Roku CFO to Step Down

Roku Dec. 16 announced that CFO Steve Louden plans to step down after helping the company hire his successor.

Louden joined Roku as CFO in 2015 and “played an important role in establishing Roku as a fast-growing public company,” according to a company press release.

“He intends to return home to the Seattle area with his family after assisting with a smooth transition,” according to the release.

“Steve has been a valuable member of our leadership team. He managed our finances through our transition to a public company and rapid expansion into new areas of streaming,” said Anthony Wood, Roku founder and CEO, in a statement. “I look forward to working with Steve during the transition as we hire our next CFO and continue to execute our strategy and build value for our customers, employees and shareholders.”

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“I’m very proud of Roku’s accomplishments,” Louden said in a statement. “Given the company’s strong financial position and exciting growth plans and my desire to relocate with my family back to Seattle, this is the right time for me to help Roku bring on a new financial leader.”

Disney+ Appoints Chris Loveall to International Content Post

Disney+ has appointed international programming executive Chris Loveall to the position of VP of content — international.

Loveall will report into Matt Brodlie, SVP of international content development, working closely with him and Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International’s regional teams on the development and production of original scripted and unscripted series, as well as acquisitions for all markets outside of the United States.

“Chris has great instincts and a deep understanding of storytelling opportunities in the international marketplace,” Brodlie said in a statement. “He will be a tremendous asset as we grow a rich, diverse slate of original content that builds on the Disney+ storytelling ethos in ways that are unique to each of our international markets.”

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“I’m excited to be part of the Disney+ team and look forward to working with them to identify and develop stories that resonate with fans of the service around the world,” Loveall said in a statement.

Loveall most recently served as VP of international programming for AMC Networks, including AMC, SundanceTV and BBC America, and was responsible for the development of original international commissions and co-productions as well as select acquisitions for each network. For SundanceTV, he oversaw the co-productions “Liar” with ITV and “Rosehaven” and “Cleverman” with the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Prior to joining the AMC Networks group, Loveall served as VP of original programming at Pivot, developing scripted drama, comedy and animation projects, as well as overseeing international co-productions including “Fortitude” with Sky Atlantic and “Please Like Me” with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. He has also held a number of programming-focused positions at ABC Signature Studios, The CW and other production companies.

EMA Elects Officers, Appoints Board Members

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment, Fandango, has been re-elected chairman of the home entertainment trade group the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). Douglas will be serving his second term as chairman.

Joining Douglas as officers are vice chair Suyin Lim, senior director, content acquisitions and partnerships, PlayStation Video; secretary Pedro Guiterrez Jr., director, digital stores movies and TV business and category management, Microsoft Corp.; and treasurer Michele Edelman, head of growth, Premiere Digital Services.

Eric Opeka

Bill Kotzman, Google/YouTube’s partner product manager, TV and Film; Erick Opeka, president, Cinedigm Digital Networks; and Jason Peterson, CEO of GoDigital Medial Group, will also serve on the association’s executive committee as at-large members.

Amazon returns to the EMA’s board, now represented by senior product manager Jude Fitzmorris.

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Other returning board members are Amit Balan, head of marketing at Vudu, and Marty Graham, SVP at ComScore.

Three members newly appointed board members are Opeka, Edelman and Elissa Brown, VP of finance and operations at Movies Anywhere.

“The companies on EMA’s board of director reflect the variety of delivery mechanisms and business models in our vibrant industry,” said Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO. “Each director brings an important perspective, and their wealth of experience will benefit the membership as EMA continues to be the forum for the home entertainment industry.”

The EMA is a not-for-profit international trade association. Members include digital retailers, MVPDs, AVOD and SVOD networks and channels, platforms, companies creating and/or distributing content for these channels of distribution, and companies providing services or technology for the use of others in this community. EMA was established in April 2006 through the merger of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA).

More ViacomCBS Execs Announced

CBS and Viacom Nov. 18 announced additional senior appointments to ViacomCBS corporate leadership, effective upon closing of the merger.

