Mark Fisher Set to Retire as Head of Streaming Trade Group OTT.X

Mark Fisher, who for more than a decade has led streaming trade association OTT.X and its predecessor, the Entertainment Merchants Association, has announced his retirement, effective May 31.

The 68-year-old Fisher is stepping down as president immediately, with Eric Hanson, the association’s EVP, taking over as interim president. Fisher will retain the CEO role for the next few months “to support an orderly transition,” according to a news release.

Fisher joined what was originally called the Video Software Dealers Association in 1999 as VP of membership. At the time, the trade group served mostly home video retailers at a time when the business was transitioning from VHS videocassette rental to DVD sales.

SEE ALSO: Personal Stories: Mark Fisher of OTT.X — From Stop & Shop to Streaming

In April 2006, the VSDA merged with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) to become the Entertainment Merchants Association. Fisher was subsequently promoted to EVP and, in October 2012, when EMA CEO Crossan “Bo” Andersen retired, Fisher was appointed by the board of directors to succeed him.

During Fisher’s tenure as president and CEO, he oversaw the association’s evolution from supporting the physical media business into a trade group for first transactional and subscription streaming and then all forms of online video distribution, including AVOD and FAST. The EMA was rebranded OTT.X in January 2020. Fisher also led the development of the current OTT.X cornerstone events — the OTT.X Summit and the X-Fronts — as well as its salons, its roundtables, and its online webinars.

“I’m proud of the accomplishments that we’ve made as we’ve evolved in an evolving industry that has become more and more egalitarian, global and diverse,” Fisher said. “It’s been great working with this outstanding staff and the most engaged and supportive board members that a CEO could ask for.  The association is on a great trajectory for its future, and I’m confident that it’ll grow to serve its members in many more ways than its currently able.”

“Over the years, Mark’s family and mine have become close friends, and I congratulate him on his decision,” said Cameron Douglas, chair of the OTT.X board of directors and SVP, OTT/Streaming, at Fandango. “In some ways, OTT.X and Mark are synonymous, and yet I know the organization will continue to thrive through the strength of its dedicated staff and the engaged member base.

Prior to joining the VSDA in 1999, Fisher served on the board’s executive committee as treasurer and VP of its New England chapter. He had been a member of the VSDA since 1985 while employed by member companies Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. and public video rental chain West Coast Entertainment.

Fisher attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the State University of New York at Albany. He began his professional career as the youngest store manager, at the time, in the A&P Tea Co. grocery chain.  He joined Stop & Shop as a store manager in 1980 and from 1983 to 1985 served as general merchandise supervisor for the chain’s Connecticut division.  In 1985, Fisher was named director of video rental and charged with running the grocer’s standalone video rental stores.  Under Fisher’s leadership, the Stop & Shop Video Store chain was recognized as the VSDA Retailer of the Year in 1995.

Fisher will remain involved with OTT.X, consulting at least through the end of the year, and serving longterm as CEO Emeritus and a non-voting member on the OTT.X board of directors.

OTT.X Hosts Streamers, Advertisers at XFronts

OTT.X held its inaugural “XFronts” event May 24-25 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The XFronts event, which drew nearly 400 guests, was an exchange consisting of pitches and presentations by prominent and up-and-coming AVOD and FAST platforms, networks, and channels to an audience of brands, advertisers and ad agencies, according to OTT.X. Presentations included details about lineups, content promotion and other plans for the coming year. The opening reception was held Tuesday evening, May 24. (All photos by Media Play News staff.)

OTT.X Slates Second Annual Leadership Summit for May 4

OTT.X, the trade association for streamers, on May 4 will hold its second annual OTT.X Leadership Development Foundation Summit.

The keynote speaker for the one-day virtual event is David Bishop, a home entertainment industry veteran who served as president for two major-studio home entertainment divisions, first MGM Home Video and then Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and is now a professional leadership coach and consultant.

Also on the agenda are panel discussions with industry leaders, executives and HR professionals about mentorship, career advancement, diversity and inclusion.

The OTT.X Leadership Development Foundation was formed by OTT.X to develop leaders in business and technical roles, especially focusing on diversity and inclusion.

See also: Q&A with David Bishop: From Studio Chief to Leadership Coach

“Through the LDF, leaders share their experience, knowledge and professional networks to support and inspire those growing into leadership roles,” said Eric Hanson, OTT.X EVP.

Kristen Bedno, VP of distribution and marketing at Vision Films and LDF Summit chair, said the foundation’s overall mission “is to grow and nurture the future leaders of our OTT industry, with a specific emphasis on providing women and underrepresented minorities tools to help them earn their seat at the decision-making table.”

