10 Entertainment Tech Innovators to Watch Create Solutions on Global Scale

Julien Mitelberg, Co-Founder and Managing Partner

Fabrice Sergent, Co-Founder and Managing Partner

Bandsintown

Bandsintown is a global hub of live music that connects 60 million registered users with 540,000 artists from around the world. With live performance venues closing their doors in the wake of the pandemic, Bandisintown expanded its reach of online live-streams to connect potential concertgoers with their favorite musical acts.

The music discovery platform is intuitive and personal, allowing managers, labels, agencies and artists to access a dashboard to promote their tour dates. Art­ists can also directly message their followers to promote an album release or share their latest merchandise. Registered fans are able get an all-access pass to live, exclusive concerts, Q&As, live chats and artist interviews.

Last year, between March 25 and Dec. 9, 62,765 livestreams by 18,930 artists were marketed at no cost on Bandsintown to its audience of registered fans, marking an incredibly, and unexpectedly, successful 2020. During that time, Sergent pioneered the launch of Bandsintown Plus, a first-of-its-kind subscription service that gives fans access to dozens of live shows for one low monthly subscription fee.

“No other service offers plug-’n’-play solutions to fans for a single and simple subscription. Bandsintown Plus carefully curates, produces and markets 25 exclusive concerts per month for one $9.99 per month subscription,” says Sergent. “For each concert, a journalist thoroughly introduces the acts and offers fans a unique ability to ask questions after the show. Bandsintown Plus makes live music more accessible and more affordable where artists become more approachable through intimate experiences.”

Since Bandsintown’s January 2020 launch, the platform has secured performances from indie favorites Phoebe Bridgers, Chromeo, Flying Lotus, Big Thief, Wallows and Toro y Moi, with more to come.

As Bandsintown continues to grow, Sergent says there will be “more innovations offered to our registered artists to better promote their tour, sell virtual and in-person concert tickets, present new music and sell merch.”

— Daron James

Alex Cyrell, CEO and Co-Founder

Brad Thomas, Co-Founder and COO

Roger Barton, Co-Founder

Evercast

Engineering Emmy winner Ever­cast has emerged as the go-to real-time collaboration solution in Hollywood. The web-based platform combines video conferencing, HD live-streaming and full-spectrum stereo audio allowing pros to work together at every stage, from pre- to post-production and beyond.

With just eight employees at this time last year, Evercast was one of several collaboration tools fighting for the entertainment industry space. It gained massive popularity through word-of-mouth from industry veterans looking for the right resource to complete projects during the pandemic.

Since, the company’s revenue has surged by 1,400% and use has jumped to 200 nationally televised programs, including “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix, “Chernobyl” on HBO and ABC’s late night stalwart “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” The Cinema Audio Society had nominated them in the outstanding product in post-production category earlier this year.

“Evercast was built specifically for creative collaboration,” says Cyrell. “For example, a film editor can work side by side with the director, or a director can stream live from location with producers weighing in virtually. With ultra-low latency, Evercast makes it feel like they’re working together in the same room.”

The platform offers all must-have tools for collaborative workflows, including recording and reviewing key session moments, easy-to-use on-screen drawing tools, and the ability to keep track of changes and feedback with time-stamped notes. Plus, there’s 24/7 support.

Evercast is completely secure too, allowing artisans to stream live cameras on set, or from creative software including Avid, Premiere Pro or Pro Tools so teams can si­multaneously collaborate. There is no need to upload any media files to Evercast, since teams can simply livestream content from a computer direct­­ly to the participants in the virtual room and make changes on the fly.

Cyrell says what’s next for Evercast are plans to “continue to expand its use cases within the TV and film production as w ell as in the adjacent markets of gaming and advertising.” The company is also looking to provide accessibility to entry level creatives, including independent content creators.

— Daron James

Jichul Lee, Partner and Executive Creative Director

Giantstep

Giantstep was established in Seoul as a traditional CG, animation and VFX studio for advertising, feature films and other creative content. Having opened its Los Angeles office four years ago, the company is primed for a big splash in the U.S. market.

Through its internal research and development team, GX Lab, which got off the ground in 2016, it’s developing a suite of tools for virtual production, real-time rendering solutions and graphic integrations with the goal of shaping the future of entertainment through extended reality (XR).

