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

Media Play News on 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.

Whip Media Hires Former Fox Exec Sherry Brennan

Entertainment data and software company Whip Media has appointed Sherry Brennan EVP and GM of its licensing technology division.

In this newly created role, Brennan will lead the company’s development and go-to-market strategy of new offerings to improve how media companies license digital content globally. She reports to Rob Gardos, president of Whip Media.

Brennan has more than 30 years of experience in pay-TV, including nearly 15 years with Fox Networks where she focused on the distribution of Fox’s content in new and emerging platforms including Hulu, content protection, strategic research and optimizing Fox’s content strategy for the digital age.

“Whip Media is transforming TV and movie licensing by leveraging its first-party consumer sentiment data and sophisticated AI technology to optimize content monetization,” Gardos said in a statement. “Sherry’s vast experience in global content distribution and licensing will be invaluable as we deliver new products to the market to support that vision. I’m thrilled to welcome her to the team.”

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“After spending nearly 15 years at Fox negotiating hundreds of content licensing deals, I believe Whip Media is uniquely positioned to transform and future-proof global content licensing as business models continue to evolve,” Brennan said in a statement.

Prior to joining Fox, Brennan spent seven years at Cablevision focused on then-emerging VOD and digital TV, including content licensing, marketing and UI/UX. She began her career at Falcon Cable TV and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She is co-founder of a social platform for women over 40 (The Woolfer), as well as a Board Member for the Food Resource Action Committee (FRAC), a DC-based lobbying organization. She is based in Los Angeles.

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Whip Media through its content value management and data platform manages billions of financial transactions from more than 1,000 operators and OTT platforms around the world. Clients include Disney, Warner Bros., Hulu, NBCU, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate, BBC, HBO, AT&T, T-Mobile, Liberty Global, Discovery and Pluto TV.

Lionsgate’s Ron Schwartz Upped to Lead Motion Picture Group Distribution

In a nod to strong sales of catalog and other home-bound movies due to the pandemic, longtime home entertainment executive Ron Schwartz has been promoted to lead worldwide distribution for all content in the company’s Motion Picture Group.

Schwartz, who has overseen Lionsgate’s worldwide home entertainment business since 2014, is part of the Motion Picture Group restructuring into four verticals under chairman Joe Drake. The verticals are strategy and innovation, marketing, distribution, and content.

“Strengthening our company for the realities of a rapidly shifting marketplace has been priority one,” Drake said in a statement. “That transformation began well before this year, but the pandemic has accelerated these changes and spurred us to adapt and enhance our flexibility.”

Prior to taking on worldwide duties, Schwartz rose through the ranks of the company, first as EVP and GM of home entertainment operations, and then as president and GM of home entertainment sales and distribution. A 20-year veteran of the company, he has played an instrumental role in the growth of Lionsgate’s third-party distribution and library revenue.

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Jen Hollingsworth will continue as COO of the Motion Picture Group and expand her role to lead the strategy and innovation team. Damon Wolf will expand his global marketing and communications oversight to include all platforms and digital content releases as well as all theatrical and digital releases through the home entertainment window.

With scant theatrical distribution due to the pandemic, Lionsgate has leaned on library and premium VOD to drive fiscal operations this year. Total home entertainment revenue from disc and digital topped $150 million in the most-recent fiscal period. Through six months of the fiscal year, home entertainment revenue remains even at $317.4 million.

More importantly, packaged media, third-party licensing and transactional digital distribution of movies and television library content revenue topped $166.7 million, as library revenue for the trailing 12 months grew to a record $738.5 million, 33% higher than the previous trailing 12-month period.

Motion picture segment profit grew 63% to $83 million, from $51 million, on strong demand for library content and lower distribution and marketing costs due to the lack of theatrical commitments. Top PVOD releases in 2020 include period horror drama Antebellum and faith-based I Still Believe.

Kaleidescape Appoints New CEO

Luxury home cinema company Kaleidescape has appointed Tayloe Stansbury CEO, succeeding Cheena Srinivasan, who has served as CEO since 2014.

