Thoughts From the Top

For this year’s 40 Under 40 issue, I once again reached out to some of home entertainment’s top executives and asked them what they’d like to say to our Class of 2023 honorees. And in sharp contrast to our current political environment, the phrase that kept popping up most was to “be kind.”

“Be curious and make an effort to get to know people,” says Garson Foos, CEO of Shout! Studios. “Find a mentor, or at least people who will be helpful by initiating in-person conversations and meetings. Don’t get discouraged if someone isn’t responsive. You will meet someone, or several people, who will engage and will want to help you. If you take initiative and show that you’re interested, or maybe even passionate about the work or the content, it will be infectious and people will want to support you. And then do the same for those coming up behind you. Be kind and generous — it will make people want to do the same for you.”

From Bill Rouhana, CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment: “In a world that is evolving as quickly, and often unexpectedly, as home entertainment, it’s important to be flexible, to never be afraid of trying new ideas, and to take risks, even if there is a chance you might fail. No one can predict the future; all we can do is rely on the best intelligence, the best data and, sometimes, our own best gut instincts. And through it all, remember to treat everyone with respect, kindness and grace.”

Lexine Wong, head of global multichannel marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment, offers her congratulations to this year’s honorees and notes, “It’s certainly a fascinating time to be in the entertainment industry. There are many reasons you have chosen careers in entertainment: You have a passion for content and storytelling, you love this industry’s fast pace, you embrace technology, and you relish delighting consumers with boundary-pushing creative, just to name a few reasons. As business models continue to evolve across all segments of the industry, it’s a great time to stand out and build your careers. As you all work to do that, there is no substitute for hard work. Embrace and influence change, be a problem solver vs. a problem identifier, add value, be transparent, be honest, be open, and, most importantly, be kind. You are the change makers paving the way for the next generation.”

Premiere Digital head of growth Michele Edelman also offers her congratulations: “You have been acknowledged by your colleagues, managers and our industry, and this is a wonderful recognition. The best piece of advice shared with me that I love to pass on is, sometimes you have to leave the places you love in the beginning, but you can always go back. In an ever-changing industry, such as ours, this is important to remember. And, lastly, work to your heart’s desire and not to the beat of someone else’s. Your rhythm is what drives you and will be the guide for your success. Lead with love and know nice people do finish first. Being kind is a recipe for success in business.”

Andrea Downing, CEO of PBS Distribution, kept her comments short and sweet: “Lean in, say yes, ask for help and collaborate well with others.”

Paramount’s Dan Cohen New Chair of DEG; Warner’s Jim Wuthrich Becomes Chair Emeritus

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group on Aug. 12 unveiled its new board of directors, with Paramount Global chief content licensing officer Dan Cohen elected chair and prior chair Jim Wuthrich, president of content distribution at Warner Bros. Discovery, moving to chair emeritus.

Jonathan Zepp

Jonathan Zepp, head of media and entertainment global partnerships at Google, is the home entertainment trade association’s new vice chair.

DEG is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and says it aims to drive membership “that reflects the diverse, global and fluid digital entertainment marketplace.”

The new officers of the DEG board were elected to two-year terms and will serve through July 2024.

Andrea Downing, president of PBS Distribution, returns as CFO, with Rick Hack, head of media and entertainment partnerships at Intel Corp., re-elected secretary.

Returning DEG member Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and Amazon Web Services (AWS), a new DEG member company, are each represented with new DEG board directors: Jason Spivak, EVP of distribution for North America at SPE, and Chris Blandy, global leader of strategy and business development, media and entertainment at AWS.

Andrea Downing

A+E Networks and Fandango/Vudu are longstanding members returning to the board. They are represented, respectively, by Mark Garner, EVP of content licensing and business development, and Mark Young, SVP of strategy, business and corporate development for Fandango and Vudu and GM of Rotten Tomatoes.

The new DEG board also includes two seats representing DEG’s two alliances, the D2C Alliance (D2CA) and the Advanced Content Delivery Alliance (ACDA), which the trade group says “play increasingly important roles in focusing DEG membership for the future and broadening the organization’s membership.”

The D2CA director is Adam Lewinson of Tubi. The ACDA director is Bill Neighbors of Xperi Holding Corp. Both Lewinson and Neighbors serve as chief content officer of their respective companies.

DEG directors also appointed Robin Tarufelli of Deloitte as a special board advisor for the 2022-23 term, a role “intended to provide diversity of input from membership sectors and companies that might not otherwise be represented on the board,” the DEG announced.

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Rick Hack

DEG arrives at its quarter-century mark with an expanding global membership that includes 81 member companies encompassing all areas of digital entertainment, with diverse business segments and from a wide range of geographical locations. Examples include Israel’s Deepdub, a localization service provider; Argentina’s BB Media, a data science company specializing in media and entertainment; South Korea’s Blintn, a global content marketplace; and U.S.-based TreeTrunk, which introduces a new standard for NFTs that enables blockchain royalty collection and distribution.

“I’m delighted that DEG membership is evolving to reflect the increasingly global nature of the digital entertainment ecosystem,” new board chair Cohen said in a statement. “The new board is committed to serving all DEG members and to providing the membership even more opportunities for collaboration, education and networking across industry sectors and across borders.”

“We welcome all of our new DEG board directors and are thrilled about our expanding base of companies based outside the U.S.,” said Amy Jo Smith, DEG president and CEO. “I’m grateful that they see the value of membership in DEG, which is committed to continuing to deliver high return on investment for members evolving into global providers of direct-to-consumer entertainment.”

Fast Forward Awards 2021: Andrea Downing — Working in a Multi-Platform World

Andrea Downing was working in a multi-platform world long before the pandemic — and before “multi-platform” became the new paradigm in home entertainment.

The president of PBS Distribution (promoted March 11 from co-president) has been juggling content and windows for years, picking and choosing the right platform for the right product to maximize revenue to support public television and PBS member stations.

Downing notes that all net income from PBS Distribution supports the public television system and its  mission “to amplify diverse stories, foster dialog, encourage creativity and spark curiosity in its viewers.”

“While PBS Distribution is one part of a much larger system of contributors,” she says, “our ability to collapse windows over the years in response to consumer behavior has been incredibly beneficial.”

Today, most PBS programs are released on all three home entertainment platforms: Blu-ray Disc and DVD, transactional VOD, and streaming — often on, or near, the same day.

Even celebrity documentarian Ken Burns’ 18-hour documentary on the Vietnam War, a big hit on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, was made available at the same time for digital rental and purchase and, six months after its broadcast date, was licensed to Netflix for streaming.

Conversely, the historical drama “Jamestown,” from Carnival Films helmer Gareth Neame, launched on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel and later expanded to DVD. And “The Great British Baking Show” was licensed to Netflix while also topping the TVOD charts.

“We release product simultaneously across platforms, in most cases,” says Downing, this year’s recipient of Media Play News’ Fast Forward Award. “We think it makes sense because it really gives consumers a choice about how they want to enjoy our content.

“So, for example, Hemingway, broadcasting in April, will then go to Blu-ray Disc and DVD for those who want to own it. It will also go to electronic sellthrough for those consumers who are building digital libraries of collectible content, as well as to our PBS Documentaries streaming channel for those who just want to pay $4.99 a month and watch whatever, whenever they want. At the same time it will be available on the PBS Video app for a limited window before moving into PBS Passport — a member benefit.”

Downing notes that PBS broadcast and streaming on the PBS apps “is our theatrical — it’s our first window.”

“We typically release physical goods, TVOD and on our SVOD streaming channels immediately after broadcast when awareness is high,” she says.

Releasing programs on all three platforms, she maintains, makes sense “because we go where the consumer goes — and lately that’s pretty much everywhere — and our work expands the reach of our stations’ content to new audiences.”

Following the consumer is always smart business, but Downing’s advantage over studio marketers is that every commercial after-market distribution channel falls under her purview. A 25-year industry veteran, she’s being honored with Media Play News’ fourth annual Fast Forward Award for her broad and groundbreaking role at PBS Distribution, where multi-platform releasing has long been the order of the day.

(L-R): HBO’s Sofia Chang, PBS Distribution’s Andrea Downing, and former New Line Home Video president Stephen Einhorn.

She has grown PBS Distribution from a start-up focused on physical products to a global distribution company of public media content around the world. Her focus on adapting to the media landscape has led to multiple subscription streaming channels — PBS Masterpiece (United States and Canada), PBS Kids, PBS Living, PBS Documentaries and PBS America (U.K.). In addition to DVD and Blu-ray Disc, she spearheaded the company’s move into transactional video-on-demand, subscription video-on-demand and theatrical releasing. Under her leadership, PBS Distribution’s educational, non-theatrical, in-flight, and international program sales and co-productions businesses have thrived. Additionally, the portfolio includes a commercial linear channel in the United Kingdom — PBS America — and a PBS Kids-branded channel in Africa.

Most recently, PBS Distribution has entered the AVOD space. The company just licensed some catalog content to Pluto, Tubi and Roku, and “we’re also doing some experimentation internationally with kids product Kidoodle,” Downing says.

“It was a natural progression for us to have all aspects of home entertainment under one roof,” she says. “We started with physical goods, transitioned into transactional digital and then into streaming. Along the way we have organized our structure to ensure that we have one centralized team that provides transparency across all platforms and departments. While that is an ongoing operational effort, it allows us to adapt as we anticipate where the market is headed. It really serves us well.”

When PBS Distribution launched in 2009 as a joint venture between PBS and GBH, 90% of revenue came from DVD. Today, Downing says, “roughly 10% of our business is from physical goods, with SVOD channels being our largest and fastest-growing business.”

Now in its 12th year, PBS Distribution is one of the largest independent content distributors, with upwards of 400 releases and 1,500 individual episodes each year.

