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Entertainment Industry Execs Coach Student Teams

Disney-ABC, Activision, Google, AT&T and YouTube Execs Mentor Business Students

April 12, 2013

Asian woman in olive-colored blazer; students in foreground.

Jennifer D. Chandler, assistant professor of management, begins the Entertainment Operations course before students are introduced to industry mentors.

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What could be better for students than to be mentored by people already successful in the industry they hope to enter?

Nothing, say business majors enrolled in this semester's "Entertainment Operations" course, where they are being mentored by representatives from Disney-ABC, Activision/Blizzard, Google, AT&T UVerse and YouTube as they develop and finalize semester-long projects.

"When I enrolled in the class I had no idea that I would have such an fantastic opportunity!" said undergraduate Ariel Vidovich.

"It is an amazing experience and I am so impressed by the quality of this class," said graduate student Sidney Chu."

Disney-ABC's Dan Cohen, executive vice president for pay television and digital, co-teaches the course with Jennifer D. Chandler, assistant professor of management, who previously operated her own media sales, tourism and event management firm.

Industry insiders share their expertise and provide advice, criticism and support. At one of last month's classes, three of Cohen's Disney-ABC executives shared what’s happening right now in the business side of entertainment.

"It used to be there were very few windows for network TV content," explained Cohen. "One of the things that has happened to the television business is content is being re-purposed and sliced incredibly thinly. Shows coming off ABC go to multiple places as soon as the next day. "

And the way things are marketed has changed as well, said David Kite, Disney-ABC's vice president, digital marketing. "Now the content finds you, rather than you finding the content."

One example, Kite said, is how a movie version of a popular television show, "Veronica Mars" is being funded. The program creator launched an online fundraising campaign on the popular fundraising site Kickstarter.com to prove the movie would be received well by the public. To date, over 90,000 fans have pledged more than $5 million to bankroll the movie and make it their dream a reality.

"The business rules are changing," said Cohen.

"You guys know what you want," said J. Eatedali, senior account executive. "How do you want to receive content? Use things you know to your advantage."

"The coaches don't come in and drop wisdom; they give students realistic feedback" even if its negative, said Chandler. "Coaches and students are truly vested in the project and are meeting not only in the classroom but off campus and online via Skype, chat or IM."

The final exam for the course is a video pitch for some form of entertainment product based on a movie, TV show, video game, book, application or music album.

"The course incites intellectual curiosity by giving students the opportunity to create something new based on their comprehension and application of course concepts. This project engages students in the enterprise of learning by reinforcing how course concepts are relevant in the real world," said Chandler. "We expect that this project will have a lifelong impact on students."

One of the great things from the class, said Chu, "is simply the great networking connections. Being given a direct connection to a high-level executive in a major entertainment company is such a valuable resource."

By: Pamela McLaren, 657-278-4852

Tags:  Academics & ResearchCampus Updates