Srinivasan will remain with Kaleidescape as founder and EVP, focused on alliances and business development, including movie studio relationships.

In addition, Norma Garcia-Muro has joined Kaleidescape as VP of marketing.

“We are excited to have Tayloe’s expertise in product, technology, growth, and scale, and Norma’s expertise in cinema systems and movie marketing, to drive Kaleidescape’s growth,” Michael Malcolm, founder and chairman of Kaleidescape’s board of directors, said in a statement.

Stansbury, a longtime Kaleidescape customer, previously served as interim CEO of Watermark Insights, chief technology officer of Intuit, and EVP of product and operations at Ariba. He serves on a number of nonprofit, private, and public boards, including Coupa Software. He received his A.B. in applied mathematics from Harvard University.

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Garcia-Muro has a background in motion picture, home entertainment, and premium cinema technology. She helped launch Dolby Cinema worldwide and the premium cinema experience at THX. She previously was head of international marketing at Lucasfilm, where she oversaw strategy and positioning for the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises, and as director at Paramount’s home entertainment arm.

“Tayloe’s proven leadership in technology and corporate stewardship, together with Norma’s background marketing iconic films and next-generation cinema technology, provide Kaleidescape with a strong synergy of tech and Hollywood,” Srinivasan said in a statement. “We are delighted to see them both take the lead as we launch this exciting new chapter in revolutionizing home entertainment with the finest cinema experience available.”

Kaleidescape is an online provider of films with full-fidelity audio and video for luxury home cinema. The company’s Internet-delivered movies include exclusive metadata for its movie players. Founded in 2001, and headquartered in California, Kaleidescape sells its products exclusively through custom integrators.

Longtime Warner Publicity Executive Melissa Hufjay Exits Studio

Melissa Hufjay, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment VP of publicity, TV, animation and originals, is exiting the studio after 18 years as part of the WarnerMedia reorganization.

Her position focused on executive oversight of WBHE’s full-service publicity department for the television business unit, including guiding and executing all public relations initiatives and activities on physical and digital for television, genre, family, animation (Warner Bros. Animation and acquisitions), Blue Ribbon Content (live-action and animation), and WBHE-produced live-action films and special Interest home entertainment initiatives, including brands such as DC Comics, Hanna Barbera, LEGO and Warner Bros. Animation. For the past year, Hufjay has also reported into Warner Bros Television, working to streamline comprehensive campaigns for TV productions through the home entertainment window.

Hufjay is highly respected in the industry. Among her many public relations successes are campaigns launching the home entertainment releases of “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” the “Peanuts” and “Sesame Street” franchises, popular Blue Ribbon Content, and WBHE-produced live-action films (including the Cinderella Story, Deep Blue Sea and Critters franchises), as well as launching and orchestrating publicity and marketing activities for more than 40 films in the ongoing DC Universe movies series over the past 13 years. In addition, she handled publicity efforts for the NFL, NBA and NHL home entertainment releases.

A graduate of George Washington University, Hufjay’s 28-year career has included publicity positions at studios and publicity firms including Paramount Pictures, Castle Rock Entertainment, DreamWorks, Rogers & Cowan and Warner Bros.

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“While change is not easy, it’s something I’ve always embraced,” Hufjay said. “I’ve had an amazing 17-and-a-half-year run at Warner Bros. and will forever be grateful to my mentors and colleagues. After spending most of my time with superheroes, my immediate plan is to focus on my family over the holidays but I’m so excited to choose the next step in my career.”

Premiere Digital Appoints Andrew Buck EVP

Premiere Digital, the media services, distribution and technology solutions company, has appointed Andrew Buck EVP, based in Toronto.

Buck will be responsible for expanding the company’s distribution services and SaaS tools on a global level, including Storefront, the company’s flagship platform for managing global content and a SaaS tool that provides monitoring to both content owners and digital retailers around content avail management.

He reports to Michele Edelman, head of growth.