“We have a really close relationship with our parent companies,” she says, “and we jointly work to ensure that we change and grow together to benefit the entire public television ecosystem.”

Aside from her role as president of PBS Distribution, Downing is actively involved in DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, speaking at seminars and webinars, mentoring women in the industry, and is on the steering committee for the D2C Alliance.

(L-R): At the DEG’s November 2017 Hedy Lamarr Awards, the DEG’s Amy Jo Smith; Anthony Loder, son of Hedy Lamarr; honoree Geena Davis; Adam Haggiag, producer of ‘Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story’; and PBS’s Andrea Downing.

“Andrea’s leadership has been invaluable to DEG’s Board of Directors, to our D2C Alliance and to the Canon Club,” says Amy Jo Smith, the DEG’s president and CEO. “The fact that she’s involved with all three shows how generously she shares her time and her knowledge with a wide swath of our community. I’ve observed over many years the way that Andrea truly cares about both the products and the people she works with at PBS Distribution. She has a vision for the future, and she understands the need to take some risks to grow a business, and she does what is needed in the smartest possible way.”

“Andrea is a natural leader dedicated to help cultivate and educate women in entertainment and technology. Her passion for the industry, and dedication to the DEG Canon Club and the Hedy Lamarr Awards for innovation and emerging leaders are exemplary,” adds Meri Hassouni, co-chair of the DEG Canon Club and VP of client relations at Giant Interactive.

Downing is a single mom who has raised two daughters, now in their late teens. The youngest, Riley, is a freshman at San Diego State University; the oldest, Cassandra, gave Downing her very first grandchild, a 1-year-old girl named Zoey.

“I’ve worked hard to find the right ‘fit’ for my family and my career,” Downing says, “and have learned that it’s important to recognize that the ‘right fit’ changes as we and our families evolve, and can sometimes change every day. For many years that meant long days during the week juggling both job and family, with a focus fully on family during the weekends. As my daughters became increasingly self-sufficient, it’s shifted to a greater focus on my job and hobbies.”

Downing says a key part of her success is “a willingness to work hard and deliver quality work.”

“I’m a ‘yes’ person,” she says. “I always said yes to any project or task. I learned a lot from that, and it gave me a lot of opportunities.”

“I also can’t stress enough the importance of learning how to manage up, across and down,” she adds. “Communication is key in this, and you can’t repeat the important things often enough.”

“And sometimes,” she says, “it’s just being in the right place at the right time.”

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Downing developed an entrepreneurial spirit early on during her childhood in Wisconsin. “When I was a kid, I lived near a golf course and I would pick up golf balls from the range,” Downing says. “For every five balls I picked up, I got a penny. But by picking up 250 balls, I earned enough money to buy a popsicle.”

Downing attended Michigan State University, and while her parents helped out with tuition, Downing says, “I knew I was going to have to work and save money to pay for most of it.”

During high school, she says, “I was already working each summer, having worked my way up from picking up golf balls to working in the Pro Shop, and even making custom golf clubs.”

Once she arrived in East Lansing, Mich., Downing said, she had no sooner moved into the dorm than she began looking for work.

“I was the ‘dish dog’ in the cafeteria, an affectionate term for the dish room supervisor, and eventually became a student supervisor,” she recalls. “It was not the most glamorous work, and I was usually covered in grease by the end of the shift.”

(L-R): Movies Anywhere’s Karin Gilford, Universal’s Hilary Hoffman, Downing, Fox’s Julia Howe, Sony’s Lexine Wong, Warner’s Jessica Schell, the DEG’s Amy Jo Smith, Universal’s Kathleen Gallagher and Sony’s Kim Overall in the ‘Media Play News’ 2019 Women in Home Entertainment section. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/hair and makeup by Christian Anthony Bier and Erica Leslie Davidson)

She worked one summer as an intern for Speed Queen, a Raytheon company that made commercial washers and dryers, scheduling the semi-trucks to deliver the machines from the factory to customers.

Another summer, she recalls, “I worked three jobs and averaged about 80 hours a week to save enough money to go back to school in the fall. I worked the night shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at the Jolly Green Giant plant in the QC (quality control) department. Each day the machines would pick corn and peas in the field, and trucks would bring the vegetables to the canning plant. I was responsible for counting the prickers and thistles in the vegetables. If there were too many in the batch, I would call the field and tell them to modify the settings on the machinery.

“After I left the plant in the morning, I would go home and sleep for about four hours before getting up to go to my second job at the golf course. You can imagine that it was a little surreal to go from the canning plant, where I would often be lying in gutters, clearing out food waste from machines, to the golf course, where I wore my preppy plaid shorts and my pink polo shirt.
“And when I wasn’t working at the golf course in the afternoons, I worked at a local pool as a lifeguard.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in business in 1990, Downing moved back home.

“After I graduated, I didn’t have a job so I went home to live with my parents,” she said. “Every morning my mom made me get up and go to work with her. And — now I’m aging myself — she sat me down in an office with a typewriter and the classifieds and told me to apply for every job I could find. She did that every day until I found a job in a picture frame factory. I started out working the second shift on the shipping dock, but management started asking me to come in early to take care of other things, and I was soon promoted to master scheduler. This was a senior level position that was responsible for scheduling everything that was going to be produced on each machine each day. It was a constant battle to keep my schedule on track while the line supervisors were trying to meet their quotas. But it was also an important education in how to successfully juggle multiple stakeholders with varying agendas.”

Within a couple of years, Downing was ready for a new adventure. She packed up a U-Haul and moved to Washington, D.C., to be in a region with more of her peers. But moving to a region with little manufacturing forced her to start over.

Downing found temp work as a receptionist at an association in the capital and several months later took a regular gig managing a print shop. A few years later, Downing recalls, “A friend recommended me to someone at the Discovery Channel, which was still in its early growth years. At this point I was about five years out of college, and I’d had increasing responsibility in my jobs. But the position at the Discovery Channel was as an admin/coordinator, so it meant starting all over again.”

Still, Downing says, “I wanted to be in a bigger, more entrepreneurial organization so I accepted the position. I started out in the multimedia department, and this was when CD-ROMs were really taking off. The department was young — it was run like a startup — and I just did everything that I knew needed to be done. I moved from the coordinator position to operations, and then worked with the international team. I started a localization shop so we could translate the multimedia discs they sold around the world into multiple foreign languages. I eventually ran operations for Discovery’s Consumer Products business.

“When my boss moved to PBS to run their Ventures division, she called me about six months later and recruited me to join PBS as a vice president.”

Downing joined PBS in June 2000 as VP of home entertainment and partnerships, with responsibility for e-commerce, catalog, education, operations and creative services.

Shortly after joining PBS, Downing says, “I found that I was pregnant with my second daughter.”

(L-R): PBS’s Ira Rubenstein, John Suydam and Andrea Downing.

Fortunately, she said, the culture at PBS was such that she was afforded flexibility and plenty of support.

“Knowing how important that is for so many women, and men, in our workforce, I have focused on paying that forward in our culture at PBS Distribution,” Downing says. “One of my key takeaways in life is how important it is to make the time for those that mean so much to you, no matter what your career journey is — and to make sure your team knows that you want them to value time with their family, too.”

During her tenure at PBS, Downing says, she continued to grow her responsibilities. “When I began at PBS, I was managing about half of the home entertainment business,” she says. “Within a couple of years, I was responsible for the entire business. I also managed the licensing, merchandising, and interactive businesses, and began the evolution from physical goods to digital.

“Some of the most difficult things I had to do involved making changes to the team and how the business was run, like reducing our efforts in some areas and closing others down completely. It was particularly difficult having to let go of team members, even when it was the right decision for the business.”

In 2007, Downing says, David Bernstein at GBH in Boston “reached out to me and we started talking about how we might collaborate.”

“We decided to form a separate for-profit LLC to raise income for the public television system, creating a more robust distribution portfolio, a deeper content library, and greater efficiencies, all of which propelled us to grow — especially as the business began to transition from physical to digital,” she says.

Downing and Bernstein ran the business together as co-presidents. “We have different styles for managing and leading, but have complementary skill sets and we always agree on strategy,” Downing says.

After 12 years of leading PBS Distribution, Downing says, she continues to look for opportunities and face challenges.

“One of our biggest challenges is standing out in a crowded market when there are so many options for consumers,” she says. “The big companies are spending so much money on marketing with their launches that it is easy to get lost as a targeted service.”

(L-R): Sofia Chang, Andrea Downing, Kim Overall, Lexine Wong, Amy Jo Smith, Jessica Schell, Karin Gilford, Vicky Free And Julia Howe, 2018 ‘Media Play News’ Women in Home Entertainment honorees. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Makeup by Cathy Highland)

And yet there are plenty of opportunities, as well. “One of our biggest opportunities is being on the Prime Video platform, where we have a strong partnership and can take advantage of their significant reach,” Downing says. “Our SVOD channels are competitively priced and are unique enough that they are complementary to the general entertainment services. And, of course, there’s our content — we have great, quality content and an audience that knows and appreciates our programs.”

As for the future, Downing sees so much opportunity that she believes the best and smartest strategy is to remain nimble and flexible — and be ready to follow consumers down whichever path they choose.

“While the market has changed significantly over the last 10 years, it is still in its infancy,” she says. “Consumers are becoming much more comfortable, but it’s still so early it’s hard to predict what will happen long-term.

“So we will continue to navigate the changing dynamics of the market, test strategies and adapt as needed, and continue to position ourselves to be as resilient and successful as possible.”

Read a Q&A with Andrea Downing HERE

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Fast Forward Awards 2021: Andrea Downing Q&A

PBS Distribution president Andrea Downing, recipient of Media Play News‘ fourth annual Fast Forward Award, juggles discs, digital and streaming to bring PBS programming to home viewers.

