Hollywood’s New Leaders: Television

Variety‘s Hollywood’s New Leaders profiles those to look out for in the worlds of film, TV, digital and more. For more of the New Leaders, click here.

Alex Baskin, 35 (second from left)
Partner, Exec VP, Evolution Media
Since joining Evolution in 2006, Baskin has executive-produced over 20 series, specials and pilots, including ABC Family’s “Beverly Hills Nannies,” WE’s “High School Confidential” and Disney’s hidden-camera comedy “Code: 9.” He oversees a development team of six. With his eye for spinoff potential, he’s produced nine seasons of “Real Housewives of Orange County,” six seasons of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” four seasons of “Vanderpump Rules” (all for Bravo) and three seasons of “Botched” for E! The secret of his success: “I’m also a huge fan of these kinds of shows.”

Nick Bernstein, 38 (far left)
VP, late night programming, West Coast, CBS
Landing in late night was a lifelong dream for Bernstein, who grew up captivated by “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and now oversees the blossoming “The Late Late Show With James Corden” for CBS. Earning a newly created West Coast title last December, Bernstein has helped the effervescent Corden establish himself in a field that’s more crowded than ever, and break out with the requisite viral bits like “Carpool Karaoke.” Bernstein’s first gig as an NBC page led to a meteoric rise at the Peacock before he shifted to the Eye. And he still monitors the competition. “I’m a fan of the genre, period,” he says. “I love to see what the other shows are up to.”

Jennifer Gerstenblatt, 37 (below, third from left)
VP current programming, ABC Family
Joining the network soon-to-be-named Freeform in 2006 as an assistant, Gerstenblatt is now at the top of the cabler’s current programming department, after being promoted last summer. “We are now not only responsible for keeping these series on air and moving forward, but also evolving within a new brand,” Gerstenblatt says, referring to the net’s imminent rebrand. The exec has overseen long-running comedies and dramas “Baby Daddy,” “Switched at Birth” and “Pretty Little Liars,” which will see a five-year time jump to cater to a “more sophisticated story arc” when it returns in January, coinciding with Freeform’s launch. “I recently gave the note ‘be sexier’ to ‘PLL’ — we’re aging them up after all!”

Robert Jordan, 28 (second from right)
Music Supervisor, Fox Sports Marketing
When Jordan was growing up his mother used to tell his brother and him they “would always be athletes and musicians.” After pursuing a career in lacrosse and studying at Berklee College of Music, Jordan
has managed to combine those two strands as music supervisor for Fox Sports Marketing. After leaving school, Jordan apprenticed under music supervisor John Houlihan, logged a subsequent stint at Warner Bros., and joined Fox Sports in 2014. “It’s important not to be stuck in a lane” when selecting typical sports music, Jordan says. “When I first got here, we used ‘Das Rheingold’ for a soccer promo. For college basketball, we’ve used ‘Super Stupid’ by Funkadelic, but we’ve also used a composed piece that’s real dubsteppy. You have to try to mix it up all the time.”

Tara Long, 31 (not pictured)
Exec VP, U.S. alternative television programming, Entertainment One Television
Launching the company’s alternative division five years ago, Long has had seven straight-to-series orders under her purview and no cancellations. Promoted this past year, the young exec wants to double eOne’s unscripted content and create more international programming. “Right now, we have 11 series on the air. By this time next year, my goal is to have 20!” she exclaims. With TruTV’s David Spade prank show “Fameless” recently landing 10 more episodes, “Mary Mary” getting a season five renewal at WeTV and the cabler greenlighting “Growing Up Hip Hop,” which bows in early 2016, Long’s goal isn’t out of the question.

Suzanna Makkos, 40 (far right)
Exec VP, comedy development and programming, Fox
With a track record of some of network television’s most critically acclaimed half-hours under her belt — including “New Girl,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Last Man on Earth” — Makkos continues to prove there’s still room to innovate in broadcast. This year Fox launched a comedy block, bringing TV stars John Stamos (“Grandfathered”), Rob Lowe and Fred Savage (“The Grinder”) back to the genre in unexpected roles. The self-professed “true sitcom nerd” notes, “When I came to the department we were really struggling to
find our footing in comedy. Brick by brick we have programmed seven shows with incredibly specific comedic identity that make millions of people laugh.”

Tim Pastore, 37 (not pictured)
President, original programming and production, National Geographic
Pastore has overseen bold projects since he took over as Nat Geo’s president of original programming in 2014, including November’s meticulously researched miniseries “Saints and Strangers” about early settlers in Plymouth, Mass. “A good leader creates a culture that allows people to feel like they’re working on dream projects. You need to create an environment that exudes passion, and passion will transform into commitment.” For this, Pastore adds, you need good hires. “Television is a team sport. The hard part is finding those folks who want to be in the foxhole with you.”

Liz Paulson, 39 (third from right)
VP, casting and talent, 20th Century Fox TV
Paulson, whose credits include Fox’s “Empire” and CBS’ “Life in Pieces,” says, “a good casting director has to be a connector and can take what’s on the page and see what that would be like to bring to life. We are in such a saturated climate and today’s world of television is a beast. Casting needs to get ahead of it and understand the creative product … it’s not as simple as putting someone in a role anymore. It’s more of a fight, but in a fun, creative way.”

Ken Segna, 34 (top, third from left)
Senior VP, original programming, Starz
His parents restricted the young Segna’s TV viewing to one hour a week. Now he oversees more than half a dozen original hours at any given time at premium cabler Starz, including its most-watched series to date, NYC nightclub drama “Power.” Inspired by HBO’s game-changing programming (including “The Sopranos” and “The Wire”) during his time as a USC film student, Segna landed an assistant gig at CAA, where he was privy to the explosion of prestige dramas at outlets like FX and AMC. At Starz, he’s rubbing elbows with A-list talent like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The One Percent”), Steven Soderbergh (“The Girlfriend Experience”) and Morten Tyldum (“Counterpart”). “We’re looking to find content for underserved audiences and find worlds that haven’t been explored in the premium category.”

Alex Sepiol, 38 (center)
Senior VP, original scripted programming, USA Network
In 2005, Sepiol brought “Burn Notice” to the cabler; it lasted seven seasons. A decade later he helped develop the critically acclaimed “Mr. Robot,” which has been crucial to USA’s new slate of hard-hitting dramas. “As soon as I read the script, I was just a straight-up fan,” Sepiol says of the Rami Malek starrer. “As the show came together with its amazing cast, beautiful and effective visuals, and flawless cool, it became something magical,” he says. Sepiol also brought in long-running hits “White Collar” and “Suits,” which will enter its sixth season in 2016.

Maria Zuckerman, 38 (fourth from right)
VP, development and production, HBO Films
Zuckerman has overseen development and production of HBO’s slate of original movies since 2007. With projects ranging from Dee Rees’ recent Emmy champ “Bessie” to Spike Lee’s “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Champ” and early Tom Hooper effort “Longford,” she’s built a reputation of working with both established veterans and filmmakers on the rise, forging a special relationship with talent across the pond on multiple British co-productions (including Peter Morgan’s “The Special Relationship”). “It’s so exciting now because everybody’s talking about the barrier between film and TV coming down. I feel at HBO Films we were pioneers in helping to migrate feature talent to TV.”

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