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Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: People

Dawn Airey to join Blackbird board

By Julian Clover

The former chief executive of Channel 5 is to join the board of cloud video platform Blackbird as a non-executive director.

Dawn Airey has worked in television for over 30 years. She headed up a unit of RTL Group, including Channel 5, where she was previously chairwoman and chief executive officer. She also worked as Managing Director of Global Content at ITV where she oversaw its UK and international production and content businesses. Prior to that, she was Managing Director, Channels and Services, at BSkyB, the UK’s largest pay-TV broadcaster.

Airey spent three years as CEO of Getty Images up to December 2018.

Ian McDonough, CEO of Blackbird, said: “It’s a real coup to have someone of Dawn’s calibre and media industry stature join our board. Her international experience and network make her an ideal candidate and aligns perfectly with our global strategy and the executive team are looking forward to working with her.”

Blackbird develops, markets and licenses its patented cloud video platform. The technology underpins multiple applications, which are used by rights holders, broadcasters, sports and news video specialists, esports live events and content owners, post-production houses, other mass market digital video channels and corporations.

WildBrain appoints Disney’s Elia Bouthors

By Robert Briel

Digital kids’ network and studio WildBrain has appointed Elia Bouthors as Strategy and Innovation Director, effective immediately.

In this newly created role, Bouthors will lead a team tasked with identifying and piloting new ways to engage WildBrain’s 300 million quarterly users and build and monetise brands across the WildBrain network. Bouthors reports to Jon Gisby, Managing Director of WildBrain.

Bouthors brings extensive knowledge and experience in kids’ content, digital and technology business strategy, corporate finance, and mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He most recently spent four years as Digital Strategy & Business Development Director at The Walt Disney Company, where he was responsible for identifying, developing and executing growth strategies for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

Bouthors’ appointment further strengthens the senior leadership team at WildBrain, following the recently announced appointment of Rachel Taylor, as Commercial Director.

“Elia’s arrival comes at a pivotal time for WildBrain as we explore new ways to engage our global audience with the content and brands they love,” said Gisby.

“His team will pioneer new ways for content to be discovered across our network, and identify collaborations with IP owners to grow new audiences and revenue. Elia’s background combines strategy and corporate finance with experience in both start-ups and studios, and he’s passionate about kids’ content, making him a perfect fit for WildBrain.”

“I am thrilled to be joining the WildBrain team to help write the company’s next chapter of development,” said Bouthors.

“This is a very exciting time for the media industry and WildBrain has done an amazing job at building creative and distribution expertise to thrive in a highly disrupted space. With such great brands, talent and agility, WildBrain has tremendous potential for innovation and growth, and I look forward to working with the team to bring content and experiences that kids around the world will love.”

EuroVoD welcomes six new members

By Robert Briel

EuroVoD, the network of European independent VOD platforms, welcomed 11 new members in 2018, as well as 6 new members since the beginning of 2019.

The group gathered for the General Assembly to discuss achievements from the past year as well as the challenges for the year to come.

The association presented a report on its activity in 2018, which has been an important year with a shift in strategy, with a focus now on training, networking, lobbying and fostering the competitiveness of the European VoD sector. Following this new trajectory, EuroVoD expanded and welcomed 11 new members in 2018, as well as 6 new members since the beginning of 2019, bringing the total number of members to 19 core members and 5 associate members (among which the latest newcomers: Zoo Digital, UK and MinersINC, India), coming from 18 countries and covering all the territories worldwide (34 territories from national and international platforms, and 4 global services), and presenting an average of 76% European films in the common catalogues of the members of the association.

The Board of Directors also reported on the successful first edition of the European VOD Meetings, supported by the Creative Europe MEDIA programme, whose next editions will take place in Venice (2-5 September 2019) and in Sofia (18-21 March 2020).

The first edition of the training gathered 89 executive professionals representing 69 companies coming from 24 countries, mainly European, but also from India, Colombia, Greenland, Mexico and US. The deadline for the application to the Venice workshop is June 30, which is a 4-days residential professional training programme taking place during the Venice Film Festival on the private island of San Servolo.

The General assembly was also an opportunity to strengthen the cooperation among the members through the development of common projects, sharing of resources, benchmarking and fostering a knowledge economy in the independent VOD sector, facilitating a collaborative management between VoD platforms and pooling resources to increase the competitiveness of the sector.

