Women in Home Entertainment: Navigating the Channels of Change

The gender equality gap continues to make headlines, and with good reason: Nearly a century after the original Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress, there is still a great divide in both pay and leadership positions between men and women.

In a study released last month by Equal Measures 2030, a U.K.-based NGO that collects data on gender equality with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private-sector organizations, the United States comes in at No. 28 on their gender index, which purports to take into account such factors as equal representation in powerful positions and gender pay gaps. And a World Economic Forum report concludes that even the best countries for working women don’t pay them fairly.

Hollywood continues to get its fair share of knocks. A recent Forbes report notes that the 10 highest-paid actresses in 2018 earned less than 30 cents for every dollar brought in by the top 10 male actors.

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For the second year, Media Play News is saluting the top women in home entertainment, with a special focus on the 10 “captains” who are driving the business — as selected by a panel of studio executives, key retailers, journalists and other industry leaders.

Our “captains” span a broad range of the home entertainment spectrum. We have several executives who focused on all forms of transactional VOD, a couple who are just involved with the physical disc, and one whose sole focus is streaming. And then there’s Andrea Downing, from PBS Distribution, who oversees the company’s entire home entertainment slate, from streaming to TVOD and disc.

Here’s what they have to say …


Downing co-leads all facets of distribution worldwide. Her purview includes OTT channels, SVOD, transactional and physical goods, theatrical, international sales, and three direct-to-consumer premium services — PBS Masterpiece, PBS KIDS and PBS Living. Downing joined PBS in 2001. Education: B.A., Business, Michigan State University.

What do you do? I co-lead PBS Distribution, the leading for-profit media distributor for the public television community. We have a broad portfolio of businesses including three premium OTT channels, SVOD, transactional and physical goods, theatrical and international.

What satisfies you the most about your job? The people that I get to work with every day. They are smart, passionate about our mission, and instrumental to the success of our business.

What challenges you? Growing the business in a continuously changing media environment in the context of the larger public media system and its mission.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first job after college was on a shipping dock at a picture frame factory. I learned that hard work gets recognized and new opportunities will present themselves if you’re open and leaning into your work.

How did you get where you are? It’s been a winding path from Chicago to Washington, D.C., but hard work and over-delivering have led me to where I am today.

Did you have a mentor along the way? Are you mentoring anyone? I’ve had some fantastic bosses and colleagues who I have learned from, and I’m currently participating in DEG’s Canon Club’s 4 Cups of Coffee program as a mentor. The most beneficial things I learned from others is to lead in a way that helps others excel and demonstrate that I’m willing to work as hard as I’m asking others to.

What’s the most memorable moment of your career? Jan. 1, 2009, when we officially formed PBS Distribution as a separate LLC with the goal of increasing revenue for video distribution for public television. It was such an exciting moment to put a stake in the ground and go after our vision.

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? We have a deliberate and considered approach to recruiting a diverse talent pool when we’re hiring for a new position. And we provide development and promotion opportunities to ensure that we have a broad range of voices across the organization and at our leadership level.

What advice do you have for anyone seeking a career in entertainment? There are many career paths in entertainment and all of them will require you to embrace change. No matter what path you’re on, work hard and deliver results!

If you could go back in time, who would you most like to have lunch with — and why? I would have lunch with Sarah Breedlove Walker, the first American woman to become a self-made millionaire. The first in her family to be born free, she was orphaned at age 7, widowed by 20, and overcame incredible sexism and racism to build an empire and become a generous philanthropist.

How do you spend your free time? Outside of spending time with my family, I enjoy pretty much anything physical! I like a variety of activities from biking and running to boot camp and paddle boarding, to my current favorite, solid core.


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).

What do you do? I lead UPHE’s North American physical home entertainment business, which encompasses a team of highly talented, passionate and inspiring specialists across sales, operations, finance, customer marketing and distribution partnerships.

What challenges you? Our industry as we know it continues to evolve markedly along with our consumers. To keep our category dynamic and thriving, we must keep pace with this evolution and continually identify ways to innovate in step with our retail and distribution partners and vendors.

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? Working for such a highly inclusive company as Universal puts me in an exceptional position to contribute to an extraordinary workplace culture based solely on talent and merit as well as to serve effectively as a steward of diversity and inclusion across the ranks of UPHE.

What advice do you have for anyone seeking a career in entertainment? While the entertainment industry is a unique business, I believe that being successful in any career emanates from within each of us. Aspire to be an expert in your field — be passionate, innovative and collaborative, and conquer your missteps. Know your industry, your business, your products and your competition — challenge yourself every day and, more importantly, have fun.


