John Pleasants, Samsung’s Top Media Exec, Is Leaving (EXCLUSIVE)

Samsung’s retreat from its media ambitions continued Friday with a high-profile departure: The company’s highest-ranking U.S. media executive John Pleasants is leaving, Variety has learned. He will be replaced by longtime Samsung executive Yoon C. Lee, according to sources familiar with the matter.

A Samsung spokesperson declined to comment via email, and instead sent the following statement: “It is our policy to not comment on personnel matters. What I can tell you is that we will continue to evolve our strategy and are committed to making investments focused on delivering the next generation of content and services that span our line of Galaxy devices.”

Pleasants, whose official title at Samsung has been EVP of media solutions, was in charge of the company’s Silicon Valley-based Media Solutions Center America (MSCA), a unit that has been building media apps and services for Samsung, including its Milk Music streaming service.

Before Samsung, Pleasants was co-president of Disney’s Interactive Media Group, which has been developing video games for the Mouse. He got to Disney through the acquisition of Playdom, where he served as CEO. Earlier career highlights include being COO of Electronics Arts and CEO of Ticketmaster.

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Samsung hired Pleasants two years ago with the goal of building out media services that could compete with the likes of iTunes, Pandora and Spotify. His mandate was to build Samsung-exclusive media services that would become a value-add for Samsung phones, much in the same way iTunes has become a big part of Apple’s success story.

Part of that strategy was to build free and freemium media services with a modern design geared towards U.S. consumers. A first example of this approach was Milk Music, a Pandora-like streaming service that debuted on select Samsung phones in 2014.

The company followed up with a video aggregation app dubbed Milk Video, and had plans to invest in original short-form content. But Milk Video was short-lived, and shuttered in September of 2015. Pleasants also had plans to bring the Milk media brand to other content genres, but those never materialized.

His departure comes at a time when Samsung seems to have decided to all but abandon its media efforts. The company’s MSCA group has seen numerous departures in recent months. Just last week, Variety reported of the departure of a number of key executives, including bizdev SVP Steve Stanford, content and services SVP Darren Tsui, VP Ed Ho, and content and services VP and GM Ian Langridge.


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