Comments Off on Ben Samek Elevated to Chief Executive Officer, Banijay Americas
Chairman of the Americas for Banijay, Cris Abrego, announced today that he is stepping down as CEO and elevating Ben Samek into the role of Chief Executive Officer, Banijay Americas. Samek, who has served as President and COO since 2018, will now oversee the company’s award-winning independent production studios across two continents, developing and producing some of the world’s biggest formats and hit series.
Abrego will stay on as Chairman of the Americas for Banijay, focusing on acquisitions and new business ventures. In line with the personnel changes, the production labels across the Americas will now be housed under the new umbrella, Banijay Americas.
“When I decided to step down as CEO, I knew Ben was the ideal person to take the reins as chief executive of Banijay Americas. He has been a key partner to me for more than two decades and I know him to be an extraordinary and results-driven leader with the experience and relationships to drive success both domestically and internationally,” said Abrego. “Ben cares deeply about our company, our clients, and our people. His promotion to CEO is a testament to his long list of contributions and achievements.”
“It is an honor to step into this role, especially at a moment of accelerated evolution for the entertainment industry and Banijay Americas,” said Samek. “There are tremendous opportunities ahead for our business and I am inspired daily by the extraordinary talent and expertise of our team. I am grateful to Cris, who has been a mentor and friend for many years, and I look forward to the work ahead.”
Samek joined Endemol USA in 2014 as Chief Operating Officer and transitioned to COO of Endemol Shine North America in 2015. Promoted to President and COO for Endemol Shine North America in January 2018, Samek then expanded his areas of oversight to include the Banijay companies in the U.S. and Latin America when Banijay acquired Endemol Shine Group in 2020. Previously he held the role at COO at 51 Minds Entertainment, where he worked closely with Abrego, its co-founder, to help grow the unscripted studio from its boutique beginnings into an industry heavyweight that produced more than $100 million a year in content and eventually sold to Endemol in 2008.
Banijay Americas multi-genre content portfolio includes highlights like the Emmy Award- winning Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls, LEGO Masters, MasterChef, The Men Who Built America, Real Housewives of Atlanta, Real Housewives of Potomac, Real Housewives of Dubai, Ink Master, Love is Blind Brasil, Vai Que Cola, La Casa de los Famosos, LOL Mexico, the Below Deck franchise, The Challenge franchise, and more.
Comments Off on Banijay Americas Launches New Production Studio Banijay Mexico & U.S. Hispanic
Banijay Americas is launching new production studio Banijay Mexico and U.S. Hispanic, which will be led by multiple-Emmy nominated producer Marie Leguizamo, it was announced today by Cris Abrego, Chairman of the Americas, Banijay and President and CEO, Endemol Shine Holdings.
The studio will be based in both Mexico City and at Banijay America’s Los Angeles offices and focus on original content in both English and Spanish for broadcast, cable and streamers in the Mexican and U.S. Hispanic markets. Leguizamo, who has served as an executive producer for top unscripted series for the company over the last decade, will serve as the studio’s Managing Director.
Leguizamo has produced unscripted television for nearly two decades, and her vision and concepts have led to record-breaking ratings and successes. In 2019, Leguizamo signed an overall development and executive producer deal with the company’s sister Mexico City-based studio Endemol Shine Boomdog.
Endemol Shine Boomdog, which is led by CEO Alejandro Rincon, continues to be the leading independent producer in the region, behind such unscripted and scripted hits as ¿Quién Es La Mascara(Televisa/Univision), La Casa de los Famosos (Telemundo), Mira Quien Baila (Univision), Subete a Mi Moto(Amazon Prime), Nicky Jam: El Ganador (Netflix) and much more.
Leguizamo just wrapped executive producing the third and fourth seasons of Boomdog and Amazon Prime’s Last One Laughing (LOL) with Eugenio Derbez and has served as the showrunner/EP on such Spanish-language hit series as La Voz Kids for Telemundo, Pequeños Gigantes USA and Mira Quien Baila.
“We are truly excited to be launching a new studio that’s focused on developing and producing original content for the Mexican and U.S. Hispanic marketplaces and to have someone like Marie at the helm,” said Abrego. “Marie is perfectly suited for this role—she’s one of the most respected producers in this space, she has deep roots in both nations and is entrepreneurial at heart.”
