A Rising Group of Leaders Rides TV's Waves of Change

'B&C' spotlights emerging industry leaders who are keeping their companies on the cutting edge

When we cast the net for up-and-coming executives across media disciplines who have been making a distinctive impact, we had no way of expecting the variety and quality of the 40-and-under aged executives we’d find. You’ll read here about impactful engineers, marketers with an eye to digital and data, successful consultants, negotiators and dealmakers who share a track record of success but who aren’t necessarily the bestknown — hence the Next Wave of Leaders. This class will also be saluted at a breakfast event in New York on Friday, June 16, closing out the inaugural VIDWeek (VID-week.com).


Sean Alford is an associate in the corporate department and a member of the Technology, Media & Telecommunications and Sports Law Groups at New York-based Proskauer. He started his career as an associate at the firm before spending a year on the business and legal affairs team at NBC Sports Group, rejoining Proskauer in 2014. He has had a hand in content distribution agreements shaping the way millions of consumers tap into and view content today. He has advised on deals for everything from traditional TV-affiliation agreements to the Internet (including groundbreaking TV everywhere distribution deals and over-the-top transactions). He has represented Hulu in several content distribution agreements connected to its upcoming new linear over-the-top programming service, and represented Dish Network in its highly-publicized content distribution deal with Viacom that included carriage of Viacom networks on Sling TV, Dish’s OTT service.

What is the “Next Wave” the industry will have to contend with most?
“Fundamental shifts in the concept of ‘must-have’ programming. We are already seeing big changes in what constitutes ‘must-have’ and where and how that programming can be accessed. I expect that those changes will only accelerate in the near term, which should lead to increased M&A activity and some significant shifts in leverage when it comes to content licensing deals and advertising sales.”

Proudest accomplishment of 2016?
“Helping clients navigate through the current content renaissance. In 2016, I had the opportunity to work with a variety of clients on cutting-edge transactions that reflect the dynamic state of the media industry. From a virtual reality deal in sports and an investment in a digital-only sports network to the launch of a major virtual MVPD service and the rollup of several digital publications, I am proud to have worked with some incredible people on some exciting new beginnings.”


Dan Aversan and his team lead the development of next-generation ad capabilities, notably around audience targeting and advanced TV solutions, as a part of the company’s year-old Turner Ignite division. Based in New York, Aversano reports to Michael Strober, executive VP of client strategy and ad innovation for Turner Ad Sales, as well as co-head of Turner Ignite. Aversano and his team have been hard at work bettering Turner’s capabilities with spaces like audience targeting. Capabilities like AudienceNOW and TargetingNOW are now delivering results for clients, including stronger key performance indicator (KPI) delivery for their brands. Aversano and his team are focused on driving interactive, addressable and OTT advertising solutions, as well. In about five years with Turner, Aversano has also served as senior VP of client and consumer insights as well as VP of research and strategy for Turner Entertainment Ad Sales, supporting TBS and TNT ad-sales strategy. Prior to joining Turner, Aversano held various roles at Nielsen across its Watch and Buy businesses, most recently serving as VP of media and advertising analytics.

What is the “Next Wave” the industry will have to contend with most?
“Simply because there will be new platforms and new ways for consumers to experience content in the near future that we may not even know about (not to mention the industry’s struggle with it today), I am going to say measurement. We are awash with data and analytics, but how we put together the right data sources, standardize that across all stakeholders, and have everyone agree to the process is a massive wave that’s coming — we’ll all either come together and get pushed by this wave into the future, or it will potentially leave some of us lost at sea.”


Marcello Bellisario is the first head of casting and talent relations ever for Lionsgate Television, a department and VP position he created upon joining the company in 2014 after four and a half years at ABC and ABC Studios, overseeing the casting of Scandal (Kerry Washington, Joe Morton), How to Get Away With Murder (Viola Davis), Grey’s Anatomy and Revenge (Madeleine Stowe). His responsibilities have grown to include casting for all Lionsgate scripted series and all Starz original programming, too, after Lionsgate’s December 2016 acquisition of the premium programmer. He has worked closely with and supervised casting series and pilots for Jason Reitman and Helen Estabrook (Casual/Hulu), Oprah Winfrey (Greenleaf/OWN), Jenji Kohan (Orange Is the New Black/Netflix), Clyde Phillips (Nurse Jackie/Showtime and Feed the Beast/AMC) and more. He is currently overseeing the casting of upcoming series including Dear White People (Netflix), White Famous (Showtime), Dimension 404 (Hulu), Nightcap (Pop), and Manhunt: The UNABOMer (Discovery/Trigger Street).

What is the “Next Wave” the industry will have to contend with most?
“From a casting standpoint, the growing number of platforms for which series are being developed and produced has created great opportunities to showcase fresh talent who otherwise wouldn’t be seen and heard. Their embrace of diversity has ushered in a new wave of groundbreaking multicultural series for our global audiences, including Orange Is the New Black and Dear White People on Netflix, Greenleaf on OWN and the upcoming White Famous on Showtime. As an executive who is now working with two global brands, Lionsgate and Starz, I will continue to stay competitive and push the boundaries of what is possible with regards to casting and talent.”