12 to Watch: Where Are They Now?

Jan 30, 2006  •  Post A Comment


Ms. Banks has had quite a year executive producing and hosting her syndicated talk strip “The Tyra Banks Show.” From donning a fat suit to having an on-air sonogram to prove her breasts are real to confronting model Naomi Campbell about their past rivalry, Ms. Banks has given her all for the Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution show. The effort has paid off. Her show has regularly outperformed its rookie competition in young female demos and is scheduled to return for a second season. Ms. Banks has announced she is retiring from modeling, but her UPN reality series “America’s Next Top Model” remains a thriving franchise for the network. And her talk show and “Model” are not likely to be her last producing ventures. Ms. Banks’ Bankable Productions is actively developing additional series. -Christopher Lisotta


Mr. Bradford became president of Tandberg Television after Tandberg acquired N2 Broadband, of which he was president and CEO, in early 2005. Under his leadership, Tandberg has moved from a niche player to a major TV technologist. The company doubled the number of markets using its flagship video-on-demand software, OpenStream, to 95, and doubled those using its local on-demand tools to more than 60. Tandberg began testing VOD ad insertion product AdPoint with Comcast and other operators in preparation for an early 2006 commercial launch. VOD ad insertion will be a watershed moment for the platform because it allows ads to be inserted on the fly, enabling new categories and types of VOD ads. Tandberg acquired interactive TV firm GoldPocket Interactive in November and plans to introduce interactive ads in VOD next year. Also in 2005, Tandberg secured a $23.5 million contract with DirecTV to provide compression equipment for its high-definition expansion. -Daisy Whitney


Mr. Clasen was named CEO of Starz Entertainment Group in December 2004, succeeding founder John Sie. Mr. Clasen moved quickly, rebranding all 13 channels in March, resulting in an 8 percent ratings increase in the next seven months. He also overhauled the company’s on-demand service to premiere major movies two weeks ahead of their linear debuts, a move that drove more subscribers to try on-demand. At the Consumer Electronics Show this month, Starz introduced its revamped broadband movie service Starz Ticket as Vongo, with 1,000 movies-up from 300-and the ability to watch the films on portable devices. -Daisy Whitney


2005 was a characteristically good year for Ms. Hammer, who ran both USA Network and Sci Fi Channel for NBC Universal. In the fourth quarter USA overtook TNT as the highest-rated entertainment channel. The shift in the ratings was driven in part by the launch of a new brand for USA: “Characters Welcome.” The network also added WWE wrestling to its Monday lineup. Sci Fi had record ratings, helped by “The Triangle,” the net’s highest-rated miniseries since “Taken” in 2002. With all the changes going on among NBCU’s executive ranks, some wonder what’s next for Ms. Hammer. But she shrugs off any speculation. “I’m a happy camper,” she said. -Jon Lafayette


For a while the industry watched as the president and CEO of E! Networks kept trying one reality show after another. But in the second half of 2005 ratings began to pick up for the entertainment network, and at year’s end Mr. Harbert delivered two talent coups: purchasing Fox’s “The Simple Life” franchise and signing youthful broadcaster Ryan Seacrest to anchor “E! News,” host the network’s red carpet coverage and develop new shows. The moves prove Mr. Harbert can buy successful properties, but can he grow original talent? If so, Mr. Harbert is well positioned to stage a comeback for E! in 2006. -James Hibberd


Toward the end of 2004 Mr. Iger was given the chance to prove to the world that he has what it takes to be CEO of The Walt Disney Co. His boss at the time, then-CEO Michael Eisner, had announced he was retiring, and Mr. Iger immediately became the company’s frontman, speaking to investors and leading quarterly earnings conference calls. The tryout worked: In March 2005, almost three months before a self-imposed deadline, the Disney board elected Mr. Iger CEO.