“What differentiates us from other companies in this space is how we incorporate game engines into our workflow to produce a new type of content that enables realistic graphic expressions and real-time consumer interactions,” Lee says.

For Giantstep it’s beyond making cool stuff, but recognizing that the technology is a big factor in shaping the future of content. Giantstep’s XR Live Concert Technology is one such tool, which they expedited during the shutdown to launch the world’s first ticketed virtual concert experience for SM Entertainment, which manages K-Pop artists and is one of the largest entertainment companies in South Korea. Giantstep developed a proprietary XR solution wherein the artists could perform “live” on a virtual stage with animated background elements and the ability to shoot with a multi-camera setup.

From a revenue standpoint, SM Entertainment has earned $20 million-plus from global online ticket sales during the pandemic, without the overhead of traditional live shows. XR Live Concert Technology isn’t limited to concerts. Producers of Broadway, gaming and TV events all have an opportunity to leverage it. Even Naver (the Korean equivalent of Google) has invested in Giantstep’s XR Live Concert Technology.

“We want to be a content leader of the future, so we are doing a lot of experimentation with virtual humans, virtual celebrities and digital influencers —all created with real-time engines. Clients will need content for both the ‘real world’ and the digital experience, so with the future in mind, we are very much interested in the Metaverse. In the simplest terms, that means transforming reality into the virtual world. It presents a great deal of potential as far as fan and consumer experiences go. It’s exciting,” Lee says.

— Daron James

Kirin Sinha, CEO

Illumix

When Illumix released its first mobile AR game, “Five Nights at Freddy’s AR: Special Delivery,” in August 2019, it generated over 6 million downloads and earned glowing reviews from critics and users alike. It was a big score for the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup and an even bigger validation for its young CEO Sinha, one of the only minority female tech company founders in the Silicon Valley.

The game is the combined product of Sinha’s childhood love of fantasy books (“Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings”), movies (“Star Wars”) and video games (“Zelda,” “Mario Bros.”) and a passion for machine learning she developed as an undergrad at MIT in the early 2010s. Sinha launched Illumix in 2017 while completing her MBA at Stanford, where she was president of the Entrepreneurial Club, and a year later it made headlines when it secured an $8.6 million seed funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Maveron with participation from director Michael Bay’s 451 Media.

Illumix went on to raise a total of $13 million in venture capital funding, while attracting the interest of Hollywood studios, live event companies and other entertainment entities, which have commissioned it to create AR experiences for theme parks and sports and music venues.

With AR experiences, “you can have ghosts walking through the walls and talking to people or pick up your phone to take a selfie, and all of a sudden golden snitch­­es are flying around your head,” says Sinha.

Illumix has also entered the e-commerce space with a web-based application that enables consumers to hold their hands in front of their webcam and virtually try on rings.

“There are very large markets that are opening up and growing right now for augmented reality today, and that’s where I think Illumix fits,” says Sinha. “It’s a huge way for brands and IP to reach that audience.”

—Todd Longwell

Asad J. Malik, Founder

Jadu 

Malik is working on the bleeding edge of entertainment tech with Jadu, which uses volumetric capture to create mobile-based immersive experiences that enable fans to interact with holograms of artists such as Lil Nas X, Poppy, K Camp and Dor-ian Electra in shareable videos.

The son of an English-teacher father, Malik grew up in a small town in Pakistan, where he began designing websites when he was just 11 years old. At 16, his life took a dramatic turn when he received a scholarship to an international high school in the Netherlands.

“It was quite a culture shock,” observes Malik. “During that time, I started diving deeper into technology, entrepreneurship and the idea of building a company.”

Malik came to the U.S. to study at Bennington College in Vermont, where he began working on AR projects. His first major effort, “Terminal 3,” in which the viewer takes on the role of an airport se­­curity officer interrogating a passenger, was an official selection at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, where it was dubbed “the most intense AR experience” by Fast Co. He followed up with “A Jester’s Tale,” which the Verge named the best augmented reality at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Malik launched Jadu in March 2020, just as the pandemic was shutting down live performances, giving artists an alternate way to connect with fans and monetize their work. Its most recent release is “Curse of Calypso,” a dark and creepy interactive experience from the Canadian-American band Palaye Royale, and more will be coming soon.

