Former HBO President Simon Sutton Joins Luminary as CEO (EXCLUSIVE)

Simon Sutton has joined Luminary Media and will serve as chief executive officer of the newly launched podcast subscription service. He joins the company after a stint as president and chief revenue officer of HBO. As part of the move, Matt Sacks, who founded Luminary in 2018 and currently serves as its CEO will instead assume the role of executive chairman.

Luminary has made headlines by signing up top talent such as Conan O’Brien, Trevor Noah, and Lena Dunham to create exclusive programming for its $8-per-month subscription plan. The goal is to become the Netflix of podcasting and to demonstrate that people will shell out for compelling content.

“Luminary is a fun and exciting company with a great business model that’s reminiscent of the early days of HBO,” Sutton told Variety in an interview. “When HBO started the rest of the television world was big, broad, ad-supported. It created something different and that’s what Luminary is trying to do.”

For his part, Sacks says, “my goal to help Simon in any way I can assist.”

In addition, Luminary has also raised an additional $30 million in the first closing of a Series C financing from existing and new investors. Sacks was slightly vague about how the money would be deployed other than to say it would be used for “content, content, content.”

Luminary was founded by Sacks in 2018 with backing from venture capital firm NEA. When it launched its content platform six months ago, in April 2019, it had raised $100 million in funding. The podcasting business is generating greater interest from major investors and entertainment companies who believe that it is an under-monetized and fast-growing sector. Revenues last year hit nearly $680 million and are projected to grow at 30% annually between 2018 and 2022, according to PwC. Moreover, the number of weekly podcast listeners has more than doubled in the past five years, from 28 million in 2015 to 62 million in 2019, according to a study by Edison Research and Triton Digital.

Prior to joining Luminary, Sutton served as president and chief revenue officer at HBO from 2016 to 2019. He first joined HBO in 2005, helping the company accelerate its domestic growth in subscribers and quadrupling international customers from 20 million to 80 million. Prior to HBO, Sutton spent 10 years in international television at MGM, being promoted to executive VP and head of the division.

Sutton said he first became familiar with podcasting listening to NPR programming on long drives around California. He declined, however, to reveal what podcasts are his favorites.

“I’m going to be meeting a lot of podcast creators who are going to be upset if I don’t name their shows,” he said. “I can only lose by answering that question.”

Here’s the full text of Sacks letter to staff announcing Sutton’s hire:

Luminary is pleased to announce that Simon Sutton, former President and Chief Revenue Officer of HBO, is joining Luminary as our CEO and a member of our Board. Going forward, I will serve as Executive Chairman.

We are also pleased to share that we have raised an additional $30 million in the first closing of a Series C financing comprised of existing and new investors.

It is hard to imagine a more positive and transformative development for Luminary than to have Simon lead our company day to day. Simon is a seasoned media executive who at one point or another ran every functional area of one of the most successful subscription content businesses in the world, consistently growing subscribers, revenue, and profit.

As you know, I have been convinced of the potential to create a large successful subscription podcast business for some time. We have made tremendous progress since founding Luminary in January of 2018 and since our launch this Spring. We have built an extraordinary team with experienced leaders. We have extraordinary content and we continue to add subscribers and grow every day. Because of the success that Luminary has enjoyed on all fronts, and the magnitude of the opportunity in front of us, I aggressively pursued Simon upon learning he might be available to Luminary.

At HBO, over 14 years, Simon was a key leader on the winning team that set the gold standard for premium subscription content. Because my interests are fully aligned with the interests of Luminary creators and investors it was an easy decision to trust Simon with the leadership of Luminary.

As a Luminary partner, you should feel, as I do, real validation of our collective vision. While you will hear directly from Simon soon, it is safe to say that he would not have joined Luminary if he did not share our confidence in the importance of the medium, the quality of our content, the progress we have made as a business and the opportunity that lies ahead.

Attached is a copy of a press release we have just issued. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out.

Going forward I will support Simon as he quickly gets up to speed and will transition to my new role as Executive Chairman. In that capacity I will make whatever effort is necessary to be a good partner for Simon and a value added resource and champion for Luminary.

Please join me in welcoming Simon and please accept my gratitude for the confidence and trust that has taken us this far. I have never been more enthusiastic about Luminary’s future.



More Biz

  • Bob Chapek

    What Disney's Theme Parks Reveal About New CEO Bob Chapek

    Theme parks and resorts aren’t likely top of mind for the industry set when they think of Disney. But in light of the recent (and very swift) appointment of parks and consumer products head Bob Chapek to succeed Bob Iger as Disney CEO, Chapek’s recent interviews at the parks offer a few insights about the [...]

  • Justin Dini Josh Line

    ViacomCBS Promotes Josh Line and Justin Dini in Communications and Marketing

    ViacomCBS has named Comedy Central veteran Josh Line to serve as executive VP and chief brand officer for the newly enlarged company. Line will oversee all marketing strategies for the company with an emphasis on synergy efforts across a collection of brands that range from MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central to Paramount Pictures, CBS [...]

  • Lizzo Grammys performance

    Lizzo Hit With Copyright Suit Over 'Truth Hurts'

    Three songwriters filed a countersuit against Lizzo in federal court on Friday, alleging that they have been denied proper credit for writing her breakout hit, “Truth Hurts.” Lizzo sued the songwriters — brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, as well as Justin “Yves” Rothman — last October, seeking a determination that they did not deserve credit [...]

  • Marcie Allen

    Marcie Allen Confirms She’s in Talks to Sell MAC Presents

    Marcie Allen, founder and owner of the music experiential agency MAC Presents, confirmed to Variety that she is in talks to sell the company, which she launched in 2004. Over the years the agency has engineered partnerships between major artists and brands, including the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Keith Urban, Green Day, John Mayer and [...]

  • media stocks - wall-street

    Stock Markets Log Historic Losses Amid Coronavirus Selloff

    U.S. corporate giants are the teeth of another wild ride on Wall Street as investors brace for the end of a week of historic losses for the Dow and other major indices. The Dow was down 357 points, or 1.3%, at the close of trading Friday, after falling more than 1,000 points early on in [...]

  • Alice Bag, Shabazz Palaces to Perform

    Alice Bag, Shabazz Palaces to Perform at A2IM’s Libera Awards

    On June 18, 2020, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) will continue its annual tradition of honoring independent artists at the Libera Awards, to be held at New York’s Ziegfeld Ballroom. The 2020 awards show comes as A2IM celebrates 15 years of working to support and strengthen the independent music industry. The awards always [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content