TITLE: Executive Vice President of Communications, Starz
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Theano Apostolou is responsible for all of Starz’s communications strategies, programming publicity and external affairs. She reports directly to Chris Albrecht, the network’s CEO. Earlier, she was senior VP of publicity, talent relations and promotional events for AMC Networks, where she oversaw consumer communications for AMC original series, movie franchises and industry events. Apostolou served in various executive roles at AMC after earlier stints at WE tv and Fuse. She played a central role in shaping television series such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, and spearheaded successful award campaigns for AMC’s original series. “Helping to make Mad Men and Breaking Bad the cultural phenomena they became are probably the two milestones of which I am most proud,” she said.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Ellen Kroner (executive VP, communications at AMC Networks) was both a professional and personal mentor. Her knowledge, generosity and especially her patience helped shape me into an executive. Sheila Feren (founder of Ferencomm) is a most trusted adviser and partner throughout my TV career. Chris Albrecht has been my most influential mentor through his leadership at Starz. I have great admiration for his creativity, business acumen, professionalism and compassion. He embodies everything an executive should strive to be.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “Every day I am energized by the work we do growing Starz. In a short time under Chris Albrecht, we’ve grown original programming three-fold with award-winning originals. Working hands-on every day to grow a meaningful, successful business is what I enjoy most about my job.”
TITLE: Senior Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs, Twentieth Television
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Los Angeles-based Lori Bernstein handles Twentieth Television’s business and legal affairs, including basic-cable and broadcast syndication distribution, as well as general corporate legal matters. Most recently, Bernstein worked closely with cable sales to strategize and close the groundbreaking basic-cable distribution deal for The Simpsons to FXX/FX Now, and the high-profile sales of Modern Family to USA Network and Glee to Oxygen. Bernstein played a significant role in closing the benchmark sale of the FX comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to Comedy Central, the first deal to of its kind to cross basic-cable networks. She has also overseen station-licensee agreements for the syndicator’s slate of approximately 20 programs per year; handled production legal affairs for America’s Most Wanted; and closed affiliation agreements during the initial launch of MyNetworkTV. “But above and beyond my purely professional successes, my greatest success during my career has been the pleasure of raising my son and getting the chance to be a hockey mom,” she said.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Through my tenures at both Fox and Disney I have had the chance to work with and for so many great people who have helped me learn and grow throughout my career. It is di_ cult to single anyone out specifically, but I definitely have to thank my parents for teaching me to have a strong work ethic and to always strive to do my best.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I like that every day is different. In this rapidly-changing industry, I value the opportunity to work with smart, strategic executives at Twentieth Television to help shape and formulate the future of our business.”
TITLE: Senior Vice President, Communications and Marketing, Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Anne Cowan has bolstered the cable industry’s image through her leadership, communications and marketing skills for more than two decades. At CTAM, she has successfully guided the ongoing evolution of the cable portion of each semi-annual Television Critics Association Press Tour, key to the critical success of cable’s programming in what now is acknowledged to be a “golden age” of television. She has excelled at developing and building out CTAM’s online, digital and social-media footprint, important to the long-term success of the association. She has led the effort to brand TV Everywhere and develop an extensive consumer-information campaign to raise awareness of the platform. And she has played a key role in working with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, CableLabs and Cable Europe in creating and promoting the new Gigasphere brand category to help consumers better understand the benefits of emerging DOCSIS 3.1 technology. She also is an integral member of the NCTA Public Affairs Committee. As someone who broadly supports industry-affairs initiatives in cable, she is slated to join the doard of directors of the Washington, D.C./Baltimore chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications in 2015.
MAJOR MENTORS: “I’m always learning, so truly everyone I’ve worked with during my three beautiful careers has been a mentor: teachers and students, bosses and directors, and my fabulous CTAM and industry colleagues. There are a few heroes in my life, including my husband and my son, but I’d hate to leave anyone off this list — and they know who they are.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “Something new or unexpected comes my way every day.”
