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Poor Reed Hastings. If only he hadn’t tried to split Netflix in two, his personal stake wouldn’t have plunged $640 million. It was just one of many floundering attempts by Hollywood and its partners in the past decade to navigate the digital world. Who would have thought Rupert Murdoch’s 2005 acquisition of MySpace would turn into a disaster? Or that a Finnish game company would become a Hollywood sensation via a flock of angry birds? At any time, it seems impossible to know who’s got the juice. Right now, the entertainment industry largely is operating out of fear — witness its attempts to get Congress to back the Stop Online Piracy Act, which in many ways would curtail Internet freedom. Digital revenues remain pennies on each dollar, but if this year’s CES — where the hottest items are web-enabled televisions — is any indication all that could change overnight. Which is why, instead of playing defense, Hollywood might do well to pay attention to the innovators listed below. Each has found a way to make digital technology work for them in what still is essentially the Wild West, as in, still yours for the taking.
Jason Bateman and Will Arnett
Arrested Development castmates Arnett, 41, and Bateman, 42, are serving up hilarity — for a price. The pair teamed in 2010 to offer comedy videos inspired by and featuring the products of paying sponsors, including Denny’s, Wrigley’s Orbit gum and Activision’s Call of Duty. For the latter’s Elite TV service, the actors are rolling out web series including Cocked Hammers, an animated comedy about four gamer buddies who get sucked into the war-torn world of Modern Warfare 3. An added perk for the brand and its members: the involvement of celebrity pals Justin Theroux, Peter Giles and David Koechner.
Radio host and political commentator
Beck ended his Fox news show june 30 amid declining ratings and an advertiser boycott. By September, he had launched GBTV, about which Wall Street analyst Richard Greenfield wrote, “Pay attention to Glenn Beck — he’s about to turn the media world upside down.” Two weeks later, GBTV, which applies the cable model to an online property, boasted 230,000 subscribers, each paying $5 to $10 per month. Beck’s digital assets also include TheBlaze.com, a conservative news site that attracts 5 million uniques a month (according to comScore), and Markdown.com, where NASCAR tickets, NRA memberships and more go for deep discounts. “I don’t consider [it] a digital company,” Beck, 47, told an industry conference in November. “I consider ourselves more a storytelling company and a content company. The way we deliver it is secondary.” He also suggested that his focus on a new type of media empire may be three to five years ahead of its time. Says Beck, “We are on the verge of revolution.”
Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun
Co-owners and founding partners, BermanBraun
Between them, producers Berman, 55, and Braun, 53, the former chairman of ABC Entertainment, oversaw the launch of American Idol, 24, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy. Wonderwall, their celebrity news and gossip site on MSN, clocks up to 16 million uniques a month, according to comScore. They’ve since added digital women’s mag Glo; Wonderwall Latino and Powerwall, a political spin on Wonderwall, and struck an estimated $100 million deal with Starcom MediaVest Group. “Digital,” says Berman, “is a very profitable business for us.”
Amazon may not strike as much fear as other tech players into Hollywood executives’ hearts, but that may be an opportunity, as Bezos, 47, challenges big tech players such as Apple and Netflix. Instant streaming was added to its popular Amazon Prime shipping service in 2005; and close to 13,000 titles are available to already loyal customers following a slew of content deals with big entertainment companies last year. That’s less content than Netflix offers, but it comes at a fraction of the cost of a Netflix subscription. Some analysts believe Amazon next will make a play for Starz’s content as Starz’s current deal with Netflix expires in February; some wonder if Amazon will launch a stand-alone video streaming service in 2012. On the tablet side, the aggressively priced Kindle Fire clocks in at less than half the cost of an iPad. Amazon doesn’t disclose sales figures, but it was the best-selling item on the site for weeks and weeks in late 2011.
Senior vp Internet software and services, Apple
When Tim Cook took over for the ailing Steve Jobs last summer, one of his first moves was to promote Cue, a 23-year Apple veteran. As the company’s connection to Hollywood, Cue, 47, oversees Internet services and content initiatives, including iTunes, the App Store, iAds and iCloud. The iTunes division is big business — about $6 billion in annual sales — but Cue’s role goes well beyond that. His Hollywood deals and media stores add sex appeal and utility to Apple products and have the potential to help the company expand into new markets. Apple televisions could revolutionize the TV industry as radically as the iPhone changed cellphone capability.
