When then-CBS TV Studios head of drama Julie McNamara was named EVP and head of Original Content for CBS All Access in June 2016, she brought with her VP Danny Feldheim and a junior executive. The trio oversaw the streamer’s initial original slate, which consisted of three series, Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fights and No Activity.
For most of the past three and a half years, McNamara kept a lean programming team as CBS All Access’ original lineup grew from three shows to more than 14 planned to air in 2020. And while she says that “we didn’t want it any other way,” in light of of the programming ramp-up, McNamara is expanding her Original Content team.
Feldheim and Jana Steele Helman, who joined the streamer in April, have both been elevated to SVP, Original Content. Ashley Whitaker has joined the SVOD and live-streaming service as Director of Original Content and will work alongside Director Eric Pertilla who had been at CBS All Access since August 2018.
“We needed to expand,” McNamara said. “Together we’ve built an originals brand for CBS All Access that stands apart in the marketplace, and I look forward to continuing to work with this incredible team to grow the service and our originals slate even further.”
With the team’s expansion, their management style won’t change. “We want to be hands-on in the right way but not have our fingerprints on the shows which should reflect the voice and vision of the creators,” McNamara said.
The CBS All Access Original Content team has spearheaded the development and launch of nine originals to date, including Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fight, Why Women Kill, and The Twilight Zone, with more than 14 additional original series slated for 2020. Upcoming projects include the service’s first documentary film, Console Wars, limited event series The Stand, Star Trek: Picard, and true crime series Interrogation.
The expansion of CBS All Access’ Original Content Team is indicative of “how much we are investing, how much we are going after bigger and broader originals,” CBS Interactive president and COO Marc DeBevoise said. “We are going to have at least a show a month next year and at least one major tentpole in each quarter — the two Star Treks (Discovery and Picard), The Stand, The Twilight Zone, The Good Fight, Why Women Kill.”
While both DeBevoise and McNamara indicated that the size of the platform’s 2020 slate is probably where they see the volume of original premium programming staying for the near future, CBS All Access is undergoing expansion in other areas.
“That includes kids content space, we are very excited about the merger (with Viacom) and being able to work closely with the Kids and Family division at Nickelodeon,” DeBevoise said. “We have made a big splash in the sports space in the last few weeks, locking up the bidding for UEFA Champions League soccer, beginning in 2021.”
CBS All Access has seen 60% subscriber growth year over year, and CBS Corp. had projected that the platform and sibling Showtime will have a combined 25 million subscribers—or triple the current number—by the end of 2022.
Feldheim was one of the first hires for the Original Content division at CBS All Access when the service launched original series in 2016. Feldheim is responsible for shepherding such dramas as Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fight, The Stand, and Interrogation, and has led CBS All Access’ push into comedy with No Activity, from Funny or Die, a new Star Trek animated series called Star Trek: Lower Decks and helped bring in the service’s first documentary feature film, Console Wars. Before joining CBS All Access, Feldheim worked in drama programming at Fox.
Helman joined CBS All Access as a VP, Original Content, in April 2019. Since joining the team, she has spearheaded the development on series including Why Women Kill, The Twilight Zone and Tell Me A Story. Prior to CBS All Access, she served as VP of Programming and Development at Freeform. During her time there, Helman was a key contributor to the rebrand of the network from ABC Family and oversaw the development and production of such series as Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger and Grown-ish. Prior to joining Freeform in 2016, Helman was Director of Comedy Development at Warner Brothers Television, working on series including 2 Broke Girls, Undateable, Selfie, One Big Happy and the adaption of Green Eggs and Ham.
Pertilla joined CBS All Access in August 2018 as Director, Original Content. Since joining the team, Pertilla has supported the development of such series as The Good Fight, Why Women Kill, The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: Discovery among others. Prior to joining CBS All Access,
Prior to CBS All Access, Whitaker served as a creative executive at Harpo Films where she worked in television and film development. In this role, she worked closely with OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, helping to develop scripted content for the network, including hit series Greenleaf and Ambitions.
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