Admission to the May 4 OTT.X Leadership Development Foundation Summit is free. Register here.

OTT.X to Host Career and Leadership Development Summit

OTT.X on July 28 announced plans to host its first-ever Career and Leadership Development Summit on Aug. 12, using an online format similar to its popular “OTT.X Online Live” sessions.

The summit will feature three components, including a conference session with career and leadership development presentations delivered by successful executives; a series of informal discussion sessions between industry executives and conference attendees; and a “happy-hour” networking session.

Steve Nickerson

Featured speakers include industry veterans Steve Nickerson, formerly of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Toshiba Corp.; Jason Peterson, chairman of the GoDigital Media Group; and Michele Edelman, head of growth with Premiere Video.

Other speakers include Teresa Philips, CEO of Spherex; Narendra Reddy, EVP and GM of The Africa Channel; and Paulette Pantoja, CEO of Blu; Jill Allen, SVP of digital distribution for Sony Pictures; Beth Anderson, AVP of digital strategy and business development for BBC Studios; Allison Martin, senior manager of content planning for BBC Studios; Kristen Bedno, director of domestic distribution and marketing for Vision Films; Lise Romanoff, managing director and CEO of worldwide distribution for Vision Films; and Lonni Silverman, director of client services, for Sony Pictures.

“The goal of the summit is to help prepare an inclusive population of professionals interested in advancing in business and technical roles in the entertainment industry and to provide opportunities to develop their leadership skills, contacts and confidence,” said Mark Fisher, OTT.X president and CEO. “Supporting the growth and professional development of future leaders and the diversity of those holding leadership positions is vital to our industry’s continued success. Our first Leadership Development Summit will provide a platform for leaders to share valuable insights and for a diverse community of professionals of all levels to connect and learn from each other.”

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Jason Peterson

Fisher also will speak, as will Eric Hanson, OTT.X’s VP of industry leadership.

To create an inclusive and diverse community of participants, women and minorities are especially encouraged to register and attend, Fisher said. The morning conference portion of the event is free for all OTT industry professionals. Afternoon discussion and networking sessions are free to any employee of an OTT.X member organization.

The conference is being hosted by OTT.X’s Leadership Development Foundation (LDF), an organization dedicated to the vision of a diverse and inclusive business and technical workforce in the OTT video entertainment industry, supported by a broad range of career and leadership development opportunities. The LDF is overseen by a steering committee with representatives from content providers, channels, retailers and service providers in the OTT video industry.

For more information and to register visit the OTT.X website.

EMA Expands Supply Chain Efforts with Hire of Former Microsoft Exec

The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) on Feb. 13 announced that Eric Hanson has been named VP, industry leadership for the home entertainment trade association.

Hanson will manage all of EMA’s industry and supply chain support for both the home video and video game segments, including workgroups, committees, and councils. Hanson, who had been providing project management to the association since January 2017, assumed his new duties earlier this month.

“Over the past year, Eric has done an incredible job in driving industry consensus on digital supply chain best practices and promoting adoption of them,” said Mark Fisher, EMA’s president and CEO. “I’m really excited to bring Eric on-board on a full-time basis, as this allows EMA to invest even more deeply in promoting efficiencies in the digital video supply chain and other important industry initiatives.”

“I appreciate this opportunity, as full-fledged member of the EMA team, to stimulate industry collaboration that addresses operational friction points, help grow the home entertainment industry, enable innovation, and promote incredible consumer experiences,” said Hanson.

Prior to joining EMA, Hanson was involved in in strategic planning, operations, and process engineering work with Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., and Amazon. He was responsible for building and leading the content operation function for Xbox Live Video from its launch in 2006 until 2012 and for build-out and management of the content operations function for Intel’s OnCue service.

Hanson has been active in industry engagement and standards since 2001, when he led the planning process for Microsoft’s media standards engagement. He later oversaw Xbox’s representation in industry and standards groups, including EMA’s digital supply chain initiatives.

EMA also announced additional staff changes:

Carrie Dieterich, SVP, strategic initiatives, will retire in May. Dieterich has 24 years of experience with the trade group, most recently overseeing EMA’s research efforts and events, including the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, Independent Product Market, Digital Media Pipeline, and Digital EMA Salons.

Jennifer Lane Burnell has been promoted to VP, marketing and events. She will assume responsibility for planning, promoting, and managing EMA’s events and continue her current duties in brand and event marketing and creative services.

Steve Apple has been given the new title of VP, industry sales. Apple is responsible for membership growth and maintaining relationships with companies involved in digital delivery of content, as well as soliciting sponsorship of EMA events.