Alex Berkett, SVP, corporate development and strategy, Viacom, will become EVP, corporate development and strategy, leading ViacomCBS’ efforts to identify, pursue and execute strategic growth opportunities, including acquisitions, partnerships, investments and joint ventures, across all of ViacomCBS’ businesses and geographies.

Nancy Phillips will serve as EVP, chief people officer, and lead the ViacomCBS global human resources organization. Phillips joins the company from Nielsen, where she served as chief human resources officer.

Marva Smalls, EVP, global head of inclusion strategy, Viacom, will serve as EVP, global head of inclusion of ViacomCBS, driving initiatives and fostering partnerships that promote and advance diversity and inclusion for ViacomCBS enterprise-wide both with internal and external stakeholders globally. In addition, she will retain her public affairs responsibilities for Nickelodeon as EVP, public affairs, kids and family entertainment brands, ViacomCBS Media Networks.

Jose Tolosa, chief transformation officer of Viacom, will expand his responsibilities as EVP, chief transformation officer. In this role, he will continue to oversee integration efforts for the combined company, with a focus on accelerating the evolution of its businesses. Tolosa will also lead ViacomCBS strategic planning, helping to set the company’s strategic priorities and support cross-company projects for senior management. Additionally, he will oversee the Global Business Services and Global Sourcing divisions, which will expand their scope, providing enterprise-wide services and helping drive synergies.

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The leadership announcements follow the previously announced appointments of Christa D’Alimonte as EVP, general counsel and secretary; Anthony DiClemente as EVP, investor relations; DeDe Lea as EVP, global public policy and government relations; Julia Phelps as EVP, chief communications and corporate marketing officer, and Christina Spade as Executive Vice President, CFO.

“We now have in place the entire senior management team for ViacomCBS, ensuring we will hit the ground running when the transaction closes in just a few weeks,” stated Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, who will serve as president and CEO of ViacomCBS upon closing. “Working together, these leaders will help us realize the full potential of our considerable assets and competitive strengths.”

The merger of Viacom and CBS remains subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close by early December.

Netflix’s Melissa Cobb Honored With Women in Animation Diversity Award

Netflix VP of original animation Melissa Cobb accepted the Women in Animation Diversity Award Oct. 24 at the SPARK Animation Festival.

“When I think about the legacy that I want to leave to my daughter, Lena, who is here with me tonight on a break from her first year at college, this is what comes to mind,” Cobb said while accepting her award, according to a Netflix release.

Presented in partnership with the Spark Computer Graphics Society, the WIA Diversity Awards recognize individuals, films and organizations that have made a significant impact in expanding the diversity of voices in the animation field. Cobb was chosen for her work supporting female creators at Netflix. Founded in 1993, WIA’s goal is to bring together animation professionals from around the world to empower and support women in the art, science and business of animation.

“WIA’s mission of affecting change in the animation industry and celebrating the organizations and artists who are making a difference is a noble one, and one that we’re very dedicated to at Netflix Animation,” Cobb said.

Cobb, who joined Netflix in 2017, has spearheaded an animated feature film slate that includes upcoming female-backed projects such as My Father’s Dragon, directed by Nora Twomey (The Breadwinner); Pashmina, helmed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham); and Over the Moon, featuring the work of production designer Celine Desrumaux (The Little Prince).

Debuting on the service Nov. 15, Klaus marks the directorial debut of Despicable Me co-writer Sergio Pablos. It was while working on the film that WIA VP Jinko Gotoh saw Cobb’s passion for championing new voices first-hand. Gotoh served as a producer on Klaus, which marks Netflix’s first original animated film.

When announcing Cobb had been selected to receive the 2019 Women in Animation Diversity Award, Gotoh recalled when the Netflix executive asked for recommendations of female directors a year earlier.

“I gave her a list of three first-time filmmakers,” Gotoh said, in reference to Trisha Gum (The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part), Clare Knight (the Kung Fu Panda franchise) and Wendy Rogers (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian). “They’re all now at Netflix. How empowering and cool is that?”