Media Play News asked Downing about running the public television system’s for-profit content distribution arm.

What drives you to succeed?

“I love the journey, the process of transforming organizations to meet market demands while they’re undergoing disruption. I came from a large family where I knew at a young age that I was going to be responsible for getting myself through college. I worked hard to accomplish that and learned along the way that the more I stepped in, the greater the impact I could have and the more rewarding it was.”

Do you believe it’s true that people learn from failures? Have you failed at something and learned from that failure?

“Absolutely. I fail all the time and apply those learnings to my approach wherever I can.”

What is your management style?

“To be both strategic and tactical while empowering others to make decisions. During the pandemic, I continue to be reminded how important communication is and that repetition is a good thing.”

What is your leadership philosophy?

“My philosophy is to be an authentic leader with integrity while being collaborative, and a creative and innovative thinker.”

What’s your favorite PBS program?

“It’s way too hard to pick a favorite PBS show — they are all so amazing. It’s one of the joys of my job that we are distributing such high-quality content and making a difference at the same time.”

What are a few of your favorite things, as Julie Andrews would say?

“I love exploring and learning new things — whether it’s new foods, traveling to new places, or anything, really. It’s one of the biggest lessons, or maybe reminders, of the pandemic for me; I really need to be active and doing things. I’m currently thinking about where I want to go and the experiences I want to have, so that once we’re able to travel again I won’t waste any time getting on the move.”

What about hobbies?

“My hobbies really have to do with exercise. I love to get out and walk, bike, run, golf, kayak, really almost anything outdoors. One of my favorite trips was spent kayaking down the Amazon in Brazil for five days. That was an incredible experience.”

If you weren’t at PBS, what else would you be doing?

“I honestly can’t imagine a better place for me than where I am. I love the complexity of the business, the impact we have every day in the lives of Americans and consumers internationally. We have built an incredible team that is smart, passionate about our mission, and instrumental to our success. What more could I ask for?”

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DEG Expo on Feb. 25 to Focus on ‘Maturing D2C Landscape’

Josh Reader, president of Distribution and Development at AMC Networks, will be a featured speaker for DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s next DEG Expo, set for Feb. 25 at 10:30 a.m. PT. Reader will chat with Looper Insights CEO Lucas Bertrand about marketplace dynamics for targeted direct-to-consumer services in 2021 and beyond.

The topic of the Feb. 25 DEG Expo is “The Maturing D2C Landscape,” with a particular focus on the targeted services landscape and the role connected devices play in the consumer experience. The program was developed with DEG’s D2C Alliance Council working group, which represents the global direct-to-consumer entertainment industry and supports its members to help create a robust marketplace to lead the new era of content consumption.

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In addition to the Reader-Bertrand chat, the Feb. 25 DEG Expo also will present a panel discussion on the connected device experience, with Susan Agliata, director of Business Development, OTT Partnerships at Samsung; Ben Maughan, VP of New Ventures and Strategic Business Development for TiVo (Xperi); and John Buffone, executive director and industry analyst, Connected Intelligence, with The NPD Group. Other speakers include Kevin Westcott, vice chairman and National TMT Leader, Deloitte, who will present research on subscription churn; Andrea Downing, co-president, PBS Distribution; and DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith.

DEG launched the DEG Expo series last year to provide its members and the industry with education and community building opportunities through curated virtual events offering diverse perspectives on topics relevant to the digital media industry.

To learn more about joining the D2C Alliance or how to participate in this week’s D2C Expo, please contact Shannon Gregory at Shannon@degonline.orgRegister for the DEG Expo: The Maturing D2C Landscape here. See the full agenda here.

PBS Distribution’s Andrea Downing to Be Honored With Fourth Annual ‘Fast Forward’ Award

Media Play News Jan. 22 announced that Andrea Downing, co-president of PBS Distribution, will receive the fourth annual Media Play Fast Forward Award, which honors people, technologies, organizations, products or services that move the home entertainment industry forward.

With more than 25 years’ experience in the home entertainment business, industry leader Downing is being honored for her exceptional, broad and groundbreaking role at PBS Distribution. She has led the evolution of the organization from a start-up focused on physical goods to a global distribution company of public media content around the world. Her focus on adapting to the media landscape has led to five subscription streaming channels — PBS Masterpiece, PBS Kids, PBS Living, PBS Documentaries and PBS America (U.K.). In addition to licensing content on DVD and Blu-ray, she has also spearheaded the company’s move into transactional video-on-demand; subscription video-on-demand; theatrical releasing; and educational, non-theatrical, inflight and international program sales and co-productions.

“I am extremely honored to be recognized by Media Play News with the Media Play Fast Forward Award — particularly when I consider how many of my peers are doing incredible work in extraordinary times,” said Downing. “The home entertainment market has changed dramatically over the last 10 years, and we have all had to learn to pivot quickly and anticipate what will come next. But no one anticipated a global pandemic, and we have been tested mightily this past year.

“I also recognize that I would not have received the award without the incredible dedication and talent of the PBS Distribution team. I am so proud that they continuously pivot to face our challenges and opportunities and develop innovative ways to address and capitalize on them, all while supporting each other and maintaining our company values. It is an honor to lead this team each and every day and contribute to the public television system’s mission of giving voice to all Americans.”

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Last year, the Media Play Fast Forward Award went to Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. In 2019, the award went to digital retailers Cameron Douglas of FandangoNow, Galen Smith of Redbox On Demand, Google Play Movies & TV’s Jonathan Zepp and the team at Apple iTunes. The previous year, the inaugural Media Play Fast Forward Award was shared by the Fox Innovation Lab and Movies Anywhere.

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The Media Play Fast Forward awards are an outgrowth of the Home Entertainment Visionary Awards, which were launched in 2002 by the now-defunct Home Media Magazine. Comcast’s Brian Roberts was the 2017 honoree. Warren Lieberfarb, the father of DVD, was the first Visionary Award winner, back in 2002. Other honorees have included Sony Pictures’ Ben Feingold, Samsung’s Tim Baxter, and Walmart’s Louis Greth and Chris Nagelson.

Downing will be profiled in the March issue of Media Play News.

Women in Home Entertainment 2020: The 12 Captains and What They Like to Watch, Whom They’d Like to Meet

Media Play News asked the 12 “captains” in our third annual Women in Home Entertainment issue to participate in a detailed Q&A. An abridged Q&A appears in the August 2020 print and digital edition of Media Play News. The full Q&A has been broken down into three sections, running here on consecutive days. This is the third and final part, a fun look inside their personal lives, about what they like to watch and whom they’d most like to meet.




What are the last two or three movies, TV shows or original series you watched — and please tell us why you love them?

Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I was obsessed with Michelle McNamara’s very personal account of her hunt to reveal the identity of the Golden State Killer and HBO has done a wonderful job of bringing that book to life. Getting to see Michelle’s perspective has been moving and inspiring. I have been catching up on the latest season of “Better Things” and Pamela Adlon is a god.


Kelly Campbell, President, Hulu: Hamilton on Disney+ — I think I’ve watched this 10 times since it launched on Disney+.  It’s powerful on so many levels. Thought-provoking creativity and storytelling at its finest. Thirteenth on Netflix — a critical film of our time that provides an eye-opening look at history. Palm Springs on Hulu — so very clever — the writing, the acting, the set — I love it all. I’m a sucker for romantic comedies, but this one goes above and beyond!


Agnes Chu, SVP, Content, Disney+: Hamilton is a given.  So in addition to that, a shout-out to our sister service, Hulu, and their recent premiere of Palm Springs, which totally delivered on much needed belly-laughs during these hard times. Mindy Kaling’s series “Never Have I Ever” because of its nuanced and fresh twist on family comedy, harnessing such a delightfully specific voice to capture coming-of-age and the complexities of grief. I was laughing and crying at the same time, and I loved it. Finally, I’ve been watching Hong Kong kung-fu soap operas produced in the 1980s, often set as Chinese historical period pieces. Cantonese was my first language, and it’s important to me that my daughter also hears the language as she learns to talk. While hilariously low budget and corny, these soap operas also kick ass because every episode involves elaborate martial arts.


Andrea Downing, Co-President, PBS Distribution: American Experience: The Vote, a film about the hard-fought campaign waged by American women for the right to vote. It is an extraordinary story of the courage and determination it took to achieve the passage of the 19th Amendment. This is the 100-year anniversary of the amendment’s passage, and is particularly timely given our nation’s current movement to correct long-standing social injustices.“World on Fire” is an incredible series about World War II that shows us the war from the perspective of individuals impacted by it. And Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, a brilliant Stanley Nelson film for “American Masters,” explores the complicated man who became a legend and changed the world of jazz.

Dametra Johnson-Marletti, GM, Digital Store Category Management, Microsoft Corp.: Becoming, The Last Dance and “Yellowstone.” There is so much great content today — but these are the most recent three that I have enjoyed. All capture my interest for different reasons. Becoming is inspiring and uplifting. Given the current state of the world, and in particular the manner in which those in leadership positions carry themselves and behave — it is just flat-out refreshing and heart-warming to hear someone speak with intellect, grace and strength. For that reason, I thoroughly enjoyed Becoming. As a former professional basketball player, and someone that grew up LOVING the Lakers, and being in awe of Michael Jordan, The Last Dance is just a must watch. It was super fun reliving all those great moments and interesting to see an inside view of Jordan and player dynamics. Finally, for the purposes of pure escapist entertainment, I continue to enjoy time spent watching “Yellowstone.” Each season brings a different side of the characters and interesting storylines. Not to mention I love all things Kevin Costner.

