Membership Spotlight – HRTS In-Focus News, Notes & Commentary on the world of HRTS Thu, 11 May 2017 01:12:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Membership Spotlight – HRTS In-Focus 32 32 HRTS Member Profile: Albert Cheng Wed, 10 May 2017 23:55:17 +0000 by Taylor Hotvet

AlbertCheng-headshot1Albert Cheng is Chief Operating Officer of Amazon Studios. I recently had a chance to interview Albert to discuss what’s new in the digital world, favorite movies, and how to spot game-changing opportunities.

What was your first job in the industry? 

-Jeff Shell gave me my first job in the industry as Director of Business Development, Fox/Liberty Networks (now known as Fox Cable Networks)

What led you to HRTS?

-in the past, I became a mentor and mentored a number of talented individuals in JHRTS. Now, Amazon Studios is a member of HRTS.

What is your favorite memory from your career thus far? 

-having Steve Jobs sit down to meet my product and engineering team that put ABC shows on the iPad and to compliment them on a job well done – it was an incredible achievement for them, taking 5 weeks to build the app on top of our own video platform with no pre-market iPads to work with.

RECODE described you as “the guy who helped bring the networks’ TV shows to the internet”, referring to your work at ABC that led the way for modern viewing habits through streaming and digital platforms. That takes incredible foresight! Where do you see TV & movies expanding to next?

-over the internet, networks like Amazon Prime Video are global brands where consumers can get their TV and movies streamed anytime and anywhere!

What is one aspect of storytelling that has yet to be figured out? 

-I’m interested to see how a generation that has grown-up on YouTube starts to view or think about long form programming – will the narrative formats and storytelling devices that we currently know need to be different or will they stay the same?

From your experience working at both, what advantages does a platform like Amazon have over a traditional studio?

-we have the ability to connect our viewers with content creators in a more direct way. We can have a closer relationship with our viewers and engage them in different ways. We’re just getting started.

A trend within the industry seems to be to get consumers to interact and/or experience a single piece of content, with possible variations and/or extensions to the same story, across multiple platforms. What sort of predictions about the future landscape of the industry do you draw from this?

-digital platforms open up many more possibilities to engage fans across many mediums – the key is making sure that it’s organic and a natural extension to what viewers are looking for and where they typically find it. It has to be authentic and it has to be worth their time.

Do you have any tricks for spotting untapped opportunities that you can share? 

-always ask what can be done easier, better, or cheaper. Always assume that the rules of your world don’t apply to the next generation and the generation thereafter. I still see Boomers and some Gen Xers believe that Millennials will adopt their same habits and points of view – they won’t…ever… Very soon, they will be the dominant media viewer.

What are the 3 most important skills one should have to succeed in this rapidly changing industry? 

-read, learn and experience the new.

Lastly, what have been your favorite movies and or TV shows from the last two years? 

-the latest movie is Logan and latest TV show for me is one of our own originals, Patriot.

Taylor Hotvet is a coordinator in theatrical brand marketing at Universal Pictures and an HRTS volunteer, contributor and JHRTS member. She likes 1940s movies, 1960s music, and 2010s coffee.

She can be reached at

HRTS Member Profile: Jonathan Davis Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:24:34 +0000 FOX - Jonathan DavisJonathan Davis is President of Creative Affairs at 20th Century Fox Television.
We recently had a chance to interview him to discuss passion, adrenaline and New Jersey.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-I LOVE television. Growing up — TV connected me to the world outside of my own experience. I still have the credits of the giants embossed on my brain from these incredible shows --Jim Brooks, Jim Burrows, the Charles Brothers, Steven Bochco, Gary David Goldberg, Aaron Spelling to name a few. I knew early on that I wanted to be where the action was happening (and trust me, it was not in New Jersey).

Q: How did you first get involved with the HRTS?
-HRTS is such an exciting organization – it really gives you a peek behind the curtain. As a young executive, I always loved being invited to hear a showrunner or executive speak frankly about the challenges and opportunities in our business.

