Next Gen Int'l TV: First class

Meet the 20 under-35s who are redefining the world of international television

Tomorrow's TV biz leaders embracing change

AFRICA

> Juliet Asante, 34
Founder and CEO, Eagle Prods.

Asante won the Ghana film industry's award for best actress in 2001, but she knew she needed to diversify to ensure a long career. So, the overachieving Asante added director and producer to her title and today, Eagle Prods., which Asante founded in 1999, is one of Ghana's most prominent TV production companies. Educated in Ghana, she writes and directs one of the nation's most successful TV soap operas, "Secrets," is a member of the World Economic Forum's entertainment council and finds time to be editor of Entertainment Today Magazine. "I love to write in my free time and I love to read," she says. "I love what I do. It doesn't feel like work."

AUSTRALIA/ASIA

> Yoko Takashima, 33
Licensing Business, Nippon Television

One of the defining experiences of Takashima's early life was when an imported TV show from Japan boosted her self-esteem and cultural pride. "When 'America's Funniest Home Videos' first showed on TV, everyone was talking about it and they were surprised to find out it came from Japan," Takashima recalls. "It made me feel good about being Japanese." A few years later, Takashima chose the unusual career path of selling Japanese TV formats abroad. She joined Nippon Television right out of college and helped pioneer the format sales operations at the network, including "Dragons' Den," which has aired in more than 20 territories globally. "It's a big change from five years ago, when producers used to complain about sharing their best ideas with others," Takashima says.


Rui Chenggang
 
> Rui Chenggang, 32
Anchor, China Biz

Thirty million people watch Rui every day. That's the number of viewers drawn to watch the anchor at China Central Television, the most ever for a business show. And on top of that, Rui has a newspaper column and a blog. In China, you either love or hate the sharply dressed Rui, who has sparred with international superstars from Bill Clinton to Bill Gates. But don't underestimate his journalistic savvy. "If you follow and monitor Chinese media, you will be shocked how far the Chinese media can go," he notes, though he admits: "When it comes to the development of journalism, we're still not as good as some of our Western counterparts."

> Travis Conneeley, 33
Creative director, Foxtel Owned & Operated Channels

Conneeley literally smashed his way into the TV business. Working as a runner on the Aussie soap "Home and Away," he crashed the show's production car on his very first day. "By the end of the day, everyone knew who I was," he laughs. Fifteen years later, Conneeley is still driving, but only metaphorically: His job is to drive "audiences of all ages into watching television they never originally planned to." He does that by overseeing not one but 12 separate channels, while serving as executive producer on such programming as Foxtel's coverage of the Sydney Mardi Gras parade.


Jessica Marais
 
> Jessica Marais, 24
Actress

A diet of MGM musicals and classic studio films -- which she used to watch for up to seven hours a day -- gave the South African-born, Perth-raised Marais the acting bug. "If I could be the love child of Charlize Theron and Heath Ledger, with their acting chops and good looks, I'd be very happy," she says. Well, she's not far off. The acting dynamo was cast in Oz's current top-rated drama, "Packed to the Rafters" before she even graduated from Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2007. Two-and-a-half million viewers and one Logie award later, she is now knocking at Hollywood's door and already has a recurring role on ABC's "Legend of the Seeker."

> Michele Schofield, 34
Director of content, AETN All Asia Networks

After studying TV production in university, Aussie native Schofield took advantage of American parentage and bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. She landed a job as a page at Paramount Studios on arrival and spent five years "swimming with the sharks and working for crazy, demanding studio executives" before departing for her current gig as director of content for AETN All Asia. "(I'm) a bigger cog in a smaller wheel," Schofield says. "(My current role gives) me a bigger sense of ownership about what (I) do."