The discussion of EuroVOD acting as an inclusive point of reference for the European public institutions’ VoD services funding schemes was also addressed, as well as the growing cooperation with the European Audiovisual Observatory for the implementation of Lumiere VOD, launched April 16 this year.

During the General Assembly has also been elected the new Board of Directors: Jean-Yves Bloch / President – ContentScope (DE) universcine.de; José Antonio de Luna / Vice-President – Comunidad Filmin (ES) filmin.es, filmin.pt, filmin.mx; William Page / Secretary – FilmDoo (UK) filmdoo.com; Maxime Lacour / Treasurer – UniversCiné Belgium & Luxembourg universcine.be, uncut.be, uncut.lu, vod.lu; Andreas Wildfang / Administrator – EYZ Media (DE) realeyz.de; Kiril Gjozev / Administrator – CutAway (MK) cinesquare.net; and Estelle Bringer / Administrator – Filmoline (FR) filmotv.fr.

Volia CEO Gyorgy Zsembery to step down

By Chris Dziadul

Gyorgy Zsembery, the CEO of Ukraine’s leading cable operator Volia, is to leave the post on July 1.

Although he will take up a new appointment outside the country, Zsembery, who has been CEO for the past six years, will continue to contribute to the development of the company as vice chairman of the board.

The role of CEO will be assumed by Anton Dzyubenko, who was the director of interaction with clients at Volia up until September 2017.

He then headed by the Providence-owned TV Play Baltic, which operates in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

David Thomas named Freesat Head of Product

By Julian Clover

Freesat has appointed David Thomas as its new head of product.

Thomas joins the free-to-air satellite platform from fintech start-up, Novastone Media, where he was also head of product, responsible for strategic vision and the development of a web, iOS and Android app; as well as integrations with external public IM channels such as WhatsApp and WeChat, and developing new features in areas including machine learning, AI, chat bots and data leakage protection.

Prior to Novastone, Thomas worked as a consultant at mobile web development specialist, Atlas Mobile, and worked as a product lead in Sky’s interactive team.

He started his career in the operations department of broadcaster, Cellcast, where, over eight years, he moved from technician to VP, Services.

Alistair Thom, Managing Director at Freesat, said: “David’s appointment is key in this crucial year for Freesat. His diverse experience is invaluable as we look to connect with both new and existing customers in a number of innovative and exciting ways.”

Edyta Sadowska to head nc+

By Chris Dziadul

Edyta Sadowska has been appointed the president and CEO of the Polish DTH platform nc+, effective June 1.

She will replace Manuel Rougeron, who joined the company in December 2013 and will remain a special advisor to the nc+ board until the end of this July.
On August 1 he will join the Canal+ International team in Paris and take the position of executive VP for the Asia-Pacific markets. He will also be appointed to the supervisory board of nc+.

Edyta Sadowska has been a member of the nc+ board as VP for programming since February 2018. She was previously associated with, amongst others, Ringier Axel Springer Poland, where she held the position of president of the board.

Then, as a board member of the merged Onet-RAS Polska group (Ringier Axel Springer, One.pl, Media Impact Polska) she was responsible for the building and implementing development strategy and the digital transformation of the largest press and online media titles.

New role for Gabor Harsanyi at Viacom

By Chris Dziadul

Gabor Harsanyi has been appointed VP, general manager for VIMN Central Eastern Europe and Israel (CEEI).

Harsanyi has been with VIMN since 2012 in various senior Commercial and Content Distribution Management (CDM) roles, and most recently held the position of VP, CDM, CEEI and country manager for Hungary.

He has been instrumental in a number of achievements including the multiplication of VIMN’s cumulative number of households and affiliate revenues in CEEI, as well as the recent launch of Paramount Plus and Nickelodeon Play VOD products across the region.

Commenting on the appointment, James Currell, president of VIMN UK, Northern and Eastern Europe, said: “Our CEEI business has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years and with Gábor’s accomplishments, deep local knowledge, strong management credentials and passion for the Viacom brands, we are now perfectly positioned to take this business to the next level”.

For the past few months, VIMN CEEI region’s GM responsibilities have been covered by Elena Balmont on an interim basis, in addition to her permanent role of SVP, GM, Russia, CIS, Ukraine and Baltics. With the appointment of Gabor Harsanyi as VP, GM, VIMN CEEI, the two regions continue to be managed separately. Harsanyi in his VP, GM, VIMN CEEI role will be responsible for Viacom’s operations in all 14 territories within Central Eastern Europe, as well as in Israel.