The 69-year-old head of iac, which owns such big digital properties as Ask.com, City Search and Match.com, in recent years has increased his focus on content 2.0 with Ben Silverman-led multi-media studio Electus; CollegeHumor Media; Notional, the production company behind Food Network favorite Chopped; and video-sharing platform Vimeo. Last year, he added former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with whom he ran Paramount, to his board of directors — in a signal of just how key content is for Diller — and the company’s The Daily Beast completed a deal to create a 50-50 joint venture with Newsweek. Meanwhile, Notional created a division focused on original scripted TV content and CollegeHumor partnered with the Nintendo 3DS on 3D comedy videos. IAC’s stock rose
48 percent in 2011, sending its market value to $3.4 billion.
Reed Hastings & Ted Sarandos
Co-founder and CEO; COO and chief content officer, Netflix
Despite missteps late in 2011 and a decimated stock price, Netflix is still a force to be reckoned with. The company kicked off the year with its launch in the U.K. and Ireland. BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield said in early 2012 that Netflix soon would be the 15th-most-watched TV network in the U.S. — and a whopping No. 2 in the 20 million homes that subscribe to its streaming service. Meanwhile, Hastings, 51, and Sarandos, 47, are plowing into original programming with upcoming series including Lilyhammer, Hemlock Grove and the David Fincher-directed House of Cards in an attempt to create must-stream TV.
President and editor-in-chief, AOL Huffington Post Media Group
Huffington, 61, started 2011 with a bang when she announced the sale of The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million. She has since expanded local and international news coverage and launched new sites, such as HuffPo Science early in 2012, to fatten her one-stop shop. The Huffington Post in the third quarter surpassed 35 million monthly unique visitors, according to comScore, beating out The New York Times. Huffington also hired Michael Hogan, executive digital editor of Vanity Fair, as editor in chief of Moviefone and AOL TV, which at the end of 2011 was rebranded as HuffPost TV. Overall, “the vision is creating a great media company for the 21st century,” Huffington tells?THR.
Head of content, YouTube
Google-owned YouTube is no longer happy to be the go-to destination for user-generated content. Leveraging professional content and the increased advertising revenue opportunities that entails, it unveiled in October a first wave of deals with key players to produce genre-specific, branded channels featuring original content. Among the big names dropped: Lionsgate, BermanBraun and Jay-Z. Full-length movies from Sony, Warner Bros., Universal and Lionsgate also made their way onto YouTube’s new rental service in 2011. A key driver in this initiative is the company’s Hollywood ambassador, Kyncl, 41, former vp content at Google, global head of content at YouTube in 2010 and a Netflix alum.
To sell or not to sell? That was the question that the video website’s owners News Corp., Disney and Comcast/NBCUniversal (which has no managerial control) faced in 2011. The final decision was not to sell, but the caliber of bidders — Google, Amazon and Dish Network — might have been a vote of confidence for Kilar, 39, and the service his team has built. The site, which logs 31 million uniques a month, started making investments in original programming last year, such as its first longform original A Day in the Life With Morgan Spurlock. It also became the first major aggregator of Spanish-language programming and launched a Japanese streaming service. Plus, Hulu nabbed the entire library of NBC comedy Community in a digital syndication deal, and management says the Hulu Plus subscription service in 2011 crossed the 1?million-subscriber mark ahead of schedule.
Thompson, 54, a former presidentof PayPal, has just taken the helm at Yahoo. His mission: Make the troubled pioneer as relevant as Google and Facebook and staunch the hemorrhaging of ad dollars. The site’s push into web videos ought to help; ditto the announcement that Tom Hanks is behind its new animated show Electric City. Also on the plus side: 26 million already watch Yahoo’s signature news and information programs, including omg!, NOW and Daily Ticker.
