‘Variety’ 2019 Hall of Fame Honorees Feted

Variety inducted five into its Hall of Fame Dec. 3 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The awards, which began in the early days of video, now celebrate innovation in multiplatform entertainment. This year’s event benefitted City Year.

Inductees included writer, director and producer Greg Berlanti; DreamWorks Animation president Margie Cohn; actor, writer, director and producer Bill Hader; Cindy Holland, VP of original content at Netflix; and Dametra Johnson-Marletti, GM of Microsoft digital stores business and category management.

Paramount Pictures futurist-in-residence Ted Schilowitz was honored with an Innovation Award.

Story here.

Netflix’s Cindy Holland, Actor Bill Hader Among ‘Variety’ Hall of Fame Honorees Feted

Variety inducted five into its Hall of Fame Dec. 3 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The awards, which began in the early days of video, now celebrate innovation in multiplatform entertainment. The event benefitted City Year.

Inductees included writer, director and producer Greg Berlanti; DreamWorks Animation president Margie Cohn; actor, writer, director and producer Bill Hader; Cindy Holland, VP of original content at Netflix; and Dametra Johnson-Marletti, GM of Microsoft digital stores business and category management.

Paramount Pictures futurist-in-residence Ted Schilowitz was honored with an Innovation Award.

Netflix’s Holland paid tribute to the first winner of the award, Jane Fonda.

“Jane carved a path that’s impossible for anyone to follow, but many of us have walked or worked out in her footsteps,” she said. “She continues to live a bold and daring life well into her 80s now — whether it’s on ‘Grace and Frankie’ [on Netflix] or Fire Drill Fridays [climate change protests] in Washington, D.C. She’s getting arrested every Friday.”

Holland thanked Fonda for her “kind words” in the video introduction, adding “I’m really proud to know her, and I’d like to be like her when I grow up.”

She also noted Fonda’s involvement in creating the video industry.

“Jane’s workout videos were a really important part of the home entertainment industry, where I spent a lot of my career,” Holland said. “In the early days it was the VHS boom. That was followed by DVD and Blu-ray and now streaming. While Jane was working out in the 80s, I could only dream of all the movies and television shows we now have access to in our homes and in our pockets. It’s been a real pleasure to be part of that change.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

She urged more recognition for women in the industry.

“I’m really motivated to ensure that women in this industry have the same opportunities to succeed and more importantly to take risks, to fail, to be better for it and still be recognized,” she said.

Microsoft’s  Johnson-Marletti stressed the importance of studio partners.

“It’s not our code that customers like; it’s your content,” she said. “Thank you for a shared vision with us in bringing millions of Microsoft customers fantastic content.”

Hader, who works both behind and in front of the camera and is currently starring in HBO’s “Barry” and in Noelle on Disney+, recalled working as a production assistant and assistant editor in the industry before his breakout on “Saturday Night Live” — as well as growing up in Oklahoma.

“My grandfather used to say, ‘It’s so flat here that you can watch your dog run away for three days,’” he joked.

“So much has changed in this business since I started out, but certain things are more true than ever in this era of streaming wars or peak TV or post-streaming-war TV or whatever we’re calling it now,” said inductee Greg Berlanti in accepting his award. “I believe audiences will always want good stories, well-told, well-acted by diverse voices trying to make sense of the human experience.”

See photo gallery.

Lisa Nishimura Joins Netflix’s Film Group

Longtime Netflix documentary/comedy executive Lisa Nishimura is getting expanded duties as the subscription streaming video pioneer consolidates management.

Nishimura, a former home entertainment executive at Palm Pictures until joining Netflix almost 12 years ago, expands her title to VP of independent film & documentary features, overseeing independent films, English & non-English docs, documentary shorts, and limited documentary series.

Her production credits include 2018 Oscar-winning cycling doping doc, Icarus, Oscar-nominated The 13th and 2017 Oscar-winning The White Helmets, in addition to Primetime Emmy-winning docueries Making a Murderer and Wild Wild Country

She now reports to Scott Stuber, VP of original film, instead of Cindy Holand, VP of original content.

