Over the past year, a handful of executives have risen in prominence at broadcast and cable television networks in the role of “digital doers”-the hands-on men and women who get the job done every day, guiding their companies through the complexities of the new TV landscape on-air, online, on-demand and on mobile phones. Some are new to their post, some have expanded their scope in the past year to tackle the new TV world order and others have already launched linear channels. They have shepherded some of the most cutting-edge digital projects over the past year-with more to come. Meet TelevisionWeek’s inaugural class of Digital Navigators.
The player: Paul Condolora, senior VP and general manager for Cartoon Network New Media
Backstory: Mr. Condolora oversees new services for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim on broadband video-on-demand, wireless and interactive TV. He joined the network in 2000 from Sony Pictures Imageworks and reports to Jim Samples, executive VP and general manager of the network.
Milestones: In the past two years, Cartoonnetwork.com has become one of the leading online game destinations, generating more than 2 billion game plays each year. The network recently announced that it is developing a massive multiplayer online game that should roll out in 2008. The site also launched full episodes from the network’s Toonami Jetstream programming block in July and generated more than 10 million streams during the first month. The site targets kids 6 to 11 and monetizes its audience through ad sales and downloadable games. The site attracts about 14 million unique monthly visitors, and its 150-odd games are the most trafficked section of the site.
What’s next: In addition to the multiplayer game, Mr. Condolora will look to move Cartoon Network into the wireless space as 3G advanced wireless networks become more prevalent. “We have the ability to use our characters in unique ways in the wireless space,” he said.
The player: Craig Engler, senior VP and general manager for SciFi.com
Backstory: Mr. Engler has been with Sci Fi.com since 1997 and oversees the Web site, which is both the channel’s online home and a sci-fi destination with news and original short fiction. Before joining Sci Fi, where he reports to Sci Fi general manager and Executive VP David Howe, Mr. Engler founded Web magazine Science Fiction Weekly.
Milestones: In the past year, Mr. Engler’s team has introduced to the site the NBC Universal broadband player, the broadband channel Pulse and the wildly successful “Battlestar Galactica” Web-only episodes that launched in September. The webisodes have been well-regarded for ease of use and are expected to finish the run of 10 having generated about 4 million streams total. “We would have been happy with 1 million,” he said. The webisodes’ success led Sci Fi Pulse to grow from 2 million total streams in August to a projected 6 million in September.
What’s next: SciFi.com plans to offer an 8-week online contest to find the next great sci-fi filmmaker. The best eight shorts will be telecast as part of a one-hour special on the network. Mr. Engler said he also wants to expand the site into gaming.
The player: Beth Higbee, senior VP for Scripps Networks Interactive
Backstory: Ms. Higbee, who reports to Ron Feinbaum, senior VP and general manager for Scripps Networks Interactive, is responsible for FoodNetwork .com, FineLiving.com and GACTV.com. She also manages wireless businesses and the networks’ Web extensions. Prior to Scripps she worked at NBCi.
Milestones: Ms. Higbee oversaw the fall 2005 launch of Foodnetwork.com’s “Eat This,” which is credited as the first Web-only TV program. Since then, most broadcast and cable networks have created Web-only shows. When “Eat This” debuted Nov. 21, 2005, the Web site set a traffic record of 15.5 million page views. Food Network is now in the middle of the online run of the sequel, “Dave Does.” “It fits into a portfolio of experimentation,” Ms. Higbee said. “Eat This” generated about 464,000 visits in its 7-week run. Through its first five weeks,
What’s next: The success of “Eat This” paved the way for a series of online shows. Food Network has three more Web-only shows in the works slated to roll out later this year and early 2007, while Fine Living now streams full episodes of some shows online. Ms Higbee also wants to integrate blogs and social networking into the site.
The player: Jason Klarman, senior VP of marketing and brand strategy for Bravo
Backstory: Mr. Klarman joined Bravo in 2004 after working at Trio, CNBC and Fox News. He reports to Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick.
Milestones: With Mr. Klarman at the helm, Bravo has carved out a niche in the past year as a pioneer among cable networks in online marketing. In early 2005, Bravo was one of the first networks to simulcast a show online and on-air with “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” a project that proved new media platforms could add viewers to a show. Late last year, Bravo became one of the first networks to harness the power of MySpace with a “Project Runway” promotion that included streaming the first 10 minutes of the season premiere. In June, the network relaunched its own Web site to include RSS feeds, podcasts, blogs and some social networking components such as communities. In the third quarter the site attracted 5.3 million unique visitors, a 315 percent increase over a year ago. Mr. Klarman also oversees the network’s broadband channels OutzoneTV and BrilliantButCancelled.com.
What’s next: Bravo plans to bring back Trio next year as a broadband channel. The network will also look to launch additional broadband channels, produce original Web series and make strategic online acquisitions. “Video is key to our success on the Web,” he said.
The player: J.B. Perrette, senior VP of new media and chief financial officer for NBC Universal Cable
Backstory: Since 2004, Mr. Perrette has guided NBC Universal’s new distribution businesses, such as video-on-demand and high definition. He reports to David Zaslav, president of NBC Universal cable and domestic TV and new media distribution, as well as Lynn Calpeter, executive VP and chief financial officer of NBCU.
Milestones: Mr. Perrette oversaw the landmark agreement last November between NBC Universal and DirecTV that made NBC one of the first broadcast networks to offer prime-time broadcast content on VOD. He also shepherded a pioneering deal to include NBC Universal film and TV properties on Wurld Media’s peer-to-peer site. In addition, NBC Universal tested several interactive applications in the last year with Bravo’s “Top Chef,” NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and USA’s coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. In the case of “Top Chef,” about 30 percent of viewers who had the ability to interact with the TV show using the remote did so.
