Meet Video’s Crossplatform Pacesetters

2017 'B&C' Digital All-Stars keep ahead of the curve in a fast-changing industry

Television's quickly shifting video landscape keeps moving in new directions in 2017, as mobile platforms and virtual multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) become an even bigger component of the industry.

With virtual MVPDs like DirecTV Now, Sling TV and Hulu’s planned service gaining traction, and companies such as Verizon pushing mobile services like go90, digital knowhow is becoming even more crucial for companies — if that’s even possible.

That is why the achievements and vision of B&C’s 2017 Digital All-Stars are so noteworthy. These 16 executives sit on the front lines of the industry’s transformation and represent a range of disciplines: advertising/media, content, distribution, local TV, entrepreneurship, technology and more.

Not only did these honorees make a tremendous impact over the last 12 months, they are charting the course ahead. In the pages that follow, read how these honorees will keep pushing the business forward into its digital future.

SEUNG BAK
CEO, DRAMAFEVER

BACKGROUND: Previously the chief marketing officer at an online financial information service called Capital IQ, Seung Bak launched DramaFever—a digital over-the-top network aimed at fans of Korean dramas—out of his apartment in 2009. Noticing an online community of people who went out of their way to see Asian TV shows, Bak set out with a limited selection of older Korean drama titles. “Along the way, we built the company in such a way that it’s almost the anti-Netflix strategy…We’re hyper-focused around verticals, particularly verticals where there’s a passionate audience base.”

2016 HIGHLIGHTS: Last February, DramaFever was acquired by Warner Bros. The transition has been phenomenal, according to Bak, as “the core DramaFever business more than doubled.” Bak and the team have grown to “become essentially the backbone” for a new division within Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Digital Networks. “We are building and operating a whole bouquet of directto- consumer entertainment services,” he said. Among the services Bak has his hands on is Warner Archive, which caters to fans of classic American movies and TV shows.

WHAT’S AHEAD: In the year ahead, Bak looks to continue to grow Warner Bros.’s digital offerings under the Warner Bros. Digital Networks umbrella. “By the end of this year, we will really emerge as a very sizable and true digital network,” Bak said. “We have a whole slate of new services that are in the works that are going to get announced this coming year that feature some of the most iconic and best intellectual property from Warner Bros.” These services will continue to cater to passionate fan bases around “very specific verticals,” he said.
—Luke McCord

TIM CONNOLLY
SENIOR VP, HEAD OF DISTRIBUTION AND PARTNERSHIPS, HULU

BACKGROUND: Tim Connolly comes from distribution and new product development, having worked for such heavy hitters as The Walt Disney Co. and ESPN. Prior to that, he served in product management and business development roles at Ericsson, focusing on mobile applications, networks and professional services.

2016 HIGHLIGHTS: Hulu is working hard to launch its new live-streaming offering, which will operate like an online cable service and include over-the-air channels such as ABC, CBS, Fox and hopefully NBC, as well as cable programmer Turner, by the time it launches later this year.

“We got those four business deals—Fox, Disney, Turner, CBS—done in the span of six months with a really small but skilled team,” Connolly said. “You don’t need armies if you have a bunch of really smart dedicated people. We got network partnership deals done with three of the four biggest networks in the country last year.”

WHAT’S AHEAD: With many of the necessary deals in place, Hulu is working furiously to get its live-streaming service launched, which will compete with other over-the-top live offerings such as DirecTV Now and Sling TV.

“The launch of the MVPD service is going to be fascinating,” Connolly said. “It’s an interesting market, it’s a complicated market, but we really are excited about it. The competition’s going to be fierce but we feel like we’ve got a lot of benefits, capabilities on our side that can help us be successful. We’re going to offer a groundbreaking user experience that will be refreshing and exciting for consumers.”
—Paige Albiniak

JACQUELINE CORBELLI
COFOUNDER, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, BRIGHTLINE

BACKGROUND: Jacqueline Corbelli got her start in banking after graduating from Columbia University with her master’s degree and spent 15 years in the financialservices industry. She was president of Aston Associates— where she had advised on redesigns for 10 major financial corporations in 12 years—when she decided to apply her skills to a new field. In 2003, she cofounded BrightLine, which offers interactive advanced advertising, building the company with the belief that “the internet was going to radically and fundamentally change television.”

2016 HIGHLIGHTS: BrightLine has counted numerous networks—including AMC, A&E, Discovery, ESPN, CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC and Hulu—among its many partnerships. The Hulu deal, announced in May of 2016, has been crucial for the company. “Hulu represents 46% of the ad-supported television streaming in the living room,” Corbelli said. “So that was really a massive and essential thing for the marketplace and certainly for BrightLine.” For Corbelli, the key to BrightLine’s effectiveness is that “it’s heavily rooted in how you can instantaneously apply the insights of real-time data.”

WHAT’S AHEAD: Going forward, this year looks to be a big one for BrightLine, including “finishing our fully self-served portion of the platform in the second quarter,” Corbelli said. BrightLine has also expanded the number and type of personalized templates brands can use. “We used the performance data that we collected over all those years and created templates that are performing much better than any other web screen” when it comes to this type of advertising, she said.
—LM