TITLE: Executive Vice President, Disney Media Sales and Marketing
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: A first-generation Cuban-American, Rita Ferro is a dynamo and a true force to be reckoned with around Disney and Madison Avenue. She is responsible for all advertising and sponsorship on Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Radio Disney and Disney.com. Despite this year’s headwinds in the advertising marketplace, she set an aggressive sales strategy and led Disney Media to drive more ad dollars to platforms for kids and families. The volume of advance commitments rose 35%, per Disney. And year-to-year, sales rose by an impressive 88% among advertisers seeking to reach coviewing parents. Categories include retailers, mobile providers, auto manufacturers and vacation advertisers. She also brought in new clients including Famous Footwear, Kohl’s and Verizon. Previously, she worked with Disney Latin America, most recently as VP, advertising sales at Disneymedia+. Before joining ESPN in 1997, Ferro held ad-sales positions with Cisneros Television Group, MTV Networks in Latin America and Blue Pearl Entertainment.
MAJOR MENTORS: “I have had the great fortune at Disney to work for unique and passionate bosses throughout my 17-year journey who have encouraged me to take risks, trust myself and provided me opportunities for growth. Some were great leaders, others great businessmen; all great mentors.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I work for a brand and company I love and have been passionate about my entire life, and I am fortunate to work with a team of people who inspire me every day.”
TITLE: Chief Marketing Officer; President, Consumer Products, Nickelodeon Group
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Pam Kaufman plays vital roles for Viacomowned Nickelodeon. She oversees domestically Nickelodeon’s billion-dollar global consumer products business, which involves merchandising and licensing for some of the worlds’ most popular and iconic intellectual properties, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Dora and Friends, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and PAW Patrol. The 18-year Nick veteran, who who founded Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s Promotions Marketing group in the 1990s, also spearheads Nick’s major licensing programs with such partners as Mattel, Fisher-Price, Playmates and Crayola. as well as retail partnerships with Walmart, Kmart, Target and Toys ‘R’ Us. As CMO since 2013, Kaufman serves as Nickelodeon’s marketing and branding leader, overseeing all global consumer marketing efforts.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Nickelodeon president Cyma Zarghami: In addition to being one of the most generous people I have ever met. Cyma has taught me to constantly think about the need for brands to reinvent themselves and open up new ways to succeed. The second biggest mentor to me has been my mother, Jackie Kaufman. She taught me that being respectful and polite to people at all levels of a company (and in life) is critical.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I love leading a team of seasoned executives and working across the various parts of the organization to launch new shows like Bella and the Bulldogs and events like the HALO Awards with our consumer marketing team; working with advertising sales partners on integrated marketing ideas; and continuously building our franchises like SpongeBob SquarePants and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and seeing them flourish in consumer products.”
TITLE: Head of Content, General Manager, Southern Cone, for Discovery Networks Latin America/U.S. Hispanic
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and reporting to DLA/USH president and managing director Enrique Martinez, Carolina Lightcap manages all content-related areas, including programming, marketing, program promotion and on-air promotions, and driving content initiatives in the region for 11 networks, as well as two U.S. Hispanic networks, Discovery en Español and Discovery Familia. As general manager for the Southern Cone, she oversees Discovery’s business in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay and is responsible for developing new business initiatives and opportunities in the region. Earlier, she served as president of Disney Channels Worldwide, where she provided leadership for Disney’s successful global kids TV business. Before joining Disney in 2000, Lightcap held executive positions at Sky Latin America, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Fox Latin American Channels.
MAJOR MENTORS: “I think my earliest and most impactful mentor was my uncle, who, when I was very young, encouraged me to travel, study abroad and think big. These early experiences transformed my career and world outlook and led to me living in the U.S. for 15 years, and choosing to work for globally-minded companies.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I thoroughly enjoy working with people of diverse backgrounds and nationalities. I’ve had the opportunity to build and lead teams all across Latin America and in the U.S. I’m also enriched on a daily basis by the interaction with peers in other parts of the world, as Discovery has unparalleled global reach. No two days are the same. I enjoy that diversity and variety greatly.”