The general manager VIMN CEEI will be supported by two country managers: Katarzyna Samojluk, VP, finance, VIMN CEI, who has been appointed as country manager for Poland; and Richard Finer, senior legal counsel, VIMN CEEI, who continues to oversee Viacom’s Israeli operations as country manager for Israel.

Viacom promotes Katarzyna Samojluk

By Chris Dziadul

Katarzyna Samojluk has been promoted to the position of VP, finance for Central and Eastern Europe and Israel (CEEI), as well as country manager VIMN Polska.

She has been associated with the position of VP, finance at Viacom since 2014 and had over 15 years of working in an international environment in such areas as strategic business planning, financial and management accounting, change management and restructuring of local activities.

Prior to joining Viacom, Samojluk held financial and customer service positions at Eli Lilly Polska, where she eventually took the position of finance director.

Samojluk has held her new positions at Viacom on a temporary basis for several months.

Meanwhile, Elena Balmont has and will continue to be the SVP, GM for Russia, CIS, Ukraine and the Baltics.

Samojluk will report directly to Gabor Harsanyi, VP, general manager VIMN for CEEI.

Harsanyi, who was recently promoted to his current position, has been with VIMN since 2012 in various senior Commercial and Content Distribution Management (CDM) roles, and most recently held the position of VP, CDM, CEEI and country manager for Hungary.

Next Generation Audio at Eurovision Song Contest

By Julian Clover

The Eurovision Song Contest is to provide the testbed for a revolutionary audio technology.

The EBU and partners ATEME, Fraunhofer IIS, Jünger Audio, Sennheiser, Solid State Logic and TELOS ALLIANCE will be providing a parallel production of the event, mixing and transmitting it live with Next Generation Audio in the MPEG-H Audio format.

The content is being made available to broadcasters for testing purposes via the Eurovision FINE network. An on-site demonstration is available to journalists and EBU Members in Tel Aviv.

Next Generation Audio (NGA) enables the delivery of an immersive aural experience that can be personalised, to any device. Because all of the different audio elements are delivered individually, they can be controlled by the end user. This means that people who have hearing difficulties can boost the commentary while reducing the background ambience, for example, increasing the accessibility of the content.

There are three standardized solutions for NGA: MPEG-H Audio, AC-4 and DTS-UHD.

MPEG-H Audio was used for the parallel immersive and object-based audio production and transmission in the trial.

All 4’s Richard Davidson-Houston steps down

By Julian Clover

The head of Channel 4’s streaming service, All 4, is to step down in the summer after 12 years at the broadcaster.

Richard Davidson-Houston was responsible for the 2015 revamp of the video-on-demand service in 2015. During his time in charge, All 4 has evolved from a catch-up service for Channel 4 programmes, to be an acclaimed mix of live TV, catch-up, box sets and archive, and now encompasses content from partners such as Adult Swim, Vice and the award-winning Walter Presents.

Richard Davidson-Houston said: “It’s time to get stuck in to something new. Channel 4 has been part of my life for a long time. I’m happy that I’m leaving All 4 in good shape and wish my colleagues all the best for the future”.

All 4 is now available on more than 20 platforms in the UK and has over 20 million registered users, including over two-thirds of all 16-34 year olds in the UK.

Ian Katz, Director of Programmes at Channel 4 said: “Richard has played the pivotal role in building All 4 into a hugely successful on demand service that punches well above its weight. He has been a key figure in shaping the channel’s response to the digital challenge and will be much missed.”

Richard joined Channel 4 in 2007 and was Head of Channel 4 Online from 2010. He was previously UK Business Manager for Messenger, Hotmail and MSN.

Yevgen Lyashchenko to leave Media Group Ukraine

By Chris Dziadul

Yevgen Lyashchenko, the director of Media Group Ukraine (MGU), has decided to leave the company and develop a career elsewhere.

His role will in the near future be taken over on a temporary basis by Yevgen Bondarenko, who previously served as the operations director at StarLightMedia.

Commenting on the changes, Alexander Barinov, chairman of the supervisory board of MGU, said: “Media Group Ukraine is a unique media holding, which combines the assets that are the best in their segments. We are grateful to Yevgen Lyashenko for having succeeded in assembling a team of experienced and creative professionals. Yevgen initiated many effective changes in the holding, which boldly responded to market challenges and allowed us to achieve and retain leadership. The large-scale development plans of Media Group Ukraine for the coming years are determined, and it is confident that the team can successfully implement them.”

