In an Era of Disruption, These 9 Innovators Are Shaping the Future of Media and Entertainment

Meet Adweek's Young Influentials

From a YouTube sensation making her TV debut to the late-night producer who’s bringing Carpool Karaoke to Apple, these are the Young Influentials making their mark in media and entertainment. For more up-and-coming talent in tech, brands and marketing, check out our full list.
—Emma Bazilian

Ben Winston
Executive producer, The Late Late Show With James Corden 

In addition to helping James Corden create must-see moments every night on The Late Late Show, executive producer Ben Winston, 35, oversees a pair of programs recently spun off from Corden’s most popular segments: Carpool Karaoke, which is wrapping its first season on Apple Music, and Drop the Mic, premiering Oct. 24 on TBS. (As if that’s not enough, Winston is also executive producing Bruno Mars’ first prime-time special, airing Nov. 29 on CBS.)

“We knew instantly the first time we did this, that this was too good just to be a segment on a late-night television show,” says Winston of Drop the Mic. “It’s actually better as a half-hour than as seven minutes squeezed into” the Late Late Show. Meanwhile, Winston is also busy turning down offers for other Late Late Show spinoffs: “We don’t want to make something unless it’s great.”—Jason Lynch

Meridith Valiando Rojas
CEO and co-founder, DigiTour Media

As the producer of live events starring some of the biggest names from platforms like Musical.ly and YouTube, DigiTour Media has given more than half a million screen-addicted Gen Z-ers the chance to connect with their favorite digital stars IRL.

“About half of our stars have a musical element to them, but a huge category for us are the ones who don’t,” says DigiTour co-founder and CEO Meridith Valiando Rojas, 30, a former A&R executive. “My job is to figure out how to create something on stage for them.”

So far this year, the company has led 150 events for digital talent like Loren Gray (6.7 million Instagram followers) and twins Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight (4.5 million YouTube subscribers), with past sponsors including Coca-Cola, Delta, Verizon and Google. Valiando Rojas hopes to double the number of live events in 2018.

Valiando Rojas founded DigiTour in 2010 with her husband, Chris Rojas, and since then, the company has raised over $12.5 million in funding from investors including Viacom, Ryan Seacrest, Condé Nast and others. This past June, it formed a record company with Disney Music Group that will focus on signing social-first talent.

“We love identifying talent early on and contributing to their growth,” says Valiando Rojas, who helped propel Musical.ly sensation Baby Ariel to stardom with a 2016 cross-country tour and was responsible for “Alex from Target’s” extended stint with fame—he even read fan fiction starring himself on stage. —Sami Main

Issa Rae
Creator, star, executive producer, HBO’s Insecure

Photo by Chris Loupos for Adweek; Styling: Jason Rembert; Hair: Felicia Leatherwood; Makeup: Joanna Simkin

Don’t be surprised if you see Issa Rae running a television channel or her own movie studio one day. Those are just two of the things the 32-year-old Rae, cover star of our Young Influential’s issue, told Adweek she’d like to accomplish. And it’s easy to believe that will happen—Rae built her career herself, creating a successful YouTube show, Awkward Black Girl, that was viewed and beloved by millions.

“I want to figure out how and the best way to use my voice,” says Rae. “Me vocalizing what I wanted to see, it basically changed my life, and I’d say even the course of representation indirectly. And I just want to see what else I can do just by speaking up and speaking out.”

See more of our feature with Rae here.

Arlie Sisson
vp, emerging products, Condé Nast

Herve Kwimo

How do you bring a 100-year-old publishing company into the modern era? Just ask Arlie Sisson, vp of emerging products for Condé Nast.

From developing chatbots for Facebook Messenger to coordinating company-wide hackathons (judged by Condé Nast artistic director and Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, of course), 31-year-old Sisson has helped lead the firm into new technologies and platforms.

“My team does dabble in things that aren’t immediately or outwardly sexy,” she says, “but the guts of what we do get expressed from multiple brands’ perspectives. Our legacy as a company is our best asset, because the distribution and experimentation can’t be beat.”

Most recently, Sisson’s team created a “beauty assistant” chatbot as a companion to Allure’s annual Best of Beauty issue, which featured 283 individual items this year.

“Instead of taking too much time finding a product that you’re interested in from the list, this bot helps readers locate, and purchase, exactly what they want in a very modern way,” Sisson says. —S.M.

Matthew Henick
Head of development, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures

BuzzFeed

As head of development for BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, Matthew Henick leads a team that focuses on producing massive viral hit series, not just one-off sensations. Take the BuzzFeed series Worth It, a video road-trip-slash-game-show hosted by members of Henick’s team, which has received over 300 million views totaling 2 billion minutes of watch time in just two short seasons.