Q: What is a favorite memory from your career thus far?
-going to the ABC upfront the year we made MODERN FAMILY. Rather than just play a few clips, Steve McPherson broke with protocol and played the entire Modern Family pilot. The room went wild for it. And it validated what we all knew- this show was going to be a game-changer. We felt the same way when we got the finished pilots of EMPIRE and THIS IS US. Being involved in just one of these shows would have been amazing, but to have worked on all three has been beyond my wildest imagination.

Q: What do you look for when developing a new show?
-we look for a distinct voice that cuts through the clutter, and then we listen to that creator carefully and we move every obstacle out of their way to achieve their vision. We are nothing without our amazing producers.

Q: When developing new material at what point do you sense that you might have a hit?
-the feeling comes along at different times. Hearing a great pitch is intoxicating and fills you with adrenaline and possibility. Outlines and story docs can provide both highs and lows (this is the process where fluidity and calm matter most). And when you read a great script, you bust out of your office to engage your coworkers – "We got one! Let's get it made!"

Q: What was it like working with Robin Williams?
-incredible. What an amazing, funny, thoughtful man.

Q: How are millennials similar to or different from past generations of viewers?
-just like past generations, millennials want to be captivated by undeniable storytelling-- that's where it all starts. I guess the biggest difference is that millennials are accustomed to choice and opportunity in a way we weren't growing up, pre-DVRs and DVDs and streaming services. They love binge watching and the ability to view whatever interests them on demand. So for them, there is no "I'll just watch whatever is on." There's too much content available for anyone to settle for anything they aren't passionately interested in watching. So we need to make superior content that can be devoured on any platform at any time. As television viewers, we all want to feel the rush of a rich, enthralling story. We want to engage our friends, coworkers and relatives about the amazing stories we have just been told.

Welcome New HRTS Members Thu, 20 Oct 2016 18:16:15 +0000 We would like to take this opportunity to welcome the following new members to HRTS. Should you have any questions about your benefits as a member, please email us at or call 818-789-1182.

New HRTS Members

Phillip Segal - Original Productions
Eli Holzman
 - The Intellectual Property Corporation
Tobey List - Pivot/Participant Media
Eric Gronemeyer - Discovery Communications
Frank Donner - BLKBX Creative Group
Gary Rosenson - Playboy TV, LLC
Christopher Smith - NBC Universal
Alireza Ghaemian - Levity Entertainment Group

Welcome New HRTS Members! June 2016 Wed, 01 Jun 2016 22:16:24 +0000 We would like to take this opportunity to welcome the following new members to HRTS. Should you have any questions about your benefits as a member, please email us at or call 818-789-1182.

New HRTS Members

Kristen Agee - 411 Music Group
Joshua Raphaelson - PPI Releasing, LLC
Rob Markovich - Fathom Events
David S. Monks Jr. - Sony Pictures Television
Matthew Seamons - Crimson Media
David Barron
Jennifer R. Ortega - MTV Networks
Raymond Jimenez - Embolden Entertainment
Kris Emery - Participant Media/Pivot
Benjamin Hein - Hazy Mills Productions
Andrew Cohen - The ACC
Brian Raboli
Gary Marsh - Disney Channel Worldwide
Scott Barbour - REAL Entertainment
Brady Connell - Base Camp Films, LLC
Enrique Guillen - NBC Universal
Ritch Colbert - PPI Releasing, LLC

HRTS Member Profile: Stephen J. Davis Wed, 17 Feb 2016 01:22:12 +0000 Steve Davis HeadshotStephen J. Davis is executive vice president and chief content officer for Hasbro and an HRTS Board member. I recently had a chance to interview Stephen to discuss brand building, wall dropping and time bending.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very diverse experience professionally. Virtually everything I’ve done over the last 15 to 20 years has in some way related to content-- content creation, content distribution and the new shifting paradigms of content. I feel so fortunate to be in a business that continues to re-invent itself and move itself forward with so many different challenges in creative ways. I honestly can’t think of a better time to be in our business. With the convergence of so many different opportunities to create content and so many different platforms to distribute content, it’s really about great storytelling and creating great characters and expansive worlds. To be able to do that every day is really a privilege.

