscription over-the-top video providers, including Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and Hulu Plus’ Deadbeat, and has expanded distribution of its content through Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and other services. Lionsgate’s successful strategies have earned Packer a Digital Leadership Award, to be bestowed at this week’s Next TV Summit.
Packer drew on his years of experience at The Walt Disney Co. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to build an innovative international distribution team. “We had to sell 100 episodes of [Charlie Sheen-starring] Anger Management before it even went on the air,” he said. “That would not have been possible without a very nimble, forward- thinking sales group.”
And that adds up to a bright future, Packer said. “When people talk how we are in a golden age of TV right now with all the great TV being created, I think you’d have to say it is also the golden age of distribution, because there are so many different avenues and ways to get product so the consumer,” he said.
Packer’s path to digital leadership at Lionsgate included eight years at MGM, culminating in his appointment as co-president of the studio’s worldwide television operation. He also created and managed the MGM Channels Group and was instrumental in launching MGM HD, the studio’s fi rst wholly-owned channel in the U.S.; the IMPACT video-on-demand network, launched in partnership with Comcast; and This TV, a digital broadcast network in partnership with Wiegel Broadcasting. He was also a key player in the launch of the Epix multiplatform channel with Viacom and Lionsgate.
At Disney, Packer spent 15 years working in Buena Vista’s domestic television-distribution business, ultimately managing the distribution and syndication of Disney content in more than half of the U.S.