To celebrate the Sept. 18 premiere of season two of “Pen15,” for the next 10 days, Hulu users will be able to stream the Emmy-nominated comedy together through a series-branded Hulu Watch Party feature.
In keeping with the theme of the show, the Watch Party experience resembles a classic online chat room, complete with screen names taken from the series.
Viewers can launch the Hulu Watch Party through the details page for the series on Hulu.com. Clicking on the Watch Party icon will trigger a shareable link that a user can then share with their friends or family. Hulu Watch Party supports up to eight people per session and viewers must be 18 years of age or older to access the feature.
Viewers can also call 1-855-HULU-FAN to hear a pre-recorded conversation between the show’s lead characters Maya and Anna. Callers can listen in on a conversation between the two best friends, provide their cell phone number when prompted and receive a link to download a digital pack complete with Zoom backgrounds, GIFs, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and phone wallpapers. Fans (who are 18 years or older) can dial 1-855-HULU-FAN starting at 11 a.m. PST/2 p.m. EST through Sept. 30.
Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming video service continues to impress analysts. New data from eMarketer suggests the $6.99 monthly platform will have 72.4 million viewers in the United States by the end of the year — representing 32.1% of the country’s SVOD viewership.
Disney+ is projected to have annual double-digit viewership growth through 2024, topping sister service Hulu, with 123.4 million viewers compared with 115.6 million for Hulu. Disney+ viewership now dwarfs rival Apple TV+ (18.8 million) — despite launching a week later in 2019.
Disney currently has nearly 35 million domestic subscribers. The eMarketer viewership estimates outpace subscriber totals because multiple viewers can use the same subscription.
In 2020, 225.4 million viewers will use a streaming service at least once per month, up from the 221.9 million viewers previously forecast in Q1. This figure will grow to 237.1 million in 2024. Netflix remains the top subscription streaming service in the U.S., with 168.9 million viewers, followed by Amazon Prime Video at 130.1 million.
“Since its launch, Disney+ has been able to grow quickly by using a low price point and leveraging a vast library of content,” Eric Haggstrom, forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence, said in a statement. “Bundled offerings with Hulu and ESPN+, as well as distribution deals with Verizon, have enabled it to grow new subscriptions quickly and reduce subscriber churn.”
Haggstrom added that while Disney+ has benefited from lockdowns and stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic, movie and TV production shutdowns could pose challenges in retaining subscribers looking for new content.
“It will be difficult for Disney+ to continue growing viewership in 2021 with a light batch of new releases,” he said.
Free, transactional and subscription video all grew significantly in the second quarter versus the same period in 2019, according to NPD Group data.
The market experienced “growth across just about every way you can consume video,” said NPD’s John Buffone during the online OTT.X summit Sept. 1. (The summit continues today; to register click here.)
Transactional VOD alone jumped by 57%, while subscription VOD grew 42%, Buffone reported.
Sales of TVs and streaming players (“largely driven by Roku”) also grew by double digits during stay-at-home orders, he said, while sales of DVD and Blu-ray players also saw a jump in sales “for a while.”
The most frequently used services in April 2020 (Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, CBS All Access, Amazon Prime Video) are gaining the most ground, NPD research found. Among that group, 87% of Netflix subs said they use the service at least weekly, with 80% saying the same of Hulu, 70% of Disney+, 68% of CBS All Access and 64% of Amazon Prime. During April, 48% of Netflix subscribers said they were using it more often, compared to 57% of Disney+ subs, 42% of Hulu subs, 40% of CBS All Access subs and 39% of Amazon Prime subs.
A third of SVOD users said that exclusive content made them subscribe or watch more because content was not available any other way, he noted.
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.
THE CAPTAINS OF HOME ENTERTAINMENT: WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY, PART THREE
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.
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.
Beginning in mid-March, SVOD use in the United States skyrocketed to nearly 600 minutes monthly from fewer than 300 minutes in June 2019. The tally surpassed 700 minutes in April, before leveling off in the mid-600 range in May and June, according to new data from 7Park.
Throughout the pandemic, one service continues to dominate: Netflix. While the SVOD pioneer’s recent quarterly financials underscored the platform’s enduring appeal among new subscribers, actual use of the service is undeniable.
Indeed, Netflix use accounted for 69.2%, 71%, 67.4% and 70% of all SVOD consumption in March, April, May and June, respectively.
New York-based 7Park said 73% of viewers watched only one platform, while 22% watched two platforms and 5% watched three or more. Multiple platform usage increased since March due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders but looks to be trending down.
“Streaming is still above March pre-COVID-19 stay-at-home order levels, and the majority of viewers’ time spent continues to be on Netflix, which accounted for 70% (445 minutes) of total streaming minutes across all platforms,” wrote Lindsay Bisson, with 7Park.
That said, use of Netflix and Prime Video declined 4% and 12%, respectively, during the pandemic while upstart services such as Apple TV+ and Disney+ saw surges due to original content such as Defending Jacob and Hamilton, respectively.
