Fifth Estater

Cable Vet Pivots to Start-Up

Rare segue from stage to screen helps equip Shapiro for crunch time as network counts down to launch 7/22/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Evan Shapiro

Title: President, Pivot

Education: University of Massachusetts Amherst, attended 1985-88

Employment Highlights: Director, marketing, Public Theater/ N.Y. Shakespeare Festival, 1994-96

Founder/ president, FourFront, 1996-2001

Senior VP, marketing, Court TV, 2001-04

Senior VP, marketing, IFC, 2004

Executive VP and general manager, IFC, 2004-08

President, IFC TV and Sundance Channel, 2008-12

Current title since May 2012

Personal: Born April 28, 1967; wife, Jill; children Jenna, 18, and Jamie, 15

dhayes@nbmedia.com | @DadeHayes


It is an unusual sight: Evan Shapiro is taking a break. On a torpid
afternoon before the July 4th holiday, the president of the Pivot
network has cracked open a Corona with the other dozenplus staffers
in the company's airy Flatiron District headquarters. The cold ones
are a preholiday gesture to the troops, who are in a race to Aug. 1,
which is when the Participant Mediaowned network, built on assets
from the former Documentary Channel and Halogen, hits the air in some
40 million households.

The
10-month launch buildup would be a sprint for any team, but it's
even more so for Pivot given its unique ambitions. For Shapiro, 46,
this is not just another hat thrown into the cable ring. It is an
historic attempt to both prove TV's ability to change the world and
reinvigorate the industry through a multiplatform bond with
millennials. Pivot's eclectic programming lineup includes
late-night talk show TakePart
Live
,
docu-talk series Raising
McCain
(hosted
by Meghan McCain, blogger and daughter of Sen. John McCain) and
Canadian comedy Little
Mosque on the Prairie
. The channel’s key strategic thrust involves a streaming app to allow its content to be viewed on mobile devices by subscribers – a TV Everywhere play enhanced by a novel broadband-only subscription offering. Bold wagers aren't foreign to
Shapiro. He began his career betting that large audiences could be
lured to Shakespeare (his slogan for the Public Theater's gratis
productions in Central Park: "Free Will") and that IFC and
Sundance Channel were far more than film brands. At the end of an
eightyear run at Rainbow/AMC, an offer from Participant struck a
chord. The company, founded by exeBay chief Jeffrey Skoll, finances
films with social dimension such as Lincoln
and
The
Help
.

"The
reason I did what I did, which was leave a really f---ing great job
at a really great brand that I spent a lot of energy helping to
build, was because I thought that the entire industry was
complacent," Shapiro says. "Thirty-five years ago, we were the
disruptive technology. And we've ceded that. It's time for us to
recapture it....I came here to regain that optimism and that
entrepreneurial spirit."

Remote's
Control Over Him

The
one constant of Shapiro's winding path to the corner office has
been TV itself. "I grew up addicted to television," he says
matter-of-factly of his upbringing in Cherry Hill, N.J., just outside
of Philadelphia. (Philly region patois explains why he pronounces his
surname Sha-PIE-ro.) "Most of the seminal events of my life
happened in front of the TV-the Phillies winning the World Series
in 1980, Bill Clinton winning the election."

The
two-night 1982 PBS broadcast of the stage play The
Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
"changed
my life," Shapiro says. While he coveted a job in TV, theatre was a
realistic start. At U. Mass Amherst, he continued his focus on
theatre but left for New York before earning a degree.

After
knocking around the downtown theatre world, Shapiro connected with
legendary director George C. Wolfe, who hired him as head of
marketing for the New York Shakespeare Festival. Hit campaigns for
the Patrick Stewart-led production of The
Tempest
and
Bring
in da Noise, Bring in da Funk
followed.
(The only two posters on the walls of Shapiro's modest office are
from those 1990s theatre days.) Shapiro then formed his own branding
firm, with a scope wider than the stage.

The
leap to television came a week before 9/11, when former client Court
TV hired Shapiro to run marketing. Court's shift from its namesake
legal news focus to the more potent mix of forensics and mystery
prompted Ed Carroll, now COO at AMC Networks, to give Shapiro the
reins at IFC. Ratings and revenue surged as the seeds for Portlandia
and
other series were sown, and Shapiro also guided Sundance toward
originals and away from its well-worn library of indie films.

A
Next Chapter

Rebranding
was a rush. But after long years of double-duty and facing a logjam
in AMC's top management ranks, Shapiro felt open to a new chapter.
Jim Berk, CEO of Participant, spoke to a number of top-tier players
in his search for the company's TV head. But Shapiro stood out for
his unusual mix of qualities, many of which stem from the theatre.

In
addition to a "productive scrappiness," Shapiro also adds
marketplace acumen, passion, persistence, and a sense of humility,
Berk says. "He gets away with occasionally being a pain in the ass,
and by that I mean relentless, because he has such a strong belief in
what he's saying. He brings a sense of positive disruption, which
enhances an organization instead of destroying it so it can be
rebuilt. That's really rare."

Politically
active and a board member of Ghetto Film School and Women in Cable
Television, Shapiro got energized by Participant's aim to make
compelling TV and also galvanize social action. He signed on as
Participant's first TV employee, a roster that he has steadily
upped to 80.

"I
am a big agent of change," Shapiro says. "The idea of building a
clock rather than just telling time-that's what I am interested
in."

Evan Shapiro

Title: President, Pivot

Education: University of Massachusetts Amherst, attended 1985-88

Employment Highlights: Director, marketing, Public Theater/ N.Y. Shakespeare Festival, 1994-96

Founder/ president, FourFront, 1996-2001

Senior VP, marketing, Court TV, 2001-04

Senior VP, marketing, IFC, 2004

Executive VP and general manager, IFC, 2004-08

President, IFC TV and Sundance Channel, 2008-12

Current title since May 2012

Personal: Born April 28, 1967; wife, Jill; children Jenna, 18, and Jamie, 15

 

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