Corporate vp, Xbox Live
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has become much more than a video-game console; users spend half their time with nongame content. A 13-year Microsoft veteran, Whitten helped grow online entertainment service Xbox Live — which delivers games, movies, TV shows and music while connecting more than 25 million members worldwide — into a key part of the tech giant’s entertainment strategy. Just in time for the holidays, more TV and video content was added via new apps from a slew of entertainment partners, including HBO Go, Epix, UFC and YouTube. Adding the Kinect controller for Xbox 360 to the mix brings voice and motion control to the experience.
Mark Zuckerberg & Sheryl Sandberg
CEO & COO, Facebook
What’s left for Zuckerberg, 27, and Sandberg, 42, to conquer? Plenty. An IPO seems more imminent than ever, and Facebook still is methodically determining its role in the film/TV distribution business. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the behemoth hasn’t made some key strides recently. In March, Warner Bros. launched a movie rental application for Facebook, debuting with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. In July, Paramount made the full slate of Jackass films available for rental on the site along with some exclusive special features. Facebook showed interest in continuing to play in the content space last fall as Zuckerberg was joined by Netflix’s Reed Hastings and Spotify’s Daniel Ek to demonstrate how users can share what they’re watching and listening to via a new class of applications.
HOW YOU WATCH
Naturalist, broadcaster and documentarian
At 85, attenborough is a devout techie. Flying Monsters 3D, a documentary he narrated, combined 3D imagery with CGI to immerse audiences in a prehistoric world and was the first 3D program to win a BAFTA Award. The Bachelor King 3D, which he wrote and directed, takes viewers inside the world of King penguins and is due for big-screen release in 2012. For both U.K. productions, he teamed with Atlantic Productions’ Anthony Geffen, and together they are leading an influential boom of 3D documentaries. Next up for Attenborough: Kingdom of Plants 3D. “We wanted to use 3D in time-lapse, so that the plants move,” he says. “They look sensational. They always do — but in 3D, they look absolutely mind-blowing.”
James Cameron and Vince Pace
Co-founders and co-chairmen, Cameron/Pace Group
“Broadcasting is the future of 3D,” announced Oscar winner Cameron, 57, in April at the launch of Cameron/Pace Group, the company founded with director of photography Pace. CPG develops, sells and leases 3D production technology and developed the Fusion 3D camera system used on Avatar, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Hugo and live broadcasts like the X?Games. CPG’s Shadow D camera system effectively piggybacks 2D and 3D in a single-camera rig system, so a live event can be filmed in both modes — a significant budget saver that utimately will help bring 3D to more living rooms sooner rather than later.
Sometimes bigger is better. In an era of Netflix, iPads and home theaters, audiences still gravitate to Imax’s ultra-premium outsize movie experience, and that allegiance has taken the company’s stock from 59 cents a decade ago to its current $20 a share. Imax has come a long way since debuting in museum and science center theaters in 1970: Under the watch of CEO Gelfond, 57, who assumed the role in April 2009, the company raked in $600 million in 2011 from its 450 commercial screens, twice the 2010 take. Gelfond expects to roll out 100 more screens every year for the foreseeable future. “We’re quite happy with where we’re going,” he says. Christopher Nolan was the first director to shoot a major movie — 30 minutes of The Dark Knight — using Imax cameras. Although insiders say it added about $3 million to the film’s production budget, Nolan did it again: For The Dark Knight Rises, opening in July, he shot half the movie with Imax equipment.
CEO, DreamWorks Animation
Katzenberg has been an early and influential champion of digital 3D. In a forward-thinking initiative, he retooled his studio five years ago to make all its movies in 3D beginning with the 2009 release Monsters vs. Aliens. But while Katzenberg, 61, is a 3D enthusiast, he also is a realist. On one hand, he applauds the fact that “we have a continuing trend of filmmakers excited about the opportunities of telling stories in 3D.” Citing “outstanding” contributions from Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay, he tells THR, “We’ll see that again in 2012.” At the same time, he warns that bad 3D hurts the whole industry. Filmmakers and studios have to earn the trust of the audience, he says, which is essential if moviegoers are expected to pay 3D’s premium ticket prices. Under Katzenberg’s auspices, DWA also is an early adopter of NexGen computing technology, which is entering the studio’s pipeline. There is a saying in the movie industry: “Better, faster, cheaper — pick two.” With NexGen technology, says Katzenberg, he can pick all three: “This is an exciting application for DWA and actually has much greater implications in the larger field of high-end complex computer graphics.”
