Activision Blizzard (Los Angeles, California, 310-255-2000) The online, PC, console and handheld game publisher has appointed marketing and advertising vet Eric Hirshberg as CEO of Activision Publishing, effective September 7. In his new role, Hirshberg will oversee the division’s operational management, including its product development functions, consumer marketing activities and studio. He’s replacing Mike Griffith, who was promoted to vice chairman of Activision Blizzard. Hirshberg joins Activision from Deutsch LA, a full-service integrated marketing and advertising agency, where he most recently served as CEO and chief creative officer. During his 13 years leading the company, Hirshberg developed strategies and multimedia campaigns for clients like Sony’s PlayStation 3, DirectTV and HTC, and became seasoned in the video game, subscription-based entertainment and mobile content industries.
Cartoon Network (Atlanta, Georgia, 404-827-1500): Rob O’Neill has been named to the newly created position of VP of program scheduling for Cartoon Network. His responsibilities include supervising the day-to-day on-air program scheduling of both Cartoon Network and Boomerang. In this capacity, he’s also acting as departmental lead for long-range calendar planning, working to develop creative strategies for on-air stunts and special events surrounding the network’s library of original and acquired programming. Prior to joining CN, O’Neill did a 13-year stint at Disney ABC Cable Networks Group, where he worked in programming and acquisitions. The network has also upped Ryan Adams to the newly created position of VP of program and schedule operations for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim US. In his new post, Adams will serve as strategic scheduling lead for all program and on-air promotion operations for Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, helping to identify new promotional opportunities and programming formats for recent changes/expansions within each network. He also will continue to act as the primary liaison between the networks, their on-air departments, Turner Broadcasting’s network operations and Turner’s digital media technologies division. Adams first joined TBS in 1996, working on the floor as a news coordinator for CNN’s Headline News.
Gong Media (Surrey, England, 44-203-286-3922): Vanessa Albeck, former director of marketing solutions at Yahoo!, has been named director of marketing TV-Mobile-Internet for Gong Media, the international network aimed at 15- to 24-year-olds. Albeck will oversee the network’s marketing and the distribution of the Gong brand across all platforms in Europe and the US. Increasing brand loyalty and managing international content and product marketing will be Albeck’s main goals. Albeck began her career in 1997 as a consultant at Accenture (ex-Andersen Consulting). In 2000, she joined TF1Publicité, where she helped launch the Pricing and Yield division and managed commercial offers before moving over to Yahoo! France in 2005.
Nickelodeon (New York, New York, 212-846-8018): Keith Dawkins has been promoted to the role of SVP and GM of Nicktoons and TeenNick. In his newly expanded role, Dawkins adds oversight of TeenNick, Nickelodeon’s 24-hour network for teens, to his current role as GM of Nicktoons. Dawkins will run the day-to-day operations for the teen network, including on-air programming, scheduling and marketing, and will work with MTV Networks’ Affiliate Sales organization on the channel’s distribution rollout. Dawkins will continue reporting to Sarah Levy, COO of the Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group. Over the past seven years, Dawkins has built the Nicktoons network with a strong focus on the boys market. As the first GM of Nicktoons, Dawkins manages the daily operations of the network and has spearheaded several key partnerships, including a deal with Marvel Animation that brought three new series to the channel.
Novel Entertainment (Oxford, England, 44-186-581-1562): The prodco has appointed Kelly Henwood as children’s brand manager to lead the future development of its TV properties. In her new role, Henwood is responsible for coordinating a range of brand partners across a variety of product areas, as well as initiating marketing campaigns and cross-promotional strategies. She joins the company with five years experience in consumer products, marketing and licensing. Henwood will also work closely with Novel’s licensing agency CPLG and international distributors, as well as expand the online presence of the company’s brands.