The ultimate goal, says 34-year-old Henick, is to create shows and content partnerships that prove why the brands behind the “$72 billion spent on ad-supported television” should also be paying attention to digital video.

Henick notes that his team, and BuzzFeed as a whole, values the data they collect from viewers as it informs their future iterations. “We’d be fools to ignore the richest sets of data coming from our audience who consumes the internet across every platform,” he says. “Platforms are starting to invest more attention to long-form content, like Worth It, which is exciting from both a monetary and a tech/UX side.” —S.M.

Hannah Hart 
Host of YouTube’s My Drunk Kitchen and Food Network’s I Hart Food

Getty Images

This year, YouTube phenom and My Drunk Kitchen star Hannah Hart made the jump from digital video to television proper. Her six-episode show on Food Network, titled I Hart Food, combined her love of travel and food as she visited different cities to dive deep into tasty treats they’re known for.

“I had the most phenomenal crew,” says 30-year-old Hart, who counts over 2.5 million subscribers on her YouTube channel. “It was the most positive and fun experience, and it gives me courage for whatever’s next.”

As a creator, Hart knows how important it is for people to take mental health breaks and understand their personal boundaries, especially when it comes to professional relationships with other brands. (She’s created content for advertisers like Barilla, Macy’s and Winc.)

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she says. “Paying attention to what your body tells you can be tedious. You can leave a little wiggle room, just don’t tip the scale in either direction.” —S.M.

John Alleva
svp, digital monetization and planning, NBCUniversal 

As NBCUniversal looks to maximize its ad revenue across all platforms and time-shifted windows, it falls to John Alleva and his team of 75 to set pricing strategy and work with clients to find opportunities within NBCU’s digital platforms and with partners like BuzzFeed, Snapchat and Vox Media.

With 70 percent of the company’s entertainment video impressions occurring via a TV screen—i.e., no fraud or viewability issues—Alleva, 35, helps wary clients understand, “it’s the same shows they’re already buying, just on a different platform.”

He’s now focused on the company’s trio of major sports events for 2018: the Super Bowl, Winter Olympics and World Cup. “It’s a mix of testing out new ways we can go to market with these partnerships and trying to understand how much consumption was there the last time we did those events, and how different that may be going into the next one,” he says. “Thinking about consumption changes in four years is massive.” —J.L.

Asia Kate Dillon
Actor

Getty Images

Many actors would be nervous making history by playing TV’s first major nonbinary character—Taylor, the hedge fund intern on Showtime’s drama Billions—but not Asia Kate Dillon. “It wasn’t daunting. I was just full of excitement and readiness,” says Dillon, who also identifies as nonbinary, and uses gender-neutral pronouns like they and them. “This is something I’ve been working towards my whole life, so it’s been gratifying.”

Any concerns about whether a testosterone-heavy show like Billions would give the role the appropriate care were “immediately alleviated” when Dillon, 32, began working with the producers. “It felt like a collaborative experience from the very beginning, which meant as the season progressed, I felt very comfortable going to the producers with anything that might have been a concern, and nip it in the bud,” says Dillon, who also plays white supremacist Brandy on Orange Is the New Black.

On Billions, Dillon relished the opportunity to represent “nonbinary, gender-nonconforming, trans, gender-fluid people” for the show’s 5 million weekly viewers. “If there had been a character like Taylor on television or film when I was younger, I know how much it would have meant to me,” says Dillon. “I continue to be grateful and humbled to play a character that not only means something to me, but to so many other people.”

Next, Dillon, who was promoted to series regular for Season 3, hopes to see nonbinary representation in advertising as well. “If an ad campaign wants to accurately reflect the demographics in America today, you have to have people of all colors, all shapes, all sizes, all genders, all sexual orientations,” Dillon says, “because it is the diversity of this country that makes us beautiful.” —J.L.

David Levy
evp, nonlinear revenue, Fox Networks Group

Under new president of ad revenue Joe Marchese, Fox’s David Levy has spearheaded some of the company’s biggest ad innovations, including ditching traditional ads across FX’s digital and on-demand platforms, which is increasing attention and focus on brand messaging. Levy is also overseeing the rollout of Fox’s new six-second ad format, which debuted during August’s Teen Choice 2017 Awards and expanded this fall to Fox Sports’ NFL and MLB games.

“As more viewership goes into streaming environments, you have to have a competitive ad experience to ad-free, while still maintaining our revenue per hour. The only way to do that is improve our client ROI: how do we get more ROI with less time?” says Levy, 35, who hopes Fox’s competitors follow his lead. “We want everyone to start selling ‘sixes.’ The way that we all win here is, with more tools, to hit users with the right message at the right time, and be more efficient with people’s attention.” —J.L.

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