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In addition to first-time filmmakers such as Gum, Knight, Rogers and Pablos, Cobb has also championed many new female show runners on the animated series side, according to Netflix. The upcoming slate for animated kids and family shows includes “City of Ghosts from Elizabeth Ito (“Adventure Time”), “Centaurworld from Megan Nicole Dong (How to Train Your Dragon 2), “Raise the Bar! from Fernanda Frick (Here’s the Plan), and “Mama K’s Team 4 from Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema. “Mama K’s Team 4 marks Netflix’s first original African animated series.

When the series was ordered earlier this year, Netflix also announced a partnership with the show’s producing partners, Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios and London-based CAKE, to launch a continent-wide search for local female writing talent to add to the series’ creative team.

“Her commitment to diversity — including hiring many first-time filmmakers and showrunners — is greater than any other studio executive in the past year,” Gotoh said of Cobb.

“It is so important for kids all over the world to be able to see themselves reflected in animated content and to inspire them, by example, to become the storytellers of tomorrow,” Cobb said.

Netflix Animation also has several overall deals with female creators, including Oscar winner Darla Anderson (Coco) and “Doc McStuffins creator Chris Nee.

“In order to make meaningful change in the number of women working in animation we must hire and empower female creators,” Cobb said in her speech. “Hiring female showrunners and directors leads to more inclusive hiring throughout the productions and to more diverse storytelling.”

In addition to content for kids and families around the world, female creators such as show runner Shion Takeuchi (the upcoming series “Inside Job”) and director Jen Yuh Nelson (season two of David Fincher’s “Love Death and Robots”) are producing content in the adult animation arena.

In April, Netflix and Women in Animation partnered for a panel at Netflix designed to give female animators insight into the creative process for series at the streaming service. The event featured four female show runners from animation, including Dong, Ito, Nee and Takeuchi.

Viacom and CBS Announce Leadership After Pending Merger

CBS and Viacom Nov. 11 announced senior appointments for content and digital leadership of ViacomCBS effective upon closing of the merger.

The combined company’s library will comprise 140,000-plus TV episodes and 3,600-plus film titles, according to a joint press release. ViacomCBS will also have more than 750 series ordered or in production, as well as a major Hollywood film studio, Paramount Pictures. The combined company will have a content spend of more than $13 billion — one of the largest in the industry, according to the joint release.

“ViacomCBS will be one of the largest premium content creators in the world, with the capacity to produce content for both our own platforms and for others,” Bob Bakish, president and CEO, Viacom, who will serve as president and CEO of ViacomCBS upon close, said in a statement. “This talented team of content leaders will work together to ensure we realize the full power of our brands, our deep relationships with the creative community and our intellectual property to drive our growth as a combined company.”

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Content leaders, who will manage the creative and business operations of the company’s brands and help assess how best to distribute programming include:

  • Jim Gianopulos, who will oversee Filmed Entertainment, continuing as chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, a role that includes oversight of Paramount Animation, Paramount Features, Paramount Players and Paramount TV;
  • Chris McCarthy, president of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo, who will serve as president of entertainment and youth brands, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks — adding Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Smithsonian Channel and TV Land brands and their respective content studios to his current portfolio of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo;
  • David Nevins, chief creative officer, CBS, and chairman and CEO, Showtime Networks, who will oversee CBS Television Studios, the CBS Television Network’s Entertainment division, the Showtime Networks and Pop, as well as the programming of CBS All Access (He will also have oversight of CBS’ interest in The CW, a joint venture between CBS and Warner Bros. Entertainment. In addition, Nevins will oversee BET, which will continue to be led by Scott Mills as President of BET);
  • Carolyn Kroll Reidy, who will lead the company’s publishing assets, continuing in her role as president and CEO of Simon & Schuster; and
  • Brian Robbins, president of Nickelodeon, who will oversee the company’s kids and young adult-focused offerings as president, kids and family entertainment, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks (In addition to Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., TeenNick, Nicktoons and Nickelodeon Studios, he will now oversee Awesomeness, which he co-founded and was acquired by Viacom in 2018).

 

Joe Ianniello, as previously announced, will serve as chairman and CEO of CBS, overseeing CBS-branded assets such as the CBS Television Network (including CBS Entertainment, CBS News, and CBS Sports), CBS Television Studios, CBS Interactive (including CBS All Access) and CBS Television Stations.