NENT Group appoints Jonas Gustafsson as CEO Viasat Consumer

By Robert Briel

Nordic Entertainment Group has appointed Jonas Gustafsson as SVP and CEO of Viasat Consumer, a new NENT Group operating unit.

The new Viasat Consumer organisation will focus on aligning and realising the full commercial potential of NENT Group’s Viasat satellite and broadband TV consumer offerings across the Nordic region. NENT Group’s country CEOs will continue to be responsible for the Viasat partner sales in each Nordic country that make Viasat’s channel packages available on third party networks.

Jonas Gustafsson’s appointment is effective from 1 June and he will be part of the Group Executive Management team reporting to NENT Group President & CEO Anders Jensen. Gustafsson joined NENT Group in 2015 and is currently acting CEO of NENT Group Sweden, a role in which he will continue until Filippa Wallestam, CEO of NENT Group Sweden, returns from parental leave in August 2019.

As of 31 March 2019, Viasat had 490,000 satellite TV customers, and provided TV over broadband (IPTV) to approximately 120,000 subscribers in Sweden via fibre networks. The Viasat offering comprises a combination of Viasat TV channels and third party channels, as well as NENT Group’s Viaplay streaming service.

Anders Jensen, NENT Group President and CEO: “NENT Group’s success is built on our best-in-class content, technology and teams, so we are now ramping up our ambitions for one of the most recognisable entertainment brands in the Nordic region. Jonas will ensure that we realise the full benefit of being a pan-Nordic player with a fantastic TV offering spanning series, movies, kids content and live sports. Jonas first joined NENT Group as part of our strategy team and is currently acting CEO of our largest country operation, so he is the perfect candidate to lead this important new set-up.”

Marek Szydlowski leaves TVN/Discovery Polska

By Chris Dziadul

Board member Marek Szydlowski has left Poland’s TVN/Discovery Polska after six years with the company.

Press.pl reports that he has been replaced on the board by Edward Miszczak, VP of the group and the programming director at TVN.

Szydlowski was responsible for overseeing legal affairs at the company and this role has been taken over temporarily by Marzena Draganiak until a permanent successor is appointed.

Szydlowski was also the president of TVN/Discovery Polska-owned TTV, whose interests include the DTT channel TTV.

Anouk van Dijk new Global Head of Sales at Zoomin

By Robert Briel

Anouk van Dijk has joined Amsterdam-based digital media company Zoomin as Global Head of Sales.

Van Dijk most recently was Sales Director at Off the Fence, overseeing sales and co-productions into APAC, Benelux, German speaking Europe, Scandinavia, France, Africa and Canada. At Zoomin, Anouk van Dijk will be responsible for global content sales and commissions.

“We are delighted Anouk has joined our team in Amsterdam. She has a large international network in the broadcasting industry. Her experience in content sales in general, long form in particular, will be a great help for us in growing our team and sales-efforts and reaching our ambitions,’ said Zoomin CEO Roger Lodewick.

Anouk van Dijk added: “It’s very exciting to join Zoomin truly focusing on digital. Especially as the world of short form content is becoming key in the field of global broadcasting. I believe the engaging stories Zoomin creates, connect with an audience that is very difficult to reach for many platforms and I’m very keen to align platforms with them.”

Executives leave Bulgaria’s Nova

By Chris Dziadul

Bulgaria’s Nova Broadcasting Group, which has been under new ownership for less than a month, has begun to release some of its executives.

Capital reports that they include Silvia Zurleva, most recently a board member, and Viktoria Behar, who less than two months ago was made responsible for the strategic development of news and current affairs shows.

It adds that further departures, as well as new appointments, are being discussed.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, Modern Times Group (MTG) completed the sale of its 95% stake in the broadcaster to Advance Media Group in early April.

The deal valued Nova at €185 million.

Matt Child joins Avanti from Eutelsat/Solaris Mobile

By Robert Briel

Avanti Communications has appointed Matt Child as Director of Government, Wholesale and Integrators.

In the newly created role, Matt will report to Chief Operating Officer – Customer, Libby Barr.

Child will be responsible for overseeing the relationship between Avanti and its wholesale partners. Specifically, he will be focused on developing Government and Department of Defence relationships, in parallel with satellite partners and integrators.

On his appointment, Libby Barr said: “Matt brings to Avanti over 35 years’ worth of experience in the converged technology sectors, over half of which has been dedicated to business development and sales of satellite communications services. As we focus on the growth of Avanti’s wholesale customers, Matt is the ideal person to be leading us forward.”

