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The TV of tomorrow is coming faster than most people expected — and yet elements of it will stay the same. Networks and studios are still producing half-hour and hour-long shows — but sometimes designed for people who binge for hours at a time versus catching an episode week to week. Americans still watch a ton of linear TV — but might be paying a streaming service to do so instead of their local broadband provider. Thirty-second and minute-long commercials still dominate TV commercial breaks — but now these ads are becoming more personalized to the viewer.
TV is changing dramatically. Here are the key executives at the large media giants, wireless carriers, tech companies and everyone that is stuck in between as they duke it out for your time and money.
Kevin Mayer, Disney
Mayer is in charge of The Mouse House’s biggest priority: going direct to consumers with products such as Disney+ and ESPN+. It is going to cost Disney billions, but it is a bet worth making if the content giant wants to be better prepared for the future.
Kevin Reilly, WarnerMedia
Reilly, who led a turnaround at TNT and TBS in turning the networks from rerun repositories to Emmy-quality programmers, now has his biggest job yet: making the critical decisions on original and licensed content that will determine whether WarnerMedia can successfully take on Netflix and other streaming giants.
Jennifer Salke, Amazon
After some Emmy wins but not much cultural influence, Amazon rethought its studio business and spent $250 million for the rights to “The Lord of the Rings.” Salke now has the money and the IP to turn Amazon Studios into the big studio hitter Jeff Bezos wants it to be.
Jim Lanzone & Marc DeBevoise, CBS
CBS All-Access and Showtime have more than eight million subscribers combined and plan to get to 25 million by 2022. This is the dynamic duo overseeing the broadcaster’s massive digital operation, which has helped get the legacy giant a head start in going direct to consumer.
Cindy Holland & Channing Dungey, Netflix
Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos have already remade TV, but if we’re to look toward Netflix’s future, Holland and Dungey are critical. Both oversee Netflix’s original content deals, which include the globs of money the company has spent to poach big-name TV producers such as Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes.
Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal
As the patron saint of TV ad business, Yaccarino isn’t afraid of Google and Facebook. “Has a ‘view’ ever bought any of your products?” Yaccarino will ask advertisers, before collecting their upfront checks. Now, NBCU is coming for those digital giants by making its TV ad capabilities smarter.
Brian Lesser, Xandr
Can AT&T become a true threat to Google, Facebook and Amazon? It’s Lesser’s job to make it happen. Armed with data from 142 million wireless customers, tens of millions of pay-TV subscribers and access to some of the biggest entertainers in the business, he’s got a real chance.
Peter Naylor, Hulu
Hulu made $1.5 billion from advertising in 2018. No one else in OTT came close. And with Hulu’s plan to make half of its ad revenue come from “non-disruptive” ad formats (like those on pause screens), Naylor will help reshape how a significant number of people view ads on OTT.
Scott Rosenberg, Roku
If you plan to be in the OTT business, you can’t ignore Amazon, Hulu and Roku. Which means you can’t ignore Rosenberg, who heads up Roku’s work with media companies and advertisers.
Marc Whitten, Amazon
Amazon’s Fire TV boss. With 30 million monthly users, Fire TV is a key cog in Amazon’s ads business; critically important to anyone with a TV app; and has a chance to completely change how people find and watch their favorite movies and TV shows. (“Alexa, play ‘The Walking Dead.’”)
Kelly Merryman, YouTube TV
Merryman is the content dealmaker for YouTube TV. We don’t know how many subscribers YouTube TV has, but we do know it is a prized property inside YouTube. Merryman’s job is to make YouTube TV work, not just for cord-cutting consumers, but also as a profitable contributor to YouTube’s bottom line.
Meg Whitman, Quibi
The name makes people laugh. It’s probably not going to work. But it will be fascinating to see Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman try. Katzenberg is in charge of Quibi’s content. But Whitman’s in charge of the product, which will try to create a “mobile-first premium video” experience for users.
Carolyn McCall, ITV
As the boss of the UK’s biggest commercial free-to-air broadcaster, McCall doesn’t pull punches when it comes to facing TV’s new reality. Heightened competition from OTT has pushed the broadcaster onto the front foot. McCall is cognizant of the threat and plans to inject £40 million ($52 million) into media and marketing their on-demand platform ITV Hub, which has around 28 million users.