Starz Expands Distribution Team, Promotes Marketing Leaders

Starz on April 4 announced changes to the leadership team under Alison Hoffman, president of domestic networks, including the strategic expansion of its distribution team and the elevation of two key marketing leaders.

Brandt Haynes joins Starz as SVP of distribution, reporting to Sofia Chang, EVP and chief distribution officer. Hoffman recently hired Chang to oversee the streaming platform’s business with multichannel video and digital distributors.

Todd Hoy (Starz photo)

In addition to hiring Haynes, who is overseeing digital partner management as well as partner marketing and strategic planning, Chang appointed Todd Hoy as SVP of distribution, overseeing business development, distribution deal strategy, and traditional partner relations.

Hoffman also announced that Starz has elevated two of its top marketing leaders. Melissa Stankowski has been upped to SVP of brand and creative, leading brand marketing and creative services comprised of production, design and video teams. And Whitney Abeel has been elevated to SVP of originals and digital marketing, charged with overseeing the company’s original series marketing including strategy development, campaign creative, consumer activations, partnerships and social initiatives.

Stankowski and Abeel report to Jimmy Hilburn, Starz’s chief marketing officer.

“The strategic changes to our distribution team including Brandt and Todd in these key leadership roles will help us continue to solidify our position as the industry’s partner of choice,” Hoffman said in a press release. “And we’re thrilled to elevate Whitney and Melissa, who have consistently raised the bar in marketing our programming, and the Starz brand, with their bold vision and impeccable taste.”

Haynes brings over 20 years of industry experience to Starz. He most recently served as chief operating officer and head of transformation at Girl Scouts of the USA, where he was responsible for strategic transformation and operations. Prior to his nonprofit career, Haynes led digital subscription and transactional revenue generation in media at HBO, HBO Max, and Pushkin. Haynes is based in Starz’s New York office.

Hoy has held multiple executive roles at Starz, most recently heading all legal support in launching 13 region-specific versions of Starz across 37 countries over a two-year period and coordinating joint ventures and partnerships in 16 additional countries. Previously, Hoy had been the lead attorney overseeing Starz U.S. distribution, content acquisition, marketing and technology licensing. Hoy served as a core strategist in the launch of the Starz app and expansion into OTT distribution within the U.S. and globally.

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Stankowski joined Starz in 2021 as executive director of brand and was promoted to VP of creative services later that year. She spearheaded the Starz brand redesign across a vast 63-country footprint, including the rebranding of Starzplay to Lionsgate+. Before her tenure at Starz, Stankowski served as editor-in-chief at STIRR, a pioneer in the FAST industry, and held key positions at Sony Pictures Television, where she played a pivotal role in launching and developing Sony’s first domestic and digital networks (Sony Movie Channel, Cine Sony Television, getTV, Crackle) and subsequent brand refreshes. Stankowski began her career in television production with NFL Films.

Whitney Abeel (Starz photo)

Abeel has been with Starz for more than a decade, progressively expanding her scope of work since her hire as specialist with originals marketing and rising through the ranks to her current role. Abeel has launched and nurtured the success of such series and franchises as the worldwide hit series “Outlander,” the “Power Universe” franchise, “Gaslit,” and “P-Valley.” Before joining Starz, Abeel worked in the integrated marketing department at ABC. Abeel is based in Starz’s Santa Monica, Calif. office.

Former Warner Exec Vicky Colf, Starz’s Alison Hoffman and Panavision’s Kim Snyder Honored by HPA

The Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) has announced that three industry leaders — Vicky Colf (formerly at Warner Bros.), Starz’s Alison Hoffman and Panavision’s Kim Snyder — have been named recipients of HPA League Honors.

“The League Honors were created to recognize diverse members of the media and entertainment community who shine as examples of accomplishment, innovation and leadership,” according to the HPA.

Colf, former CTO at Warner Bros., will receive the Excelsior Honor, which recognizes a leader who runs a business or finance team in the M&E industry (either manufacturer, service provider, or end-user) and who shows impressive business acumen and outstanding leadership while achieving remarkable business growth as well as a commitment to service in our community.  
Hoffman, president of Starz Domestic Networks, will receive the Rainmaker Honor, recognizing a leader who deployed intelligent tactics and ensured their company or organization achieved its sales and marketing goals and revenue targets. The award honors excellence in creative marketing, financial performance and business growth, as well as commitment to serving the community.  

Snyder, CEO of Panavision, will be recognized as the Alchemist. This honor recognizes a leader who spearheads the innovation of noteworthy technology, bringing tangible benefits to the industry in production, post or workflow, as well as a commitment to serving the community. 