Lisa Nishimura, Brandon Riegg

“Lisa blazed a trail within Netflix building our documentary and comedy initiatives, and we’re so lucky to have her expand her role into indie films,” Stuber said in a statement. “Lisa joins Matt Brodlie and Ian Bricke, who have built our indie film business over the last several years. Together they will continue to deepen our talent relationships and give diverse and unique storytellers a home to share their films. I’m looking forward to working alongside Lisa, Tendo Nagenda and David Kosse as we grow our film studio.”

Separately, Brandon Riegg,  VP unscripted originals & acquisitions, remains in charge of unscripted originals while expanding duties to include comedy specials, including standup. Riegg, who joined Netflix in 2016, now reports to Holland.

“I look forward to supporting Brandon and his team as he brings enthusiasm and proven talent to this expanded role, and as they chart the future of non-fiction English language programming for Netflix,” said Holland.


Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Says Apple, Disney ‘Very Late’ to SVOD Ballgame

Having invented the subscription video-on-demand business (with Roku) more than 10 years ago – with service in more than 190 countries, Netflix doesn’t appear to be worried about pending streaming competition from Apple and Disney.

Speaking March 18 at a media event at Netflix’s Los Angeles headquarters on Sunset Boulevard, CCO Ted Sarandos said he would “reserve comment and judgment” on the March 25 Apple announcement and separate Disney+ streaming media platform rollout later this year “until we see it.”

Netflix’s Los Angeles headquarters on Sunset Boulevard

Indeed, Netflix has long welcomed streaming competitors, including the rollouts of HBO Now, Showtime OTT, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu — characterizing the services as validation of the OTT video market in a pay-TV ecosystem.

Yet, Disney and Apple are not niche brands. Disney in recent years has dominated the box office through its Marvel and Lucasfilm (i.e. “Star Wars”) subsidiaries.

Disney last year ended its landmark movie distribution deal (and more than $300 million in annual license fees) with Netflix in part to solidify movie content offerings for its subscription streaming service.

Apple, which literally created markets for consumer electronics through  iTunes, the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, among others, has been slow to enter SVOD in large part because the late Steve Jobs considered streaming video a hobby.

“We’ve been competing with 500 channels of cable and penetrated nearly every household in the world for a long time,” Sarandos said, as reported by Deadline. “So, it’s the same stable of competitors; just very late to the game.”

Cindy Holland, VP of originals, who has been around Netflix about as long as Sarandos, said Netflix’s strategy to think locally and act globally when it comes to mining and distributing original content such as “Casa De Papel” and “Delhi Crime” underscores the streamer’s evolving subscriber.

“We are trying to reflect our audiences around the world,” said the pragmatic Holland. “We have a long way to go. You can’t rest on your laurels too long.”

Netflix’s Bella Bajaria Expands Duties to Include Foreign Non-English Original TV Shows as Erik Barmack Departs

Rising Netflix executive Bella Bajaria has been tapped to spearhead international non-English language original TV shows, including scripted, non-scripted and comedy.

Bella Bajaria

Bajaria, who joined Netflix two years ago as VP of content, inherits some of the duties from Erik Barmack, VP, international originals for Latin America, EMEA and India, who is leaving to launch his own production company after eight years at Netflix.

Longtime executive Cindy Holland, VP Original Content, will now focus on all English-language original content.


“Bela Bajaria is an incredible creative talent — bringing global hits like You, Nailed It and Queer Eye to Netflix,” CCO Ted Sarandos said in a statement. “She is the perfect person to build on our international efforts, helping to bring the world’s stories to the world whatever the language”.

The management moves come as Netflix seeks greater exposure internationally, including generating the vast majority of new subscribers outside the United States.

Erik Barmack

Barmack helped drive global appeal for non-English, country-specific original series, including “Elite” in Spain, “Dark” in Germany, “Protector” in Turkey, India’s “Sacred Games,” and “Casa de las Flores” in Mexico.

