A Look at Some Notable ’40 Under 40′ Alumni

As we were compiling our fourth annual “40 Under 40,” saluting the rising stars and top young executives in home entertainment, it occurred to me how much more difficult this process has become since our first such compendium in 2018.

That first year, we had to scramble for nominees. This year, whittling down the vast number of candidates was something like being asked which of my three sons do I like best. Everyone whose name was submitted was more than worthy of inclusion. We had to leave out dozens of talented young people, and I’ve already added many of their names — the ones who aren’t “aging out” — to next year’s list of contenders. Our honorees also have become increasingly diverse, with more women and people of color.

But, most significantly, the majority of the 40 young executives in our 2021 40 Under 40 are no longer “pure-play” home entertainment in the traditional sense of the word. We’re seeing an accelerated blurring of the lines between transactional, television, streaming and other channels of content distribution, as distributors become filmmakers, filmmakers become distributors, and studio marketing and sales teams take on additional responsibilities for their parent company’s streaming ventures.

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While we began our annual 40 Under 40 salute the same year that Media Play News launched, our core editorial team back in 2011 had produced a similar special feature for our predecessor publication — one year, and one year only.

That was exactly 10 years ago, and since in this business we’re programmed to celebrate anniversary dates of any kind, I decided to take a look back and see whatever happened to some of those rising stars we honored back in 2011.

I found some pretty amazing developments.

Shanan Becker, at the time a business development executive at DVD and Blu-ray distributor Image Entertainment, is now CFO of Saban Films, the boutique acquisition and distribution company founded by Haim Saban, creator of the “Power Rangers” franchise, that has built an enviable slate of talent-driven feature films for multiplatform release in partnership with Lionsgate.

Ian Bricke, a programming acquisitions and strategy VP at Epix, subsequently began a long run at Netflix that has seen him rise to VPof original independent film. His credits include five “To All the Boys” and “The Kissing Booth” films, which since their 2018 debuts have been seen in more than 125 million households.

Meredith Gertler, who was VP of product management, operations and production at HBO Home Entertainment, at the time a leader in the then-booming TV DVD business, is now EVP of content and strategy for HBO Max, responsible for shaping the streamer’s portfolio and developing overall content and programming strategies for all HBO streaming/on-demand platforms and linear networks. She’s just been tapped as a keynote speaker at Content LA in May 2022.

Kelly Merryman, a content acquisition VP at Netflix, went on to a long career at YouTube, where she ultimately rose to VP of content partnerships, charged with fostering relationships with major movie studios and TV networks.

Jason Ropell, who at the time had just joined Netflix as VP of content, went on to head Amazon Studios’ film division and is now CEO of Mubi, a leading streaming platform for independent movies.

Galen Smith, the studious young SVP of finance at Redbox, is now the company’s CEO and engineering an ambitious digital transformation at the one-time kiosk company.

And Soumya Sriramanhas gone from heading a small indie called Palisades Tartan to being named head of Prime Video Channels for Amazon, a prestigious role she assumed last November after nearly four years as CEO and president of the BritBox streaming service.

I’m looking forward to doing the same exercise again 10 years from now with the Class of 2021.

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