“By this summer, we could have much bigger artists performing longer form experiences in your room and talking to you and engaging with your surroundings in more complex ways,” he says.

— Todd Longwell

Steve Johnson, VP, Product and Studio Design

Netflix

Johnson leads the team at Netflix that designs everything subscribers see, feel and read on its user interface (UI), from the colors and the shapes to how much latency there is when something is clicked on. These subtle choices may seem inconsequential, but, according to Johnson, they have a major impact on how the service’s 200 million-plus members around the globe access and enjoy content.

“The biggest push that we are looking at right now is how we can make sure that we can personalize the UI so no matter where you are on the planet, it’s going to be the right UI for you,” says Johnson. “How does [it] present to the member so that when they’re using the product, they don’t feel like they’re being spoken at, they feel like they’re part of the conversation and they’re being spoken with?”

Recent innovations from John­­son and his team include the “Fast Laughs” clips feed for mobile devices and the “Play Something” shuffle play button, as well as interactive storytelling experiences such as “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” They’re also working on expanding individualized member experiences via such features as screensavers that offer curated suggestions.

Johnson spent much of his youth moving across the country with his mother, trying to stay two steps ahead of his abusive father, usually winding up as the only Black kid in school. Shows including “Star Trek,” which featured a multi-racial cast, were inspirational touchstones for him then, and they inform his mission to bring diverse content to the masses via Netflix today.

“Growing up as a young Black kid in the ’70s, it was the TV set that showed me I could be more than just what the world expected me to be and more than what the people outside kept on trying to turn me into,” says Johnson.

— Todd Longwell

Vidya Narayanan, CEO and Co-founder

Rizzle

When it comes to social media, Rizzle, a short-video platform with episodic content, is the new hotness, especially in India where TikTok was banned.

The app is changing the game by eliminating trolls from the comments section and amplifying diverse, up-and-coming voices Hollywood has yet to discover.

The 60-second video platform allows anyone to pitch a short-form series to its production arm, Rizzle Studios, which greenlights productions, paying creators for the content. Selected pitches may be eligible for funding to assist with production costs, too. The primary types of content viewable on the budding slate of original RizzleSeries include vlogs, comedy shows, talk shows, opinions, discussions and scripted short series.

Narayanan says what separates Rizzle from TikTok is that it allows “creators to host multiple channels each, where creators host four channels on average, creating different types of content in different channels. Channels enable creating connected stories and Rizzle’s binge-mode feed allows watching episodes in sequence without leaving the feed.”

Rizzle also has its 3Min Series, in which creators can produce a three-minute series using the hashtag #3MinSeries and be eligible to receive a bonus payment. These series are mini-stories that may have a beginning, middle and end told in three episodes. All the 3Min Series are reviewed monthly for any appropriate bonus distribution.

The true standout feature of Rizzle, though, is the elimination of written comments within the app, and the only way users are able to respond is by recording a video of themselves, creating a positive environment with meaningful exchanges and insightful dialog between users.

Rizzle releases updates every week and is constantly evolving features based on user feedback. Rimix is its latest, a patent-pending feature that enables users to create various mixes of their favorite videos on Rizzle with a single touch. Creators can mix between two to five Rizzle videos of their choice on a particular track, and they also have a choice to add to the Rimix by recording their own part.

— Daron James

 

Chuck Parker, CEO

Courtesy of Andrei Luca

Sohonet

With the pandemic changing the way we work, remote collaboration has never been more important. By combining innovative technologies with world-class services, Sohonet helps professionals working across film, TV and advertising to collaborate with teams and deliver content with solutions built for the media community.

Since the beginning of the shutdown, Sohonet has tailored solutions to work even harder for users collaborating remotely. The sole aim of their team of technical experts is to remove the obstacles that get in the way of your creative process, by enabling users to move, manage and store content securely and easily throughout the production workflow.

“Keeping all parties aligned on creative vision is paramount to the success of your project and having the right tools to execute that shared vision, regardless of location, is key,” says Parker.

Sohonet’s real-time ClearView collaborative tools have been built to bring remote teams together through a secure ecosystem, offering workflow collabs across production and post from editorial, sound mixing, color grading and visual effects reviews.