Co-founder and CEO, RealD
Its stock repeatedly has been hit by news of underperforming 3D film releases. But as the 3D landscape continues to evolve, one constant in the process is RealD, the largest provider of 3D technologies to film exhibitors and increasingly also to electronics manufacturers and PC game developers. Recent adoption by filmmakers including Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg should ensure the vitality of the company founded by Lewis, 48, in 2003. Over the past year, RealD has partnered with Disney on the upcoming 3D release of Beauty and the Beast and pushed further internationally, striking a deal to outfit up to 600 screens across France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Before Murdoch was making headlines for his role in the phone-hacking scandal, he was one of the most well-respected, digitally astute media execs in the U.K. Rupert’s 39-year-old son was almost entirely responsible for championing 3D broadcasting and production at a time when rivals were playing catch-up with HDTV. While chief executive of BskyB, he positioned the company at the cutting edge of technology, where it remains. Under his chairmanship, Europe’s leading 3D broadcaster offers free 3D to premium HD customers and is creating an unrivaled bank of sports, music, ballet and live music entertainment for its Sky 3D channel. But all this has been obscured by the increasingly ominous cloud of scandal enveloping the former heir apparent to the Murdoch throne, and for him, the big question now is not, “What’s next in the digital revolution?” but “What did you know, and when did you know it?”
At age 69, the Oscar-winning filmmaker delivered Hugo, a family movie about cinema history that allowed him to bring an auteurist approach to 3D technology. That the big-budget film has thus far grossed only $65 million worldwide leaves open the question of whether other less genre-bound filmmakers will get similar chances to push those boundaries at that scale — but critics have praised him for pioneering the use of 3D in serious film.
Sir Howard Stringer
Chairman and CEO, Sony
Under Stringer’s leadership, Sony has championed 4K imagery, which delivers more than four times the resolution of today’s HDTV. “All of a sudden the consumer and professional worlds are coming together,” he says. Sony’s 4K home-projection system previews in January at Sony’s booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Its highly anticipated F65 professional 4K digital inematography camera is slated to ship before Feb. 1. “4K will catch on because the precision of the picture is so exciting for the home theater,” says Stringer, 69. “That will create excitement at the high end — people will get used to 4K in movie theaters.”
President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group
Tsujihara, 47, and his team fired on all cylinders in 2011. They were first out of the gate with titles (Green Lantern, Horrible Bosses) for UltraViolet, the online movie rental service, and in May, they bought Flixster, the movie-buff social network that gives Tsujihara’s marketing team direct access to its consumers. Warner’s now offers movies directly through Facebook — the first studio to do so — and, building on that relationship, developed Aim High, a live-action series that allows Facebookers to see their profile pictures and those of friends — on posters or high school lockers — throughout the show.
HOW IT GETS OUT THERE
Executive vp digital media, MTV Networks Entertainment Group
Executive vp digital media, MTV Networks Music & Logo Group
“We have a built-in audience that never knew life without a Facebook page,” says McCormack, 42, who oversees MTV’s channels as well as VH1, CMT and Logo. “If you don’t put out the right product, they call you on it.” Buzzy content like Jersey Shore and the multiplatform O Music Awards, which let users (more than 22 million for last November’s second annual show) vote for the most digitally innovative artists, keep MTV and its nearly 100 million Facebook followers ahead of the multiplatform curve. For 46-year-old Flannigan, who heads digital strategy for Comedy Central, Spike and TV Land, Tosh.0 host Daniel Tosh is the ace in the hole. His show averages 4.2 million viewers, up 63 percent from the previous season and 250 percent from season one. The Tosh, Futurama and The Colbert Report iPhone apps have been downloaded by more than 2 million users, and with the presidential election season under way, expect spikes in Jon Stewart’s Daily Show thanks to Indecision 2012.