Q: How did you first get involved with HRTS?
-Dick Lippin has been a phenomenal colleague for a long time. He first introduced me to HRTS as an organization that, at its heart, had the new paradigm of Hollywood in mind and was a center of excellence for networking and sharing great ideas and information. To have the opportunity to be part of the organization has been and continues to be a terrific experience. Attending events across town with some of the best and brightest in our business and being able to have one-on-one conversations with them all under one roof, is a great opportunity which not a lot of people have a chance to experience. Some of my fondest memories are just being in the room, being present with some of the great thinkers in our industry. I thank Dick for creating that opportunity for me many years ago. To this day, I continue to sit with Dick at all of the HRTS functions and plan to continue this tradition.

Q: What is the current state of the children and family entertainment market, and how has it changed in the past decade?
-There has never been a better time, certainly in my professional career, to be in the kids and family business. There are more ways to reach kids and to be engaged with kids and families to deliver immersive experiences on different platforms. Kids are using technology at a much earlier age, so we’re able to create these tremendous experiences that not only kids enjoy but that also appeal to the entire family.  That’s a direct result of technology and expanding distribution channels. The current generation of kids is embracing the technological revolution that’s taking place in our business which is helping to drive content and changing the kind of content that’s made available. And yet the traditional broadcast business is also very robust and the opportunity to create immersive experiences on the big screen is still available. As I look at the pockets of the business that support our industry, it is all just green fields.

There’s this democratization of content, where great stories are being told, great characters are being created outside of the walled content garden that you and I talked about 10 years ago -- and now, tearing down the walls has allowed for greater freedom to make different kinds of content that’s appealing to a variety of demographics. There’s a home and a place for this kind of content and that’s very exciting.

Q: How are kids bending time?
-There’s a great statistic: kids are consuming on average 11 hours of media in seven hours, because they’re multimedia-tasking. They’re on their mobile phones, they’re on their tablets, they’re watching television, they’re texting. They’re taking the best of distribution channels and the best of content that is made available and they’re consuming all of that content simultaneously. So they are literally bending time with the hours dedicated to content consumption. It presents all kinds of interesting opportunities and challenges with respect to how to create stories that will resonate in an environment where kids will multimedia task. It heightens what we have always tried to achieve – focusing on the importance of being authentic and relevant and getting to the heart of the story as quickly and seamlessly as possible so that it continues to resonate in whatever form a kid may be consuming it.

Q: What is the Allspark?
-Our film label is called Allspark Pictures = a bit of a fun homage to the life force of Transformers. Allspark allows us to fund, calendarize and market certain films that are strategic priorities of the company, with greater flexibility. Our first full length animated feature, My Little Pony: The Movie, is being produced through Allspark Pictures. We will continue to distribute our Allspark films thru major studio distribution partners In the case of My Little Pony, we are partnering with Lionsgate.

Q: What is the power of Yo Kwon Do?
-We have a joint venture partnership with Alpha, which is a terrific, very progressive consumer products company based in China and we’re doing a number of projects with them including Blazing Team. We’re just premiering the show globally and we’re very optimistic that it’s going to do well.

Q: How are things shaping up in your initiatives with Sony Music?
-We’ve just begun our relationship with Sony. Early indications are that it’s going to be very fruitful and it really opens up a number of opportunities for us to continue to broadly expand our portfolio and to get more music and entertainment into the hands of kids, who are very much driven by music. Music is ever-present in kids’ lives and so it’s just natural that we would expand that business through our relationship with Sony.

Q: How do you develop content across multiple platforms while building your core brands?
-At the heart of building core brands is creating content that can work effectively across multiple platforms. I think that goes to the heart of starting with great stories, great characters, great brands and recognizing that there are certain platforms that lend themselves to a particular type of content. We’re making traditional 22-minute content for television, full length feature films, and also recognizing that there is a place for shorter form content.  We recognize that the power of content is in the hands of consumers - and allowing consumers to use our brands to create their own content expressions, to be inspired by what we are seeding in the marketplace. This is the democratization of content –and there really are no walled gardens anymore. When you sit down to plot out deep storytelling you understand that it’s going to live on lots of different platforms and can be engaging in lots of different ways. The walls have come tumbling down.