“I am honored to be given this unique opportunity to lead a new label focused on creating fresh and innovative content for both Mexican and U.S. Hispanic audiences,” says Leguizamo. “It’s an incredibly exciting time in this space right now, with so many networks and emerging platforms looking to acquire premium programming. I thank Cris Abrego and our team for trusting me with this new role and I can’t wait to further establish Banijay as a leader in this territory.”
Most recently, Leguizamo served as Executive Producer/Showrunner on Amazon Prime and Endemol Shine Boomdog’s LOL, a series that she has helmed for three of its four seasons. She has been recognized twice by the International Emmy association with nominations for her work on La Voz Kids and she also garnered a Daytime Emmy nomination for LOL.
Leguizamo served as Executive Producer/Showrunner on Univision’s Pequeños Gigantes and she’s produced a variety of network performance/competition-centric shows including two seasons of Carnival Corporations’ La Gran Sorpresa and Endemol Shine Boomdog’s top-rated series Mira Quien Baila. Additionally, she has produced various shows such as Nuestra Belleza Latina, Viva El Sueño,Premios Juventud, El Juego de Oro and Billboard All Access.
Comments Off on Julie Pizzi Named President, Bunim/Murray Productions
Veteran producer and longtime executive Julie Pizzi has been named President, Bunim/Murray Productions, it was announced today by Cris Abrego, Chairman of the Americas, Banijay, and President and CEO, Endemol Shine Holdings.
Pizzi, who formerly served as President of Entertainment and Development at Bunim/Murray, has led both development and production during her career at the Banijay-owned studio that first started in 1998.
Bunim/Murray Productions was originally founded in 1987 and is behind such ground-breaking unscripted series as The Real World, Road Rules, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and The Challenge. Earlier this month, Paramount+ announced it had ordered a new season of The Real World that will include members of the original cast that first aired on MTV.
Last November, Bunim/Murray Productions was put under the purview of Abrego, who now oversees nine different Banijay-owned studios across North and Latin America, including Endemol Shine North America.
“Julie brings a wealth of unscripted production experience to her new role and has been a part of the Bunim/Murray family for more than 20 years, making her the ideal candidate to lead the studio into the next decade,” says Abrego. “Bunim/Murray is one of the true pioneers in the unscripted industry and thanks to Julie and many others, it has a tremendous amount of momentum with numerous new ground-breaking series on the way.”
“I started my career at Bunim/Murray and was mentored by its founders, the late Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray,” says Pizzi. “I have incredible admiration for the company they created and it’s important for me to continue to build on what they built in both nurturing creativity and developing content that is both innovative and entertaining.”
Pizzi added, “At the same time, look forward to working with Cris Abrego, his team and Banijay globally as we shepherd Bunim/Murray into its next successful chapter. Cris is an industry leader, who also worked at BMP during the company’s early years. He understands the uniqueness of the company, the brand and its culture.”
Pizzi has more than 20 years of experience producing hundreds of hours of unscripted television. While serving as President of Entertainment and Development, she had creative and development responsibility for all of Bunim/Murray’s format series and increasing the development of original formats.
Most recently, she developed and served as Executive Producer on Bill Nye Saves the World for Netflix and was one of the first partners with Facebook to launch the Ball In The Family series on their Watch platform. Pizzi also developed and led production on The Real WorldThailand, Mexico and Atlanta for Facebook, Snapchat’s first docu-series Endless, Kim Kardashian West—The Justice Project for Oxygen and Family or Fiance´ for OWN.
Previously, Pizzi served as Creative Vice President and Showrunner at Bunim/Murray for six years, where she spearheaded development and executive produced high-rated seasons of Road Rules and Real World/Road Rules Challenge (MTV), as well as Born to Diva (VH1). And Pizzi has continued to oversee the hit Challenge franchise for MTV, which is going into its 37th season.
In 2004, Pizzi left Bunim/Murray to launch award-winning reality and documentary company, PB&J Television. As Co-President of PB&J, Pizzi executive produced Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Model Search (NBC), Reversal of Fortune (Showtime), America’s Prom Queen (ABC Family), Bad Sex (LOGO), as well as four seasons of the hit Dress My Nest (Style).
Pizzi, who returned to head up development at Bunim/Murray in 2015, has produced many hours of programming for MTV, Facebook, Snapchat, Netflix, E!, Showtime, Paramount +, USA, Oxygen, OWN, HGTV, SYFY, NBC, FOX, Travel Channel, A&E, VH1, CMT, ABC Family, Style, Lifetime, The CW, TLC and Discovery.
