With the announcement of three key executive appointments, Broadway Digital Entertainment (BDE) has moved to strengthen its management structure and raise its profile in the race to establish the first successful broadcast model for Broadway product.
BDE controls a 320-title library of theatrical productions originally broadcast on public television. The company is also developing an original subscription model for broadcasting Broadway product on television.
Already working at BDE in a public relations context is veteran Livent marketing vice president, Norman Zagier. As BDE's chief marketing officer, Zaiger will be responsible for "building brand identifications for the firm's two operating divisions -- the Broadway Theatre Archive and Broadway Tonight -- as well as providing creative direction and strategic planning for all of BDE's theatrical productions."
Toby Simkin has been named BDE's chief technology officer and will also serve as executive producer of Nederlander Digital Productions. Simkin's dual role points to a previously reported alliance between BDE and certain key players in theatre's broad Nederlander organization. Also of interest is the fact that Simkin was the founder of buybroadway.com which was purchased by BDE's nearest competitor, Broadway Television Network (BTN) and is now being run as theatre.com. BTN purchased Simkin's controlling interest in the popular site some months ago and brought in a new management team. The reasons for Simkin's two major moves this year — first selling his theatre.com to the developer of a Broadway broadcast model (BTN), and then jumping ship to another (BDE) -- invite speculation about the voluble nature of e-commerce in theatre. In addition to his primary responsibilities at BDE for BroadwayTonight.com and BroadwayArchive.com, Simkin will "administer the development and execution of the legit (live) productions of the Broadway Tonight series."
Analyst Lance Spiro, who specialized in program rights and clearances at PBS' New York flagship station, Thirteen/WNET, has been named BDE's senior vice president, licensing. Spiro will "clear the underlying rights to the more than 320 titles in The Broadway Theatre Archive" and will work with attorney Sherri Rosenberg, who is BDE's senior vice president, general counsel as well as its director of archive operations. In a written statement, BDE founder Basil Hero stated that BDE's goal was to "keep theatre thriving and relevant for generations to come by extending the life of Broadway plays through television and the Internet. These gentlemen come to the work place with enormous experience and enthusiasm, and we are very inspired by their ideas."
BDE's founding investor is former HBO chairman and CEO, Michael Fuchs, who also serves as BDE's chairman. BDE says it "offers for commercial sale and international broadcast digitally re-mastered presentations of classic Broadway shows of the past 50 years. Together with Nederlander Digital Productions, BDE will produce an annual subscription series of plays headlined by major film and television stars which will be staged for limited runs on Broadway and then filmed and broadcast to a global pay television audience."
The following biographical information was supplied directly by BDE in a written context along with the executive announcements.
Norman Zagier, BDE's chief marketing officer, has more than 22 years of experience in entertainment marketing, public and media relations, promotions, advertising and special events. From 1988-1998, he was affiliated with Toronto-based Livent Inc. where he served as senior vice president, strategic planning for marketing and communications and was responsible both for promoting the corporation's circuit of theaters, as well as launching and sustaining the runs of such Andrew Lloyd Webber productions as The Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond and Sunset Boulevard starring Diahann Carroll. In addition, he oversaw the Tony Award-winning Broadway productions of Kiss of the Spider Woman, Show Boat, Candide, Barrymore, and Ragtime. Prior to joining Livent, he served as the general press representative for the national tour of Me and My Girl and the international tour of Michael Bennett's musical, Dreamgirls. He began his career as the director of public relations for The Baltimore Center for The Performing Arts where he created publicity and promotional campaigns for over 100 touring Broadway shows and pre-Broadway tryouts.
BDE's chief technology officer and the executive producer of Nederlander Digital Productions, Toby Simkin, has worked extensively in both the UK and Australia's entertainment industry before relocating to North America where he served as production and stage manager for a number of high-profile theatrical and arena productions, including the Olympic-style opening ceremonies of Toronto, Canada's SkyDome and the Tony-nominated Broadway musical, Blood Brothers. Simkin has produced numerous shows for Microsoft, Volkswagen and various charities. In 1994, he was named the CEO of Vancouver-based Headquarters Entertainment Corporation that presented, marketed and managed many national touring musicals in Canada, including Forever Plaid and "The Three Tenors" as well as co-executive produced the Broadway musical Victor/Victoria starring Julie Andrews. In 1996, he founded buybroadway.com (now known as theatre.com) and personally designed and produced over 150 web sites for Broadway and London West End production, as well as handling a myriad of breakthrough online marketing initiatives for the theatrical community.
A graduate of Hofstra University Law School, Sherri Rosenberg began her career as in-house counsel for the NW Ayer advertising agency securing network broadcast clearances for such major accounts as Continental Airlines, J.C. Penney, Avon and Burger King. As staff attorney at the firm of Aiken, Gump, she was part of the litigation team representing Western Union in a multi-million dollar trademark valuation, and while with attorney Richard Emery, represented former heavyweight boxing champion, Tim Witherspoon, in a high-profile lawsuit against promoter Don King. Before joining BDE, she established an entertainment law practice representing authors, photographers, comedians and numerous not-for-profit arts groups.
Lance Spiro, senior vice president, licensing, spent the past two years working as one of Thirteen/WNET's chief negotiators on the clearances of their drama library. His own production company, The Pavlova Entertainment Group, produced the 1992 London revival of Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden starring Jean Marsh and Constance Cummings.
-- By Murdoch McBride