Q: How does consumer insight factor into the development process?
-Consumer insights really influence everything that we do. We’re committed to listening to consumers and having an ongoing dialog to fully understand what they like and dislike, including the play patterns to which our consumers respond and the types of content with which they engage. We put storytelling and consumer insights at the center of our “brand blueprint strategy” – to activate our brands across television and movies, immersive entertainment experiences and digital gaming, consumer products and toys and games. At the heart of that is a keen understanding of what consumers are really asking for, through the daily dialog that we have with them.

Welcome New Members: Feb 2016 Thu, 11 Feb 2016 00:59:30 +0000 We would like to take this opportunity to welcome the following new members to HRTS. Should you have any questions about your benefits as a member, please email us at or call 818-789-1182.

New HRTS Members

Ash Avildsen – Sumerian Records
Jenny Birchfield-Eick – JBE Productions
Rasha Drachkovitch – 44 Blue Productions
Stephanie Drachkovitch – 44 Blue Productions
Michael Esser – Dramaworks
Matt Forde – BBC Worldwide
Lyle Gamm – Participant Media / Pivot
Deborah Harpur – Movie Mogul, Inc.
Josh Murphy – Pilgrim Studios
Ana Alicia Ortiz – Quebrada Entertainment, Inc.
Kurt Patino – Patino Management Company
Tamara Rothenberg – Netflix
Dan Rupple – Mastermedial International
Yafes Sahin – Walt Disney Company
Michael Spindler – Glass Ratner Advisory & Capital Group LLC
Robert ToTeras – Film-Noise Network
Susana Voets – BBC Worldwide Productions
Special Member Profile: Eric Neumann Thu, 29 Oct 2015 23:45:41 +0000 Eric NeumannThe JHRTS is the junior membership division of the HRTS and continues our organization’s bi-coastal tradition of networking and community building by nurturing those young professionals at the assistant through manager levels. I recently had a chance to interview former JHRTS New York President, Eric Neumann, a digital native who has made the transition to the creative side.

Eric transitioned from the business side, picked up a microphone 5 years ago and has become one of hottest rising star stand up comedians in New York selling out multiple clubs and venues. One of his most prominent shows to date, was that in September of 2015, he became the first breakout artist of the year to sell out Caroline's on Broadway. He is currently working on a web-series and writing multiple pilots.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?

A: I grew up in NYC and loved watching movies since I was like 4 years old. I was obsessed with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Terminator 2 made me want to work in the business. I was absolutely blown away by it.

Q: What is a favorite memory from your career thus far?

A: I couldn't find a job out of college so decided to get a paid internship in this tiny agency, and by paid I mean $10 a week plus a metrocard. My second week there I went to the bathroom and checked my phone and got an email from ICM offering me an assistant position.

Q: How did you first get involved with the JHRTS?

A: while I was at ICM I was approached by the former president to do an agents panel. I did it. We had a pretty nice turnout. I joined the board, and months later, became president.

Q: What prompted you to transition from the business side to the creative side of the industry?

A: I love the business side of the industry. It's challenging and exciting, but I had this voice inside of me that i couldn't ignore. I knew I needed to be on stage, and work on my craft consistently, and that's what I've been doing for the last few years.

Q: What advice would give someone considering a similar transition?

A: look, it's scary. You're diving head first into the unknown, but that's also what makes it exciting. Nothing in entertainment is "safe" but the talent side is increasingly unsafe. Don't be afraid of that. If you have the voice inside of you that tells you to perform, don't ignore it. It will never go away. Make sure you have a job so you can pay rent, eat, and take a cab once in a while if you really need to. Other than that, don't worry about anything else. Just go out there and be you. There's no time like the present.

Q: In today’s world, what is funny?

A: honesty. Raw and real. I think that's the biggest part of my development. I used to think "write funny". Now I'm like "write honest, and eventually it will be funny".