Although Mr. Iger didn’t officially get the job until Oct. 1, the appointment almost immediately breathed new life into the company. Viewed as conciliatory compared with the more antagonistic Mr. Eisner, Mr. Iger took steps to improve the mood both within and outside the company. He smoothed over relations with shareholder Roy Disney, who had waged a very public battle with the company over both Mr. Eisner’s leadership and Mr. Iger’s appointment. Perhaps more notable is that he got Steve Jobs talking with Disney again. Disney struck a deal with Mr. Jobs to offer downloadable episodes of popular prime-time series on iTunes, and just last week Disney agreed to buy Mr. Jobs’ Pixar Animation Studios for $7.4 billion, which could extend the companies’ film relationship. -Jay Sherman


Mr. Levinson has maintained a steady course during the past year. He is still executive VP and head of worldwide television for the Beverly Hills-based talent agency International Creative Management, where he oversees TV packages and guides a stable of agents as they build their clients’ careers. In November ICM completed a recapitalization deal with two entities to fund further expansion, just months after the agency added former William Morris Agency TV chief Greg Lipstone to its ranks-a move Mr. Levinson said makes ICM’s reality department much stronger. In addition to expanding ICM’s international reality and long-form businesses, Mr. Levinson’s portfolio is seeing more emphasis on developing deals for new platforms, including business with NBC and Fox’s digital divisions. “In many ways it is quite frightening,” Mr. Levinson said of the new platform development, although he admitted the rapid changes in the industry make his workday more interesting. “It’s a wonderful time to be in this business,” he said. -Christopher Lisotta


Ms. Stein, executive VP and co-chief operating officer of the William Morris Agency, had two missions for 2005: reviving the comatose world of television comedy and helping to transform the talent agency where she has worked for the past 19 years. On both scores she said she is pleased with her progress, while acknowledging that the work she puts in is part of a marathon, not a sprint.

On the comedy side, Ms. Stein has had success with a new series on Nickelodeon called “Just for Kicks,” from Whoopi Goldberg’s production company. On the agency side, Ms. Stein has worked hard to help change the entertainment industry’s perception of WMA as a staid company, organizing the firm’s first-ever corporate retreat, which took place in January. -Jay Sherman


From his new perch as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee last year, Sen. Stevens, R-Alaska, quickly demonstrated formidable influence over industry issues. Perhaps his most significant contribution: helping spearhead legislation that could force broadcasters to make the switch to digital television by Feb. 17, 2009.

On Sen. Stevens’ watch, Comcast and Time Warner Cable launched family-friendly tiers of programming in an effort to head off indecency legislation. Those moves came after Sen. Stevens made it clear that the industry could expect new regulations unless it took adequate steps on its own to address concerns about off-color programming.

He also demonstrated convincingly that he’s persistent and will take extraordinary steps to have his way: After the first two candidates he backed for a Republican vacancy at the Federal Communications Commission took themselves out of the running, Sen. Stevens insisted that the White House consider a couple more of his selections, by some accounts contributing to a personnel delay that has deprived the FCC of a Republican
majority for nearly a year. -Doug Halonen


Over the past year Mr. Weiser, president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, has been busy with much more than overseeing the exploitation of one of the world’s largest libraries of films: the combined collection of Sony and MGM. One key deal he brokered was the off-net sale of “The Shield” to Spike TV, a move the studio said validates the financial model for producing original series for cable. Mr. Weiser also was given responsibility in 2005 for sales to pay television and new media, making him a key player in the VOD and subscription VOD arenas. -Jon Lafayette


Nearly 14 months after Tom Brokaw’s decision to step down from the “NBC Nightly News” anchor desk ended Mr. Williams’ decade-long apprenticeship, he is comfortably in control. The anchor is further developing his voice with his “Nightly Daily” blog, in which he has twitted his former cable news peers for cutting in during the confirmation hearings of Judge Samuel Alito to accommodate their own blather. Meanwhile, the newscast for which he is anchor and managing editor is still No. 1 in the ratings. Indeed, under Mr. Williams-who was the first Big 3 TV anchor on the scene to report on the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans-“Nightly” extended its lead over ABC’s “World News Tonight.” In fourth quarter 2005 “Nightly” led “World News” by 13 percent in total viewers, nearly double the advantage it enjoyed during the 2004-05 TV season. -Michele Greppi


Just a week after she made last year’s 12 to Watch list, Ms. Wood got a promotion. Last January she was named president of creative affairs and development for both King World Productions and Paramount Domestic Television, making her the go-to syndication production person for all of Viacom’s (now CBS Corp.’s) syndication development. While still overseeing Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight,” “The Insider” and “Dr. Phil,” Ms. Wood has added brand extension to her resume, which makes her responsible for everything from “Dr. Phil” prime-time specials on CBS to overseeing programming such as “ET on MTV.” Most recently she is keeping busy by working with one of this year’s 12 to Watch, Rachael Ray, helping the author and Food Network host develop her upcoming Paramount-produced, King World-distributed talk strip. -Christopher Lisotta