Gilford oversees all day-to-day operations of Movies Anywhere, the cloud-based entertainment service that brings the film libraries of five studios together in a virtual one-stop movie-watching shop. Gilford and her team brought the website and apps to market in October 2017. She manages product design, product development, engineering and strategic planning. Education: M.B.A., University of Southern California; B.S., Business Administration, California State University at Northridge

What do you do? I run Movies Anywhere, an app that makes owning, collecting and watching movies easier.

What satisfies you the most about your job? Working with my team. I love solving problems, developing ideas, and launching product features together.

What challenges you? The innovator’s dilemma. It always comes into play in digital media at a traditional media company. Everyone can see the disruption happening but it is scary to be the one to get ahead of it by risking a current business model. That is why I admire Bob Iger and the big moves he has made to modernize Disney.

How did you get where you are? By leading with nice, doing what I say I will do, and getting stuff done. Also by being true to myself and what makes me happy.

Did you have a mentor along the way? Are you mentoring anyone? I always look at my most recent leadership as potential mentors — they see you at your current career stage and you can learn so much by watching them in relatable situations. I have been very lucky in that regard, especially at Disney, where I have had leaders including Anne Sweeney, Paul Lee and Janice Marinelli as mentors. I don’t have a mentee assigned to me at the moment, but I always try to nurture talent when I see it, especially women who are really starting to come into their power in the workplace. I always look for ways to share what I have learned.

What’s the most memorable moment of your career? When I landed my first job out of business school. I was determined to work in entertainment, in the emerging digital space (it was 2000!), on the west side of L.A., and I had to be able to wear jeans to work. At that time, everyone thought I was crazy. But I landed my dream job at a music start-up in Santa Monica and never looked back. I have built my career over the past 19 years from that moment.

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? By making sure there are more women at the top, right now. I believe that things are changing and will fundamentally change with Gen Z. They don’t seem to have the same hangups about race, gender or sexuality that were passed down to us. They just seem comfortable with themselves and each other. In the meantime, women at the top is the only solution right now. I believe women don’t have time to overthink who we want to “be around” at work beyond who is going to meet us at our level, and efficiently kick ass to accomplish our goals.

What advice do you have for anyone seeking a career in entertainment? Work hard, and be nice to people. This is a relationship-driven business and a town where people work very hard to get their vision realized. It is a work-hard, play-hard culture where no one has time for slackers. You should absolutely crush it at work, but always treat people with respect and find balance between your work, outside passions and family.

If you could go back in time, who would you most like to have lunch with — and why? My old boss/mentor, Dave Goldberg. He passed away unexpectedly and much too soon. I always knew how much I relied on him. Even if we didn’t talk all the time, I knew he was there. I would do anything to have one more lunch with him, especially to tell him my son was going to NYU this fall. I had both of my kids while I worked for him and credit my success as a working mom to his guidance. I remember telling him that when my son got into college, I would feel like I made it.

How do you spend your free time? I exercise almost every day. I never pass up a chance to travel. And I am constantly plotting and planning ways to spend more time with my amazing group of girlfriends.


Hoffman oversees strategic marketing and business strategy for UPHE and its distributed lines worldwide across new-release, catalog and TV properties for both physical and digital, focusing on the complete product lifecycle. Her responsibilities encompass defining go-to-market strategies and 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. Education: B.A., Media Arts and Business, University of Arizona.

What do you do? I work with an amazing group of talented people who are committed to finding creative ways to drive consumer engagement around the world.

What satisfies you the most about your job? I am inspired by the people I work with every day. I work in an amazing business with an incredible group of people who are passionate, inspiring and creative.

What challenges you? The challenges are obvious; the fun comes from finding creative solutions to those challenges — solutions that excite consumers and drive an emotional connection to the movies they love.

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? I consider myself very fortunate to work for a company like Universal where an executive’s measure of talent, success and accomplishment is never viewed through a gender-specific lens.


Holland is a 16-year Netflix veteran responsible for acquiring and launching original series. She was named to the 2018 Time 100 list of the most influential people, and 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.” Education: B.A., Political Science with Honors, Stanford University.

What do you do? I oversee English-language scripted series, and nonfiction content of all languages, for Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment service with more than 151 million memberships in over 190 countries.

What satisfies you the most about your job? It has been very satisfying to see our membership grow from less than 1 million DVD-by-mail members to more than 151 million streaming members globally, and I truly enjoy supporting artists as they create memorable programming that our members love.

