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Next TV's 'The Watch List' 2020

Top row from left: Greg Peters, Neal Mohan, Alison Levin, Bozoma Saint John, and Shalini Govil-Pai. Bottom row from left: Sandeep Gupta, Andy Forssell, Peter Stern (CR: Apple), Krishan Bhatia, and Dwayne Benefield.
Top row from left: Greg Peters, Neal Mohan, Alison Levin, Bozoma Saint John, and Shalini Govil-Pai. Bottom row from left: Sandeep Gupta, Andy Forssell, Peter Stern (CR: Apple), Krishan Bhatia, and Dwayne Benefield. (Image credit: Future)

As the media, telecom and entertainment sectors re-foundation their businesses on video streaming, there are hundreds of executives with hands-on roles in the transformation, shaping the content, technology and business strategies for new and emerging platforms that driving the change and following along with the shifting habits of video consumers. 

In this special issue, Next TV has selected a cross-section of 25 executives, each serving influential companies in the streaming business, each working in very tactile ways to reimagine the video business. 

This list aims to offer a diverse representative sample of key decision-makers, spanning C-suiters to product mangers, working for production studios, SVOD and AVOD services, smart TV makers and other types of companies, and involved in a range of activities, including everything from content production technology development to business strategy to sales. 

Our methodology for selecting these executives was informed by our daily news cycle—which are the platforms, products and technologies driving the business, and who are key executives backing them with very hands-on roles? For this list, we didn’t necessarily aim for the top decision makers, or folks “under 40.” Again, we aimed for aimed for hands-on relevancy.

1. Greg Peters, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer, Netflix

2. Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer, YouTube

3. Alison Levin, Vice President, Global Ad Revenue and Marketing Solutions, Roku

4. Bozoma Saint John, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Netflix

5. Shalini Govil-Pai, Vice President and General Manager, Google TV & Android TV, Google

6. Sandeep Gupta, Vice President and General Manager, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon

7. Andy Forssell, Executive Vice President and General Manager, HBO Max

8. Peter Stern, Apple Business Leader for Video, News, Books, iCloud,  Advertising, Fitness Plus and Apple One, Apple

9. Krishan Bhatia, Executive VP, Business Operations and Strategy, NBCUniversal’s Advertising Sales Division

10. Dwayne Benefield, Vice President, Entertainment, T-Mobile

Michael Ahiakpor

Michael Ahiakpor

11. Michael Ahiakpor

Chief Product Officer, Tubi

Ahiakpor joined AVOD platform Tubi in 2012, as one of six original staff members in a business then known as adRise. During his tenure, he has led the startup’s product management, data science, design, user research, content experience, customer support and QA efforts. The company now has more than 33 million monthly active users across more than 25 device platforms. In March, Tubi was acquired by Fox for nearly $500 million.

Michele Barney

Michele Barney

12. Michele Barney 

Senior Vice President of Content and Programming, AT&T

The former mergers and acquisitions attorney is responsible for AT&T’s programming relationships and deal negotiations with a variety of content providers, ranging from premium networks to SVOD providers to cable networks, securing content distribution rights across AT&T’s traditional, OTT and mobile video platforms. She also oversees the content deals and scheduling for advanced formats, including 4K, HDR, Dolby Atmos, AR, VR and IoT for AT&T’s curated 4K channels.

Devin Emery

Devin Emery

13. Devin Emery 

Chief Product Officer and Executive Vice President of Content Strategy, CuriosityStream

With 13 million subscribers in 175 countries, CuriosityStream touts itself as the biggest publicly traded pure-play streaming video company behind Netflix. The SVOD service has carved out a niche in science and nature shows and  factual programming. Emery oversees innovation, development and design across all CuriosityStream platforms as well as strategic content creation for the brand. He was recognized as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in media in 2019.

Craig Erwich

Craig Erwich

14. Craig Erwich 

Senior Vice President of Content, Hulu

Since joining Hulu in April 2014, Erwich has overseen the straight-to-series orders for Hulu’s premium slate of originals, including award-winning series “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Ramy.” He has also spearheaded efforts to acquire libraries from other networks including AMC and Turner Broadcasting, while expanding Hulu’s film offerings through deals with partners including Epix and Magnolia Pictures. Hulu had 36.6 million subscribers as of Q3, Disney said.

Lauren Anderson

Lauren Anderson

15. Lauren Anderson 

Co-Head of Content and Programming, IMDb TV

In February, Amazon moved the content team for its fast-growing AVOD platform, IMDb TV, under the Amazon Studios management umbrella, putting Anderson in charge, along with Ryan Pirozzi. Anderson and Pirozzi oversee production, licensing, research and strategy for the free-to-consumer platform. Among free, ad-supported streaming platforms, IMDb TV stands out, not only with high-profile acquisitions like AMC’s “Mad Men,” but original shows including “Alex Rider.”

