No one would dispute that it's gotten pretty noisy out there. Individual media consumers are acting as their own mini- (or sometimes maxi-) brands, Instagramming and tweeting and kicking up all manner of digital dust. That, plus the explosion of original programming and digital platforms—many with a novelty idea and war chests to fund a marketing splash—means TV brands have to do a lot more than buy a few ads on the side of a bus. All of which makes our 2013 class of Brand Builders that much more of a celebrated crew. They exemplify a rare combination of original thinking, operational savvy and resourcefulness. The honorees—Kevin Beggs of Lionsgate, Jacqueline Hernandez of Telemundo Media, David Rone of Time Warner Cable and Vivi Zigler of Shine America—will be acknowledged during PromaxBDA, to be held June 18-20 in Los Angeles. Stick with this quartet if you want to see how to get heard amid all the noise.
Television Group President, Lionsgate
When Lionsgate Television Group president Kevin Beggs first joined the company in 1998, shortly after its founding, the mission wasn't to cultivate a brand, but merely to stay in business.
"We were a start-up," he says, noting that an entrepreneurial attitude still drives the company. Initially taking branding cues from its legacy movie studio, Lionsgate eventually developed "expertise in provocative, auteur-driven signature television programming that I think did build a brand over time."
Now the studio has 26 series on 19 networks, including Mad Men, Anger Management, Nurse Jackie and Nashville, and 19 Primetime Emmy awards to its name. Under Beggs' 15-year watch, annual revenue from Lionsgate's TV division has risen from $8 million to nearly $380 million.
Beggs calls the decision to enter the distribution business while prepping Weeds at Showtime a "milestone" moment for the studio. Besides Weeds selling well internationally, the expansion helped build the infrastructure that paved the way for Lionsgate to get involved with AMC's Mad Men, which has won four consecutive drama series Emmys.
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The emergence of original programming on cable and now the proliferation of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon has also been key to informing Lionsgate's creative choices. "All of that has favored the kind of programming that we've been putting forth, which traditionally, for some of the larger studios, it would have been less interesting, or not as financially rewarding, or too much work relative to the overhead and obligations to maintain a giant infrastructure," Beggs says.
Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts last month that the company will be producing more shows for SVOD providers, which Beggs sees as not only increased odds for getting creative material in front of an audience but an opportunity to make Lionsgate an early adopter in an increasingly important part of the television business. "If we can be one of the top providers in that space, I think we'll expand on the original vision which was initially, 'Let's be in the cable space where nobody else wants to play,'" Beggs says. "While other places are still figuring out, 'Do we even want to be in that business?' we'd like to have multiple shows."
While those shows run the gamut from the upcoming prison-set Netflix dramedy Orange Is the New Black to an animated comedy from Phil Rosenthal in development at Amazon, Beggs says the studio's brand filter includes a personal upside. "These are things that we would watch whether we worked at Lionsgate or not," he says. "Not many people honestly can say that about the shows they work on."
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COO, Telemundo Media
When an established media player goes through a rebrand, it can often make it or break it. Last year, Telemundo took that chance when it launched a new brand identity that spoke to the "duality" of its U.S. Hispanic audience with the "Power of T."
In May, the Spanish-language broadcaster reported that it had delivered its best primetime season ever, growing 9% to an average 1.33 million total viewers and 694,000 adults 18-49. As it turns out, the new brand identity made it -- in large part thanks to the efforts of COO Jacqueline Hernandez.
"The goal was to be familiar to everyone who knew us before," Hernandez says, "but at the same time, feel very modern, contemporary and very empowered, like our viewers are now."
With seasoned marketer Hernandez leading the charge, Telemundo launched its new brand identity around December to capitalize on the festivity of the holidays, and that excitement carried throughout the season.
Telemundo is now focusing on digital with the launch of its TV Everywhere service, TelemundoMás, and its new multiplatform production studio, Fluency -- which, if you ask Hernandez, is the network's most exciting new project.
Fluency was the answer to Telemundo's multiplatform research (Hernandez calls herself a bit of "research geek") that showed Hispanics, just like everyone else, consume content in a variety of ways. The Los Angeles-based studio will develop and produce original content both in English and in Spanish. Its first two series, La Buena Mala and ISA, are soon going to market, says Hernandez.
"It's great to be able to tell stories that have different windowing opportunities, different distribution platforms and different ways to reach consumers," she adds.
Hernandez has relied on research to help define, shape and launch Telemundo's brand. Two months after the rebranding, Hernandez said research showed more than 80% improvement on brand perception.