EUROPE

> Max Wiedemann, 31, and Quirin Berg, 31
Managing directors, Wiedemann & Berg

Call it fate. Had Wiedemann and Berg not sat down next to each other on the first day of high school, one of Europe's most exciting production duos would have been stillborn. Instead, their eponymous shingle Wiedemann & Berg, set up while they were at the Munich film and television academy, has delivered a steady stream of German TV movies and feature films with a Hollywood shine. "Unlike some production teams, we produce everything together," Wiedemann says. "Quirin tends to focus more on the creative side and I take on more of the production/financing tasks, but we make all important decisions together." Wiedemann and Berg got their big break when college-directing buddy Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck approached them with an idea for a film about life under the Stasi, which became 2006's Oscar-winning "The Lives of Others." They followed up on the small screen with high-octane action movies "The Inferno" and "Factor 8" for German commercial network Pro7, both marked by their pacing and high-gloss visuals. Their latest feature film, "Friendship!" a buddy comedy about two East Germans trying to make it from New Jersey to San Francisco -- will be released in Germany by Sony Pictures. Says Wiedemann: "The challenge is always, how can you make your production more international in its narrative, its tempo, its visual impact, and still keep it rooted in its home territory?"

> Alexander von Moers, 32
Sales manager, new media, Beta Film


Matthieu Cruzeby
 
If production powerhouse Beta Film were a soccer squad, von Moers would be a midfielder, confidently darting back and forth between the aggressive expansion of new digital distribution platforms and the defensive position of the traditional TV business. "The market is changing constantly -- new players emerging, new networks," says Moers, who fittingly has a degree in sports science. "You have to keep on top of it through any means necessary. Forget regular working hours. You're always on." With one of the world's largest television licensing libraries -- Beta's catalog holds 4,000 titles ranging from Oscar-wining movie "The Lives of Others" to Canadian hit series "Heartland" and "The Border" -- the company is in a pole position to tap the Internet's long-tail business potential. If Von Moers can shoot fast enough.

> Rozan Hamaker, 32
Head of acquisitions, SBS Broadcasting

"Think globally, act locally" is a cliche, but for Hamaker, acquisitions head at Dutch network SBS Broadcasting, it's a job description. Buying for the three SBS channels in the Netherlands -- flagship SBS 6, femme-focused Net 5 and guy-targeted Veronica -- Hamaker has to find programming from around the world to suit the tastes of an entire country. She also works closely with pan-European parent company ProSiebenSat.1 on joint acquisitions, meaning she also has to be up on the trends in the U.K., Sweden and Germany. "You always have to be on the lookout to see if a new format is a one-off or it's going to be repeated and become a trend," Hamaker says. "At the moment, the biggest trend-setter is the U.K." But Hamaker is looking beyond the European Community brotherhood: She recently signed multiyear volume deals with Sony and Disney, picking up everything from "Spider-Man 3" and "Superbad" to the ABC sitcom "Cougar Town." Her negotiating secret? "I don't like playing games," she says. "If I say no, they know I mean no."

> Anton Kurbatov, 24
VP mass media, Sistema

A corporate suit with the heart of a rock star, Kurbatov has become one of Russia's leading media executives at the ridiculously young age of 24. "I actually look back and think, 'How did this happen?' " he humbly admits. "Every day I get more responsibility, more companies to look at, more things to manage." Selected to join a team of crack economics students tasked with restructuring giant production outfit Russian World Studios (after Russian mega-conglomerate Sistema Mass-media bought it out), Kurbatov was named head of strategy at RWS and then promoted to his current position in the holding company. At Sistema Mass-media, Kurbatov's portfolio is vast and includes everything from overseeing RWS' production to supervising Stream TV, Russia's largest pay-TV group with about 15 million subscribers. "The challenge is always to be able to speak the language of the board room -- to talk to the investors and the corporate world, and then speak the language of the advertisers, distributors and content providers," he says.

> Sergio Ramos, 35
Director of foreign acquisitions, La Sexta

Ramos is a man of the world, which is only appropriate, given his job. The acquisitions executive belongs to a wave of modern Spaniards who speak English with an American accent, who've studied abroad and have dabbled in other careers before landing their present posts. In Ramos' case, he went from a brief stint at the U.N. to his current spot as head of foreign acquisitions for Spain's newest broadcaster -- with stints at UCLA and Spanish international sales outfit Grupo Pi along the way. That has given him a clear worldview, but it has also honed his eye for what might appeal to the Spanish. While Spanish broadcasters have tended to sidestep U.S. fiction, Ramos made insiders sit up and take notice after snagging products that have doubled the channel's overall share. "I'm passionate about fiction, U.S. fiction in particular," he says.