Q: What are some of the ways in which comedy has adapted to the time-shifted, on-demand era?

A: there's so much comedy now. It's a very over-saturated market. Web series, sketches. It's not just about "being funny" anymore. It's about a following. If you can get followers, you can be a star.

Q: How do you establish and maintain a transmedia presence?

A: just build your brand. Figure out who you are and get better at being you. I think that's one of the most challenging parts of it when you first start. You don't really know your voice. Once you find it, voice it, and get a freakin Twitter account.

For more on Eric, visit his website:

Welcome New Members: Oct 2015 Thu, 29 Oct 2015 19:22:39 +0000 We would like to take this opportunity to welcome the following new members to HRTS. Should you have any questions about your benefits as a member, please email us at or call 818-789-1182.

New HRTS Members

Jonathan Baruch – Rain Management Group
Michael Bouson – Authentic Entertainment
Matthew Gardea – John Wells Productions
Jinny Howe – John Wells Productions
David Knoller – Knollwood Productions
Lauren Lexton – Authentic Entertainment
Doug Mirabello – Authentic Entertainment
Lawrence Mortoff – Atlantic Screen Productions
Benjamin Odell – 3Pas Studios
Jessica Pavao – 3Pas Studios
Christine Pham – Pivot/Participant Media
Monica Richardson – Inwood Girl Productions, LLC
Rebecca Segal – Sky Networks
Christina Spitzer-Thornton – Pivot/Participant Media
Todd Thicke – Pivot/Participant Media
Jeffrey Weaver – Authentic Entertainment
Rob Wolken – John Wells Productions
Welcome New Members: August 2015 Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:52:47 +0000 We would like to take this opportunity to welcome the following new members to HRTS. Should you have any questions about your benefits as a member, please email us at or call 818-789-1182.

New HRTS Members

Sharon Altman – NSBN LLP CPA's & Business Consultants
Raf Berardinelli – Pivot
Steve Bilchik – Faculty Productions
Becky Brooks – CBS TV Distribution
David Eilenberg – Turner Broadcasting System
Irene Gustaitis – Sony Pictures Television
Thom Hinkle – Turner Broadcasting System
Carolyn Hommel – Participant Media
Dave Howe – Syfy
Christina Jokanovich – FremantleMedia North America
Kimberly Kleid – FremantleMedia North America
Dan Kupetz – CBS Television Studios
Susan Levison – VH-1
Bill McGoldrick – Syfy
Erin Mechanic – Spike
Jason Meredith – Greener Productions, Inc.
Ann Miyagi – The CW
Katherine Nelson – Syfy
Chris Philip – Televisa USA
Erin Ryder – Tremendous Entertainment
Craig Schectman – Participant Media
Arune Singh – Syfy
Chip Sullivan – NBC Universal Television Group
Tracy Thompson – Rogers & Cowan
Mark Weissman – Turner Broadcasting System

HRTS Member Profile: Belisa Balaban Thu, 25 Jun 2015 00:12:56 +0000 Belisa Balaban

Belisa Balaban

Belisa Balaban is Executive Vice President of Original Programming at Participant Media’s Pivot. I recently had a chance to interview Belisa to discuss talent, It Gets Better and the heart of the television business.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
I grew up in New York where I was lucky to go see theater regularly - I read plays and studied dramaturgy, and eventually started directing in college.  After graduating I had an internship at the Circle Repertory Company in New York. I loved supporting the playwrights and directors – it was a dream come true to be a part of that community.  I went from there to casting, and that was what introduced me to television.

Over the course of my career, I've worked on a wide range of projects and genres from documentary to musical comedy; I've been a producer as well as an executive, and I can say that I truly love all of it. The technology changes, the business side changes, but telling stories, and helping others to tell stories that have an impact remains as exciting and gratifying as my first days in the theater. Whether I'm producing a documentary and learning about a new world by embedding myself and experiencing it from the inside, or working at a network at a time when the landscape is changing and we all have to figure out new ways to get our content seen, I love finding new ways to tell great stories.