Matt joins Avanti from Eutelsat where he held the position of SVP Government Services before becoming Commercial Director for Eutelsat’s Quantum satellite program, the world’s first software-definedsatellite. Prior to joining Eutelsat, Matt was the Chief Executive Officer at Solaris Mobile Ltd, the joint venture MSS operator owned by SES and Eutelsat.

Matt added: “I am extremely excited to be joining Avanti at a time when there is so much focus and activity in the space sector. Avanti has great satellites and a dedicated management team that is passionate about making Avanti a success. I want to contribute to that success and the continued growth of Avanti.”

Hrvatski Telekom re-appoints Sasa Kramar

By Chris Dziadul

The supervisory board at Hrvatski Telekom (HT) has re-appointed Sasa Kramar as management board member and COO business for one year.

The appointment commences on June 1, when his current contract expires.

Kramar was appointed to HT’s management board on June 1, 2016 from the position of president of the management board of Iskon, a company 100% owned by HT.

He was previously a member of Iskon’s management board in charge of sales and marketing.

Jitka Obzinova to leave Czech Prima

By Chris Dziadul

Jitka Obzinova, the head of news and current affairs at the Czech Republic’s Prima Group, has decided to leave after over 10 years in the position.

In a statement, the company says it will immediately begin the search for her successor, who will also be responsible for the planned news project CNN Prima News.

Commenting on her departure, Obzinova said: “It was an unforgettable ten years that I spent intensively working on Prima TV. After long consideration, I decided that now is the time to pay more attention to myself and also seek fulfillment in other than working matters.

“I would like to thank all my colleagues for their cooperation and I hope that soon my successor will be found, full of enthusiasm to take on such an important news story as the upcoming news project CNN Prima News.”

Marek Singer, CEO of Prima Group, added: “We are very sorry for Jitka leaving J, but we understand her decision. In the years to come, we wish her good luck in her personal and professional life. We firmly believe that we will soon be able to find a suitable candidate who will take over the management of the news and current affairs team and the active preparations of our new cross-platform news project”.

Obzinova has worked at all the leading broadcasters in the Czech Republic – CT, Nova and Prima – in her career.

During her time at Prima she introduced a new successful news hour structure and was also behind the concept of a news truck that has travelled around the Czech Republic every summer for the last three years.

Her successor will be in charge of the news director Eliska Cerovska and report directly to Marek Singer.

Yuriy Artemenko steps down early

By Chris Dziadul

Yuriy Artemenko, the chairman of the Ukrainian regulator National Council, has handed in his resignation two months before the end of his five-year term.

In a statement published by the regulator he says his reasons for doing so are two-fold. Firstly is “simple human fatigue”, the constant stress of working 10-12 hours a day, sometimes at weekends. The second is receiving a proposal of another job.

In summarising what has been achieved under his leadership in the last five years Artemenko made several references to the TV industry. These included the creation of a public broadcaster; award of digital TV frequencies; transition from analogue to digital broadcasting; and the creation of over 50 Ukrainian satellite-delivered channels to replace over 80 Russian channels that have been restricted in Ukraine.

Gourav Rakshit appointed COO, Viacom18 Digital Ventures

By Robert Briel

Viacom18 hase appointed Gourav Rakshit as COO – Viacom18 Digital Ventures.

He will be joining the organisation in May 2019, and will be reporting to Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO & MD, Viacom18.

“Our digital foray has grown exponentially since its inception 3 years back, with the sharply segmented businesses – the ad led model, the international business and the soon-to-be-launched subscription based VOOT Kids service”, said Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO & MD, Viacom18.

“As we unlock business value, Gourav, with an in-depth understanding of digital disruption and a proven track-record of envisioning subscription growth, is the right person to lead our talented teams across the Digital Ventures portfolio.”

A University of Rochester and IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, Gourav is currently serving as the President and CEO of People Group that owns and operates Shaadi.com. Over the course of 11 years at Shaadi.com, he has been instrumental in building one of India’s most iconic brands and a robust consumer subscription play, while delivering one of the few profitable P&Ls in the Indian internet ecosystem.

With over 2 decades of experience in Consumer Technology, IT and FMCG sectors, Gourav started his career with Nestle and took two more stops – Planetasia and Infosys Consulting – before joining People Group. At Planetasia, he had his first brush with the media & tech industry, and at Infosys he successfully led consulting engagements for diverse consumer organizations including Apple, Wells Fargo and Safeway.