Fifth Estater

Toying Around in Television

Hasbro Studios president bringing familiar brands to the small screen 4/26/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Stephen Davis

Title:
President, Hasbro Studios

Education:
B.A., Michigan State Univ., 1984

Employment:
MCI, manager of carrier relations/marketing, 1986-1989

Call Interactive, VP of sales and marketing, Western region, 1989

Players International, senior VP, 1989-1992

The Griffin Group, VP of entertainment and media development, 1992-1997

Carlton America, CEO, 1997-2002
 
Granada America, president, 2002-2005

Infospace, president of online and mobile media, 2005-2007

Family Entertainment Group, president/CEO, 2007-2009
Current position since 2009

Personal:
b. Jan. 30, 1962, in Cincinnati; married to Margaret; daughters Hannah and Cadence, son Will

Turning hit toys into hit television shows is hardly
child’s play, but Stephen Davis has a plan that relies on
sharing. As president of Hasbro Studios, his top priority is producing family-entertainment TV
shows based on Hasbro brands like
Transformers, G.I. Joe and My Little
Pony for The Hub, the company’s jointventure
startup network with Discovery
that is launching Oct. 10.

Steve DavisSo, after starting Hasbro Studios from
scratch last September, Davis stacked it
with two dozen top executives from
News Corp., Sony, Warner Bros. and
the Hasbro mothership. Then he created
a signature development and production
setup, assembling what he calls
“A-Teams” around every project the
company mounts. For each of approximately
25 productions underway, Davis
teamed up a showrunner with a genrespecifi
c development head at the studio,
someone from the original Hasbro product
being adapted and a development
exec from The Hub.

The A-Team works to support the
showrunner so “[the showrunner] has
everything necessary to re-imagine that
brand into television in the best possible
way,” he says, citing aspects from
the mythology of a product to support
for a creative vision. “Our responsibility
is to protect the brand and everything
Hasbro has spent considerable effort
and money to build, and to be sure that
translates first and foremost into great
TV. If you have a terrific brand and a
crummy television show—that doesn’t
serve anybody.”

Davis’ approach to building the studio
draws on an education in TV that
started by accident with one of the
industry’s most revered teachers, Merv
Griffin. Davis learned the importance of
“getting the best people working around
you” from the late TV legend. Griffin
gave the Hasbro Studios chief what
Davis calls “the best practical M.B.A. a
young person could have.”

Davis met Griffin after positions in
telecommunications led him to work for
a company that developed interactive applications
for Griffin’s Wheel of Fortune.
Griffin had a knack for throwing people
into disciplines they weren’t versed in so
they learned on the job. The philosophy
appealed to Davis. “We have a tendency
in any business, whether it’s the entertainment
business or the widgets business, to
be somewhat formulaic,” Davis says. “I’ve
always tried to break that mold.”

A taste for doing things differently led
Davis to spend much of his career working
in international TV. “In international
television, you could be doing business
in 180 different countries 180 different
ways,” he says.

Davis developed the A-Team approach “in the spirit of breaking the
old paradigm for development where
independent studios spend a lot of
time, a lot of money, a lot of which they
ultimately end up writing off because
they’re developing all kinds of things
they’re not really sure anyone wants to
buy,” he says. “I’ve written those checks
out of my own pocket.”

He was running his own family-fare
company, Family Entertainment Group,
when Hasbro called. Hasbro CEO Brian
Goldner says Davis is a perfect fit: “First,
obviously, was his experience producing
family-oriented content,” Goldner says.
“Second was his expertise in distributing
that content around the world. Third
was his outlook on how to create great
kid-oriented content, work with others,
engender the great spirit of teamwork
and collaboration.”

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
(Star Trek feature, Fringe, Alias), who
wrote the Transformer movies, are also
helming the animated Transformers TV
series for Hasbro and The Hub. Davis’
A-Team approach is working “remarkably
brilliantly,” Kurtzman tells B&C.
“There is a stigma about things being
done by committee creatively, but there
is so much to be done, so much of a well
to draw from,” Kurtzman says. “Everyone
feels protected to do their best work
because the message from the top down
is that you’re supported in your vision.”
Kurtzman adds that he and Orci would
“like to work with [Davis] forever.”

With 1,500 brands in Hasbro’s collection
that Davis can mine, he could be at
it forever—and he’d be happy to. “This
job has afforded me the opportunity to
pull together all of the experiences I’ve
had in my career,” Davis says. “It really
is a dream job.”

Stephen Davis

Title:
President, Hasbro Studios

Education:
B.A., Michigan State Univ., 1984

Employment:
MCI, manager of carrier relations/marketing, 1986-1989

Call Interactive, VP of sales and marketing, Western region, 1989

Players International, senior VP, 1989-1992

The Griffin Group, VP of entertainment and media development, 1992-1997

Carlton America, CEO, 1997-2002
 
Granada America, president, 2002-2005

Infospace, president of online and mobile media, 2005-2007

Family Entertainment Group, president/CEO, 2007-2009
Current position since 2009

Personal:
b. Jan. 30, 1962, in Cincinnati; married to Margaret; daughters Hannah and Cadence, son Will

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