What challenges you? I am challenged every day with how to scale our teams and the work they do as our business grows, while still maintaining an intimate, creative, and supportive environment for both our employees and artists.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first job in entertainment was reading pre-publication book manuscripts and evaluating them for purposes of movie adaptation. I learned how to determine what stories can translate well from page to screen.

How did you get where you are? By following my interests, and having healthy doses of discipline and focus.

Did you have a mentor along the way? Are you mentoring anyone? I had several mentors, but the producer Paula Weinstein helped me realize that I had the skills to succeed, and she instilled in me confidence in my own ideas. I hope that I am a mentor for those I work closely with; in addition, I have a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles Women in Entertainment mentee, a program I highly recommend.

What’s the most memorable moment of your career? I hope it hasn’t happened yet! But the most recent was our final sendoff of “Orange Is the New Black,” which included cast from all seasons, and hundreds of true #OrangeForever fans at an event in New York City.

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? We have to dedicate ourselves to constant improvement — in hiring inclusively across all aspects of what we do and supporting their success, in commissioning stories which give voice to the historically underrepresented, and in celebrating their achievements.

What advice do you have for anyone seeking a career in entertainment? Follow what interests you and pursue it relentlessly (while knowing it is OK if those interests evolve), have confidence in yourself and your ideas, and don’t give up.

If you could go back in time, who would you most like to have lunch with — and why? Eleanor Roosevelt — such a fascinating and underestimated historical figure.

How do you spend your free time? I usually spend the little free time I have either riding my bicycle up a hill, spending time with my family and pets, and/or watching sports.


Howe is responsible for the go-to-market and consumer engagement strategies for 20th Century Fox’s new-release, catalog and TV businesses. Howe previously was co-head of marketing for Fox prior to its acquisition by Disney; before that, she worked for Fox in the United Kingdom and France, and for Universal Pictures in the United Kingdom. She also held positions at The Associated Press and Branded, a London brand and communications consultancy. Education: B.S. (Honors), International Business and Modern Languages, Aston University, U.K.

What do you do? I oversee global marketing for home entertainment. I am responsible for our go-to-market strategy, P&L and campaign execution for all new-release movies, TV shows and our library business.

What challenges you? Managing a team through industry disruption and the uncertainty of the Disney/Fox merger. The deal was announced in December 2017 and so for the past 18 months, the focus has been on keeping our team spirit and ensuring that we build an environment where people still want to turn up and do their best work every day for our production and distribution partners.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first job was working for a company called Sundancer, which managed the rights for “Tintin.” The business had a small network of shops throughout the world, produced merchandise and licensed the IP to third parties. I learned the importance of brand values and brand integrity and an ability to turn my hand to everything from marketing to accounting to installing a new point-of-sale system in all our retail stores.

How did you get where you are? By not taking a fully traditional career path and being prepared to mix things up and put myself out of my comfort zone. I have switched from client side to agency, from B2C to B2B and back and enjoyed every experience.

Did you have a mentor along the way? Are you mentoring anyone? Mary Daily (president of marketing and distribution at Paramount) recruited me into 20th Century Fox in London in 1996 and got me started in this amazing business. Since then I have been lucky enough to work for Mary another two times, most recently here in L.A. at Fox. She has been an amazing mentor and advocate. I have been lucky enough to mentor some really bright executives as part of Fox’s mentoring scheme, which is really rewarding.

What’s the most memorable moment of your career? The day we released the #deadpole TV spot for the first Deadpool movie. The Internet and fans went wild. It was a unique spot, directed by Tim Miller, starring Ryan Reynolds that truly made the Blu-ray Disc the star of the spot like we’d never seen before in a home entertainment campaign.

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? Although every individual recruiting at every level in an organization can make diversity and inclusion a priority, in big corporations it is absolutely critical that diversity and inclusion starts at the top and is properly embedded in the values of the organization. True commitment from the CEO/chairman down has to be in place.

What advice do you have for anyone seeking a career in entertainment? Be prepared to work hard and go the extra mile. It is very competitive and employers can afford to take only the best. Stay on top of industry changes and keep your skills relevant. Keep working your network as it is a small world.

How do you spend your free time? I dabble in a lot of sports in an amateur fashion! I am a member of the Fox triathlon team and so we have a fun group that is always up for a bike ride or run and sometimes a sea swim! I try to play tennis a couple of times a week. In winter I am obsessed by skiing and finding powder snow!


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 SPTD to make better-informed decisions to satisfy consumer demand for content. Prior to her current position, Overall was SVP of SPHE’s United Kingdom, Northern Europe and EMEA partnerships. She joined SPHE in 2008 as the managing director for Australia and New Zealand.

What do you do? I seek to understand consumer, audience and viewer content behavior, to enable us to map content to where audiences are, based on what is relevant to them.