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Jessica Schell, EVP and GM, Film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment: Limiting the kids’ screen time has gone out the window, but we’ve tried to make our TV viewing feel more special by instituting “family movie nights” a few times a week. Trying to find something that works for me and my husband plus daughters ages 4, 12 and 14 is a challenge! Some of the best evenings have been when we’ve revisited classics like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Wizard of Oz and the “Harry Potter” movies, which have something for each of us: nostalgia and the joy of introducing something you love to your kids.

Amy Jo Smith, President and CEO, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group: That’s a hard question because there are so many great shows on many platforms. I’m personally attracted to documentaries. The Staircase was one of my favorites as it was revealing to see the inside story of a murder trial. I also liked the Aaron Hernandez story and the Bill Gates documentary Inside Bill’s Brain. “Succession” and “Ozark” are both fantastic dramas. But, when push comes to shove, I always love watching a “Seinfeld” episode!

Lexine Wong, Senior EVP, Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment: I have watched so many TV shows and films during the quarantine — new and old, popular and eclectic. I would have to say my favorite TV series was The Last Dance. It was so well done and so cool to see Jordan and all the players, past and present. Having that behind-the-scenes look into Jordan’s life was fascinating. And maybe because I was missing sports as a whole, it was fun to tune into something ‘live’ for a few weeks.  I also caught up on all the seasons of “The Crown,” “The Good Doctor” and “Ozark,” just to name a few. I just watched an indie movie, The Young Offenders, which I had never seen, and it was funny and charming. I also re-watched Crash, Argo and The Blind Side recently, which are all so good for different reasons. And I’ve been reading lots of scripts and books as well. I highly recommend Catch and Kill and The Splendid and the Vile.


If you could spend the day with any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be — and why?

Aubrey: Connie Britton. We are old friends from making “Friday Night Lights” together and overdue for a backyard margarita.

Campbell: Living, I would say Oprah! I’ve always looked up to Oprah. I love hearing people’s stories, and there is no one more masterful at asking the right questions to learn people’s stories than Oprah. She brings empathy, passion and positivity to all that she does. If it’s someone no longer with us, then it would most definitely be my father-in-law. He passed away before I met him. I’d love to spend a day with him, getting to know the man that shaped the incredible human that is my husband.

Chu: I’ve been reading my daughter the “Little People, Big Dreams” books. We picked up the one that told the story of Martin Luther King Jr., and it made me so emotional. While progress has been made since his death, it has not nearly been enough — what would MLK say today and what actions must we take to achieve our dream of equality?

Johnson-Marletti: Michelle Obama. I would love to sit and talk with her to get first-hand accounts of how she has navigated life. She is an accomplished business leader, a mother who by all accounts has done a wonderful job with her girls, and someone who has navigated the scrutiny and muck of D.C. while demonstrating class, intellect, faith and grace. I think spending a day with such a person would only be goodness.

Kim Overall, EVP, Consumer Insights and Innovation, Sony Pictures Entertainment: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. I think they would be incredibly insightful across many of the topics and challenges we are facing. And I imagine they’d be accessible, relatable and engaging.

Smith: George Clooney because I’d love to know what it’s like to be equal parts humanitarian, talented at his trade, and strong enough to marry a smart, accomplished, beautiful woman. And, because, you know … George Clooney! Or, Alfred Hitchcock because I’d love to hear his take on how movies have evolved and what his vision would be to use Ultra HD and immersive technologies to improve them further.

Wong: So many to choose from! I think I’d go with Angelina Jolie, because she’s a very private celebrity who has made strong, deliberate career choices that resonate because of her passion and commitment to the stories she is telling. I would love to hear what she has to say on life, love, politics and the causes she supports.

Women in Home Entertainment 2020: The 12 Captains Talk COVID-19, Remote Working and Lasting Changes

Media Play News asked the 12 “captains” in our third annual Women in Home Entertainment issue to participate in a detailed Q&A about their careers and the challenges of COVID-19, which truly has made 2020 a year like no other. We also asked some fun questions to liven, and lighten, things up. An abridged Q&A appears in the August 2020 print and digital edition of Media Play News. The full Q&A has been broken down into three sections, running here on consecutive days. This is the second part, on the impact of COVID-19 on their working and personal lives — and on our business.




How has your work life changed with COVID-19?

Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max: Working from home has been an immense change not without its challenges, but we are all still working at the same incredible pace as we were in the office. Our teams have persevered, managing launching a platform alongside home schooling and shared spaces. Because of the determination of our teams, we were able to launch HBO Max on schedule and continue to debut and create new Max Originals, all from our homes. We have had to adjust how we tackle things day to day, but we are still accomplishing them, and with a level of quality that I think only this team could achieve. I keep reminding everyone, “Guys, when you have a baby, that’s not the end, that’s the beginning.” We are just at the beginning with HBO Max and I am excited to share everything we still have coming.


Kelly Campbell, President, Hulu: While there have been some obvious changes and challenges transitioning to a remote work environment, I’ve also been energized by the more than 2,500 Hulugans who have worked hard to maintain our culture beyond the physical walls of our office space, provide support to their colleagues and continue to push our business forward. As a company leader during this uncertain time, my focus remains on the health and safety of our employees and making sure I’m present, available and proactively communicating with all Hulugans on a regular basis.


Agnes Chu, SVP, Content, Disney+: Like so many other working moms out there, it’s changed in many ways. Working from home has rewards and challenges. In between Zoom calls, I’m able to steal a hug or play a quick game with my 2-year-old daughter. I treasure that. But it can also be difficult to draw lines and have clear boundaries. With the help of my amazing husband, I’m learning new lessons every day in how to navigate and balance both.

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Andrea Downing, Co-President, PBS Distribution: We went remote in mid-March and instituted weekly conference calls with the full team to keep everyone in the loop. We invited some of our vendors to join us periodically to meet the broader team and talk about the work they are doing and how they are being impacted by the pandemic. Because productions shut down, affecting content delivery and procurement, and some of our vendors closed, we have had to be nimble and creative and quickly adapt to changing circumstances. I am really proud of how our team came together and almost seamlessly managed all that has been thrown at them.

Kathleen Gallagher, EVP and Managing Director — North America, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: While we have found ourselves working under the most unforeseen circumstances, I am especially proud of our team’s ability not only to navigate and excel in the face of the unprecedented challenges currently facing our industry, but to achieve such exceptional outcomes, as evidenced with The Invisible Man and, most recently, Trolls World Tour. Personally, much like everyone else, I am still figuring out the best way to balance office hours and family time. I have a 5-year-old son who has been out of school since March, and it is critical that I make time for him throughout the day. Of course, this isn’t easy as most of us are on back-to-back calls. It has been a unifying experience to get a glimpse into the home lives of our colleagues as kids and pets make guest appearances throughout the day. And, it has also been very empowering to see the broad support, compassion and respect around maintaining a work/life balance extend throughout the highest levels of our organization.

Hilary Hoffman, EVP, Global Marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: I am so incredibly proud of my marketing team, who so swiftly and skillfully adapted to working remotely. With Universal’s decision to release select films to PVOD coming right on the heels of the stay-at-home order, the team around the world faced a massive undertaking in determining quickly and effectively the best way to join together to deliver on this new and unprecedented consumer offer. Together we successfully led the way in helping to launch the new platform while at the same time continuing to maintain a robust traditional home entertainment business.

Kim Overall, EVP, Consumer Insights and Innovation, Sony Pictures Entertainment: I am learning that working remotely and virtually means we need to look out for one another in different ways and listen to what we need on an individual level. Creating new routines and rituals is really important as we adjust to our new ways of working, interacting and socializing. Asking questions and listening have never been so important as we seek to understand the moment we are in and know how best to help and support each other.

Cindy Holland, VP, Original Content, Netflix: Like everyone, I’m spending more time on video conferences than I ever imagined, and a lot less time at industry events. And it’s always casual Friday, but I’ve never been that formal anyway.

Dametra Johnson-Marletti, GM, Digital Store Category Management, Microsoft Corp.: First, my heart goes out to the many lives that have been lost and families that have been impacted by COVID-19. From a work life perspective, Microsoft has been working remote since mid-March. With some minor enhancements, I was able to replicate the comfort of my Microsoft on-campus office. That, combined with the power and impact of Microsoft Teams meeting and collaboration technology has given us the ability to continue to drive business results, serve our customers, and collaborate with our partners in a very meaningful way. What I do miss most is seeing my co-workers every day. I work with a great group of people and it’s really hard in this environment to replicate the impromptu hallway chats or those quick office pop-in-type conversations — both work and social catch-up topics.

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Jessica Schell, EVP and GM, Film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment: We are busier than ever, and the work is incredibly challenging, which is a welcome respite from the monotony brought on by so many other things being shut down — travel, socializing and in-person meetings, to name a few. My whole career has focused on navigating changes in technology and consumer behavior, but the speed of change has exponentially accelerated. We are forced to find creative solutions and new ways of doing things on the fly, building the train while it is going down the track.

Amy Jo Smith, President and CEO, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group: Since COVID-19 and working from home, I’ve found the DEG team is working more efficiently, but with some loneliness. We are on call all day, but also have time to slip in a walk with dogs or do a load of laundry. The days blend together and the hours start earlier and end later. I buy gas once a month, wear pants with no zippers and haven’t worn shoes without laces.

Lexine Wong, Senior EVP, Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment: I vividly remember my last day in the office. We ended the day celebrating a new partnership with our Sony Music partners in a small conference room with 30 people, drinking tequila and eating tapas from one of their sponsors. We said “see you in a bit” … and now 20 weeks later we are still working from home. Like many studios we were immediately faced with the challenge of theaters closing and focused quickly on getting our recent theatrical releases out on home entertainment. I was worried about my team feeling disconnected and wanted to make sure information was disseminated in real time without having to send tons of emails, so I instituted a “daily check-in” on Microsoft Teams for everyone on the marketing team. We continue to have them, and anyone in the marketing organization can join and add items to the daily agenda. Working from home has changed the entire social ecosystem, and I think many of us look forward to being back together and enjoying the camaraderie from in-person meetings, grabbing a quick coffee or lunch and touching base in the hallways when it’s safe to do so.