With ClearView Flex, teams have tools to stream live encrypted content in real-time from any source to collaborators that’s viewable on any tablet, phone, computer or Apple TV. It’s de­signed to make “over the shoulder” viewing, discussion and approval between creatives and clients easy. The low-latency streaming service doesn’t even require content to be uploaded before sharing either.

As more creatives started working from home, Parker spearheaded a move to support ClearView Flex streaming options to match slower consumer internet connections. “We immediately deployed ‘super low’ bit rates for those in extremely challenged environments. We also scaled out the infrastructure to support 15 viewers as the norm and allow up to 30 viewers in a multi-hour session to meet the changing work habits of crea-tives working from home during the lockdown.”

ClearView Flex has already been recognized with an Emmy Engineering Award and is used by every major distributor, including Netflix, HBO, Disney, NBC Universal, Amazon Studios, Warner Bros. and Sony.

— Daron James

Sam Lucas, Paul Burton, Co-founders

Courtesy of Special.TV

Special.tv

The state of Montana is generally not considered a hotbed for tech or entertainment, but Lucas and Burton could help change that perception with their Boze-man-based startup Special.tv, which provides a platform for creators to launch their own subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) channels with no fees other than a 10% cut of their subscription revenue.

“There’s no exclusivity contracts or licensing agreement,” Lucas says. “Creators own and control 100% of their content, so you’re free to premiere a film on your channel and keep it there forever as you develop your catalog, move it to another platform or keep it on both.”

Burton and Lucas, both in their mid-20s, met through Launch-Pad, an entrepreneurial accelerator for students and alumni at Montana State University in Bozeman, where they were studying software engineering and marketing, respectively.

“We recognized that everyone wanted to build a mobile app and no one knew how to, and I knew all the people who wanted to build software and he knew how to build it, so we linked up,” Lucas says.

While still students, they launched Triple Tree Software, a company that designed mobile and web apps, and backend APIs for startups. After two clients paid them to develop custom VOD platforms, and more followed asking them to do the exact same thing, they decided they’d be better off launching their own service.

The idea was a hit with investors, attracting $2.26 million in funding from Bozeman-based New Frontier Capital, 30West in Los Angeles, former NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke and film producer and venture capitalist Da­­vid Fialkow of General Catalyst, among others.

No matter what happens going forward, Lucas and Burton have no plans of moving their headquarters to Hollywood or Silicon Valley.

“We’re proud of not being bred from the traditional media space,” says Lucas. “It enables us to approach new problems with new thinking and new solutions.”

—Todd Longwell

Teresa Phillips, CEO and co-founder

Spherex

Phillips offers a cutting-edge solution for an increasingly global entertainment biz, hyper-conscious about offending viewers’ cultural sensibilities. Using a combination of AI, machine learning and old-fashioned human curation, her company analyzes movies and TV series to ensure they are relevant and appropriate for 240 different territories around the globe, assessing everything from legal compliance and appropriate audience range to religious references and cultural taboos.

“We’ve really created a cultur­­al playbook for how content providers and platforms should operate in a regulated international environment, and that has never existed before,” says Phillips, who launched Spherex three years ago.

Phillips took a circuitous route to Silicon Valley moguldom. She grew up on a farm in Kansas, then did a seven-year hitch in the army, serving as an executive assistant to four-star generals and diplomats at the Pentagon and at NATO headquarters in Belgium. Following stints at companies including CyberCash, Time Warner Cable and Yahoo, she made her first foray into tech entrepreneurship in 2006 with Graspr, a social network for user-generated instructional videos that attracted $2.5 million in Series A funding. Unfortunate­­ly, her thunder was stolen by ano­ther video sharing startup, YouTube, which was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in stock the same year.

“I actually was talking to [You­Tube] about joining them and I said ‘No, I’m gonna do my own thing,’” she says. “That’s one of those things where you say, ‘What was I thinking?’ [Graspr] got off the ground, but I didn’t have the runway to scale it.”

Today, Spherex counts Google/YouTube as one its clients, along with Paramount, Lionsgate, Com­cast/NBCUnversal, HBO, AMC, Starz, PBS and Samsung, and the business continues to grow.

“I just got an email this morning from one of our clients and they said, ‘We’ve got 100,000 titles that need ratings for these 25 markets,” she says.