“Erik has been transformational for Netflix,” Sarandos said. “Hits such as ‘Dark,’ ‘Sacred Games’ and ‘Elite’ helped put us on the map and we wish him great success with his next chapter.”


Netflix’s Karen Barragan Joining Blumhouse Productions

Karen Barragan, VP of publicity for original series programming at Netflix, is leaving the SVOD pioneer to become head of marketing and communications at Blumhouse Productions.

Barragan, who has been at Netflix for the past six years promoting original series such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “Ozark,” “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things,” joins a company synonymous for lower-budget horror movies (Get Out, Insidious) as well as HBO’s critically-acclaimed “Sharp Objects,” starring Amy Adams.

“Karen has been a pioneering and well-respected leader at one of the the most innovative and successful media companies in history,” Jason Blum, founder/CEO of Blumhouse, said in a statement. “We are thrilled she is joining the Blumhouse team to help bolster our global brand generate even greater anticipation and awareness for the incredible films and TV series we are producing.”

Barragan replaces Teri Everett, who reportedly was looking for a career change, despite only joining Blumhouse in 2017.

“Blumhouse is bold and fearless,” Barragan said in a statement. “I’m intrigued by the ambitious vision set out by Jason and his team and looking forward to working across film and television in this role. I take immense pride in all that the global publicity team accomplished during my tenure at Netflix and am forever indebted to Ted [Sarandos] and Cindy [Holland] for their support. It’s been an incredible ride and I reveled in every second of it.”


Controversial ‘Insatiable’ Bows at No. 5 on Digital Originals Chart

Despite a 20% drop in demand, the Netflix women-in-prison drama “Orange Is the New Black” remains the most in-demand digital original, according to Parrot Analytics data for the week ended Aug. 18.

Three weeks after the debut of Season 6, the series continues its reign at No. 1 on Parrot’s weekly digital originals chart.

“Stranger Things,” also a Netflix digital original, also repeats at No. 2, with a 16% upswing in “Demand Expressions.

“Demand Expressions” is a proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

A new entry on the digital originals top 10 chart is Netflix’s “Insatiable,” which debuted at No. 5, with a 67% demand increase from the prior week. The new show, which launched on Netflix on Aug. 10, stars “Barney” and Disney Channel alum Debby Ryan as a high school student who has been bullied because of her weight. But after a fight with a homeless man leaves her with her jaw wired shut, she becomes thin – and a beauty pageant contender bent on revenge against those who mocked her.

Even before the series launched, there was controversy. After a trailer dropped in late July, critics accused the series of body-shaming and a Change.org petition demanding its cancelation gathered more than 200,000 signatures.

Netflix’s VP of original series, Cindy Holland, defended the show at the annual Television Critics Association (TCA) showcase, saying the underlying message is to feel comfortable in your own self.

Elsewhere on the chart, the perennially popular Netflix digital original series “Voltron: Legendary Defender” moved up to No. 3 from No. 7 the prior week, with a 51% spike in demand, while Hulu’s “Castle Rock” was bumped down a notch to No. 4, with demand essentially flat.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Netflix’s Comic-Con ‘Disenchantment’

Netflix put most of its Comic-Con fire into promoting “Disenchantment,” from “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” creator Matt Groening.

The streaming giant had a big booth on the show floor where Comic-Con attendees could “visit” the show’s “world,” and on July 21 Netflix debuted the first official trailer from the series – Groening’s first new project in nearly 20 years, and his first collaboration with Netflix.

“Disenchantment” premieres on Netflix on Aug. 17.

The series is set in the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland and according to Netflix follows “the misadventures of hard-drinking young princess Bean, her feisty elf companion Elfo, and her personal demon Luci. Along the way, the oddball trio will encounter ogres, sprites, harpies, imps, trolls, walruses, and lots of human fools.”

Netflix ordered 10 episodes of “Disenchantment” for Season 1, with a trailer shown to Comic-Con attendees during the show’s panel.

The series features the voice talents of Abbi Jacobson (Bean), Nat Faxon (Elfo) and Eric Andre (Luci), along with John DiMaggio, Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, Matt Berry, Jeny Batten, Rich Fulcher, Noel Fielding, and Lucy Montgomery. Animation is being done by Rough Draft Studios (“Futurama”).