How has your personal life changed?

Aubrey: As much as my kids can drive me crazy, it’s been a real joy getting to spend more time together than we would have were I in the office. And I’ve been cooking more. My beef enchiladas have hit a new level of deliciousness.

Downing: I have been able to spend more time with my family, an unexpected benefit of the pandemic, and I am grateful that we are all healthy and managing well. I am acutely aware that there are so many who are not so fortunate. Without the commute I have more hours in the day, so I have been getting outside to walk or run consistently. It is challenging to not be able to get together with friends or travel the way that I used to, but I connect frequently through voice and video calls.

Holland: Way more time indoors, though I still find time for a daily bike ride.

Johnson-Marletti: On the homefront there were definite bright spots. The greatest by far has been the quality family time that has been created by by everyone being quarantined at home. Like many who work every day, especially working moms, the pace of life felt like a treadmill on high prior to the shutdown. The constant balance of work commitments, commute time, family activities, and other daily tasks seem to consume most hours. So, the instant slowing of life was quite enjoyable and really allowed us time together that we would not have otherwise had. All of that said, we have really started to miss the many wonderful things that create enjoyable variability in life, like travel, sports (pro and youth), concerts, and getting together with lots of friends, especially during the summer. We greatly look forward to when those things are once again the norm.

Schell: Since most activities outside the home are canceled, my immediate family is spending a lot more time together! That’s been a silver lining, being able to grab lunch with my 4-year-old and being home for dinner the moment my last meeting is over rather than having to commute in traffic. Like everyone else I’ve been catching up with old friends across geographies, like a monthly virtual meet-up of my business school section classmates.

Wong: With nowhere to go, you would have thought being quarantined at home with my husband and two kids (high school and college age) would have been pretty mellow … not so much, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Being forced to hang out and spend mealtimes together made for lots of interesting discussions. We experimented with lots of new recipes, planted a garden to try to create the “farm-to-table” experience (four kinds of tomatoes, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, eggplant, shishito peppers), participated in Zoom workouts, started our college kid on Robinhood to create a stock portfolio (Shopify was huge!) and worked on a ton of house projects, from organizing to building shelving and varnishing tables — Marie Kondo watch out! We even started composting!

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Where do you work at home? Did you already have a home office, or did you have to modify a space?

Aubrey: My home office is wherever I can find space for my laptop. My new office is my chair in the corner of my bedroom and then with my kids in the dining room.

Downing: I have a home office that I had to modify slightly to video conference effectively, primarily from a technology standpoint. I am still working on finding a way to keep my cats out of the picture — they always show up and insert themselves in my calls. They are now well-known across the company!

Gallagher: I didn’t have a home office. I started at the dining table. That lasted about a week. I created a mini office in the corner of the guestroom, which I later enhanced with a treadmill. I spend a lot more time looking at the treadmill than I do running on it! Aside from that, the setup is functional and comfortable, and having the distinct space definitely helps me transition between work and family mode.

Holland: I already had a home office.

Johnson-Marletti: I already had a home office set up, and really just needed a few modifications to replicate my on-campus work space, like getting a double monitor (life-changing), bringing home my comfy ergonomic chair and investing in a good webcam. I also upgraded my espresso machine — it’s not as good as the Microsoft version, but it does the job.

Overall: I modified a little spot upstairs that lets me look out onto the road, and I filled the walls with photos, quotes and other things that make me happy.

Schell:  I converted a guest bedroom, which has conveniently been empty since none of our East Coast family or friends can come visit. But I find that mixing it up helps keep me sane: spending time outside when the weather permits, or in the living room in the rare moments when my house is quiet. My home office can really be wherever my laptop is.

Smith: I have a home office but have given it to my daughter so she has quiet space for her virtual school. As a result, I’m in the kitchen as anyone who has been on a video call with me can confirm.

Wong: My original home office was in an open area which didn’t work at all due to all the noise with the kids being home, so I ended up setting up camp in an extra bedroom. I bought a better printer and slowly started acquiring office staples like a small filing cabinet, desk organizers, etc. as I realized we probably wouldn’t be heading back to our offices for a while.

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What’s the best thing about remote working?

Aubrey: Wearing my pajama pants.

Downing: Watching the way our team adapted to the new situation so quickly. They really leaned in and figured out how to work remotely while supporting their teams and managing their family obligations. Our weekly conference calls created an opportunity for a broader selection of team members to give updates on the business, which has led to greater transparency and sharing ideas for adapting our business as issues arise.

Gallagher: I have been so impressed by our team’s ability to quickly embrace and thrive in this new way of working. A great example is how swiftly and easily we are able to assemble the right group of people together for meetings. What previously may have taken days or weeks to schedule when we were in the office often now can take a matter of hours to accomplish. This ability to effectively adapt to a new work style and function nimbly has served us well in maintaining momentum, quality and consistency with both customers and consumers. That — and being able to wear sweats every day!

Hoffman: We have experienced meaningful upside in working together remotely. In particular, there is a special feeling of unity that we are all in it together.

Holland: The flexibility to work from anywhere.

Johnson-Marletti: NO COMMUTE!  Seattle commute times were difficult — not L.A. difficult, but getting there, and the commute was even worse when it rained (if you can believe that). So, getting all that time back has been great and has further allowed for greater productivity at work and better balance at home.

Overall: I get to hear the voice of my 6-year-old son playing downstairs when I am working and it always fills my heart with happiness and makes me smile.

Schell: Since no one can be physically together, it puts everyone around the globe on an equal footing. When I’m working across different departments with people who usually sit in different buildings, or working on releases around the world, I’ve found that communication has actually improved. Since we aren’t limited by who is in the room, we can reach out to a broader set of people and leverage more opinions and expertise than we could before.

Smith: I’m grateful to see my daughter throughout the day and share a laugh with her. It’s nice not to be on the road stuck in traffic. I love being able to spend more time with my daughter and husband.

Wong: Saving commute time, less pressure on deciding what to wear every day since it’s only my top half that I worry about, and being able to walk my dog at lunch. Because we are social creatures at heart, the ease of turning our cameras on for every Zoom/Teams call has helped reinforce connections with colleagues — and it’s been fun to get a little glimpse into our colleagues’ personal lives.


What is the downside?

Aubrey: Wearing my pajama pants!

Downing: I miss seeing everyone in person and having the impromptu conversations that happen during a typical workday. It is easier to pull a number of people together on short notice when you’re in the same office and challenging to do that when we are remote and juggling multiple work schedules.

Hoffman: The downside is the loss of spontaneous dialogue and ideation as a team. And we all miss the hallway and elevator conversations that extended beyond business into personal life. The loss of our ability to travel also has been a challenge. While international business can definitely be managed by video call, nothing replaces the opportunity to gather together in the same time zone and work with your colleagues in real time.

Holland: The flexibility to work from anywhere, and the perception that one is always available.

Johnson-Marletti: The downside by far been has been not seeing the fun, smart and amazing people I get to work with each day, having impromptu meetings, catching up on each other’s lives while grabbing coffee, or having lunch together. I will most definitely appreciate those times far more when they return.

Overall: I have to confess, I miss the office! The rate of change in our industry is so rapid right now and has been accelerated in some areas in the past few months. As we try to understand the changes in real time and solve for ways to respond I miss not being able to grab a coffee with one of the many wonderful thought partners in our business to talk through options together.

Schell: It’s harder to build a culture, and as a manager, harder to get an informal read on how the whole team is doing. No more walking the halls and chatting with whoever is around. That’s been particularly difficult when you know so many people are going through a hard time, and as we try to tackle sensitive topics like addressing diversity and inclusion.

Smith: I feel isolated from my office DEG teammates and the industry at large.

Wong: There’s no delineation of when the day starts and when it ends. With no commute time, you end up being “always on,” a blur of meetings every day, with one day running into the next … wash/rinse/repeat. You can imagine the fun we had re-promoting our movie Groundhog Day!


What impact is COVID-19 having on your business, and what are you doing about it?

Aubrey: Like everyone in our creative community, our productions and teams have been impacted by COVID-19, but fortunately we have been able to keep our programming slate on track and our teams have been incredibly inventive and have remained dedicated to our goals working at the same pace we had in the office. Our launch slate and planned summer programs have been set for some time and thankfully were mostly unaffected, but we did have some projects in production that were placed on hiatus while we figure out the best, and safest, path forward. The health and safety of our casts and crews are our first priority. Care for our employees, cast and crew are the most important consideration in all decision-making. But we are still really busy! We have several projects in post-production, with people working from the safety of their homes using editing rigs we provided. We were able to continue shooting the Max Original CNN Films documentary On The Trail as part of CNN’s news-gathering operation and have also greenlighted new series such as “Selena + Chef,” an unscripted cooking show starring Selena Gomez, and “Homeschool Musical,” a scripted series from Tony winner Laura Benanti. Both of these projects were born out of quarantine and demonstrate the innovation and creativity of the teams at HBO Max.