President, CBS Interactive
Lanzone jumped into the spotlight in March when CBS bought Clicker, the guide to online shows he founded in 2009, and, as part of the deal, the Eye brought him on board as president of Interactive. The 40-year-old former CEO of Ask.com now has a global reach, overseeing CBS.com, GameSpot, CNET, TV.com and CBSSports.com. With hundreds of millions of unique visitors worldwide each month, CBS Interactive is a global top-10 web player. And instead of joining the other broadcasters as a co-owner of Hulu, CBS has struck selective deals for library content with Netflix and Amazon — protecting both profits and ratings.
President, new media and digital distribution, 20th Century Fox
in 2009, Levinsohn moved from the role of president of Fox Interactive Media to become the digital content head of Fox Filmed Entertainment. He is responsible for managing the online, mobile and gaming aspects of all content created for the film division. Last year, his team worked on a deal that will see Netflix resurrect Arrested Development. “Bringing a classic show back to production on new episodes exclusively for Netflix customers is a game changer,” he said at the time. Levinsohn, 45, also expanded a distribution deal with Netflix that made some past seasons of Fox hit show Glee and FX’s Sons of Anarchy, as well as older series, available for instant streaming.
CEO, News Corp. Digital Media Group
proclaimed a “media visionary of 2011” at the inaugural Media Festival held in Montreux, Switzerland, Miller, 55, and News Corp. began the year debuting The Daily, an iPad-only digital newspaper app — a first of its kind. Steve Jobs, then ailing, was reportedly very pleased with the app — high praise from the late design-oriented CEO. The Daily has since launched an Android version and a social news application for Facebook. Miller also presided over the sale of the money-losing MySpace and took a hands-on approach guiding Hulu (a joint venture with Disney and NBCUniversal) through its growing pains. Reporting directly to chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, Miller’s team also worked on the CES 2012 news that Microsoft’s Xbox Live is getting apps for four News Corp. content entities — Fox, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and gaming-focused IGN.
Senior vp, digital platforms, HBO
Moore, 42, who worked in marketing at HBO before working at Flooz.com (with MTV’s Dermot McCormack) returned to the company in 2003 as director of brand development. These days, she oversees digital strategy, development and operation for HBO.com and HBO Go, the network’s TV Everywhere app, which has reached 98 percent coverage, has been downloaded upward of 5.5 million times and offers more than 1,400 hours of series, movies and documentaries for HBO subscribers. Allowing only HBO subscribers to access the network’s content online — the so-called authentication model — was key for HBO executives as they sought to protect lucrative subscriber fees while satisfying consumers’ desire to watch the network’s popular shows, including Game of Thrones and True Blood on mobiles and tablets. “There’s a lot at stake,” says Moore. (And now premium cable rival Showtime, already having pared down a streaming deal with Netflix, has launched its own authentication service.) HBO’s social footprint has grown to more than 55 million connections in 2011, primarily driven by Facebook as well as Twitter and GetGlue. Last year, HBO launched HBO Connect, an experimental platform that aggregates social activity around key shows.
President, Paramount Digital Entertainment
The longtime paramount marketing executive, 36, has overseen innovative social media and marketing efforts for Paramount films such as Paranormal Activity, Super 8, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and now The Devil Inside. In particular, her work on 2007’s Paranormal Activity — which included an Internet campaign that asked the public to demand that the horror flick play in their town — is credited with the initial success of the found-footage franchise, which launched in 2009 and has spawned two follow-up films. In December, Powell was promoted to president of Paramount Digital Entertainment and Insurge Pictures, the studio’s microbudget distributor that was launched after the wild success of Paranormal. The Devil Inside and Justin Bieber were released under the Insurge label.
Co-president, Disney Interactive Media Group
Co-president, Disney Interactive Media Group and GM, Playdom
For now, the segment, charged with building digital experiences for the next generation of Disney fans, continues to lose money — $308 million for the fiscal year ended Oct.?1, 2011, with the company vowing to turn a profit in 2013. But hit video games like Lego Pirates of the Caribbean and Cars 2 in 2011 already started boosting console game results, and social gaming arm Playdom is beginning to crank out popular games like Gardens of Time, which became the most recommended Facebook game of the year. Disney Mobile’s Where’s My Water?, featuring the alligator Swampy, reached the top of the paid-apps chart for three weeks in the fall and was downloaded more than 6 million times between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Also helping results is stronger traffic to Disney Online, which attracted nearly 37.8 million unique visitors in December (its best month ever), and news of an alliance that brings Disney.com and YouTube together to fund premium content.
