Introducing our 2014 Dealmakers list, which recognizes the top eight executives in digital video across a number of different categories, including original content and partnerships, branded entertainment and advertising, legal and talent management, and new technology and platforms.
Cindy Holland, VP of Original Content, Netflix
Though Ted Sarandos is Netflix’s chief content officer and deserves a lot of the credit for the streaming giant’s move into original programming, the same can be said for one of his chief lieutenants, Cindy Holland, Netflix’s VP of original content. Netflix wants to release 20 original series per year — not to mention a bunch more feature films — for the next five years. That’s a lot of content, and a lot of that comes via Cindy Holland, who’s responsible for finding many of the projects that deserve the “Netflix Original” moniker. It’s no secret that Netflix’s continued success relies on the service having content that users can’t get anywhere else. Based on the large number of original series announced or released by Netflix in 2015 alone — everything from “Bloodline” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” to “Fuller House” and “With Bob and David” — the company is well on its way to meeting its goals.
Sibyl Goldman, Head of Entertainment Partnerships, Facebook
Sibyl Goldman went from being the executive VP at Ryan Seacrest Productions, overseeing his numerous digital platforms, to leading entertainment partnerships at Facebook in February 2014, so you could say that her specialty is knowing what will captivate viewers. This has been crucial in Facebook moving into the identity of “video platform,” where it had formerly been a social network. In addition to Facebook getting series from digital talent like The Young Turks, Goldman has been making sure that Hollywood celebs flock to the platform, as well. Weeks before the Academy Awards this year, Goldman set up a pop-up Facebook office by Sunset Boulevard so that celebrities could “get a different view of how our platform works,” she said.
Phil Daniels, Attorney, Ginsburg Daniels, LLP
One of the men behind Michelle Phan’s deal with Endemol, Phil Daniels is clearly an important man to watch in the digital video industry. He’s brokered deals for several big-name YouTubers, from Phan to the Fine Brothers, which is doubly notable because of how diverse these creators are (he’s not just dealing in beauty and lifestyle). There’s even more demand for Daniels’ work as the celebrity of digital influencers keeps getting bigger. “We’ve seen market recognition of the influence of the digital celebrity with the loyal audience base he/she brings,” says Daniels. “In particular, we’re seeing the emergence of influencer-driven projects and businesses, whether that be feature films or ‘influencer’ stage tours.”
Lisa Filipelli, VP of Talent, Big Frame
Repping YouTube talent like the internationally beloved Tyler Oakley, Lisa Filipelli is on the ground level of digital creators expanding way beyond their native platforms. She’s watched, in her words, as networks, studios, and brands have gone from asking, “YouTube? That’s a thing?” to “YouTube, huh? That’s a big deal these days!” As Filipelli describes, “The industry is truly beginning to understand that what we are doing is the new wave of entertainment, and therefore are actively learning about how to best partner with creators.” One of the most prolific talent managers in digital, Filipelli’s clients have expanded beyond the video giant they started on — from international fashion weeks to British radio, and there’s no sign that their momentum is slowing down.
Jesse Jacobs, President, The Chernin Group
The Chernin Group, with Jesse Jacobs as president, exemplifies a traditional entertainment powerhouse recognizing the industry’s shifting landscape, and it’s putting some serious investments down to attack it. The Chernin Group formed Otter Media with AT&T specifically to invest in OTT services back in April 2014. That’s exactly what happened, with Otter Media acquiring majority stake in Fullscreen in September 2014, after which Fullscreen went on to buy MCN Rooster Teeth. Jacob’s other big deal with The Chernin Group saw the company buying up online video site Crunchyroll.
Neeraj Khemlani, Co-President and Group Head, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication/President, Hearst Digital Studios
Neeraj Khemlani, in his role as group head of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication and president of Hearst Digital Studios, was behind Hearst taking a 25% stake in AwesomenessTV. He also spearheaded Hearst’s launch of its first subscription streaming channel, and with Hearst Digital Studios, is positioning the company as a leading producer of content for its own platforms and networks as well as for other major players in the field. Khemlani knows the future of digital video is not just one business model, Hearst has to chase it all — and is. Thankfully, Hearst has a lot of interesting digital assets to play with. “There are a lot of ways to go after digital video, from the sponsorship models at Vice, to the various different revenue lines at ATV, to production itself, to subscriptions,” he explains. “We are taking a lot of swings right now…we are feeling good about what we are doing.”
Jonathan Perelman, VP, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures
As the VP of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, Jonathan Perelman leads partnership development and the company’s branded video team. He had a pretty good year in 2014, as BuzzFeed is said to have secured more than a 100 deals from its Newfront presentation alone. Due to the scope and range of the deals that BuzzFeed Motion Pictures is involved in, it’s hard for Perelman to name the biggest he’s made in past year. “There is no single deal — rather deals ranging from brand and agency partnerships to new syndication deals around the world,” he says. “The diversity of the deals this past year is what I’m really excited about.” Overall, Perelman notes that an increasing number of brands are getting into the digital video game, and he has become an expert in the trial and error it takes to make partnerships with them successful.
Russ Axelrod, President, Turf
The former leader of branded entertainment at Microsoft Advertising, Russ Axelrod continues to connect brands with creators and platforms as the president of Turf, a consulting agency. At AwesomenessTV, Axelrod worked with their CEO to start their brand practice, creating deals for custom content and integrations, working in an entertainment area where integrated branding has a particularly big impact — teen entertainment. Axelrod describes “bringing together AwesomenessTV and Verizon” as one of the biggest deals he worked on while at the network. “That deal took well over a year to bring together, but we always knew it was the right fit,” he says. “When the Verizon CEO stands up and mentions AwesomenessTV alongside the traditional powerhouses like ESPN, the NFL, and more — you know you’ve done your job.” Axelrod also helped lead a major deal for AwesomenessTV and Pepsi’s Aquafina Flavorsplash through a partnership with OMD’s Content Collective. Overall, Axelrod benefits from knowing the industry well. “People like to think it’s a seller’s market with all of the digital players out there bidding the prices up,” he says, “but I think it’s a buyer’s market if you have the expertise to see the big picture and lifetime value for any content you are working on.”