Campbell: It’s no secret that people are watching more television now that they are spending more time at home, and Hulu, like other streamers, has benefited from that. But I think our growth in 2020 has been less about the pandemic and more about the creativity and innovation we’ve brought to market this year. The Hulu Originals team led by Craig Erwich has delivered its most successful slate of originals ever, from “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Hillary” and “Ramy” — which just received Emmy nominations in major series categories — to breakout hits like “Normal People,” “Solar Opposites” and our original film Palm Springs. Through FX on Hulu, which we launched earlier this year in partnership with John Landgraf, we’ve provided viewers with even more Emmy-nominated series, like “Mrs. America” and “Devs.” Hulu’s technology and design teams introduced a newly redesigned interface that helps Hulu viewers find and discover the content they love more quickly. And on the advertising front we continue to introduce new non-traditional ad formats to provide the best experience possible to our viewers, and more-innovative solutions to brands. All of these things together are driving Hulu’s strong momentum this year.

Chu: Obviously, this is an unprecedented time. In so many ways it has reinforced the power of storytelling and its vital and indelible role in society. At a time when we can’t easily come together physically, people are looking for content that brings them together emotionally. Disney+, with our depth and breadth of library content and new multigenerational stories like “The Mandalorian,” “Encore!” and “Diary of a Future President,” is able to do just that. From a production standpoint, it’s obviously tough. COVID safety protocols are challenging us to find new ways of doing things. My team likes to say that creativity is the best antidote for road blocks. Whether it’s voiceover talent calling in their performances or musicians scoring content from home, we are able to complete and fine-tune projects that were already in process. We are also spending more time on the development process and writing new material. I really think that we’ll see a lot of interesting storytelling come out of this period of time — not just here but across the industry.

Downing: The biggest impact has been the growth of our subscription channels and TVOD revenue as a result of the stay-at-home orders and increase in streaming. With the disruption to content production and delivery, we’re thinking creatively about how to fill the content pipeline to ensure that we are well-positioned for the months ahead.

Gallagher: It has been encouraging to see a rebound in our catalog business over the past few months. We have so much content that consumers love and can look to for comfort and escape during this time. We have been partnering with retail to make sure shelves are stocked, and our brand team has been working to develop promotions and collections that can drive significant value for shoppers.

Holland: We’re fortunate to have great shows in the pipeline and we’re proud to be a place viewers are turning for comfort and escape at a really challenging time. We have some shows shooting outside the U.S., but there are many that are still paused here. Things won’t look exactly the same when we return to production, but we’re looking forward to it and are focused on our cast and crews’ welfare and safety.

Johnson-Marletti: Unlike many businesses across the country and world, during the pandemic, the e-commerce space has realized explosive growth and creative business model innovation. At the peak of the global shutdown and quarantine — around April — we saw many people turn to digital entertainment to fill their time, whether it was gaming online with friends, movie and TV consumption or just online shopping, we have seen new high-water marks across the business broadly. The many Microsoft teams that bring content and our services to life have done yeoman’s work in ensuring that our customers can find what they are looking for when they want. We have been very pleased with our ability to be there to connect customers to their community of friends and to our partner’s tremendous content during these challenging times.

Overall: We are very focused on listening to and understanding how our most-valuable entertainment consumers are changing their content consumption behaviors and preferences, from what and when they are viewing to how they are interacting on social media.

Schell: Our business has been dramatically affected in so many ways — production has been stalled, theaters are closed, and so many marketing tactics and channels have been shut down. At the same time, consumer demand to be entertained at home has skyrocketed, so there is a huge appetite for content at a time when there are no new theatrical releases. Scoob! had been intended for theaters, and with the marketing campaign underway, consumer products hitting stores and theaters closed, we released it under a new premium rental and ownership model and proved that audiences will show up for eventized in-home releases. We’ve also been filling the void by highlighting films from our vast library through different themes, and our catalog business is booming. And of course, we’ve thrown our support behind the launch of HBO Max. As the custodians of the Warner Bros. library, we have a vast repository of marketing assets and ancillary content and social communities at our disposal, there is so much we can provide the Max team to support their offering which draws heavily from Warner Bros. content.


How are you collaborating with colleagues and meeting with customers?

Aubrey: Our office is built on collaboration, so we are constantly working together over WebEx, checking in with our creative partners, and continuing to work on our slate in creative ways under these new circumstances. I am so impressed and proud of my team, and of the teams across the company, who have shown such resiliency and continued passion as we continue to make deals, write scripts and edit our programming from home.

Downing: I prefer video conferences if I am connecting for multiple agenda items or don’t know the person well, but often have quick phone calls with those I am regularly in touch with to discuss one or two issues.

Gallagher: Most of our communications and exchanges are happening primarily via video conference. I don’t know the last time I scheduled a regular phone call. We are all looking for that personal connection as we spend so much time in our homes.As much as it can be sometimes exhausting to be on video all day, I am really happy that this mode of interaction has become our norm.

Holland: Like everyone else, we’re on a lot of video conferences.

Johnson-Marletti: Primarily through Microsoft Teams. The Microsoft Teams Business Group has been working overtime to continue to innovate and evolve Teams based on customer feedback. This is the same technology my kids used during remote learning as well. Needless to say, our home bandwidth has really been working overtime.

Overall: Zoom, Teams, OWL — every piece of enabling technology we can get our hands on to stay as close to one another as we can.

Schell: All internal meetings have moved to video conferences on Teams, and depending on which customers we are meeting with, we use various other video conferencing systems, like Google Hangout when meeting with YouTube, of course! We work on shared digital documents together. It’s all technology that existed before, but until we were forced to use it, adoption was slow — we were more of a telephone and email culture. It works well because everyone is on the same level playing field, dealing with makeshift home offices, kids and pets in the background. If some people were in the office and some people at home I think it would have been much more difficult to make it work for those not in the office.

Smith: DEG quickly pivoted to a virtual meeting environment, bringing the industry together in small salon discussions and a larger expo where we invite expert speakers and members to share their perspectives and services that will help the industry grow.

Wong: One of the best things that has come out of the quarantine is the exceptional collaboration with the different divisions and departments across the studio. One of the most productive partnerships has been with our theatrical counterparts. Aside from the shortened windows, where we quickly passed the baton and leaned on each other’s expertise to develop the best go-to-market approach, we set up a marketing “stay-at-home” task force where we were able to brainstorm and prioritize a ton of ideas to support the catalog. Everyone rolled up their sleeves to help access talent and support the social handles, giving the commercial teams great marketing programs for our retail partners. We also did a similar task force with the TV production and marketing team which resulted in creative executions in the form of cast reunions, table reads and live Q&As.


How many Zoom or other video conference calls do you have in an average week?

Aubrey: Too many to count!

Downing: Pre-pandemic I had one or two video conferences per week. The last several months, I have averaged around 40 a week.

Gallagher: Somewhere around 30.

Holland: It varies, but they’re pretty much back to back.

Johnson-Marletti: Thirty-plus Microsoft Teams meetings each week.

Overall: The short answer is probably too many, but the reality is that it’s our new normal and I would much rather see people and be able to share a smile and a laugh than not!

Schell: I find that I spend most of the workday on video calls. That can be anything from a one on one to a presentation to hundreds of people. We’ve tried to institute companywide meeting-free lunch breaks and Fridays, so those times are a bit lighter. With California schools indefinitely closed, we will be re-looking at schedules in the fall to try to accommodate working parents who are doing double duty with kids at home.

Smith: Three to four a day.

Wong:  Between 40 to 50 conference calls per week. Just a push of a key to the next meeting … join, leave, join, leave. It’s efficient, but not great for getting your steps in!


Has a return to the office date been set, and if so what changes are you expecting?

Aubrey: It is a company priority to restart television and film production, but care for our employees, cast and crew is the most important consideration in all decision-making, and we are prioritizing productions for our testing and safety resources. There are no imminent plans for my team to return to the office, but we are currently starting up smaller productions in consultation with local authorities, the unions and medical experts. There will definitely be changes to how our productions are run, and we will do everything we can to make sure that our employees, cast, crew and creative partners feel protected and comfortable each step of the way. With our wide range of formats and shooting locations, each production is different and will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Downing: We have not set a date for returning to the office because too many variables are in flux. We don’t know what is going to happen with schools and day care centers, which impacts many on our team, and we are mindful that some have health concerns for themselves or their families. We stay up to date with the guidance from local and national health officials and recommendations about opening offices. I am sure that when we go back, it will be a combination of remote and in the office and we will adapt as needed based on circumstances.

Johnson-Marletti: We will not return to the office prior to January 2021. Microsoft has done a terrific job communicating with all employees very broadly on a regular basis. The company prioritizes employee safety first, so when we do return, we are expecting to align to a clear set of guidelines and protocols meant to keep everyone safe and that contribute to flattening the curve.


Do you envision any long-term changes in our industry?

Aubrey: There has been a lot of innovation around using digital experiences and formats that I think will remain in place and be useful once we begin to reopen and restart productions, festivals and other large gatherings. By opening up once-exclusive events to a wider platform digitally, we are able to more freely share with the community and expand our reach to voices around the world.

Downing: It is difficult to anticipate how the industry will change long-term because this time in history is unprecedented. But I think more content will be available for streaming rather than in theaters, stressing an already challenged sector of the entertainment market, with continued consumer transition to subscription-based models. Given the uncertainty about how long we will be susceptible to this virus, and anticipating the possibility of another pandemic, I think that companies will be adapting their technology and work spaces to position themselves for greater resilience.

Johnson-Marletti: For sure, I think there will be lasting changes across the industry as a result of the global pandemic and how it’s been handled around the world. The entertainment industry as a whole feels like a continuous circle that has many interrelated dependent parts, each of which has been impacted in slightly different ways, which makes predicting the long-term effects on the whole ecosystem very difficult. For example, consumer confidence in returning to the theater is varied at this point and in many places not allowed at all. That puts enormous strain on both theater chains and studios, as they now have to decide on releasing straight to home entertainment or waiting for blockbuster-worthy theater-going crowds to return — the economics for these options are very different. Production is largely at a standstill, so the funnel for new-release content becomes smaller, which effects theaters, studios, broadcasters, and subscription and transactional services that rely on that content to attract and retain a consistent flow of customers.  So again, the level of uncertainty across the ecosystem makes it hard to call where we’ll ultimately settle into a new normal. That said, creativity and business model evolution remains high, that coupled with the continued collaboration with our partners continues to be a bright point of hope for us.

