Hollywood’s New Leaders 2016: Television

Variety New Leaders Television
Kevin Scanlon for Variety

Jenny Groom
Age: 35; Senior vice president, alternative programming and development, NBC Entertainment
Groom was so eager to work in entertainment after a college internship in NBC’s reality department, she began driving to Los Angeles from her Texas home even before she got the phone call that she’d been hired for NBC’s page program. The call came midway through her road trip. She wound her way through NBC back to the reality department where she helped develop the summer hit “Better Late Than Never,” which she called “very new territory for us. It wasn’t a music competition show, it wasn’t a physical competition show.” The series has been renewed for another season.

Lisa Holme
Age: 33; VP of content acquisition, Hulu
Holme leads and negotiates the biggest content deals to date, including a landmark output deal with IFC for all future documentary releases, and multiple content deals with Warner Bros. for exclusive SVOD rights to hits “Blindspot” and “Lucifer.” Holme played a key role in the exclusive deal with Sony for “Seinfeld,” the “Empire” pact with Fox, and exclusive accords with ABC, Viacom, Turner, MGM, FX, and AMC. All have made Hulu a go-to partner with networks.  “I try to be very data-driven in decisions about content licensing, but that has its pitfalls, like avoiding analysis paralysis and ensuring the numbers haven’t been tortured into telling a specific story,” she says. “Ultimately, data can only get you so far before you need to mix in a healthy dose of gut.”

Scott Huff
Age: 35; Senior VP, development and production, Playground Entertainment
Huff joined newly founded Playground in 2012 as executive assistant to Colin Callender, and this year was promoted to senior VP overseeing the shingle’s television and theater slate. TV credits include Golden Globe winner “Wolf Hall,” “Dracula,” and “The Missing,” and he was associate producer on “The Dresser” for BBC/Starz. He’s currently in production on “The White Princess” for Starz. “The best break-out dramas originate from writers with a singular vision,” he says. “The greatest challenge is protecting that vision through development and production.”

Christine Kim
Age: 31; Manager, drama series, HBO
While attending a Catholic all-girls school in Hawaii as a teen, Kim didn’t care for traditional studies, but she did love watching TV. Her TV studies paid off as she’s climbed the ranks at HBO working on such series as “True Detective,” “The Leftovers,” and “Westworld.” “When you’re in a pitch with somebody you looked up to for so long — writer, director, actor, people you’ve studied in school or while watching movies and television and theater — to sit with them and talk about stories is the best part of the job.”

Samata Narra
Age: 35; Senior VP, comedy development & programming, Fox Broadcasting Co.
For Narra, a former literary manager representing TV and film writer-directors, being recruited into the ranks of network comedy executives was a dream fulfilled. Narra says she watched “Saturday Night Live” and “In Living Color” on the sly as a teen and saw dozens of dubbed “Simpsons” episodes in India during summer visits to see grandparents. “Being able to take big swings on a broadcast network like Fox is currently doing with ‘Last Man on Earth,’ ‘Son of Zorn,’ and ‘Making History’ has been an incredible opportunity. Getting ‘Zorn’ on the air in a world where this kind of show doesn’t exist on broadcast television has been very cool.”

Rachel Polan
Age: 31; Director, Television, Lionsgate
She helped secure “Nashville” a fifth season at CMT, saw the series “Casual” garner Hulu its first Golden Globe nomination and sold Epix on one of its first scripted shows, “Graves.” Polan says she’s particularly proud of the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the movie “Dear White People.” “I hope it is able to start a conversation people aren’t talking about anymore, racial tension and racism in general,” she says. “Back in the ’80s and ’90s everybody became so politically correct and people were afraid to talk and it shut down conversation. It didn’t go away obviously. Now we’re able to hopefully open a conversation where people feel comfortable talking about it.”

Camila Jimenez Villa
Age: 33; President and chief content officer, Fusion Media Group division of Univision Communications
As a driving force behind Univision Communications’ growth and evolution into a leading multiplatform mainstream media brand, she played a critical role in decisions to invest in the Onion, take full ownership of Fusion, and the recent acquisition of leading brands from Gawker Media (Fusion Media Group’s digital reach has since risen to 96 million uniques). She notes: “As we expand the reach and impact of our portfolio, it will be key that we ensure each brand maintains its unique, authentic voice and connection with the audience.”

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