President, NBCUniversal Digital Entertainment
When Steve Burke and BobGreenblatt moved NBCU’s digital efforts away from original content to focus on support for NBC’s existing shows, Zigler, 53, managed to continue innovating. The NBC.com site has been nominated for 17 Emmys and won three (for web content related to 30 Rock, The Biggest Loser and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon). In a major innovation in April, NBC launched the beta version of NBC Live, a viewing experience in which fans are able to interact with one another, participate in polls and answer trivia, all in real time along with NBC programming.
WHO PAYS THE WAY
CEO, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
Beckstrom’s three-year reign at ICANN, which orchestrates the Internet address system, ends in July. It’s not been without controversy. Beckstrom, 50, introduced the .xxx address suffix for porn sites and spearheaded an initiative to allow just about any word to follow the dot in a web address. The move to exponentially expand the number of generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, has the entertainment industry in a state over who will control .movie, .film and .music. The hefty $185,000 application fee, an annual fee of $25,000 and technical costs of up to $1 million for running a portion of the Internet would mean added costs for entertainment companies, but the potential revenue upside is unclear. Beckstrom hasn’t disclosed what he’ll do next, but he says the final months of his tenure will be guided by the principle “One world, one Internet.”
When neophyte filmmaker Nick Lewis needed cash to shoot his soccer documentary Rise & Shine: The Jay Demerit Story, he pitched the concept on Kickstarter.com. Within 60 days, he had $225,000 from thousands of strangers, including actor Seth Meyers. Chen, 35, with co-founders Yancey Strickler, 33, and Charles Adler, 38, is pioneering “crowdfunding,” whereby folks invest (donate, really) in what they consider worthy artistic projects. Since launching in 2009, Kickstarter has seen users pledge $45 million to help fund 4,700 film projects, and three funded by Kickstarter made the 2012 Oscar documentary shortlist, a first for the company.
Media analyst, BTIG
He has cautioned industry CEOs that making too much TV content available online could ultimately affect TV viewership. And he has criticized Hollywood for making too many 3D movies and charging “excessive ticket prices.” Greenfield, 38, is one of Wall Street’s most outspoken voices on the risks and opportunities in the industry’s digital realm. He stands out because he challenges the status quo and openly questions companies’ strategies. His predictions for 2012: TV viewing will begin to decline amid increased online video viewing; Netflix will redefine its image with original programming success; and Dish or Verizon will launch a virtual multichannel video-programming service as an alternative to location-based pay TV providers.
The 44-year-old co-founder of LinkedIn has become a sort of divining rod for finding hot social-media properties that come out of nowhere and change Hollywood. Hoffman arranged the first meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel, who became an investor in Facebook — Hoffman invested alongside him. He also put money into and joined the board of Zynga during its first round of funding. He joined Greylock Partners two years ago and runs its $20 million Discovery Fund. Hoffman’s other investments have included Flickr, Digg, Ning and Last.fm.
Founder, A Grade Investments
Equity investor, Specific Media
If the old Hollywood dream was to act and direct, the new one, which Kutcher, 33, and Timberlake, 30, have realized, might be to invest in Internet companies and make yourself relevant in social media: Timberlake has 7.8 million Twitter followers and Kutcher 9.1 million. After a few early dot-com failures (Internet phone service Ooma, animated web show Blah Girls), Kutcher runs A?Grade Investments with Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary, and has a portfolio including home runs like Skype and Foursquare, and startups with potential like Airbnb, which lets people rent out their apartments or spare rooms online, and Hipmunk, a travel search engine. In June, Timberlake made a risky investment in former News Corp. albatross MySpace with Specific Media. At CES 2012, they unveiled MySpace TV, a social-TV service that will allow viewers to chat about what they are watching while they are watching it.