TITLE: Executive Vice President of Marketing, Creative and Communications, Crown Media Family Networks
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Based in New York and reporting to CEO Bill Abbott, Susanne McAvoy spearheads cross-departmental marketing, programming and communications initiatives and directs social-media marketing strategies for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. She oversees all facets of marketing and branding for both networks. Her oversight also includes the creative services department, which includes print, on-air and Web design. She also serves as the key liaison with Hallmark Cards in developing synergistic opportunities with its other brand extensions and the nearly 4,000 Hallmark Gold Crown retail stores. Recently, she was EVP of marketing and creative services. She joined the company as VP of ad sales marketing after serving as an ad-sales marketing consultant at Bravo. Before that, she was at Comcast Spotlight, Oxygen Media, MTV and Turner.
MAJOR MENTORS: “While I have had many mentors in the industry, my very first mentor was my dad. He always told me to find what I love to do, go after it, and do it to the best of my ability. He instilled in me the belief that we can be anything we want, as long as we put our mind to it and don’t let fear or self-doubt get in the way.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “My favorite part about my job has a lot to do with working for Crown Media Family Networks, a relatively small company. Unlike at bigger organizations where various groups are strictly siloed, I have had the opportunity to be involved in a wide variety of projects across multiple disciplines and to have a hand in and intimate knowledge of virtually every aspect of our business and operations. Also, having such a lean organization allows us to be extremely nimble, without having layers upon layers of corporate approvals to get through — we can have an idea one day and get it on the air or online within a very short time.”
TITLE: Chief People Officer, Simulmedia
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Julie Nolan hired the first — and recently the 90th — employee at Simulmedia, a New York City-based television ad-targeting company and operator of the Simulmedia Audience Network, the world’s first data-driven audience network for TV. Simulmedia aggregates TV audiences through partnerships with TV-system operators and national networks and reaches 116 million U.S. TV households. Previously, she built high-performing teams in the advertising technology sector as head of recruiting, human resources and facilities at TACODA, Real Media and Publicitas Advertising Services. She is known for helping create and grow open, sharing, friendly, fun and creative cultures where people work hard. Simulmedia was ranked No. 11 in 2013 and at No. 27 in 2012 by Crain’s New York Business’s Best Places to Work.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Dave Morgan, founder and CEO, Simulmedia. Having worked with Dave as part of three startups, I have learned what takes to launch and build a successful company. I learned to be open to new ideas, comfortable with change, not afraid fail and to truly appreciate the people you work with. Bob Schoenbacher, my husband and former president of Metro Suburbia Newspapers (Advance Publications). When you live with an ad professional, there are many occasions to exchange ideas and learn from each other. And Alison Lowery, a friend and former colleague. With Alison, I have always had someone I could share things with on a personal level who understood the business.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “The people are at the top of my list. We have hired an incredible team and working with them every day is rewarding. I enjoy the diversity my job offers at every level.”
TITLE: Senior Vice President, Programming and Production, TV One
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: D’Angela Proctor provides strategic direction for all original programming and oversees all development and current production for the African-American targeted programmer. “I am extremely proud that I was able to launch News One Now, TV One’s daily news program featuring Roland Martin. Our coverage on Ferguson and voter suppression was phenomenal,” she said. She’s also ushering TV One into the original movie business “in a really big way; next stop, scripted dramas.” She joined TV One from Strange Fruit Media, where she was a co-owner and co-president. For TV One, she had executive-produced the Family Reunion television series and Daddy’s Girl, a documentary about Laila Ali. She was an executive producer and creative consultant to BET from 2008 to 2010.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Christina Norman, former president of MTV, VH1 and OWN, has been instrumental in my transition from being a seller of content to becoming a buyer of content. My mentor and friend, Rob Lee, introduced me to Alfred Liggins, CEO of TV One, which led to my current position, thereby proving that mentorship is invaluable. I am looking to add Brad Siegel, TV One’s newly minted president, to my list as I admire his extraordinary career in television. And having Cathy Hughes, chairwoman of TV One, on speed dial never hurts.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I love that I am able to call upon all of my prior lives to do my job, whether it’s my television development and production skills, having been a showrunner; my filmmaking skills, having been an independent filmmaker; my legal skills, having been a practicing attorney; and my leadership skills, having been an entrepreneur. And let’s face it, buying beats selling.”
