In May 2017, it was announced that major US streaming service Hulu had appointed a new Chief Content Officer. The company’s search for the role was well-publicised and the industry waited eagerly to scrutinise this high-profile appointment. In the end, AMC Networks’ President of Original Programming and Development, Joel Stillerman, was declared as Hulu’s pick (LINK).
That such a youthful company (Hulu is barely ten years old) could poach a President from a well-established network demonstrates not only the shifts in power between distribution models in the industry, but also the prestige with which Content is now regarded. Streaming services have altered the ways in which audiences consume content, and appetite for strong, ‘binge-worthy’ programming continues to grow. Having a respected C-suite executive who can command content intuitively; address audience demands; and ensure programming reflects the brand, is of increasing importance to media businesses.
Perhaps the most prominent CCO in the industry is Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, who is widely credited with instigating the company’s move into original programming; championing valuable metadata; and helping to transform the traditional small-screen business model. StreamingMedia.com’s Dan Rayburn argues that Sarandos’ approach to content “set the foundation for everyone else in the market…And that is the biggest thing that we should be thankful for.” (LINK). Certainly the boundless success of Netflix, and Sarandos’ championing of high-calibre content, may be the catalyst for the current proliferation of Chief Content Officer roles across the entertainment spectrum.
Numerous media companies have been sent scrambling to obtain an executive in the mould of Sarandos. Claire McDermott, Editor of Chief Content Officer Magazine, states that to be a successful CCO: “Writing and editing skills are important, but it is also a job where you have to understand analytics, know the role of social media, and know how content is distributed in addition to how it is created.” (LINK). Joel Stillerman should have the know-how when it comes to production and distribution expertise. But will he master the analytics side, the way Sarandos has? Time will tell if this appointment will pay dividends for Hulu (who, incidentally have just released their own original series – the highly-lauded Handmaid’s Tale). Stillerman joins a thriving company, but in a crowded marketplace, so his task as content ambassador will be a great one.
Elsewhere in the industry, the Chief Content Officer moniker continues to expand. Earlier this year, Lumina was proud to appoint former Sony Pictures and Netflix VP Sean Carey to the post of Chief Content Officer for iflix – the result of an extensive search that permeated the upper layers of Hollywood’s studios (click here to read about our placement). Meanwhile, Australian SVOD Stan has upped Nick Forward to CCO; Discovery’s Susanna Dinnage recently added the CCO sobriquet to her title; and Singaporean SVOD Hooq has appointed Jennifer Batty, formally of RTL CBS Asia Entertainment, as their CCO.
Content, Curation and Choice are certainly now among the hottest buzzwords in the media world. As long as they remain so, the Chief Content Officer will continue to be the most highly prized of roles, both to the individuals, and to the companies they serve. In the modern media world, content truly is king.