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Kevin Beggs is a real mensch. At least according to longtime colleague Nina Tassler, former chairman and adviser to CBS Entertainment.
“What I have always been very aware of is that he cares,” said Tassler, who first started working with Beggs in the late 1990s. “He’s as passionate about the quality of his content as he is about the health and well-being of his employees and his associates.”
Beggs joined Lionsgate in 1998, a year after the Canadian company was founded; he was hired to lead television drama development and he has steadily risen in the ranks.
He now oversees the company’s entire TV portfolio, which includes scripted and unscripted series. In total, Lionsgate supplies nearly 90 shows across 40 U.S. TV networks and boasts 29 Primetime Emmy Awards wins and 196 Primetime Emmy nominations.
Lionsgate’s current slate includes Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and Dear White People, Epix’s Graves, Hulu’s Casual and CMT/Hulu's Nashville.
Whether scripted or unscripted, Beggs says Lionsgate shows need one particular quality. “It all has to be noisy,” he said. “It has to be marketable without marketing in this peak television era.”
One of Lionsgate’s first “noisy” shows was Mad Men, which earned Lionsgate and AMC 16 Emmy Awards and 116 Emmy nods.
“Mad Men solidified AMC’s shift from a movie network to a brand that is synonymous with top quality storytelling, and with it we found the ideal partners in Kevin Beggs and Lionsgate,” Charlie Collier, president of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios, said. “Kevin and his teams were brave and visionary enough to jump into Mad Men when everyone else passed.”
Beggs also took a chance on Orange Is the New Black, pitching the Jenji Kohan project to Netflix not long after the streamer first dipped its toes in the original water with House of Cards. Now in its fifth season, the show has garnered four Emmy wins and 19 nominations.
Orange Is the New Black also broke ground for its portrayal of prisoners, race, sexuality and gender.
Its “noisiness” has allowed Lionsgate to depart from “the expected and the derivative,” Beggs said.
Beggs added that the industry’s recent evolution has “freed distributors from the burden of aggregating one notion of a mass audience.”
“That is incredibly liberating when one thinks about the diverse audience across the globe,”he said. “Our job as content suppliers and platform owners is to represent stories for as many audiences as possible, and Lionsgate is committed to being an aggressive first mover in diversity behind and in front of the camera.”
Beggs attributes his longevity at the company to Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer and vice chairman Michael Burns. When Feltheimer and Burns came aboard in 2000, they recapitalized the company and have worked to expand it with acquisitions such as Tri-Mark, Summit Entertainment, Artisan, Mandate and Debmar-Mercury.
Beggs also serves on the board of Pop, formerly known as TV Guide Network, now co-owned by Lionsgate Entertainment and CBS. Before MGM bought out Lionsgate’s stake in Epix, Beggs served on that network’s board as well, working on Epix from its inception.
Lionsgate’s high-profile acquisition of Starz, which closed in December 2016 to the tune of $4.4 billion in cash and stock, has also broadened Beggs and the TV group’s horizons. Beggs said the deals “have presented me with a variety of opportunities to consider the business from the platform perspective.”
The Bay Area-born executive first became interested in the entertainment industry when he was a kid. His parents didn’t look too fondly on TV — his mom considered it lowbrow, while his minister-turned-hippie dad thought TV was part of “the system” — so that made his TV and film viewing all the more special. “I was always TV starved, which I’m sure subconsciously informed my interest in getting into television,” said Beggs.
After graduating from the University of California at Santa Cruz, the politics and theater arts double major set his sights on directing theater and moved to Los Angeles. He eventually got his foot in the entertainment door through an accounting job on ABC’s FBI: The Untold Stories. He quickly moved to the production side before landing a job working on Baywatch, which after being canceled by NBC after one season had been revived in first-run syndication.
“What has always been exciting for me as a consumer and industry executive is the ability to tell stories and, through TV, film and the internet, tell them in an amplified way,” he said.
David Madden, president of original programming for AMC and SundanceTV, worked with Beggs while Madden was president of entertainment at Fox. He said Beggs knows his shows and the business inside and out. “He’s always been very smart about the projects that he’s brought to us, thinking about what was good for Fox,” Madden said.
But Beggs doesn’t sugarcoat pitches, Madden said. He lays the good and the bad on the table. Even with that honesty, Beggs is “always a pleasure to deal with,” he said.
Lionsgate Television has a number of high-profile projects in the pipeline, including an animated series at Fox based on Kevin Hart’s childhood, and voiced by the comedian.
“Before this content-rich television epoch, there were a handful of high-quality scripted series spread across the broadcast networks and cable,” Beggs said. “Today, the bar is so high and there is so much product that you’ve got to find a way to distinguish them.”
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