TITLE: Head of Originals, Hulu
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: A key member of the Hulu team developing new original content, Beatrice Springborn joined the online service after serving as head of television for Craig Zadan and Neil Meron’s Storyline Entertainment. At Storyline, Springborn developed and produced the MTV series Happyland. Prior to Storyline, Springborn was senior VP for Caryn Mandabach Productions (Peaky Blinders), where she oversaw the development of genre and book-based series for the international marketplace. She previously was the executive vice president of TV and fi lm production and development at Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Motion Pictures (The Walking Dead). Springborn started her executive career in features, serving as the manager of development at Pixar, where she worked on Ratatouille and Finding Nemo. She got started as a journalist, working at CNN and Texas Monthly.
MAJOR MENTORS: “Kevin Reher, the head of development at Pixar, gave me a chance to work in entertainment, even though I had no experience. I worked for a film producer named Aaron Ryder for seven years at three different companies, and he gave me full access to every part of the production and development process, even at the assistant level. And Caryn Mandabach, a TV producer, came into my life at a time when I was almost ready to leave TV and reinvigorated my excitement about the business. She encouraged and enabled me to have a work-life balance in a way that made me a better executive and mom.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “I work for a company that is on the cutting edge of TV, and is constantly innovating — both in our product and the way we approach the work. I work with a team of people who are supremely smart, funny and make me want to always be better.”
TITLE: Executive Vice President, Marketing, Bravo and Oxygen Media
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Ellen Stone currently oversees a department that spans two separate cable networks with more than 100 employees under her purview. She is responsible for oversight of both networks’ multimillion-dollar marketing budgets. Throughout her eight years at NBCUniversal’s Bravo, she has been the mastermind behind some of the network’s most successful licensing, merchandising and overall brandshaping moves. Last year, she added Oxygen Media to her responsibilities, and took on the task full force of spearheading the network’s rebrand which debuted in early October. Oxygen now targets young, multicultural women with a new look and new tagline, Very Real. “My biggest successes,” Stone said, “come from the innovative and collaborative marketing teams on Bravo and Oxygen who have launched shows with amazing first to market experiences and partnerships from Top Chef to Real Housewives to our recent launch of Bravo’s first scripted series, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, and, of course, Oxygen’s recent Very Real rebrand that really reflects the world as young women see it.”
MAJOR MENTORS: “Over the course of my career, I’ve been lucky to have some fantastic mentors, including [NBCU president, Lifestyles Networks] Frances Berwick, who has been an amazing leader and taught me so much.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “It’s a job that thrives on innovation and creativity, which is exciting and always feels new, but the reason I love coming to work every day is the amazing, smart people who make what I do that much better.”
KRISTEN MORRISSEY THIEDE
TITLE: Head of Business Development, Google Fiber
WHY WE’RE WATCHING: Kristen Morrissey Thiede is responsible for overseeing content-licensing and market-expansion efforts at Google Fiber. Since its inception, Thiede has served as strategic adviser for Google Fiber’s launch efforts, along with content licensing and new market strategies. Thiede was responsible for securing carriage rights for all major media companies and leads negotiations for Google Fiber city expansion. In her 13 years at Google, she has led many early-stage business development efforts. On the New Business Development Team, she worked on a wide range of project work with partners including NASA, Time Inc., the United Nations and the Harlem Children’s Zone. She established and grew Google’s new-business development team in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She led partnership efforts for Google.org’s crisis response team to Haiti, Chile, and Pakistan and set up the systems for Google’s overall crisis response. Early in her Google career, she led the launch team for the AdSense for Content business. She also launched the company’s dedicated distribution efforts in emerging markets including Brazil and India.
MAJOR MENTORS: “I have had many great mentors along the way. Both Cathy Gordon and Megan Smith have made a considerable investment in me. Cathy is Google’s director of product partnerships, while Megan Smith serves under President Obama as America’s first chief technology officer.”
WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT HER JOB: “Working with great people to tackle a big important problem. Bringing high-speed Internet to those who don’t have it, and drastically improving speeds for those who do.”