—Todd Longwell

Variety 10 Innovators to Watch Announced

Variety’s “10 Innovators to Watch” will highlight emerging talent and technologies in communications, entertainment and more on April 28 at 9:30 a.m. PT in the Variety Streaming Room presented by the all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E. Panelists include Sam Lucas, Co-founder, Special; Asad J. Malik, Founder, Jadu; Teresa Phillips, CEO and Co-Founder of Spherex; Kirin Sinha, CEO, Illumix; Vidya Narayanan, CEO and Co-Founder, Rizzle; Jichul Lee, Partner/Executive Creative Director of Giantstep; Fabrice Sergent, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Bandsintown; Chuck Parker, CEO, Sohonet; and Alex Cyrell, Co-Founder & CEO, Evercast.

Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein, President and Chief Media Analyst, VIP (Variety Intelligence Platform), will interview the honorees. The discussion will include how their businesses responded to COVID-19 and what the future envisions for these tech innovators.

More from Variety

 

Each year, the “10 Innovators to Watch” list includes technologists inventing and perfecting the gear that will define the future and creatives discovering new artistic forms. The honorees, who will be feted in the April 28 issue, include some of the most exciting new trailblazers operating at the intersection of technology and entertainment.

Steve Johnson, Vice President of Product and Studio Design, Netflix; Paul Burton, Co-founder, Special; Brad Thomas, COO & Co-Founder and Roger Burton, Co-Founder, Evercast are also 2021 honorees, but are unable to attend the panel conversation.

Register for the virtual event here: variety.com/10innovatorstowatch

Variety 10 Innovators to Watch Announced

Variety’s “10 Innovators to Watch” will highlight emerging talent and technologies in communications, entertainment and more on April 28 at 9:30 a.m. PT in the Variety Streaming Room presented by the all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E. Panelists include Sam Lucas, Co-founder, Special; Asad J. Malik, Founder, Jadu; Teresa Phillips, CEO and Co-Founder of Spherex; Kirin Sinha, CEO, Illumix; Vidya Narayanan, CEO and Co-Founder, Rizzle; Jichul Lee, Partner/Executive Creative Director of Giantstep; Fabrice Sergent, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Bandsintown; Chuck Parker, CEO, Sohonet; and Alex Cyrell, Co-Founder & CEO, Evercast.

Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein, President and Chief Media Analyst, VIP (Variety Intelligence Platform), will interview the honorees. The discussion will include how their businesses responded to COVID-19 and what the future envisions for these tech innovators.

Each year, the “10 Innovators to Watch” list includes technologists inventing and perfecting the gear that will define the future and creatives discovering new artistic forms. The honorees, who will be feted in the April 28 issue, include some of the most exciting new trailblazers operating at the intersection of technology and entertainment.

Steve Johnson, Vice President of Product and Studio Design, Netflix; Paul Burton, Co-founder, Special; Brad Thomas, COO & Co-Founder and Roger Barton, Co-Founder, Evercast are also 2021 honorees, but are unable to attend the panel conversation.

Register for the virtual event here: variety.com/10innovatorstowatch

Source: variety.com

Female Disruptors: Teresa Phillips of Spherex On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

“Carve out everything that ain’t the duck.” — An old cowboy I admired growing up carved wood in his spare time. He would place a block of wood on a tree trunk that he used as a table, and he’d get to work. One day I asked him how in the heck he did it. Willard just looked at me and said, “Little lady, it’s simple. You just get a block of wood and carve out everything that ain’t the duck.” Life is full of distractions. If we have clarity in our goals and remain focused on realizing them, we’ll know which temptations or obstacles we encounter won’t serve us well. Our decisions not to do something are equally as valuable as those we pursue.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Teresa Phillips, Co-Founder and CEO of Spherex.

Spherex is a global technology and data company led by Phillips, who is pioneering technology that’s changing the future of entertainment. Leading a team of data scientists, AI engineers and product developers, Phillips and her team are making sense of the crowded content landscape worldwide so media and entertainment companies don’t get lost in translation. Collaborating with major studios, networks, streamers and content creators, they are transforming how media and entertainment enterprises create, adapt, and deliver film and television to audiences worldwide through AI and machine learning. Learn more at www.spherex.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Iwas raised on a farm in Kansas in a big family. I grew up playing sports, fishing and horseback riding; from dawn to dusk, we were always outside. We lived by the railroad tracks. A favorite pastime was hopping on an empty boxcar when the train stopped to drop grain at the elevator near our house. I’d ride four miles down the tracks to my favorite fishing pond. I’d fish for a few hours; and before it got dark, I’d walk the railroad tracks home.