Bing, the underdog search engine, could become Hollywood’s favorite pet if Lu, 50, succeeds in his goal to expand the site’s reach and relevance. And he’s got parent company Microsoft’s money to do it with. In 2010, the company joined with Jay-Z to promote his book with an interactive game and ad placements in 15 cities around the world. In 2011, Bing partnered with AMC’s The Walking Dead in an online contest whose prize was a walk-on role on the series, and a deal with The CW included integrated product placement (for example, characters “Binged” instead of “Googled”).
Along with Digital Sky, now known as Mail.ru Group, the 51-year-old Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist runs its spinoff, DST Global. Through his companies, Milner has invested in some of the hottest tech firms and IPOs of recent years: Facebook, Zynga, Spotify and Groupon, as well as a Russian Facebook equivalent called VKontakte. In August, he led an $800 million funding round for Twitter.
Morgan, 47, could be one of the most important people you’ve
never heard of. Simulmedia compares real-time television-viewing data against Nielson ratings, Tribune Media Services and even metrics from the U.S. Census to make predictions about what types of ads will be relevant to individual households. By the company’s estimates, Simulmedia has achieved a 75 percent increase in effectiveness for its television ad clientele. The ultimate goal: Allow TV ads to be as targetable as web ads. While most digital innovators are merging practices from “old media” with new online distribution, Morgan is going the other way, taking what’s best about new-media advertising and making TV spots that much more valuable.
Executive GM, Founders Fund
In 1999, Parker co-founded Napster and forever changed the music industry. Five years later, he became Facebook’s first president, bringing in the initial round of funding that would help launch a company now valued at nearly $100 billion. In 2010, he saw an opportunity to close a circle and invested $15 million in Spotify, a legal service for online music. Not every venture he has backed has been a winner, but as one-sixth of Founders Fund, which has issued four suites of capital since 2005 totaling more than $1 billion, the famous line attributed to Parker (as played by Justin Timberlake) in The Social Network seems particularly apt: “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”
HOW YOU CONNECT
Celebrities and Twitter already go hand in hand, but under Costolo, 48, the social media monster continues to build its global reach to create a powerful analytics tool and marketing machine — and create revenue for its popular service with Promoted Tweets, Trends and Accounts, targeted to reach the most relevant followers. Paramount launched its first marketing campaign using Twitter’s new tools for Super 8, aiding its $259.7 million worldwide box-office take. Research firm eMarketer has estimated Twitter’s worldwide ad revenue will hit $260 million in 2012, up from $45 million in 2010.
Actress-writer, producer, Knights of Good Productions
With nearly 1.9 million Twitter followers, Day is demonstrating serious new-media staying power. Her popular sitcomlike web series about gamers, The Guild, now in its fifth season, is distributed on Microsoft’s Xbox Live, MSN and Hulu, where episodes rack up some 200,000 views each. Electronic Arts turned to Day to create a six-episode digital series, Dragon Age: Redemption, connected with BioWare’s Dragon Age video games. Day, 32, and her Knights of Good company also were included among recipients of YouTube’s new slate of original channels. The name of hers: Geek and Sundry.
“Plenty of websites post celebrity photos, but the celebrities don’t get any of the benefits,” says Ellis, 40. That’s why he created WhoSay, which hosts free, easy-to-update online content for invite-only celebs like Tom Hanks, Enrique Iglesias, Stan Lee, Steve Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rihanna. WhoSay stars collectively boast 570 million fans across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other platforms, and their pages draw 10 million unique users each month. All those eyeballs, he says, will be worth money one day through endorsements, advertising and e-commerce, and WhoSay will split the revenue with its celebrity partners.
Iskold, 38, gets social TV. His New York-based GetGlue website and mobile app is like FourSquare for TV: Users “check in” — that is, announce they’re watching a particular show (or movie or song) via the mobile app. Linked to Facebook and Twitter, individual viewing habits become public, and points are awarded to active users. “Gurus” are those who exhibit extraordinary passion for a particular show. Users checked in 100 million times in 2011. Access to the data about what people are watching has led more than 75 broadcast and cable networks and 10 movie studios to pay to advertise to GetGlue users.