Most recently, Buck was CEO of Toronto- and Los Angeles-based Juice Worldwide — a company he co-founded in 2004 to focus on the digital distribution of film, TV and music content across the world’s top OTT platforms. As CEO for nearly 16 years, Buck was involved in all aspects of the company, from business development to sales and marketing, resulting in its 2015 acquisition by Los Angeles based Vubiquity, and then again in 2018 by Amdocs. As part of the newly formed Amdocs Media Division, Buck continued on as CEO of Juice until 2020.

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“Having a world-class team to expand our products and services is top priority,” Edelman said in a statement. “I could not be happier to have Andrew on the team as he brings a wealth of industry knowledge and relationships. As our company continues to hit a high note, continuing to expand our presence was critical and Andrew checked all the boxes.”

Over the last few months, Premiere has announced a number of expansion plans. In addition to hiring Buck, the company announced the acquisition of Stamford, Conn., based CMI and has established a presence in London with the addition of former Sony Pictures exec Abigail Hughes, VP of growth at EMEA.

Vizio Appoints Former AMC Networks, Dish Exec VP of Network Partnerships

Consumer electronics company Vizio has appointed former AMC Networks and Dish executive Adam Gaynor VP of network partnerships.

In this role, Gaynor will help build direct relationships with networks across Vizio’s SmartCast platform and its advertiser-direct business unit Vizio Ads.

“Adam’s addition to the team represents Vizio’s continued focus and investment in driving the future of TV,” Mike O’Donnell, chief revenue officer at Vizio, said in a statement. “Not only does Adam have extensive experience working with networks, but he has been at the forefront of championing addressable advertising, going back to his previous efforts driving live linear addressable advertising at AMC Networks and Dish.”

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In addition to spearheading network relationships, Gaynor will be heavily involved in advancing Project Open Addressable Ready (Project OAR), a technology consortium led by Vizio and created to advance the development and deployment of a new, open standard for addressable advertising on connected TVs. The consortium recently announced live market trials with network partners such as Fox, ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, E.W. Scripps and AMC Networks.

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“Vizio is building the next generation of home entertainment, powered by data and personalized consumer experiences,” Gaynor said in a statement. “I’m excited to join the team to advance VIZIO’s initiatives on the network and addressable front, enabling advertisers to deliver more precise messages to their intended audiences at the right time.”

Before joining Vizio, Gaynor was most recently VP of AMCN Agility, the data solutions sales team for AMC Networks. There, he created and oversaw the development and monetization of all advanced and data-driven TV advertising opportunities across the AMC Networks portfolio. He also served as VP, media sales and analytics for Dish Network, where he led the company’s media sales division, inclusive of all addressable, interactive, programmatic and OTT initiatives. Gaynor also held posts at Game Show Network, Comcast and CBS.

PBS Appoints Marketing VP

PBS Distribution has been appointed Tonya Harley VP of marketing.

Harley will lead marketing and communications, supporting multiple brands and businesses, with a focus on customer acquisition and retention strategies for the company’s direct-to-consumer subscription businesses — PBS Masterpiece, PBS Kids, PBS Living and newly launched PBS Documentaries — on Prime Video Channels.

“Tonya is an Emmy-award winning marketing professional with a proven track record of successfully delivering results for clients that exceed expectations,” PBS Distribution co-president Andrea Downing said in a statement. “She brings keen analytical skills and experience across a wide range of industries, and her ability to create targeted and efficient media plans to drive acquisition across broadcast and digital platforms will support our key primary initiatives perfectly.”

Harley joins PBS Distribution from BCD Travel, where she led their hotel marketing team as the director of strategic marketing. She was responsible for building a modern brand identity, designing social media campaigns to drive engagement, and overseeing the creative development, social media, content development, sales training, and public relations to support product launches.

Prior to working for BCD Travel, Harley was a senior marketing strategist with Advito. During her five years there, she built a strategic vision for developing digital products to help clients reduce travel costs while building client retention and loyalty, and led a cross-functional team in creating the product strategy, positioning, and marketing plan to drive new business.

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Before joining Advito, she spent five years at Liberty Mutual Insurance, culminating in the role of manager of national advertising. She was responsible for more than $125 million in creative and media spend, focusing on the strategy and creative development of brand television, direct-response television, and digital and field marketing. Harley built the first-ever marketing portal for field sales agents to create brand consistency across the organization while helping agents leverage marketing tactics to boost sales.