Schell: Since so much business-as-usual isn’t possible, we’ve had the opportunity to experiment. We are figuring out how to do some things more efficiently and create new kinds of cultural moments. Across the industry, we’ve proved that audiences will show up for event in-home releases such as Scoob! and Trolls World Tour and gotten to see the impact on subscriptions of putting a huge event like Hamilton straight on to SVOD. With so much less event television programming and no live sports or awards shows, we’ve had to find more audiences on digital. Since in-person events aren’t possible, in lieu of premiere and fan conventions, we’ve been leveraging virtual audiences in Fortnite (Tenet trailer release) and on TikTok (#ScoobDance) and hosting virtual press junkets. We’re learning what can work better than the ways we’ve always done things, and what are sacred cows for a reason. Undoubtedly these learnings will influence how we go forward.

Smith: I foresee long-term changes to how we do business and how we function as a global community. I don’t think this will be unique to entertainment. I envision a business community where most meetings and transactions take place via video. And, we learn how to foster relationships and discussions via video conference.

Women in Home Entertainment 2020: The 12 Captains Talk Career Paths, Highlights and Tough Calls

Media Play News asked the 12 “captains” in our third annual Women in Home Entertainment issue to participate in a detailed Q&A about their careers and the challenges of COVID-19, which truly has made 2020 a year like no other. We also asked some fun questions to liven, and lighten, things up. An abridged Q&A appears in the August 2020 print and digital edition of Media Play News. The full Q&A has been broken down into three sections, running here on consecutive days. This is the first part, on their career paths and highlights.




Tell us about your career path. 

Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max: I began my career as an entertainment lawyer, later transitioning to production starting with Bad Santa and then joining forces with Peter Berg at our production company Film 44. During this time, I produced series and features such as “Friday Night Lights” and Lone Survivor. I then joined Kevin Reilly, who I had worked with on “Friday Night Lights,” at TNT as EVP of original programming for the network. We created programming that evolved the network into a place for premium tentpole dramas with series such as “Claws,” “Animal Kingdom” and the Emmy Award-winning drama “The Alienist.” I worked hard in this position to champion diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera. During this time we were able to more than double the number of women holding jobs at the highest levels on the average TNT scripted project, and TNT jumped an impressive 320% on the annual GLAAD TV report rankings for LGBTQ representation. Kevin then presented me with a once-in-a-career opportunity, to be on the ground floor of HBO Max, a brand-new platform that brings together an incredibly special portfolio and group of creators in one place. [Reilly recently left WarnerMedia in a management shakeup.] In this role, I oversee our Originals slate from drama, comedy, unscripted, documentary, animation, and feature films, with something for everyone in the household. My team and I are empowered to go after unique, distinctive stories from creative voices that make a cultural impact, stories that we feel passionate about and that deserve to be seen by a wide audience. We are proud to have launched with the 2020 Sundance Documentary feature On the Record as well as the fan-favorites “Love Life” and “Legendary,” and to continue bringing incredible stories to our platform such as “Expecting Amy,” “On the Trail,” the “Friends” reunion special, and, of course in 2021, the long-awaited Snyder Cut (director Zack Snyder’s cut of the 2017 superhero film Justice League).


Andrea Downing, Co-President, PBS Distribution: I started my career in manufacturing after I graduated from college in the Midwest, in a picture frame factory. I have always said yes when asked to take on new projects or tasks, and the more that I successfully managed, the more senior my position became. At some point, I realized that I wanted to be in a region where there were more of my peers, and I moved to Washington, D.C. Clearly there’s not a lot of manufacturing on the East Coast, so I started over in an entry-level position, but soon moved into a management position. A friend recommended me to someone at the Discovery Channel, a startup at the time, and while it meant taking what looked like a step backwards in terms of my role, I wanted to be in a larger, more entrepreneurial organization. I started taking on what needed to be done, and quickly became the go-to person. The decision to join Discovery led me to where I am today.

Kathleen Gallagher, EVP and Managing Director — North America, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: I have been with Universal for almost 20 years. I have been so fortunate to have found amazing mentors and advocates in this organization who have given me opportunity and exposure. I started in this industry as a sales analyst for Kmart and Walmart. I have held many different roles in the sales and trade marketing functions that taught me the importance of being customer- and consumer-centric in everything we do. That sensibility has been incredibly helpful to me in this role as I strive to find the right balance between sales, operations and finance.

Hilary Hoffman, EVP, Global Marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: I appreciate this question, as it comes at a critical moment in time when we all should be reflecting on our own career journeys as well as those of our team members and colleagues across the industry. I believe that my path has been greatly influenced and supported by my mentors and leaders. Going forward, my goal is to heighten my focus on others in our organization, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to grow, thrive and always feel supported professionally.

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Cindy Holland, VP, Original Content, Netflix: I grew up in Nebraska, where the nearest arthouse cinema was about 30 miles away. I loved what I saw, though, and couldn’t wait to work in film. I moved to L.A. and worked at the Mutual Film Company and Baltimore-Spring Creek Productions, where I had a wonderful mentor in Paula Weinstein. Before Netflix, I worked at an e-commerce startup you may remember called Through that, I met Ted Sarandos, and then I joined Netflix in 2002 when we were a DVD-by-mail subscription service. From the very beginning we had the ambition to be a global entertainment company, and it’s been incredible to see that now realized all around the world.

Lexine Wong, Senior EVP, Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment: My entire career in entertainment has been at Sony, so I’ve basically grown along with the industry from disc to digital. Prior to entertainment I had a short stint in advertising in New York. That fast-paced account management position gave me a taste of marketing brands and led me to the ever-changing world of home entertainment. I’ve enjoyed every minute of the journey — from rolling out new formats and platforms around the world, to reimagining marketing tactics, to developing and leading a team of smart, driven, creative and enthusiastic individuals. In my 20-plus years at Sony I have been continually confronted with new and different business challenges and am constantly learning. For example, when I was given the opportunity to begin supporting the television distribution business last year, I found that it was primarily a B2B marketing model. By taking a chapter from our home entertainment consumer-first marketing approach and using audience data and insights from our strategy team, we have been able to more effectively drive awareness and ratings and support our commercial teams and distribution partners.


If you had to pick one career highlight, what would it be?

Aubrey: The launch of HBO Max and the opportunity to build a streaming platform from scratch within a company that has a tremendous legacy.

Kelly Campbell, President, Hulu:  Joining the team at Hulu — and now Disney — has been the biggest highlight of my career.  Having the opportunity to work with so many brilliant, creative people who are genuinely passionate about having a positive impact on our viewers and communities has been life-changing, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I firmly believe that this is the most exciting place to be in this industry right now.

Agnes Chu, SVP, Content, Disney+: In my 13 years at Disney, I’ve been incredibly blessed to have had two epic professional adventures with teams that have transformed our company in significant ways. During my time as [former CEO] Bob Iger’s chief of staff, the company was building Shanghai Disney Resort.  My grandparents are from Shanghai, so it was especially meaningful to be part of planning its grand opening. It was such a gift to have watched Imagineers transform farm land into a truly fantastical and breathtaking park with thousands of fans lining up on opening day. And, of course, the launch of Disney+. This team really knows no bounds in terms of their creativity, inventiveness and tirelessness. So many talented people from across the Walt Disney Company collaborated to make the launch a success. It’s awe-inspiring and gratifying to wake up every day and get to work with some of the most gifted storytellers in the world.

Downing: Being recruited and hired to work at PBS as a vice president, particularly when I did not have a lot of experience in what I was being tasked to do. But the woman who recruited me had been my boss at Discovery and knew my track record. The trust that she placed in me to get the job done set me on the path to my current role at PBSd.

Holland: Sharing “Orange Is the New Black” with the world over its seven seasons was an unforgettable experience.

Dametra Johnson-Marletti, GM, Digital Store Category Management, Microsoft Corp.: I consider myself to have been extremely blessed in my career. I have had many great experiences over the years. As I look back over my entire career, I have to say landing at the company where I have spent two-thirds of my career to date, has not only been a huge highlight, but being at Microsoft has positioned me to realize many great benefits, highlights and unique experiences several times over. Whether landing in my current role focused on digital entertainment and content, or working with our partners across the industry or traveling the different parts of the world to help drive impact for the company, the decision to come to Microsoft has been the foundational highlight that has led to so many others.

Amy Jo Smith, President and CEO, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group: My most memorable career stop was my brief tenure at the White House. One of my duties was to take VIP guests of the Oval Office around the White House. I had the great opportunity to meet the children and grandchildren of Presidents Eisenhower, Ford and Carter.  One of my most interesting walks around the White House was with Ambassador Shirley Temple Black, who had many fantastic stories to share during both her stints as ambassador.


What was the toughest decision you’ve ever made?

Aubrey: To leave the security of being a practicing attorney to start my career as a producer.

Chu: This job is full of tough decisions.  My advice on this is to confront them with heart and strength of conviction, and be open-minded and fair.

Downing: The first time I was faced with the challenge of having to let go of team members, some of whom were more senior than me. It was the right decision for the business, and a learning curve in terms of making the decision and implementing the plan. It is never easy to do, but I think the first time is by far the hardest.

Johnson-Marletti: I think issues and decisions related to people are by far some of the most difficult decisions that leaders must contend with at work. Decisions that have involved removing people from their positions are always challenging. As a leader you balance being a steward of the company, a coach for your team, and an attractor and developer of talent — yet for any number of reasons, sometimes a change is required. As a leader you own that, implement it with empathy and grace, with the understanding that you are dealing with a person’s life and livelihood. All of these factors make such decisions extremely challenging.