Comments Off on Cris Abrego Becomes First Latino Chair of Television Academy Foundation
The Television Academy Foundation today announced its newly elected board officers, including its first-ever Latino chair, who will serve two-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2022.
Officers elected to serve two-year terms are: Foundation Chair Cris Abrego, Chairman of the Americas, Banijay, and President and CEO, Endemol Shine Holdings; Vice Chair Jonathan Murray, Bunim/Murray Productions co-founder; Treasurer Deborah Bradley, president of Bungalo Homes, Amherst; and Secretary Billie Greer, a public policy advisor and consultant.
“I am thrilled and honored to serve as Foundation chair and look forward to working with the board and staff as we build a more inclusive entertainment business,” said Abrego. “During these unprecedented times, we are expanding our reach to serve an even greater number of diverse students from across the country, advancing the Foundation’s goals of helping to shape the careers of the next generation of television professionals.”
Cris Abrego – Chair
As the newly named Chairman of the Americas, Banijay, and President and CEO, Endemol Shine Holdings, Abrego leads operations in North America and Latin America for the world’s leading content producer and distributor with a diverse portfolio of companies that are behind hit television formats including Lego Masters, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Big Brother, MasterChef, Wipeout,The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Deal or No Deal, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Biggest Loser and Utopia.
Abrego’s oversight includes Endemol Shine North America, Bunim/Murray Productions, Authentic Entertainment, Truly Original, 51 Minds Entertainment, Stephen David Entertainment and Yellow Bird U.S. In Latin America,
Abrego also oversees Endemol Shine Latino, the company’s Spanish- and Portuguese-language sales and development arm.
As one of the highest-ranking Latino leaders in television, Abrego has made inclusion a top priority for his team at Endemol Shine and throughout the entertainment industry. In 2019 Abrego received the prestigious President’s Award at the 34th annual Imagen Awards, which were established to encourage positive portrayals of Latinos in the media.
Under Abrego’s leadership, Endemol Shine has been a host company for the Television Academy Foundation’s Summer Internship Program for more than six years.
Abrego succeeds Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, who served two consecutive terms (2017-2020) as chair of the Foundation. Di Nonno will remain on the Foundation’s board of directors.
Jonathan Murray – Vice Chair
As co-founder of Bunim/Murray Productions, Murray is widely credited with helping to usher in the modern reality television genre with his late partner Mary-Ellis Bunim when they launched The Real World on MTV in 1992. Murray has executive produced some of the industry’s most popular unscripted television shows including Project Runway, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Challenge, The Simple Life, Starting Over, Family or Fiancé and Making the Band. He has won two primetime Emmy® Awards for Born This Way, a series documenting the lives of young adults with Down syndrome, and the documentary Autism: The Musical. His most recent documentary titled TransHood premiered on HBO in November 2020.
In 2012 Murray was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. He has served multiple terms on the board of the Television Academy representing the Reality Peer Group and has been a co-chair of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards committee.
Murray and Bunim/Murray Productions have been avid supporters of the Foundation’s annual Summer Internship Program through the years, hosting and hiring numerous interns who have come through the program.
Deborah Bradley – Treasurer
Bradley serves as president of Bungalo Homes, a technology-enabled platform transforming the residential real estate experience, and a division of investment manager, Amherst. Bradley is responsible for all aspects of scaling the consumer-facing business. Prior to joining Amherst in 2018, Bradley served for 25+ years in various executive capacities for global media companies, including Paramount Pictures, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia/Turner Broadcasting. Among positions she’s held throughout her career are acting general manager of Cartoon Network and Adult Swim; head of acquisitions for Turner Entertainment Networks;
programming operations for TNT and tbs; and head of cable sales, CBS Distribution.
Bradley has been on the Foundation’s board since 2016, serving both as chair of its Emmys Golf Classic and on development committees.
Billie Greer – Secretary
Greer is a public policy advisor and consultant. From 2011-2015, she served as president of the Southern California Leadership Council, founded by four former California governors and Southern California business and community leaders, to address and solve public policy issues critical to the region’s economic vitality. Greer served as director of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Los Angeles regional office and was a member of his senior staff from 2004-2010. In 2004 Billie was inducted into the National Association of Women Business Owners/LA’s Hall of Fame and was designated a “Women of Distinction” by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2005. She has been honored by the Black Business Association of Los Angeles and the NAACP Long Beach branch.