ViacomCBS will also form a new Content Council, comprising the content leaders across the company and chaired by Nevins, to ensure these leaders and other senior executives are working together to maximize the use of IP and talent relationships across the combined company.

ViacomCBS’ portfolio of streaming assets will include CBS All Access and Showtime, which deliver premium, branded content live and on demand to millions of subscribers; Pluto TV, the leading free, advertising-supported streaming TV service in the United States; and targeted niche products such as BET+, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, ET Live and Noggin.

“Our content scale will support our streaming strategy, which will build on the rapidly scaling advertising and subscription-based products we already have in the market,” Bakish said in a statement. “The executives we announced today bring complementary and deep experience in both subscription and ad-supported streaming businesses, and will work together to create a differentiated streaming ecosystem in the market.”

ViacomCBS digital leaders include:

  • Marc DeBevoise, president and COO, CBS Interactive, who will serve as chief digital Officer, ViacomCBS, and president and CEO, CBS Interactive, providing overall leadership for the combined company’s technology and digital operations across its broad range of digital assets, including its subscription, live and vertical ad-supported direct-to-consumer streaming services and major internet properties (His team will also be responsible for Viacom Digital Studios as well as its partnerships with technology, digital video and social platforms. In addition, he will continue to lead CBS Interactive and its digital businesses, including those of the CBS Television Network and CNET Media Group and its portfolio of streaming services including CBS All Access, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ and ET Live.);
  • Kelly Day, president, Viacom Digital Studios, who will continue to lead the digital content strategy and initiative to create and expand original programming and branded content across leading and emerging social platforms (In this role, reporting to DeBevoise, she will look to expand this initiative from brands including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET across the combined company’s content portfolio.);
  • Phil Wiser, CTO, CBS, who will serve as CTO for the combined company, reporting to DeBevoise, and will be responsible for the global technology strategy, shared services, operations and transformation for ViacomCBS; and
  • Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, who will continue to lead Pluto TV and will oversee all facets of the company’s business;

 

The merger is expected to close by early December, according to the press release.

Deluxe Appoints Cummins CEO

Deluxe announced the completion of its restructuring and has appointed Eric Cummins as the company’s CEO, expanding his current role as CFO.

Effective immediately, Cummins will succeed Deluxe’s current CEO John Wallace, who is retiring after nearly 35 years in the media and entertainment industry.

As a result of the restructuring and emergence from Chapter 11, Deluxe has shed more than 75% of its debt and obtained $115 million in new financing, according to a company release.

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“With an optimized balance sheet and significantly less debt, Deluxe is well-positioned to carry on its unparalleled legacy, and we are pleased to appoint Eric as CEO,” said Gregg Bresner, member of Deluxe’s board of directors, in a statement. “He has been instrumental in completing the comprehensive refinancing, and we are confident that he is the right person to lead the company forward.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to take on this role, and I look forward to carrying on Deluxe’s reputation of delivering for clients as we continue to build a technology platform that enables media and entertainment companies to create and deliver content globally,” said Cummins in a statement.

Deluxe Entertainment Services is a video creation to distribution company offering global, end-to-end services and technology, serving content creators, broadcasters, OTTs and distributors.

HBO Max Hires Trio of Execs for Original Scripted Drama

WarnerMedia’s impending SVOD service HBO Max, scheduled to launch in spring 2020, has tapped three executives to lead original scripted drama.

Joining the drama team are Roberto Alcantara, VP of drama; Chika Chukudebelu, VP of drama; and Mark Tuohy, VP of drama. All executives report to Joey Chavez, EVP of original drama, who oversees creative development.

(L-R): Robert Alcantara, Chika Chukudebelu and Mark Tuohy

“The premium drama bar is set high, and I have no doubt this talented team will deliver and be great creative partners to great creators,” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max, and president of TNT, TBS and truTV, said in a statement.

“We are proud to have a drama team that reflects a variety of voices, tastes and points of view,” Chavez said in a statement. “Bringing together the best people who come from studios, networks and various genres, gives us a great mix of backgrounds to tap into. It’s this collective of skills and diversity that will create the kind of signature dramas that will be unique to HBO Max.”