Women In Home Entertainment 2020: The 12 Captains — Who They Are

Hollywood, you’re getting better — but we’re still not quite there.

UCLA’s 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report, released in February, found that, overall, there are more acting jobs for women in film. In a look at 145 films released in 2019, women had 44.1% of the lead acting roles and accounted for 40.2% of the total cast.

But if you look behind the scenes, there remains much more of a divide. In 2019, just 15.1% of the directors, and 17.4% of the writers, of top-grossing films were women. The 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report also includes a workplace analysis of the top 11 studios, and found that 82% of ‘C’-level positions, and 80% of all senior executive positions, are held by men.

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This is why, for the third year, Media Play News is saluting the top women in home entertainment — with a special focus on the top “captains” who are driving the business — as selected by a panel of studio executives, key retailers, journalists and other industry leaders.

Our list of “captains” this year has expanded from 10 to 12, in recognition of the proliferation of high-profile streaming services. Our Women in Home Entertainment section takes on special significance this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic — which has presented our executives with a whole new series of challenges that are explored, in detail, in the Q&A section with our captains that follows our introductions.


Sarah Aubrey

Head of Original Content, HBO Max

Sarah Aubrey

Aubrey heads up Original Content for HBO Max, presiding over a robust slate of Max Originals that offers programming options for every member of the household from preschool aged children through adults. Max Originals include a wide range of genres and formats, slanted toward Gen Z, millennial and female audiences, including programs such as “Legendary,” “Love Life,” “Expecting Amy,” “On the Trail,” “Raised by Wolves,” “Close Enough,” “Looney Tunes” and more. Previously, Aubrey was EVP of original programming for TNT, where she played an integral role in the network’s evolution into one of the premier destinations for prestige original dramas. Under her leadership, the number of women holding jobs at the highest levels on the average TNT scripted project more than doubled. TNT also jumped an impressive 320% on the annual GLAAD TV report rankings for LGBTQ representation. Prior to joining TNT, Aubrey was a prolific television and film producer, responsible for such projects as “Friday Night Lights” and “The Leftovers” while at Film 44, and films including Bad Santa before that.


Kelly Campbell

President, Hulu

Kelly Campbell

Campbell manages Hulu’s suite of on-demand and live streaming businesses within the Walt Disney Co.’s Direct-to-Consumer & International business unit. Campbell previously served as chief marketing officer of Hulu. Her team of marketers was responsible for creating and executing initiatives across brand, creative, subscriber growth, entertainment publicity, consumer research and viewer experience. Campbell has earned several industry accolades, including one of Business Insider’s Most Innovative CMOs, Cynopsis Media’s Top Women in Digital Media, Ad Age’s Women to Watch and FierceCable’s The Fierce 50: Executives Reshaping the Business of Pay-TV. Most recently, she made Forbes’ Most Influential Global CMOs list for embracing transparency in influencer marketing.


Agnes Chu

SVP, Content, Disney+

Agnes Chu

Though she is leaving in September to lead publisher Conde Nast’s studio and distribution unit, Chu is being honored as one of the key players behind the successful launch of Disney+. Chu is responsible for identifying and developing series, feature films, short-form content and other entertainment formats for the service. Reporting to Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing, Chu leads the Disney+ Originals teams for scripted, unscripted and content operations, partnering closely with Disney-owned internal content creators, including The Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Television, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Over the course of her career at Disney, Chu has served in a variety of roles. Prior to her current position, she served as executive of story and franchise development at Walt Disney Imagineering. From 2013 to 2016, she worked for Bob Iger as VP, office of the chairman and CEO, leading corporate synergy in the integration of Lucasfilm and the grand opening of Shanghai Disney Resort. While at ABC Entertainment, managing content production for the broadcast network’s digital platforms, Chu garnered an Emmy nomination for “Lost: Mysteries of the Universe,” a pioneering streaming extension of the fan-favorite series “Lost.”  Chu began her career at Jigsaw Productions, working on Academy Award documentary nominee Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and “The Blues,” a seven-part series on PBS with directors Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Alex Gibney.


Andrea Downing

Co-President, PBS Distribution

Andrea Downing

With more than 20 years of experience in the media and entertainment business, Downing has a successful history of leading organizations for growth and profitability in dynamic landscapes. Her vision for PBS Distribution (PBSd) has evolved the focus of the organization to a global distribution company with a diversified portfolio of businesses, including three direct-to-consumer subscription video-on-demand (DTC-SVOD) services at its core. A strategic leader with a strong operational background who embraces change to transform organizations with new business strategies and products, Downing leads the company including strategic, financial, and operational aspects of PBSd.

Kathleen Gallagher

EVP and Managing Director — North America, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Kathleen Gallagher

Gallagher leads UPHE’s physical home entertainment business, including sales, operations, finance, customer marketing and distribution partnerships across the United States and Canada. She assumed her present position in March 2018, after serving as SVP of sales, customer marketing and category management for UPHE’s U.S. physical sellthrough and rental businesses. She started at Universal in 2000 as assistant category manager and served in various sales, category management and customer marketing positions. Gallagher began her career in 1999 at Sony Pictures Entertainment (at the time, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment).

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Hilary Hoffman

EVP, Global Marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Hilary Hoffman

Hoffman oversees strategic marketing and business strategy for Universal and its distributed lines worldwide across new-release, catalog and TV properties for both digital and physical, focusing on the complete product lifecycle. Her responsibilities encompass defining go-to-market strategies and the overall approach for consumer engagement, including developing and leveraging new platforms and technologies as well as direct-to-consumer initiatives to drive profitable growth across all formats. During her tenure at Universal, Hoffman has overseen the campaigns of some of the studio’s biggest, revenue-generating releases and has successfully been a driving force behind Universal’s leading footprint in new industry initiatives.


Cindy Holland

VP, Original Content, Netflix

Cindy Holland

Holland, a 17-year Netflix veteran, is responsible for acquiring and launching original series for Netflix members around the globe. Under her purview, Holland and her team have launched award-winning and critically acclaimed projects that span drama, comedy, family/YA, documentaries, unscripted, stand-up specials and docu-series. She was named to the 2018 Time 100 list of the most influential people. According to the magazine, “in less than a decade, Cindy has helped orchestrate one of the biggest entertainment revolutions since the invention of the television.”


Dametra Johnson-Marletti

GM, Digital Store Category Management, Microsoft Corp.

Dametra Johnson-Marletti

Johnson-Marletti has responsibility for digital content categories (Gaming, Movies & TV, Entertainment and Consumer Apps) across all Microsoft digital storefronts.  She is charged with working with external content creating partners to optimize customer experiences and financial opportunities through creative content marketing programs, and business model innovation. Johnson-Marletti joined Microsoft in 2001 and has since made multiple contributions across a number of different businesses, including nine years in the Xbox Division. Prior to coming to Microsoft, Johnson-Marletti spent almost 10 years with Bristol Myers-Squibb, where she held several positions across dales and dales management in the Southern California area. A former professional women’s basketball player, Johnson-Marletti is a Los Angeles native who currently lives on the East Side of Seattle with her two teen children.


Kim Overall

EVP, Consumer Insights and Innovation, Sony Pictures Entertainment

Kim Overall

Overall is responsible for identifying and developing the studio’s capabilities to become a more consumer-centric, data-driven organization. Her group utilizes data analytics and consumer insights, enabling SPHE and Sony Pictures Television Distribution to make better-informed decisions to satisfy consumer demand for content. Formerly, Overall was SVP of SPHE’s United Kingdom, Norther Europe and EMEA partnerships. In this role, she was responsible for defining the commercial strategies for the region and supporting the EMEA territories. She joined SPHE in 2008 as the managing director for Australia and New Zealand.


Jessica Schell

EVP and GM, Film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Jessica Schell

Schell joined Warner Bros. in 2014 as EVP and GM of film at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and oversees all aspects of the transactional home entertainment business for Warner Bros. films worldwide. At Warner Bros. she has taken on additional responsibilities managing theatrical lifecycle marketing, cross-enterprise synergy initiatives, and immersive entertainment. Schell spent her early career at the Walt Disney Co. and Allen & Co. and is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. At NBC Universal, she held roles of SVP of digital strategy and business development for NBC Universal, and EVP of business development and digital for Universal Pictures.


Amy Jo Smith

President and CEO, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group

Amy Jo Smith

Smith heads the leading trade group for the home entertainment industry. The DEG promotes entertainment platforms, products and distribution channels that support the movie, television, music, consumer electronics and IT industries. A former White House communications advisor, Smith since 1997 has led the industry-funded organization through the industry’s wholesale evolution from videocassettes to DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and today’s digital age. She joined the DEG as executive director under then-President Emiel Petrone, and was promoted to president in 2013 and CEO in 2017. Before the DEG she was SVP and group director at ad agency Cohn & Wolfe.


Lexine Wong

Senior EVP, Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Lexine Wong

Wong leads Sony Pictures Television Distribution’s global home entertainment marketing team and is charged with delivering breakthrough marketing campaigns across a wide range of product from Sony Pictures Entertainment’s studio labels and television series. Specific areas of oversight include consumer and brand strategy, creative advertising, media and digital, PR and strategic partnerships, content development and new product development. Wong’s insights-driven marketing strategy is the foundation for product development and continued marketing innovation around new platforms critical for growth in the industry, such as Movies Anywhere, augmented reality, 4K UHD and other direct-to-consumer digital offerings. With more than 25 years in advertising and consumer marketing, Wong began her career at Young & Rubicam, before joining what would become Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, where she rose to EVP of worldwide marketing in 2001 and her present position in 2006.