Colf was promoted and served as CTO/CIO at Warner Bros. Entertainment from 2017 until the close of 2020, overseeing the studio’s extensive technology services and solutions portfolio (including security). She led the development of the entertainment industry’s first-of-its-kind, completely automated, digital supply chain, Digital End-to-End (DETE), which has helped improve efficiencies and speed up time-to-market for industry-related managed content. Colf sat on the Board of Motion Picture Laboratories (MovieLabs) until the end of 2020 and is a current member of Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees, Harvey Mudd College STEAM:Coders and the Sierra Ventures CXO Advisory Board. She holds a bachelor of science in engineering from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif.

Hoffman has revenue and operational responsibility for Starz’s U.S. retail and wholesale businesses. She oversees key network operations, including distribution, marketing, publicity, product development, analytics and program planning. Hoffman was one of the key executives responsible for launching the Starz app and manages the network’s direct-to-consumer business. She reorganized the business and built world-class performance marketing and analytics departments from the ground up, setting Starz up for success in the streaming landscape. Additionally, Hoffman works closely with wholesale partners, including Amazon, Hulu, Roku and Apple to drive revenue on their platforms. She previously served as chief marketing officer for Starz and was responsible for spearheading brand and content marketing for the network, driving acquisition for the Starz app and delivering data-driven insights that support all facets of the business. Hoffman has been named to Variety’s “Annual Impact” Issue and “Women’s Impact” Report, Multichannel News’ “Wonder Women in Streaming” Awards and “Women to Watch” List as well as Cablefax’s “Most Powerful Women” and Media Play News’ “Most Important People in Streaming.” She joined Starz in 2012 after serving as VP, creative and brand strategy at AMC Networks where she was a key architect of marketing campaigns for series such as “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.” She holds a bachelor of science degree in psychology from Brown University.

Snyder has led Panavision’s global portfolio of companies since 2012. Under her guidance, the company has innovated in the areas of camera and lens design, enhanced its rental footprint, and expanded the company’s reach into services. She has overseen the acquisition of Light Iron, advancing Panavision’s evolution as a provider of end-to-end services for the feature, series, and commercial markets. Prior to joining Panavision, Snyder held the position of president and GM for Kodak’s Entertainment Imaging Division, responsible for all aspects of its business with the motion-picture industry. Snyder is a graduate of the California University of Pennsylvania with a degree in computer science, and she holds an MBA from the University of Rochester William E. Simon Graduate School of Business. She is a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers.

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“These outstanding individuals operate at the vanguard of change,” HPA president Seth Hallen said in a statement. “They are the people that up-and-coming leaders can aspire to emulate, while leading organizations and illuminating a path to the future.  We are delighted to honor their accomplishments.”

Previous recipients of the League Honors include Annie Chang, VP of creative technologies at Universal Pictures (The Catalyst); Tammy Garnes, VP of education and understanding at ARRAY (The Excelsior); Patricia Keighley, chief quality guru at Imax Corp. (The Rainmaker); Charles D. King, founder and CEO of MACRO (The Star); and Iris Wu, founder of Ambidio (The Alchemist).

Recipients of the HPA League Honors are determined by a jury of industry leaders, with the support of the HPA board of directors.

Starz Teams With Amazon to Bundle MGM+ on Prime Video

Starz Feb. 17 announced it has teamed up with Amazon to bundle MGM+ on Prime Video.

This subscription bundle, which launches in the coming weeks in the United States only, will cost $11.99 per month — 20% less than the combined price of both standalone subscriptions.

“We are excited to join forces with Amazon to offer Starz together with MGM+ to their millions of customers on Prime Video,” said Alison Hoffman, president of domestic networks at Starz. “Starz is a complementary service to general entertainment offerings, so we’re thrilled to see that bundling is now here and believe there will be many more bundling opportunities to come.”

Subscribers will have access to Starz series such as “Outlander,” the “Power” Universe, “P-Valley” and upcoming new seasons of “Party Down” and “Blindspotting.” Also accessible are flagship domestic Starz services including Starz Encore, 17 premium pay-TV channels and the associated on-demand and online services.

MGM+ is a destination for original premium content, with original series including the Emmy-winning series “Godfather of Harlem”; the sci-fi horror series “From”; the Western adventure “Billy the Kid”; and cinematic dramatic series “A Spy Among Friends,” “War of the Worlds,” “Rogue Heroes” and “Belgravia.”

The network is also the home of acclaimed docuseries, including Emmy-nominated “Laurel Canyon,” “Murf the Surf,” “Helter Skelter,” “Slow Burn,” “My Life as a Rolling Stone,” “NFL Icons” and “Blumhouse’s Compendium of Horror.” Premium movies are also available, including blockbusters such as Top Gun: Maverick; MGM hits No Time to Die and House of Gucci; and classic franchises such as “James Bond” and “Rocky.”