Q: How did you first get involved with the HRTS?
I started attending HRTS events when I moved to LA from New York fifteen years ago.  Being in those rooms felt like I had arrived in the heart of the television business. Coming from New York at that time, I didn’t have a personal perspective into the scope of the business.  Coming to HRTS always exposed me to great insights and helped put what I was doing into a far broader context. And it still does!

Q: What is a favorite memory from your career thus far?
Being a part of the design and launch of Pivot has been one of the most creatively exciting and challenging things I’ve ever done. I’ve worked in quite a few start-up-type situations over the years, but this was work on a scale that overshadows everything else.

I love the Participant mission to create entertainment that can affect positive social change. It’s a unique opportunity to design programming that will have an impact beyond the industry. The chance to work on a directive like this also attracts an incredibly talented group of people, and I’m lucky that the group I’m working with now is one of the best and tightest teams I’ve ever been a part of.

Q: What do you look for when developing a new show?
Complex characters and setting, in a world you want to spend time exploring, but a relatively simple, clear premise that sets action in motion.

Also, whether it’s scripted or unscripted, for me any great project starts with the talent.  Do I want to spend time in the world that this writer can create?  Do I want to spend time with the people this documentary will follow?

My boss at the WB, Jordan Levin, would always ask writers personal questions during a pitch, to see if there was a story hiding in there that they would actually rather be pitching. It was a great lesson because it often yielded even stronger ideas that came from personal experience. I always want to know, 'why does this writer/producer want to tell this story?' I want to know that I am getting a combination of talent and idea that is going to create something unique and something that can last.

Q: When developing new material at what point do you sense that you might have a hit?

I know I am working on something special when it feels easy: ideas flow and build on each other, when I find myself looking forward to reading or watching it for the umpteenth time.

But knowing when a show is a hit is much harder. There are those projects that feel special in the way I just described that don’t connect with a big audience and there are shows that never feel easy that do connect.

Q: What are some of the keys to the ongoing success of Hit Record on TV?
There is always something new and unexpected in Hit Record on TV – even from one segment to the next. The concept and structure of the show invites everyone to experiment. It’s rare to see celebrities collaborating with this vast and diverse a community of mostly non-professional creators – audiences get to see them as artists willing to play for the joy of it.

The star of the show is the collective and the idea of group collaboration. And that group has composed and recorded brilliant music that you can’t get out of your head and films that are deeply touching.  Ideas raised across each episode keep you thinking long after the show has aired.

Q: How are Millennials similar to or different from past generations of viewers?
I think at this point, we are all well aware that Millennials and generations after them have the expectation that they should be able to watch what they want, when they want.  Millennials frequently note that when they are watching cable, it is mostly on the DVR.  They also expect high quality options that resonate with their values and interests.  Sharing what they watch on social media becomes another way to self-identify, get their news, and to connect with others who have common interests.  In fact, with limited money and resources, Millennials see being informed and spreading the word on social media as forms of action. Those changes in viewing and sharing patterns affect all of us.

Q: How do you see the industry changing over the next few years?
I think that is something all of us are trying to figure out! It’s a time of uncertainty and possibility all at once. We may see increased consolidation of traditional distribution platforms as viewing patters change, and we all look for efficiencies.  But we may also see technological and business innovations that ultimately expand the way audiences engage with those distributors.

I am personally very excited about how television is becoming increasingly global – it forces us to think about projects and deals differently.  The way we finance projects and where we look for revenue is going to change because it has to, but television content is creatively stronger and more desired than ever, so it is actually a great time to ask consumers to support that content in new and evolving ways.

On the financial side, as an industry, we have to figure out how we track and monetize viewing as everything gets spread across platforms. We need to find new ways to calculate viewer engagement, and new ways to evaluate success. On the creative side, we need to protect the creative process in a time of company consolidation and vertical integration. We can’t allow business interests to outweigh creative without damaging the industry overall.

Q: Anything you would like to add?
Thank you so much for inviting me to share my experience and perspective here.  It’s an honor!