And now, Telemundo can provide its advertisers with more research. It has struck a partnership with Vision Critical and Symphony Advanced Media to create two 5,000-member viewer insight communities that will measure four-screen media consumption by Hispanic viewers using SymphonyAM 's cross-media tracking technology. The "Mi Telemundo" community will target Spanish-dominant Hispanics, while "Tu Pulso Latino" focuses on bilingual, millennial Hispanics.
Though Hernandez may indeed be a "research geek," she also loves marketing, as is pretty evident in the success of the rebrand that puts Telemundo front and center. "You're creating moments that are going to make an impact on consumers and viewers," she says.
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President, TWC Sports, Time Warner Cable
Rights to televised sports, which by definition happen live, are among the most valuable commodities in the TV marketplace in today's time-shifted world.
That's why Time Warner Cable, shortly after nabbing a landmark 20-year agreement to become the exclusive rights holder to the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers in Southern California, brought David Rone on board as president of its emerging sports division.
"It's the last vestige of 'must-see' live programming," Rone says of live sports telecasts. "With almost everything else, consumers are entertaining themselves on a time-shifted basis."
Aside from leading the newly launched Time Warner Cable SportsNet and its Spanish- language version -- which is the only 24/7 regional sports network dedicated to Hispanic audiences in the U.S. -- Rone spearheaded TWC's 25-year local rights deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, beating out incumbent Fox Sports in the process.
The upcoming SportsNet LA will be run by the Dodgers, which Rone says was the team's decision after seeing the successes that New York's Yankees and Mets have had with their own RSN s. "Ultimately, they decided to do that and utilize us as a facilitator to getting them there," Rone says of the Dodgers.
Time Warner Cable will be the charter distributor, carrying the service throughout Southern California and Hawaii. TWS also will serve as the exclusive advertising and affiliate sales agent.
With the Lakers' season having come to an uncharacteristically early end, Rone has been conducting a year-end review of the new network's inaugural coverage of the team. TWC SportsNet also carries the WNBA's Sparks and MLS' Galaxy.
"We definitely want to evolve," says Rone. "We're extremely happy with the breadth and depth of programming that we created for Lakers fans."
He says that for Time Warner Cable's second year, he'd like to increase the amount of shoulder programming and other studio shows. "We took a programming approach of creating depth and access around the Lakers brand," says Rone, who continues that he is looking to create an "immersive" experience for fans.
Going forward, Rone says Time Warner Cable will look at markets where the operator has a large footprint of subscribers and consider "opportunities where it might make sense for us to have direct relationships with premium content holders."
While the sports world is anticipating Fox's challenge to ES PN with Fox Sports 1, this highly competitive marketplace finds opponents duking it out on the local stage as well. And Rone's quarterbacking skills have put TWC right in the mix with rabid fans.
"Live sports is the one thing that everyone still has to see on an appointment basis," Rone says. "When that game [starts], people want to see it then, there and wherever they are."
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President, Shine 360° and Digital, Shine America
Vivi Zigler knows from adaptation. Before joining TV producer and distributor Shine America in 2012, she spent nearly 20 years at NBCUniversal, working in marketing, advertising and programming roles with titles ranging from senior VP of marketing and advertising services for the NBC Agency to executive VP of current programs for NB C Entertainment. She once ran marketing for Bravo, and afterwards, the production of NBC's comedy and drama series. Zigler ended her tenure at NBCU as president of digital entertainment -- a perfect final stop before taking over Shine's digital media operation.
With a journalism degree from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, and a budding career working at television stations, Zigler could have easily become a journalist -- and she nearly did. But at her core, Zigler maintains that she's more of a "marketing person. I think of myself as a sort of matchmaker, wanting to match content with the right audience and vice versa," she says.
And the formula has worked. Zigler has won five Emmys -- including the Interactive Emmy in 2008 for NBC's Heroes and two for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
To Zigler, the interconnectedness of the industry's various disciplines and verticals makes it easy to switch hats. "There's a curiosity about, 'Hey, that looks interesting! How does that work?'" she says. It's this curiosity that attracted her to the digital arena.
Zigler first stepped into digital media at NB CU, intrigued by the various ways people interact with a program: "They're hating something they just watched," she says. "They're recommending and loving something. They're taking a poll about it. They're connecting with other like-minded people across the globe or in their hometown."
Zigler praises television for the enormous creativity that she's seen lately, though she says there is still more risk-taking allowed in digital because "there's not 90 years of established rules, and therefore you don't have a preset in your mind of what you should and shouldn't do. The medium really allows you to play."
In her new role at Shine America, she can reap the benefits of both mediums. At a production company for the first time, Zigler is delighted that she is "so much closer to the creative. It's as if I've been around this side of the house, but never literally in it." She also likes the culture of her new workplace. "It's a very tennis-shoe-and-jeans sort of environment," she says with a laugh. "Everyone is running."
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