Alcantara most recently was VP of comedy development and programming, for FOX Entertainment, overseeing the development and production for the network’s comedy slate, including popular hits “Last Man Standing,” animated series “Bless the Harts” and talk/comedy show “What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage.”

Chukudebelu most recently was VP of development of NBCUniversal’s Universal Content Productions, where she was responsible for the development of cable and streaming television series, as well as actively engaging writing, directing and acting talent to mine potential collaboration opportunities for the boutique studio and portfolio of networks, including Peacock, USA, Netflix and Quibi.

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Tuohy recently served as VP of Creative Affairs for A+E Studios, where he developed scripted dramas including “Project Blue Book” for History and “Reprisal” for Hulu. He also worked for Fox International Channels as director of scripted entertainment, a role in which he helped develop “Outcast” for Fox International Channels and Cinemax.

The new hires join David Poynter, VP of drama, and Maura Feerick, director of drama, to comprise Chavez’s drama team.

Kevin Sayar Appointed CEO of Free Video Streaming Service Kanopy

Veteran higher education executive Kevin Sayar has been named CEO of Kanopy, the free video streaming platform for critically acclaimed films and  documentaries offered with the support of libraries and universities.

Sayar succeeds Olivia Humphrey, who is relocating with her family back to her native Australia. Humphrey will remain as Kanopy’s executive chairman of the board.

Sayar has an extensive background as a leader and innovator in the higher education industry, according to a Kanopy release. He joins Kanopy from ProQuest, a provider of content and software solutions that supports critical research within the global academic market. During his tenure at ProQuest, Sayar served in multiple roles, including SVP and GM of ProQuest Books, as well as SVP and GM of the software business unit, ProQuest Workflow Solutions.

Sayar spearheaded innovations that transformed how libraries and patrons discovered, acquired, accessed and utilized e-books, according to the release. Under his leadership, ProQuest Books grew to over $200 million in revenue and remains the market leader.

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“I am honored to be named the second CEO in Kanopy’s history,” Sayar said in a statement. “Under Olivia’s leadership, Kanopy has grown from an ambitious dream into a critical digital media resource for library patrons worldwide. I look forward to working with the company’s talented team to further its impressive growth by delivering value that exceeds the expectations of our library customers, content partners, and users.”

Prior to joining ProQuest, Sayar was the president and co-founder of ebrary, one of the first electronic book internet companies. From its founding in 1999, ebrary grew into the leading e-book platform to libraries and researchers worldwide, with the largest scholarly catalog of e-books from academic, trade and professional publishers, according to the release. The company was acquired by ProQuest in 2011.

Kanopy has added more than 200 new library partners in the last three months alone. Earlier this month, the company announced the appointments of Dave Barney as CTO and Chase Rigby as chief product officer.

In her new role, Humphrey will focus on Kanopy’s international expansion.

“It has been a great honor to serve as the CEO of Kanopy since founding the company 12 years ago and I am incredibly proud of everything our team has accomplished together, but this transition is about my family,” Humphrey said in a statement. “Kevin is the right leader to continue Kanopy’s rapid growth and he will be able to apply his significant experience working with libraries to deepen relationships with our partners.”

Paramount Promotes Robert Oram to SVP, Domestic Physical Sales and Distribution

Robert Oram has been promoted to SVP of domestic physical sales and distribution for Paramount Home Entertainment.

In this role, Oram will oversee the sales and distribution of the studio’s film and television properties across all domestic physical retailers.  He will report to Craig White, EVP, worldwide sales and distribution for Paramount Home Entertainment.

“Rob’s appointment is a reflection of his exemplary effort and proven track record of success,” said White in a statement. “He has worked closely with our customers to build sustainable performance while also being an advocate for innovation and we look forward to his continuing contributions in his expanded role.”

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Oram most recently served as VP of sales for Paramount Home Entertainment, managing the studio’s $200 million-plus business with the Walmart North America Group, which includes Walmart U.S., Walmart Canada and Walmart eCommerce.  His previous experience includes seven years at Universal Studios Home Entertainment, where he was a senior account executive working with Walmart.  He also held positions with multimedia retailer Hastings Entertainment.