At age 17, I had the opportunity to spend five weeks in France through a host program. I’d never been on an airplane, and rarely out of Kansas, so it was quite an adventure. I was struck by the language, the food, the architecture, but especially the people. My trip to France really opened my eyes to how big the world is, and I caught the travel bug. So, I enlisted in the Army.

I spent seven years in the U.S. Army; serving at both The Pentagon and NATO. I spent five years supporting General John R. Galvin, the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (SACEUR), and lived and worked with military and civilian members of the NATO nations. It was there I learned about ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, in sending classified data across networks.

When I left the military, I moved back to the D.C. area and got a job as a program manager at a Fortune 500 company. Settled into the corporate world, I later pursued a product manager position in a technology company because it seemed to be a role where I could learn multiple functions — from marketing and project management to development and operations. Plus, I wanted to be in a technology company when the Web took off.

After all these years, I say that my passion is in creating new products, but I’ve made a career out of getting stuff done (operations). But mostly, my specialty is leadership.

I got into the media industry through technology, serving in executive positions at Time Warner and Yahoo! and then on to my entrepreneurial ventures. So, here I am now. As co-founder and CEO of Spherex, we are still building and creating, and our company heavily aligns with international culture.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are doing something that hasn’t been done before. We are inventing a cultural dimension that can be embedded in digital film and television and can be attached to viewers. Today, content localization is based on a fixed locale — language plus country. It doesn’t reflect the theme of the content or the viewer. For example, our solution will allow a Korean mother in San Francisco to filter and receive content for her family that resonates with her values, independent of language and location. Nowhere in the world is there a playbook on culture. There is nothing that interprets all the cultures in the world and distills them down into rules and applies their context so that systems can do a better job of creating content, personalizing it, delivering it, and making it more discoverable. These are the very pursuits critical to our industry.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career when I was a program manager of a large corporate account, we hosted clients in our office several times a week. One day my boss called me into his office and said it had been reported that I was taking bagels from the conference room and putting them in my desk! While this was true, I had to clarify that I didn’t want the bagels to go to waste so I took them home and/or shared them.

My boss said our clients may think we are not paying our people enough so they’d have to take home leftover food from meetings. He also said it might make the clients feel bad that they didn’t eat the food we provided. I was unaware that our office had people to clean up after these meetings, to take care of leftover food, and it wasn’t my responsibility. There I learned that optics and perception are important. It never occurred to me that preventing food from being wasted could be so complicated.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

General John R. Galvin, the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (SACEUR) has been the greatest mentor of my professional life. Two million NATO military members served under him as SACEUR, and he was the U.S. military member who most directly contributed to ending the Cold War. I learned from GEN Galvin about servant leadership and how to meet people where they are and pull them forward. GEN Galvin was a prolific writer and speaker — he spoke five languages, gave speeches in the audience’s native language, and always started with a story to establish a connection. He told me that to move people, you must find common ground and a shared purpose, then paint the vision of where you want to go together. You’ll have a different method of achieving the same objective; but that’s okay, the important thing is that you both get there.

Another mentor was Andy Bast, SVP at Time Warner. He had eight VPs reporting to him and invested in a business psychologist who spent two years taking each of us individually and the team through the Myers Briggs training program. We learned about our personality types, and how they contributed to our motivations, communication, and career interests. We explored our strengths and weaknesses individually and as a group. We learned how to extend trust to one another, expose our vulnerabilities, and then mirror and shadow each other in real-time for support. We were a formidable team!

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is not inherently good or bad. Disruptors generally thrive on the opportunity while those being disrupted are threatened by the change. I’ve observed leaders, however, who torpedo projects or organizations without a plan for putting the pieces back together. This is destruction masquerading as disruption and usually caused by the leader’s oversized ego and insecurities. When a system or structure can withstand pressure over time, you know that it’s solid. Take our government, for example. Though it has been dismantled in some ways, the institutions of our democracy are strong and will prevail.