“Disenchantment” is produced by The ULULU Company for Netflix, with Groening and Josh Weinstein serving as executive producers.

“Matt Groening’s brilliant work has resonated with generations around the world and we couldn’t be happier to work with him on ‘Disenchantment’,” Cindy Holland, VP of original content for Netflix, said a year ago in a news release announcing the show. “The series will bear his trademark animation style and biting wit, and we think it’s a perfect fit for our many Netflix animation fans.”

Shonda Rhimes Reveals First Slate of Original Netflix Shows

Shonda Rhimes, the creative force behind TV hits, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” among others, made headlines when she moved her Shondaland production company from Disney/ABC TV to Netflix.

On July 20, Rhimes, business partner Betsy Beers and their team revealed eight shows that will soon debut globally on Netflix.

“I wanted the new Shondaland to be a place where we expand the types of stories we tell, where my fellow talented creatives could thrive and make their best work and where we as a team come to the office each day filled with excitement,” Rhimes said in a statement. “Ted [Sarandos] and Cindy [Holland, VP, original content] and everyone at Netflix have been incredible partners in making that happen.”

The projects include the following series (all titles are working titles):

Untitled Shonda Rhimes Project

Based on the New York Magazine article How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People by Jessica Pressler. Manhattan makes a new friend like no other. But is she the stuff American dreams are made of or is she New York’s biggest con woman? Is it a con if you enjoy being taken?

Rhimes (EP) will create the series.

Untitled Bridgerton Project

Based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling series of novels, this feminist take on Regency England romance unveils the glittering, wealthy, sexual, painful, funny and sometimes lonely lives of the women and men in London’s high society marriage mart as told through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family.

“Scandal” executive Chris Van Dusen (EP) will adapt and showrun the series.

“The Warmth of Other Suns”

Based on Pulitzer-Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson’s award-winning book of the same name, this groundbreaking series tracks the decades-long migration of African-Americans fleeing the Jim Crow South in search of a better life in the North and the West between 1916 and 1970.

National Humanities Medal recipient, MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and 2-time Drama Desk winning playwright Anna Deavere Smith (EP) is set to adapt.

“Pick & Sepulveda”

Set in the 1840s against the surreal and sensual backdrop of the then-Mexican state of California, the series tracks the end of an idyllic era there as American forces threaten brutality and war at the border to claim this land for its own.

Emmy-award writer Janet Leahy (EP) will create the series.

“Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change”

Netflix and Shondaland acquired the rights to Ellen Pao’s memoir detailing her life and career, including the lawsuit she brought against her former employer that sparked intense media scrutiny, shook Silicon Valley to its boys’ club core and presaged the Time’s Up movement.

“The Residence”

Netflix and Shondaland acquired the rights to Kate Andersen Brower’s nonfiction book, The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, which offers a vivid insider’s account of White House residence staffers and the upstairs downstairs lives they share with the First Families at one of the most famous homes in history.

“Sunshine Scouts”

In this dark comedy series, an apocalyptic disaster spares a rag-tag group of teenage girls at sleepaway camp who must then summon their moxie and survival skills to weather the fallout and ensure all that remains of humanity abides by the Sunshine Scout Law.

Writer/actress Jill Alexander (Co-EP) will create the series.

“Hot Chocolate Nutcracker”

This documentary offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy’s award-winning reimagining of the classic ballet, The Nutcracker. This staged contemporization – with its inclusive cast of all ages and its blend of dance traditions – has further cemented Debbie Allen’s legacy as one of the greatest forces for good in dance.

Oliver Bokelberg (DP/director “Scandal”) will serve as director, cinematographer and producer.

“It’s been thrilling to begin this journey with Shonda, Betsy and their team and watch them embrace the full range of creative freedom possible at Netflix,” said Holland. “Infused with Shonda’s sensibility, the Shondaland slate is shaping up to be something truly special that we know will delight our members around the world.”