> Nicola de Angelis, 29
Director of international development, head of postproduction, De Angelis Group


Ana Claudia Talancon
 
Born into one of Italy's best-known television families, Angelis started out playing guitar in a hard rock band called Zen. The band still exists, but now de Angelis is focused squarely on his ambitious day job: Turning the storied De Angelis Group into a "minimajor" based on a U.S. model of project development. De Angelis -- who was educated in the U.S. at Evergreen State College and who splits his time between Italy and Ireland -- says he hasn't been influenced by a specific genre or production philosophy, though he notes that he's particularly proud of the Western series "Doc West," where his duties included location scouting in New Mexico. "If it's a slasher production today and a love story tomorrow, that's fine with me," he says.

> Matthieu Cruzeby, 33
Director of programming, MTV France

"The average age at MTV France is about 28," Cruzeby says of his young team of 20. So, it's only natural that the hip and young network would have a hip and young director of programming. Cruzeby, who came to the network after eight years with Canal Plus, is working to give MTV France a strong Gallic identity, while not leaving its American roots entirely behind. His team has already completed 20 episodes of a French version of "Made," which airs in November, as well as a localized version of "Pimp My Ride" hosted by popular French TV personality Ramzy. But don't expect to see endless repeats of "The Hills" on MTV France. "We're not just American MTV in French," Cruzeby says. "We have our own identity with our own shows (and) I have big plans for 2010."

> Francois Florentiny, 30
Founder, Flow Prods.

If France, America and TV are found in the same sentence, Florentiny is probably not far behind. The young entrepreneur, who founded his own company at the ripe old age of 24, is the leading -- and only -- creative consultant in his field. "I saw there was a hole in the TV market, where networks were developing series but without the international market," he says. "I'm trying to fill that gap." Florentiny has clients in the U.S., France, the U.K., Scandinavia, Germany and Spain, including France-based global TV powerhouse Banijay Entertainment, Nordisk in Denmark, and American network TLC, where his acquisition of "Single Moms" has become a cross-territory hit. "Audiences want to see U.S. quality in European productions. The economic downturn is motivating everyone to work faster in that direction," he explains. For Florentiny, that means more time globetrotting to service his growing list of clients. Luckily, he says, "I sleep well (on) planes."

> Holly Pye, 34
Agent, WME U.K.


Mark Bishop
 
A TV-mad teenager, the good-humored Pye began her career as a 16-year-old runner at U.K. indie Action Time; entertainment was always close to her heart. But a talent for putting people together and scaling up success meant that the agency route was a natural choice. "I always knew I wanted to be in entertainment," Pye says. "I thought I wanted to be a producer but found I was as interested in business and strategy and building companies as I was in the creative side." With 12 years at WME under her belt, London-based Pye has grown up with reality TV from the ground up. In the late 1990s the agency pioneered the sale European formats like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and "Big Brother" to the U.S., and Pye learned her trade working on such mega-brands as "Fear Factor," "Dancing With the Stars" and "Hell's Kitchen." More recently she worked with TV chef Jamie Oliver's production company to launch stateside and sold Whizz Kid's format "Let's Dance" to ABC.

> Nick Mather, 32
Deputy creative director, Endemol U.K.

Mather cut his creative teeth pitching weekly ideas to the formidable lineup of Endemol U.K.'s creative bosses Peter Bazalgette, Tim Hincks and Richard Osman, after winning a creative internship at the "Big Brother" producer in 2001. "It was brilliant because you were learning a lot just from being in the room -- about how they saw through an idea to the kernel of what was interesting." After a detour to the BBC's entertainment format development team working on "Hard Spell," Mather returned to Endemol U.K. and was appointed deputy creative director in 2008, developing "Goldenballs" for ITV1 and "The Kids are All Right" for BBC1. Described by
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