What satisfies you the most about your job? There are so many new and different ways to deeply understand what drives consumer and audience engagement with content. Exploring and discovering how they enable us to target the right person at the right time with the right offer is my current obsession, and I love it!

What challenges you? Finding new ways to solve for the ever-changing landscape we operate in.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I worked in a gas station, pumping gas in New Zealand when I was 13, and it opened my eyes to how many different people from different walks of life are all around you!

How did you get where you are? Curiosity and a desire to learn, wherever it took me in the world!

What’s the most memorable moment of your career? There are so many moments that were in equal parts scary and rewarding — every time I packed up and moved to a new job in a new country I never quite knew what to expect, but each adventure opened my eyes to things that I needed to learn and understand.

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? Genuinely understand who is sitting at the table and how their perspective will challenge what we think we know, and actively seek out their opinion. No one person can solve for the big challenges around us, but embracing our different perspectives will get us closer to figuring it out.

What advice do you have for anyone seeking a career in entertainment? Go for it! Figure out how your talents and super powers connect with, and enhance, the industry.


Schell has global responsibility for all operations related to the physical and digital sales, marketing, distribution, finance and administrative functions of the studio’s home entertainment releases, including new theatrical titles and catalog films. She also identifies and engages new technology marketing opportunities and platforms. Prior to joining Warner, Schell spent nine years at NBC Universal, most recently as EVP of worldwide new media and digital entertainment for Universal Pictures. Education: M.B.A., Harvard Business School; B.A., American History and Literature, Harvard College.

What do you do? I work with a fantastic team of experts in consumer and trade marketing, promotions, publicity, sales, distribution, manufacturing, pricing, analytics, data, media and content creation. My job as GM is to leverage all of their skills to maximize WB films’ success in home markets while navigating a rapidly shifting competitive and technical environment.

What satisfies you the most about your job? The balance of business analytics and creative. I also love managing a team and having the opportunity to contribute to building a positive culture.

What challenges you? The distribution landscape has undergone a dramatic change, which requires not only continuous strategic calibration in how we manage our content in terms of windows, pricing, deals and how we use our marketing dollars, but also that we fundamentally up our game in serving consumers. That means how we think about fulfilling the needs of fan communities, creating extensions and ancillary products with our IP, tailoring marketing messages and content experiences to make them more meaningful to audiences.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? After college I joined Disney’s Strategic Planning group, which meant that as a 21-year-old I entered a three-year analyst program in an advisory group to the CEO of Disney. I worked with many different business units and operational functions to assess major strategic decisions, like starting new digital cable networks. It was intense and stressful and I both loved it and was glad when it was time to go back to school! I had the opportunity as a very junior employee to work with incredible senior executives who had powerful visions of where they wanted to take the businesses they ran, and my job was to gather facts and comps and run analysis and try to quantify those visions into business plans and hard numbers. Which of course isn’t always feasible, but it grounded me in a philosophy of truth seeking: building up a point of view based on discovery and analysis. And I saw the power of being able to articulately defend a viewpoint by explaining how you came to your conclusions.

How did you get where you are? It certainly hasn’t been a linear path, but there have been underlying common themes throughout. I’ve always been interested in how changes in technology open up opportunities for new types of content and creative business models.

Did you have a mentor along the way? Are you mentoring anyone? Mentorship is critical. Adam Grant articulates it so well in his book Give and Take. It’s in all of our best interest to be and to foster a workplace of “Givers”— people who actively try to help others succeed without directly thinking about what’s in it for themselves. Equally critical, he says, is to be smart and efficient about it. It’s not the quantity of the time you put in but the impact of your actions. Making a critical introduction can take five minutes but be life changing for someone. There have been so many people who have mentored me, in big ways and small. They’ve developed organically, and they have fallen into two categories. First, the people I have worked for or with who have gone the extra mile to bring out potential they saw in me or just given me good advice. That’s more of a one-way mentorship that I try to give back through being there as a sounding board for and supporter of my current and former teams or younger people I’ve been impressed with when our paths have crossed professionally. And then there is what I’d call mutual mentorship — the friends who have grown up beside me in their careers. From my first officemate at Disney to business school classmates to fellow VPs at Allen & Co … we’ve been there for each other over the years as our careers go through ups and downs, providing emotional or practical advice and referring headhunter calls!

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? Pushing to always make sure we are considering diverse candidates for every role. Scrutinizing existing teams to find diverse candidates who can take on stretch roles and providing them with support and coaching to make the leap to the next level.