An example of disruption in our industry is the way that film and television is now created and distributed. For decades, production cycles took years and even longer to syndicate content internationally. The new guard — tech companies such as Apple, Amazon and Netflix — produce content within weeks and simultaneously release it worldwide. Studios must keep pace or risk being disrupted.

An example of negative or failed disruption is Napster. Napster created technology that disrupted the music industry, yet they didn’t have a plan to compensate artists and contributors in the new paradigm. While their reign was short-lived, Napster did compel a decade-long transformation of the music industry.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“If you see it, you can believe it. If you believe it, you can achieve it. “

Basketball was my favorite sport growing up and I invested a lot of time and energy to improve my game. Visualization was a key part of that, which I learned from Stan Kellner’s basketball cybernetics training program. I spent hours visualizing myself shooting free throws and other shots, watching the ball go in the hoop. Swoosh! I carried the practice of visualization forward and still apply it daily in my personal and professional life. When you can imagine no other outcome but success, it must be brought into being.

“Carve out everything that ain’t the duck.”

An old cowboy I admired growing up carved wood in his spare time. He would place a block of wood on a tree trunk that he used as a table, and he’d get to work. One day I asked him how in the heck he did it. Willard just looked at me and said, “Little lady, it’s simple. You just get a block of wood and carve out everything that ain’t the duck.” Life is full of distractions. If we have clarity in our goals and remain focused on realizing them, we’ll know which temptations or obstacles we encounter won’t serve us well. Our decisions not to do something are equally as valuable as those we pursue.

“Be grateful for what you have.”

Though my mother instilled many values, gratefulness is one that stands out. During good times and bad, she would remind us to be grateful. Every day is a new day, and it starts with prayers of gratitude — and then you will see the sunshine. I am grateful for the blessings in my life, and I am also grateful for the lessons. We invite events into our lives as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and to choose an alternate path. No matter where we are, there’s someone else who is a little better off and a little worse off. We are all connected. It is our purpose to lend a helping hand during one’s time of need and to accept help from others with gratitude.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We’re very early in the game of global access to film and television. Every streaming platform is racing to acquire international subscribers. Growth over the next five years for U.S. platforms such as Netflix and Amazon can only come from outside the U.S. On the other hand, U.S. consumers will see an influx of content from other countries streaming here. Because my company, Spherex, is inventing a cultural dimension for digital media, we’ll be busy for the next decade. Beyond this challenge, I’ll go wherever I am called.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

What are the characteristics most associated with disruptors? Driving bold change. Pushing boundaries. Not taking “no” for an answer. Society rewards these behaviors in men, but frowns upon them in women. A male colleague and I could behave the same way and in most corporate environments, he would be labeled “assertive,” and I would be labeled “aggressive.” Subtle or subconscious gender bias is real and exists in every industry. While experimentation and innovation pave the road to disruption, both require access to capital — something that is in short supply to women entrepreneurs. However, life is not compassionate to victims. I advise young women to play to their strengths, while they work in tandem to change the rules. We have more power than we realize.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Books I’ve repeatedly pulled from the shelf are from Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor who created the theory of disruptive innovation. Clayton had a knack for waxing philosophical, while providing practical steps for execution. And since I always had a knack for seeing things that others couldn’t, I loved his blueprint for new market disruptions, especially competing with non-consumption. Clayton was a prolific writer, speaker, and management consultant. His contributions to entrepreneurship and innovation are invaluable.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire a movement to create tolerance in the world and I would start right here in the United States. Growing up in Kansas and now living in Silicon Valley, I understand the divide. America is growing more diverse each day, as the gap between the haves and the have nots widens. The problem is we’re conflating the two. Diversity is not causing economic injustice. We all want the same thing — to create a good life for ourselves and for our families. We need a starting point. The challenge today is that in the age of social media, no one can agree on the facts. I have ideas around this.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” — Nelson Mandela.

I’ve learned that life is not an escalator, and we do not always keep going up. Growth happens outside our comfort zone. Muscles rip when they grow. Many times, I’ve felt like I’ve had one foot forward and the other on a banana peel. I’ve always loved the symbolism of the Phoenix Bird. Brilliantly covered in reds, it crashes bursting into flames and is reborn from its ashes to start a new life. That’s how I live my life. Dream big and go for it. What do I have to lose, but a new start?

