Digital Power: Conglomerate Kingpins

Setting the digital agenda inside big content companies

Albert Cheng
Executive vp, digital media, Disney-ABC TV Group

Cheng helped ABC become the first broadcast network to put primetime shows on the Internet. Now it is poised to be the first to have a profitable online-video business. He's done it by keeping a focus on costs, developing new sales strategies and providing a steady stream of consumer research to advertisers seeking to justify their investments. "From the very beginning, we have been focused on monetization," he says. After years of concentrating on, he's made an interesting strategic shift in putting ABC shows on Hulu via Disney's equity stake, as well as a smaller deal with YouTube.

Greg Clayman
Executive vp, digital distribution & business development, MTV Networks

At 13, Clayman spent his New Year's Eve on CompuServe. He is now considerably cooler as the digital and mobile go-to man at MTV and sister companies Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, VH1 and Spike. In mobile, he helped lead the brands to double their video impressions to 100 million last year; he closed an innovative partnership with Palo Alto startup Auditude to attach advertising to uploaded user video content on MySpace; and he's extended popular characters like SpongeBob to new platforms such as iPhone, Xbox, PlayStation and Google's Android mobile phones. "Sometimes I feel like I exist more online than offline," he jokes.

Thomas Gewecke
President, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution

Film distribution windows are collapsing, fueled in part by consumer migration to digital delivery. And no company has acted more aggressively on this front than Warners. Gewecke has advocated bringing more titles to consumers as quickly as possible, through VOD and electronic sell-through channels like iTunes (Warners now tops market share in both). "All our research indicated that consumers wanted more choices and were confused about how the windows system worked," he says.

Dan Fawcett
President, Fox Digital Media

Discussing Fox's recent digital deals, Fawcett loves to throw out a Wild West analogy. He's a bit more careful than the typical 19th century outlaw, having earned his stripes negotiating rights deals for DirecTV and Fox Sports. But he's also willing to take chances, like Fox's online syndication strategy, which has put streaming content onto internal network Web sites as well as external ones like Hulu. "It's exciting and intellectually stimulating to build new business models that fit in with our core businesses," he says

George Kliavkoff
Executive vp, deputy group head, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication

After serving as NBC Universal's chief digital officer and helping mastermind Hulu, what do you do for an encore? Kliavkoff joined Hearst to build a portfolio of $100 million-plus investments in digital businesses for the privately held conglom. "At this point in my career, I want to build new things, and I couldn't do that in a public company," he says. "If you have the cash and you have the commitment to take a long-term view on return on equity, it's an absolutely perfect time to be an investor." He says he's looking to buy companies and technologies focused on how people spend time and money.

Tom Lesinski
President, Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment

When Paramount chief Brad Grey asked Lesinski to start a new, free-standing digital division four years ago, the then-president of home video was apprehensive. "It was a time when Hollywood was getting criticized for not having a digital strategy," he recalls. "Just getting your head around monetizing and managing it was difficult." Today, Lesinski has built a global digital-distribution network for Paramount movies in 53 countries and 25 languages. He greenlighted Paramount's first movie exclusively for the Internet, "Jackass 2.5." And more recently he acquired the gaming company ScreenLife.

Curt Marvis
President, digital media, Lionsgate Entertainment

As founder of CinemaNow, Marvis helped pioneer movies-on-demand. Now, after just 12 months at Lionsgate, he's shepherded a dizzying array of digital projects: "Instantly Rich," a reality TV show that integrates text messaging; FEARnet, a joint venture with Comcast and Sony Pictures; and Epix, a premium entertainment channel expected to launch next fall. Lionsgate was also the first studio to fully integrate its library offerings with YouTube. "I love to be in emerging markets where the rules are not yet written," he says.

Jean-Briac Perrette
President, digital and affiliate distribution and content distribution strategy, NBC Universal

Since assuming control of NBC's digital operations two years ago, Perrette played a key role in forming Hulu. Now arguably the No. 1 Web site for premium video, the venture is a "success beyond expectations," he says. The one-time CS First Boston analyst has also shaped NBC's relationship with iTunes, prodding Apple to create more flexible pricing and packaging for NBC shows.

Quincy Smith
CEO, CBS Interactive

" 'CEO of Interactive' means I work for everyone in Interactive." That's the most the self-effacing Smith will say about himself. But he'll talk all day about his division's accomplishments. It ranks as the No. 5 Web property by unique viewers, attracting more than 200 million a month. And its merger with CNET has become a template for CBS to build other profitable online-media businesses. The only downside is his nomadic existence between offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and occasionally Florida and the U.K., too. "When you have this kind of a job, you're on call to a lot of people," he says.

Steve Wadsworth
President, Disney Interactive Media Group

Wadsworth now oversees all of Disney's interactive properties as head of a newly created business unit that combines Disney's Internet, video game and mobile businesses. "We get a huge amount of scale by leveraging all the company's activity through one technology organization," he says. A key goal: Create entertainment that connects across multiple platforms, like Disney's Club Penguin, which exists both online and on the Nintendo DS. Disney Online remains one of the Web's most popular video sites, attracting 27.6 million unique visitors in February.

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