Harnessing dual passions for technology — he started a computer games software business when he was 14 — and movies, Needham co-founded the Internet Movie Database in 1990 and sold it to Amazon in 1998 for an undisclosed mix of cash and stock. IMDb, the go-to site for information on movies, TV and actors, lists 2 million entertainment titles, attracts 110 million unique visitors globally each month and has a paid-subscriber level. Its mobile app has been downloaded 30 million times. Needham, 44, also oversees the Internet’s top box-office reporting site, BoxOfficeMojo, which IMDb purchased in 2008.
Finland-based Hed, 34, has infiltrated the market with the same force and dexterity players use to hurl the winged creatures in Rovio’s Angry Birds, one of the most popular casual games for mobile devices. With estimates of 400 million to 600 million downloads to date, the Hollywood opportunities are endless: Rovio purchased Finnish animation studio Komba, hired former Marvel Studios chair David Maisel to help develop an animated TV series and an eventual feature film and had a tie-in with Fox Animation’s Rio. The company also is believed to be eyeing an IPO sooner or later.
Founder and CEO, Zynga
Chicago-born Pincus, a regular at the annual Allen & Co. media and tech mogul retreat in Sun Valley, launched his social gaming power-house in 2009 and took it public in 2011 in a closely watched IPO. Analysts predict Zynga will continue to dominate the social gaming space; its 232 million monthly users play Mafia Wars, FrontierVille and CityVille, the largest social game in the world with 75 million monthly active players. Hollywood has been taking note: The San Francisco-based company has increased its integration deals with studios, TV networks and music companies. In 2011, Pincus added DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to the board, launched in-game promotional partnerships with Paramount, DreamWorks Animation and Columbia Pictures, and worked with Lady Gaga to debut several tracks from her Born This Way album on FarmVille. Pincus has said he wants Zynga to become a verb synonymous with “playing,” the way “Google” means “search online.”
HOW YOU MAKE IT
CEO, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group
Drabinsky, 53, is convinced that postproduction houses like Deluxe will evolve into data hubs where every aspect of a digital project can be managed. “When I look at the future,” he says, “there are opportunities across the whole production/postproduction/distribution pipeline for providing more services in a data environment. As digital platforms grow, I think you’ll see postproduction companies becoming more like technology businesses.” Deluxe, one of the world’s largest postproduction conglomerates with operations in North America, India, Australia and Europe, is leading the way, offering color correction, digital effects, compression, authoring, archiving and asset-management services.
Co-founder, Weta Digital
The 50-year-old Oscar-winning director in 2011 produced The Adventures of Tintin, the performance-capture blockbuster directed by Steven Spielberg that has earned $331.3 million worldwide. Now the New Zealander, whose The Lord of the Rings trilogy grossed more than $2.9 billion, is working on one of 2012’s most anticipated films: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. On his return to Middle-earth, Jackson packed 3D technology — Red Epic cameras on 3Ality rigs — and plans to film entirely at 48 frames per second. (That’s double the standard rate; proponents say it offers a more truthful image.) Hobbit will be the first major digital feature film lensed in this manner.
Founder and chairman, Lucasfilm
Lucas, 67, has pushed technological barriers as a filmmaker and entrepreneur for nearly four decades. He used Star Wars to launch Industrial Light & Magic into a cutting-edge special-effects company; was the first to make and show movies using digital capture and presentation; and has won more than two dozen Academy Awards for innovations, including the development of image-based modeling software. Now Lucas has employed state-of-the-art visual effects to create airborne battle scenes for Red Tails and significantly raised the bar on digital 3D conversions for the February rerelease of Star Wars.
Chief technology officer, Sony Pictures Entertainment, President, Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem
DECE, a consortium that includes Sony, Lionsgate, Paramount, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros., in the fall launched UltraViolet. The cloud-based movie access system creates virtual lockers for its customers, allowing viewers to buy once and subsequently access their purchase on a number of platforms and devices. There are kinks to work out, but Singer says, “The entertainment industry has made it so you go online, you rent it, you watch, you’re done. You are locked to a platform and can’t share with your family. But with UltraViolet, we took the friction out of collecting a digital media library.”
Profiles written by Alex Ben Block, Paul Bond, Josh Feldman, Dan Frommer, Carolyn Giardina, Marisa Guthrie, Shirley Halperin, Lacey Rose, Georg Szalai and Mimi Turner
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