How can our readers follow you online?

http://spherex.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Why Culture Matters for Global Content Distribution

By 2025, eighteen years after Netflix became the first company to stream content into people’s homes, the expected global value of the Over-The-Top (OTT) market is expected to exceed $167B and reach two billion subscribers. These subscribers have access to hundreds of OTT and various flavors of Video-on-Demand (VOD) providers, serving dozens of countries and territories. While most enterprises focus on the sales value, they overlook what these two billion consumers are looking for – content.

According to IMDbPro, an average of 356,781 titles were released across the globe over the last five years. That’s a total of 1.8 million films, TV shows, shorts, and other video content in search of distribution deals and a lot of content consumers now must sort through to find something to watch. However, just because a film or TV show gets produced doesn’t mean international distribution is a sure thing. Deciding –to- distribute internationally may be the easiest part of exhibiting content worldwide.

International content distribution is very complex and creators must answer some basic questions and overcome several challenges before they have any hope of getting their content into international homes. These questions include:

  1. Which countries on which continents?
  2. How to manage cultural and religious concerns?
  3. Who is the regulatory/censorship body or agency and what are their requirements?
  4. Which languages?
  5. Which platforms, e.g., Netflix, Amazon, Roku, Tubi, Hotstar, etc.?
  6. How to manage platform distribution requirements (they all differ)?
  7. What is the age group of the target audience?
  8. Is the work necessary to get into specific international markets worth the trouble?

Each of these are important business decisions and navigating them requires some level of expertise or forethought. At the end of the day, however, the objective is to distribute content, attract viewers, and make money. Getting any one of these challenges wrong could greatly threaten a company’s ability to profit from entering new markets or undermine its brand.

The key to obtaining permission to exhibit content in another country is obtaining an appropriate age rating from the country’s governmental regulatory or censorship authority or from a commercial provider such as Spherex. This is analogous to obtaining an MPAA rating for content released in the U.S., e.g., G, PG, PG-13, or R, with the exception that these regulators can literally ban your content from their country if they find any part of it objectionable. Just because your film may have obtained a PG rating from the MPAA, it doesn’t mean the content is a shoo-in for acceptable age ratings in other countries. Getting the rating wrong can significantly impact box office. Here’s an example.

The popular 2012 film “Hunger Games” obtained an MPAA rating of PG-13. If content providers didn’t understand cultural sensitivities and wanted to market the film in Germany, they could simply assign an equivalency rating of FSK16, when the appropriate rating should be FSK12 based on cultural differences between the U.S. and Germany. This guess, in effect, would rate the content too high and preclude 2.6 million youth in Germany from seeing the film. Given the average cost of a movie ticket in Germany is $10, that’s a potential box office loss of $26M. On the other hand, too low a rating, as in the case of rating the film a “12” in Brazil, could put the content provider in legal jeopardy for exposing young children to culturally unacceptable content, such as violence.

Several of the top 20 film markets in the world have cultural sensitivities that can seriously impact content. Issues like drug addiction, rape, child abuse, sexual assault, and suicide are perceived differently in many cultures, and the context around these events must be taken into consideration. Suicide, for example, is treated differently in film in the US, UK, New Zealand, Denmark, and Japan. How it is portrayed matters. Is it a primary theme of the story and does it involve the main character? How is it depicted in the film? Is it detailed, realistic, can it be imitated? Without a full understanding of these cultural factors, content providers can make mistakes that directly impact markets and revenue.

Besides the hit on revenue, penalties for ignoring these risks include take-down notices, monetary sanctions, legal sanctions, bad press, negative brand and business impact, and even imprisonment. It pays to recognize cultural sensitivities and respect the regulatory process and the potential impact it has on content distribution and monetization. Getting it wrong can have serious consequences.

With over 356,000 new titles being released every year, the competition for content placement on the top VOD and OTT platforms will be fierce. Whether it’s one title or 100 titles that are targeted for international release, without exception, every single title requires an in-country rating and that requires an appropriate and professional cultural review to ensure the rating your content receives is appropriate for the country and for the audience you want to reach. With over 20M movies and television series listings in 200+ territories worldwide on over 50 platforms in 45 languages, Spherex can get your content to market efficiently, cost-effectively, and correctly.