Greer has been on the Television Academy Foundation’s board of directors since 2010 and serves on its development committee. This is her second term as Foundation secretary; she previously held the position for the 2011-2012 term.
In addition, Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and Thomas Sarnoff, president of Sarnoff Entertainment Corporation, will continue to serve on the Foundation’s Executive Committee as Chair Emeritus and Founding Chair Emeritus, respectively.
About the Television Academy Foundation
Established in 1959 as the charitable arm of the Television Academy, the Television Academy Foundation is dedicated to preserving the legacy of television while educating and inspiring those who will shape its future. Through renowned educational and outreach programs, such as The Interviews: An Oral History of Television Project, College Television Awards and Student Internship Program, the Foundation seeks to widen the circle of voices our industry represents and to create more opportunity for television to reflect all of society. For more information on the Foundation, please visit TelevisionAcademy.com/Foundation.
Comments Off on Banijay Elevates Cris Abrego to Top Americas Role
Banijay, the world’s leading unscripted producer and distributor, today announces the final structure for its operations across the Americas, with Cris Abrego stepping up in a new overarching role. As Chairman of the Americas, Banijay, and President and CEO, Endemol Shine Holdings, he will now have principal responsibility for North America and Latin America, reporting to Chief Executive Officer, Marco Bassetti.
A renowned U.S.-based content leader, Abrego previously served as CEO, Endemol Shine North America and Chairman, Endemol Shine Americas, having taken up the positions in 2016. Originally joining Endemol Shine North America in 2014 as CO-CEO, he, in 2016, was given added oversight of the company’s Latin American operations as Co-Chairman, Endemol Shine Americas. Former co-founder and chief executive of Endemol Shine-owned studio 51 Minds Entertainment, he is one of the leading creators and producers of reality television in the U.S., recognized globally for pioneering the celeb-reality genre. Most recently, he led the successful launch of production labels in both Brasil and Mexico for Endemol Shine, as well as a push into Spanish-language programming in the U.S. and across Latin America.
Steeped in critical acclaim, Abrego’s new footprint is behind hit titles including Big Brother (CBS), MasterChef (FOX), Lego Masters (FOX), The Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo), Keeping up with the Kardashians (E!), Utopia (Amazon Prime Video), Ball in the Family (Facebook Watch), T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle (VH-1) and the upcoming return of Wipeout (TBS). Spanish-language triumphs to date include Mira Quién Baila (Univision), LOL: Last One Laughing (Amazon), ¿Quién Es La Máscara?(Televisa), MasterChef Mexico (Azteca), Tu Cara Me Suena (Univison), MasterChef Brazil(Bandeirantes/Discovery), All Together Now (Teen) (Record), Extreme Makeover Home Edition (GNT/Globo), Game of Clones (Amazon/Record) and Súbete a Mi Moto (Amazon).
“Cris has long been a significant figurehead in the US content ecosystem. Respected, creatively triumphant and a driver of positive change, he has all the qualities to strategically and effectively lead one of our largest territories,” said Marco Bassetti. “With nine labels split across North and Latin America, spanning everything from entertainment to scripted, he has oversight of some of the region’s most celebrated IP and we’ve no doubt our pipeline and reputation will only soar under his leadership.”
“I am truly excited about this new role and the opportunity that it allows me and our team to continue building on the tremendous momentum we’ve created at Endemol Shine over the last five years across North America and Latin America,” says Abrego. “I’m also looking forward to working closely with Marco and our new Banijay colleagues here in the U.S. and around the globe. Together we are now home to many of the biggest titles in our industry and our teams are currently developing the hits of tomorrow.”
Abrego’s full portfolio of award-winning businesses now includes Endemol Shine North America,Bunim/Murray Productions, Authentic Entertainment, Truly Original, 51 Minds Entertainment, Stephen David Entertainment and YellowBird US. He will also have full oversight of Endemol Shine Latino, the company’s Spanish-language sales and development arm that leads all original programming initiatives across Latin America, including Mexico City-based studio Endemol Shine Boomdog and Endemol Shine Brasil in Sao Paulo. Banijay Studios North America will continue to be run independently by President and CEO, David Goldberg.
As one of the highest-ranking Latinos in television, Abrego has made inclusion a top priority for his team at Endemol Shine and across the entire entertainment industry – he will continue to drive this narrative across his broadened remit.