Sanrio (Torrance, California, 310-896-3272): The home of Hello Kitty has bolstered its senior management team with three new appointments. Jill Koch is now VP of brand management and marketing, responsible for maintaining the identity of the Sanrio brand and its portfolio of characters. Koch will work closely with the design team on product development and brand extensions while continuing to oversee the expansion of the company’s co-brand initiatives and manage PR and marketing. Koch has been with Sanrio since 2002 and moves from her most recent role as senior director of brand management and marketing. Meanwhile, taking Ithe newly created role of executive director of retail business development is Cindy Elfenbein, who’s been brought on-board to develop new business opportunities with key retailers and create unique partnerships and promotions between Sanrio licensees and retailers. Prior to joining Sanrio, Elfenbein held senior management positions at Sony Pictures Entertainment, DIC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products. For her part, Linh Forse has been promoted to senior licensing manager. She is now responsible for managing the company’s licensing partners in the US, Canada and Mexico and her focus will be on expanding distribution in the Canadian market and developing licensing programs for emerging characters. Forse joined Sanrio in 2008 as licensing manager.
Scholastic (New York, New York, 212-343-6100): Matt Brown has been named president of Klutz, the kids activity division of global children’s publisher Scholastic. Now also an SVP at Scholastic, Brown will lead the creative direction of Klutz, managing the strategic development of the brand. Brown, who takes the reins from recently retired Klutz co-founder John Cassidy, assumes his new responsibilities on September 7. Over his 15 years in the kids business, Brown has been named on numerous patents and patent applications for building toys, electronic learning aids, activity and creativity toys, video games, social networking systems, adaptive learning technologies and consumer packaged goods. He has also led a variety of teams in the development, customization and implementation of seven different types of curricula, including language arts.
Skywriter Media and Entertainment Group (Toronto, Canada, 416-966-4759): Skywriter has appointed Gwen Jones McCauley as VP of distribution and acquisitions, where she will oversee the company’s distribution division while Paula McLaren is on maternity leave. Bringing along experience in international sales and distribution, McCauley joins the company from Cookie Jar Entertainment, where she served as VP of distribution and sales operations and was responsible for Canadian pre-sales and library and home entertainment sales. Before that, McCauley held various senior sales management positions during a stint at BBC Worldwide Canada.
Universal Studios (Los Angeles, California, 818-777-2067): Moving up to EVP of Universal Partnerships & Licensing, Amy Taylor will continue to oversee UP&L’s North American promotions, worldwide licensing, digital and interactive activities, and retail development for Universal Pictures and Focus Features. Taylor also continues to manage licensing, promotional and retail development efforts for the Universal library, which includes franchise properties like Curious George and Scarface. Her team is also currently handling promotional efforts for the Universal films that are being produced with Hasbro, including Battleship and Stretch Armstrong. During her 13-year tenure at Universal, Taylor held senior leadership roles in both Universal’s promotions and consumer products groups, where she helped launch merch and promotions for event films like The Cat in the Hat and The Incredible Hulk. Prior to joining Universal, Taylor held marketing positions with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Hanna-Barbera, where she looked after Cartoon Network and Turner properties.
Charles Falzon is heading back to school as the new chair of Ryerson University’s Radio and TV Arts program
It’s not as if industry veteran Charles Falzon wasn’t busy enough. The current co-chair of bustling Toronto, Canada-based prodco and distribution house CCI Entertainment recently accepted an appointment as chair of Ryerson University’s School of Radio and Television Arts (RTA). For those not familiar with the Canadian institute of higher education, Ryerson, particularly its RTA program, has churned out a good chunk of the country’s TV and film talent over the past five decades or so. Falzon had been working as an instructor in the program and was approached over the summer to take the chair post. Accepting a five-year term, he’s now getting to work on making his mark on the program that’s also been responsible for evolving modern communications theory the world over.
Falzon’s got an ambitious plan that will begin with reviewing the current curriculum and bringing it more in line with the needs of the international radio and television industries. He’ll also devote quite a bit of energy to uncovering resources for the program within Canada and forging stronger links with the industry. Falzon’s particularly interested in getting the industry more involved with research being conducted at the school and forming partnerships to further that course. Similarly, Falzon’s also looking at forming strategic partnerships internationally with like-minded programs at universities and colleges around the globe.
And don’t think Falzon’s stepping away from CCI. He’s currently executive producer on two of its newest kids series. He’s overseeing the production of formatted versions of Artzooka, an craft/art-centric series greenlit by CBC in Canada and Nick Germany. The second, GeoFreakZ, is a tween-targeted multiplatform project underway for Teletoon Canada that revolves around the treasure-hunt-like activity of geocaching, which is slated to air this fall.