Between July 1-5, 7Park said Hamilton was the most-viewed streaming video title, accounting for 22% of the time households spent across all five major streaming platforms. More than 80% of Disney+ users watched the Lin-Manuel Miranda-written/starrer, and it secured 87% of the total time spent on Disney+ platform.
7Park said the surge of Apple TV+ use likely continued with Tom Hanks’ Navy war drama Greyhound.
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.
THE CAPTAINS OF HOME ENTERTAINMENT: WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY, PART ONE
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.
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 Kozmo.com. 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.
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.
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.
THE CAPTAINS OF HOME ENTERTAINMENT: WHO THEY ARE
Head of Original Content, HBO Max
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.
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.
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.
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.
EVP and Managing Director — North America, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
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).
EVP, Global Marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
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.
VP, Original Content, Netflix
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.”
GM, Digital Store Category Management, Microsoft Corp.
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.
EVP, Consumer Insights and Innovation, Sony Pictures Entertainment
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.
EVP and GM, Film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
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
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.
Senior EVP, Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
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.
Speaking recently on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said he is “not at all concerned” with the slow start for subscription streaming service HBO Max, saying the platform was in a “really good position” based on previous estimates.
“If you look at last year at what we hoped we would be at the end of 2020, which is 36 million HBO and HBO Max subscribers, we announced just recently we are already north of 36 million, and obviously the number is going up every day,” Kilar said.
Kilar was hired May 1 to aggressively guide the former Time Warner company into the digital age — underscored by the May 27 launch of HBO Max. Since an initial observation period, Kilar has implemented massive corporate downsizing resulting in the elimination of about 600 positions across Warner Bros., Turner (except CNN) and HBO.
The former Hulu founder brought in fellow Hulu alum Andy Forssell as GM, spearheading marketing, consumer engagement and worldwide rollout of Max in a crowded SVOD market dominated by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video — and Disney-owned Hulu.
Despite HBO’s brand recognition, subscriber/consumer adoption of Max has been slow. The service has attracted about 4.1 million subs through parent AT&T’s most-recent fiscal period, despite HBO having more than 35 million existing pay-TV subs. Undermining conversion efforts are ongoing negotiation challenges between WarnerMedia, Roku and Amazon Fire TV — the latter two key to third-party OTT video consumer adoption.
Consumer adoption of Max pales in comparison to Disney+, which attracted 10 million sign-ups in its first 24 hours last November, and now has more than 60 million subscribers. In addition, NBCUniversal’s upstart Peacock service has generated more than 10 million subs. NBCUniversal owns CNBC.
Kilar argued that when comparing “apples to apples,” Peacock subscriber conversion of linear-TV subscribers isn’t demonstrably better than Max. He said Disney+, on the other hand, has the advantage of leveraging a 100-year-old family brand known globally.
“[Disney] did exactly what they should have done and kudos to them,” Kilar said. “Ours is a very different journey. I would argue ours is a bigger outcome because we are going after all members of the family. The opportunity is bigger, but it does mean the journey is going to be different because we don’t have a 100-year-old surgically-precise brand around families, specifically with kids under the age of 9.”
Kilar was asked if the HBO brand has become confusing to consumers due to the myriad access points, including HBO, HBO Go, HBO Now and Max. He agreed, saying both HBO Go and HBO Now are being “sunsetted,” with the end result continuing to drive users to HBO and the brand’s quality of programming.
“We want people to think of our stories as being a cut above,” Kilar said.
Hulu has launched the Creative Partner Program to assist small- and medium-sized businesses in creating advertising on the service.
The program offers access to “creative partners who are specially trained in Hulu best practices, and have expertise creating unique, non-templated ads for smaller businesses at all stages of the advertising creative process,” according to Faye Trapani, director of self-service platform sales.
Disney jumpstarted consumer adoption of its branded SVOD platform Disney+ by offering 12 months of free service to Verizon wireless subscribers. Beginning Aug. 19, Verizon subscribers with either the “Play More Unlimited” or “Get More Unlimited” plan will receive 12 months of free bundled Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu SVOD service.
Disney has been selling the OTT video bundle for $12.99 monthly, with the services costing $19 if purchased separately. Disney ended its most recent fiscal period with 60.5 million Disney+ subs, followed by Hulu with 35.5 million (which includes 3.4 million combined Hulu with Live TV) and 8.5 million for ESPN+.
“The addition of The Disney Bundle to our agreement with Verizon reinforces our commitment to providing their subscribers with access to high-quality entertainment from Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+,” Sean Breen, EVP of platform distribution for Disney, said in a statement. “We are always looking for the most advantageous ways for consumers to experience our content and we are pleased to work with Verizon so that they can provide their customers with these appealing new offers.”
Indeed, co-promotions with established pay-TV operators are seen as key to upstart SVOD platforms getting consumer traction and competing with industry behemoth/pioneer Netflix. Apple TV+ launched with free 12-month service to anyone buying a new Apple hardware product. WarnerMedia is offering free HBO Max service to select AT&T wireless customers, while T-Mobile offers Netflix free to wireless subs — a campaign mirrored by Sprint and Hulu.