Michael Hawkey

Michael Hawkey

16. Michael Hawkey

General Manager, TiVo

Since 2015, the former Slingbox engineer has led growth initiatives for TiVo. This includes helping to oversee overall strategy and product offerings in multiple areas for the company’s User Experience group. That unit is key to TiVo’s master plan — that is, to differentiate itself by developing the kind of personalization and search-and-discovery features that truly cut down the complexity of finding something to streaming on television. 

Mike Hopkins

Mike Hopkins

17. Mike Hopkins

Senior Vice President, Prime Video and Amazon Studios

After roles at Sony Pictures Television and Hulu, Hopkins joined Amazon in February 2020, overseeing all aspects of the tech giant’s video entertainment businesses and reporting to CEO and chairman Jeff Bezos. Amazon doesn’t break out the number of active Prime Video users from its regular Prime subscribers, but as of January 2020, there were over 150 million Amazon Prime subscribers, a number that is expected to surpass 200 million this year.

Robert Gelick

Robert Gelick

18. Robert Gelick 

Executive VP & General Manager, Streaming Services and Chief Product Officer, ViacomCBS Digital

ViacomCBS is currently planning to rebrand its CBS All Access service under the Paramount Plus brand, which will roll out next year. Gelick leads ViacomCBS’ direct-to-consumer entertainment experiences and network-based sites, apps and SVOD services, including the CBS All Access subscription service, as well as the multiplatform experiences for Viacom-branded networks and the Smithsonian Channel. Gelick’s team also produces original online content to support CBS Television Network’s shows.

Amy Kuessner

Amy Kuessner

19. Amy Kuessner

Senior VP of Content Strategy and Global Partnerships, Pluto TV

Kuessner manages hundreds of deals with major Hollywood studios, TV networks, distributors, sports leagues, news and publishing outfits for ViacomCBS’ free streaming service, Pluto TV. The AVOD platform recently passed 28.4 million monthly active users in the U.S. and 7.5 million worldwide. The company expects to reach 30 million domestic users by the end of the year and is planning to expand to Brazil, followed by France and Italy in 2021. 

Chris Larson

Chris Larson

20. Chris Larson

Senior VP of  TCL North America

TCL introduced its low-priced smart TVs, powered by the Roku OS, into the North American market just two years ago. Today, TCL is the No. 2 brand, controlling 14% of the market, trailing only Samsung. The fast proliferation of these TVs is the biggest reason Roku is the top U.S. device platform. And Larson, a long-time top Toshiba sales exec, has led the team responsible for this growth. 

Jon Lin

Jon Lin

21. Jon Lin

Vice President of Product, Sling TV

Lin joined Sling TV earlier this year where he directs the Dish Network-owned live-streaming service’s product management and design functions. Lin oversaw the launch of Sling Watch Party, which lets subscribers invite up to three friends for co-viewing. He was also involved in the integration of OTA channels directly into the Sling TV user interface on LG Smart TVs. The virtual MVPD service recently reported that it has 2.5 million users. 

Val Boreland

Val Boreland

22. Val Boreland 

Executive Vice President, Content Acquisition, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming

Boreland oversees acquisitions across all NBCUniversal entertainment networks and platforms including NBC, USA Network, Bravo, E!, SYFY, Oxygen, Universal Kids, and Peacock. With the latter surpassing 22 million sign-ups within a few months of its national launch, Boreland and team have secured programming for Peacock from across NBCUniversal and beyond, including a wide variety of third-party networks and studios including A&E, ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, HISTORY, Nickelodeon, Showtime, ViacomCBS, Paramount, Lionsgate, Warner Bros and Blumhouse.

Michael Paull

Michael Paull

23. Michael Paull

President, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus

Paull is responsible for leading the Disney Plus and ESPN Plus streaming platforms including marketing, product and technology, data science, and business operations. Paull joined Disney in 2017 with the acquisition of Bamtech Media, where he served as CEO. Disney recently reported that its Disney Plus streaming service hit 73.7 million subscribers in its first year, exceeding expectations. The company is planning to launch a new general entertainment, streaming platform overseas in 2021 under the brand Star.

Katherine Pond

Katherine Pond

24. Katherine Pond

Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Vizio

Pond leads OTT distribution, content acquisition and strategic partnerships for Vizio. Since joining the consumer electronics company in 2012, she has initiated, negotiated and closed distribution, ad tech and licensing deals across content, technology, advertising and data verticals. She was named Concordia University’s 2020 Alumna of the Year for Professional Achievement and was chosen as one of Cynopsis’ 2020 Top Women in Media.

Soumya Sriraman

Soumya Sriraman

25. Soumya Sriraman 

Head of Prime Video Channels, U.S.

Sriraman recently joined Prime Video after serving as founding CEO and president of BritBox. Under her oversight, that niche SVOD channel grew to 1.5 million subscribers in just over three years. Prime Video Channels lets users subscribe to third-party networks and streaming channels ranging from HBO, Starz and Showtime, to niche fare like Shudder and Broadway HD. The Prime Video Channels model now accounts for a significant share of subscribers for many streaming services.