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Early in her career, Harley’s experiences were rooted in client management at Argus Communications, where she developed omni-channel marketing campaigns for her clients. She saw her strategic recommendation come to life as a television ad that was nominated and won a National Academy of Arts & Sciences Emmy Award for “Outstanding Community or Public Service Single Spot” TV.

Former Fox Animation and Marvel Exec Grant Gish to Join ViacomCBS Adult Animation Unit

ViacomCBS announced Marvel Studios and former Fox Animation executive Grant Gish will lead its new adult animation unit as SVP of adult animation, entertainment and youth brands, overseeing linear and streaming animation, effective Aug. 31.

Gish joins ViacomCBS on the heels of its expansion into adult animation, driven by such shows as “South Park” and upcoming reimaginings such as Mike Judge’s “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Jodie,” based on the classic MTV series “Daria.”

Gish helped develop the Emmy Award-winning animated series “Bob’s Burgers” and oversaw the Emmy-nominated “American Dad” during his tenure at Fox Animation. He joins ViacomCBS from Marvel Studios, where he launched the adult comedy and animation group within the former Marvel Television division. Gish spearheaded Marvel’s foray into half-hour comedy and adult animation with upcoming Hulu series “M.O.D.O.K.” and “Hit-Monkey.”

“Grant has incredible instincts and a supercharged passion for animation,” Nina L. Diaz, president of content and chief creative officer for ViacomCBS entertainment and youth group, said in a statement. “Along with his extraordinary reputation and impressive successes with some of the biggest hits in the genre, from ‘Bob’s Burgers’ to ‘American Dad’ — his vision is exactly what we’re looking for to lead our adult animation unit.”

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“I grew up on MTV’s Animation Studios content where I’d run home from school to watch ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ eating pretzels on my couch,” Gish said in a statement. “With access to such a vast library of IP that will enable us to break through the clutter coupled with the opportunity to create a fresh slate, I couldn’t be more excited to join the E&Y Group that’s growing in droves under Chris and Nina’s leadership.”

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“We are thrilled to have Grant lead our new adult animation unit as we expedite the rapid expansion of our adult animation content,” Chris McCarthy, president of ViacomCBS entertainment and youth group, said in a statement. “Adult animation is an incredibly powerful asset that truly works on every platform and around the world. It’s also pandemic-proof, which is why we are reimaging many of our beloved iconic IPs, unlocking incredible value.”

Tubi Names Carolyn Forrest SVP, General Counsel

AVOD service Tubi, a division of Fox Entertainment, has named Carolyn Forrest SVP, general counsel.

Forrest moves into the new role from Fox Television Stations.

She reports to Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi, is based in San Francisco, and will serve as the company’s chief legal officer, overseeing its business affairs and legal team and advising on broad-ranging media law-related issues.

“Carolyn combines vast knowledge across the industry with a proven track record of guiding media companies with strategic IP legal oversight,” Massoudi said in a statement. “We’re thrilled she will be joining us at a key time for the company as we ramp up our global content and advertising initiatives.”

Forrest has worked as an in-house counsel for media companies for the past 28 years. Most recently, she served as VP of legal affairs for Fox Television Stations, where she was responsible for advising its 29 television stations on media law-related issues. Prior to joining Fox, she was VP and general counsel for New World Television, which Fox acquired in 1997, and she worked for NBC as an assistant general attorney. Prior to that, Forrest worked for Dow Lohnes & Albertson as an associate in the media litigation group and at the New York law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom as an associate in its corporate and M&A litigation group.

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Forrest is currently serving as the immediate past chair of the American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law — previously serving as its chairperson and as a member of its Governing Committee. She also serves on the board of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. Forrest is a graduate of Columbia University School of Law and Princeton University.

With total view time reaching 200 million hours of content streamed in April, Tubi (www.tubi.tv) has more than 20,000 movies and television shows from every major Hollywood studio, according to the service.