What advice do you have for anyone seeking a career in entertainment? There is such a diversity of roles, so try to get some clarity around what function appeals to you and fits your skills and go after it. If you want to be a creative, don’t take a job in film finance. The business and creative sides converge more the more senior you get, but you have to have some passion for the journey along the way. And then this may seem contradictory, but you have to get your foot in the door however you can and take it from there. It’s a tough industry to switch into later in your career, because who doesn’t want to be in the entertainment industry?

If you could go back in time, who would you most like to have lunch with — and why? What I’d give for an hour over a sandwich with my 20-year-old self, knowing what I know now. I could give that young woman some pretty great advice.

How do you spend your free time? Focusing on family, health and friendships. Or whatever my very opinionated 3-year-old daughter tells me we’re doing.


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. Education: B.A., Communications, University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School of Communications.

What do you do? The DEG serves as the industry’s leading advocate to grow the digital media marketplace focusing on bringing movies and television programming to consumers at home and on the go. We provide forums for our members to get valuable information to help them make informed business decisions. We are also committed to supporting products in market with an aim of increasing consumer awareness and adoption as well as improving the consumer experience by creating efficiencies in the digital supply chain.

What satisfies you the most about your job? Working with smart people and being part of market transitions that affect how we all enjoy content.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I worked on political campaigns and quickly learned that everyone must jump in to do any task. You can learn just from being in the room and absorbing what is going on.

Did you have a mentor along the way? Are you mentoring anyone? Many of the DEG board members have mentored me. I’m particularly grateful for Bob Chapek, Mike Dunn, Steve Einhorn and Ron Sanders, who were always generous with their time and honest with me about how I could make the DEG more meaningful for the industry. That’s why we launched the Canon Club — because we recognize the importance of mentorship and would like to broaden the opportunities for our members.

What’s the most memorable moment of your career? Working in the White House and being in the center of the free world.

How do we further the workplace goal of diversity and inclusion? While we need to hire the right, qualified people for the job, we also should be sensitive about building a balanced team.

If you could go back in time, who would you most like to have lunch with — and why? I’d love the chance to sit with Jack Welch and discuss his management style and career highlights.

How do you spend your free time? I enjoy playing board games, betting on football games, reading biographies, playing pickleball and listening to podcasts on crime.


Wong leads Sony Pictures Television’s global home entertainment marketing team, charged with delivering marketing campaigns across a wide range of product from Sony Pictures Entertainment’s studio labels, spurring consumer engagement and driving transactions throughout the product lifecycle. Specific areas of oversight include consumer and brand strategy, creative advertising, media and digital, PR and strategic partnerships, content development for digital/physical product, and new product development.

What do you do? I focus on finding innovative ways to use data-driven strategies to create targeted, shareable content that will help consumers engage with our films and television properties in meaningful ways.

What satisfies you the most about your job? The fact that nothing stays the same! A constantly changing, dynamic marketplace provides challenges as well as opportunities.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first career was in advertising, and getting things done quickly was what scored brownie points. The Group Director didn’t know my name, but she used to say, “Give it to the fast one,” which caused my account supervisor to give me the nickname “Cheetah.” It gave me a chance to work on a lot of interesting, high-profile projects.

How did you get where you are? By being curious and jumping in wherever I could. Back in the day, you didn’t have to “stay in a lane.” Being multi-faceted in all areas of the business allows you to better connect the dots and equips you with skills to be nimble in the face of challenges and changes.

Did you have a mentor along the way? Are you mentoring anyone? I have been fortunate to have many mentors over the course my career, working hard to foster a positive relationship with them and learn as much as I could. Because of those experiences, I’ve made it a priority to mentor as many others along the way. It’s always incredibly rewarding to see people grow in their careers and become effective leaders.

What advice do you have for anyone seeking a career in entertainment? When you are first starting out, try to meet as many people who will give you the time of day. Informational meetings often lead to job interviews. Do your homework and always be prepared to ask questions. Everyone loves to give advice!

If you could go back in time, who would you most like to have lunch with — and why? My grandmother on my mother’s side, who I never had the chance to meet. She was from Hiroshima, Japan, came to the U.S. and had seven children, was put into an internment camp during World War II and then took her whole family back to Hiroshima, where she stayed until she passed away at a relatively young age. Hearing the stories of her perseverance has always been an inspiration to me, so I’d love the chance to hear all her stories.

How do you spend your free time? Aside from my family and my kid’s crazy sports schedules, I recently made a resolution to do something fun and new as often as possible, whether it’s learning the cha cha cha, finding a new place to hike, going to a play or listening to live music. It’s all about experiences!

Click here for the 2019 list of Women in Home Entertainment

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