What’s next: The next priority is to generate more advertiser interest in VOD. “I’d like to evolve this to a dual revenue stream,” Mr. Perrette said, with fee-based and ad-supported models for VOD. He also wants to test advertising models for interactive TV and put more NBC properties on cellphones.
The player: Alexis Rapo, VP of digital media for ABC
Backstory: Ms. Rapo joined Disney in 1992 and started in her current post earlier this year, reporting to Bruce Gersh, senior VP of business development for ABC Entertainment and Touchstone Television.
Milestones: Ms. Rapo is the point person for ABC.com’s video initiatives over in the past several months. In May, ABC became the first broadcast network to stream its shows online when it launched a two-month trial to carry full-length ad-supported episodes of four shows. In May and June, the player served more than 5.7 million episodes. The broadband player returned late last month as a regular feature on the site and now includes seven prime-time shows. What’s more, ABC has expanded the site to include about 100 short-form videos each week. That’s an increase of about 330 percent over last season, when ABC featured about 30 videos per week.
What’s next: Ms. Rapo has added to her purview the online properties for ABC Dayti
me and SoapNet, which includes the network’s broadband channel SoapNetic. Her next mission is to make daytime a bigger category online for ABC. “Through combining our efforts, we can better leverage what we are doing,” she said.
The player: Cyiac Roeding, VP of Wireless for CBS Digital Media
Backstory: Mr. Roeding joined CBS in May 2005 and is charged with building the wireless business for CBS, The CW and CBS Paramount Television. He reports to CBS Digital Media President Larry Kramer. Prior to CBS, he co-founded 12snap, a European mobile marketing and entertainment firm
Milestones: In a little more than a year, Mr. Roeding has crafted some of the most innovative mobile video deals in TV. He’s inked pacts with Verizon and Amp’d Mobile to carry CBS content and has forged deals for breaking video news alerts from CBS News and “Entertainment Tonight” on cellphones. He also engineered a deal to integrate a Coldplay ringtone into an episode of “CSI,” and enabled cellphone voting for “Big Brother” that let audiences affect the direction of the show.
What’s next: CBS plans to introduce original mini-soaps for the cellphone early next year. Mr. Roeding said he’ll also look to connect mobile phone video to both the TV and the Internet to maintain a full interactive experience. “It’s not just a small TV screen. It’s a medium in its own right and has capabilities the TV doesn’t,” he said.
The player: Mickie Rosen, senior VP and general manager of entertainment for Fox Interactive Media
Backstory: Ms. Rosen, who reports to Fox Interactive Media President Ross Levinsohn, joined FIM early this year after serving most recently as a VP for Fandango.
Milestones: During her tenure at FIM, Ms. Rosen crafted one of the landmark deals in the new media space: FIM’s plans to offer Fox shows across the FIM network of sites, including MySpace, on a download-to-own basis starting this month. She’s also in talks with other networks and studios to include their TV shows. “That is a broad and strategic long-term deal and it also symbolizes the kinds of deals we are going to be doing and announcing in the future,” she said. That includes deals for MySpace to become a site for television content from Fox and other networks.
What’s next: Ms. Rosen said FIM will strike several deals in the next few months to include TV episodes and promotional content across its sites on download-to-own, download-to-rent and ad-supported bases.
The player: Clint Stinchcomb, executive VP of New Media and HDTV for Discovery
Backstory: Mr. Stinchcomb has been with Discovery since 1992. He made his mark on the cable industry when he took over the nascent Discovery HD Theater in 2003 and brought it to full distribution. This year he jumped from senior VP to executive VP and now oversees Discovery’s new media properties. He reports to Discovery Networks President Billy Campbell.
Milestones: Over the past year, Mr. Stinchcomb’s work has included striking deals with iTunes, overseeing the production of short-form content for Discovery’s broadband channels, guiding the launch of the network’s mobile phone service and shepherding the rollout of the “Turbo” programming initiative that puts content across several platforms. “It’s the first time Discovery has ever launched a big franchise brand without a corresponding linear network,” he said.
What’s next: Mr. Stinchcomb said his tasks will be to guide the growth of the mobile, VOD and HD initiatives that the network group has launched in the past year. “You will see money shift from historical platforms to new platforms,” he said.
The player: Lou Wallach, senior VP of development and programming for Comedy Central
Backstory: Mr. Wallach joined Comedy Central in 2000 as a VP. He has been instrumental in developing on-air projects such as “Chappelle’s Show” and reports to Lauren Corrao, executive VP of original programming and development at Comedy Central. He previously worked for Fox and CBS.
Milestones: In addition to on-air programming, Mr. Wallach oversees the development of all original digital content, including the network’s broadband channel MotherLoad. Comedy Central has been one of the first networks to mine talent online, an effort Mr. Wallach spearheaded. That new initiative yielded “Balloonheads,” currently in production for MotherLoad. “I look at this as Comedy Central 2,” he said of MotherLoad. Mr. Wallach has also found ways to involve advertisers in the broadband channel that remain true to the brand, such as a series of Dodge Caliber sketches with Comedy Central talent Greg Geraldo r. The channel also held a contest to solicit user-generated videos for a spot on the online lineup and plans to announce the winner shortly.
What’s next: Mr. Wallach said he intends to find more ways to integrate advertisers into the broadband channel. He also wants to build up the channel with original extensions of on-air properties, such as outtakes from live tours and short film festivals. “I intend to make MotherLoad the pre-eminent destination for comedy online,” he said.