In a sign of big moves to come for Roku, veteran TV executive Charlie Collier is exiting his post as CEO of Fox Entertainment to join the digital distribution platform as president of Roku Media.
Collier will oversee advertising sales and content for Roku’s owned-and-operated channels featured on the streaming platform that hosts the fast-growing number of free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels as well as serving as a key funnel for Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Paramount+ and other subscription streamers.
Collier is set to shift to his new post at Roku in late October and will be based in New York.
Collier’s appointment coincides with other senior-level changes at Roku. Two top executives, Mustafa Ozgen and Gidon Katz, have been upped to presidents as Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood vows to create a “next-generation media company.”
Ozgen advances to Roku’s president of devices while Katz becomes president of consumer experience; both executives had been senior VPs. Collier, Ozgen and Katz all report to Wood.
“There is a tremendous opportunity to further accelerate and evolve Roku’s business as the streaming platform built for advertising, and Charlie is the ideal person to help us capitalize at the moment,” Wood said. “He is a proven leader who brings vast experience, a history of evolving businesses, strong creative instincts, talent relationships and a track record of driving revenue and growth. He will play an integral role in helping us achieve even greater success as a next-generation media company.”
Wood also pointed to Roku’s focus on growth outside the US as a reason for the new alignment of operations.
“As Roku grows internationally, these positions will help bring more focus to key areas of our business as the global shift to streaming continues,” Wood said. “Charlie, Mustafa and Gidon bring extensive industry knowledge and leadership experience to Roku. I look forward to working with them and their teams as we continue to innovate and build our position… and our overall global footprint.”
The move comes as Roku is under pressure from Wall Street to address its badly slumping stock price. The digital distribution platform has grown dramatically over the past decade, reaching an active user base of about 63.1 million as of its Q2 earnings report.
As a distributor with significant national reach, Roku has commanded Hollywood’s attention. But after spiking through most of 2021, the company’s stock price has plummeted — down nearly 74% for the year to date, closing Thursday at $60.89 per share — amid sector-wide concerns that the growth of streaming platforms is slowing, particularly in the US
Roku’s status as a distributor that has only recently ventured into the original content realm, including through its acquisition last year of Quibi’s programming assets, has made the company challenging to examine in a fish-or-fowl sense by investors. The addition of a seasoned content development and network programmer in Collier sends the clear message that Wood recognizes the company has hit an inflection point.
Roku has at times experienced friction with key content providers and distributors over deal terms, including for HBO Max and YouTube TV. Bringing in an executive with Collier’s experience is likely to help smooth those discussions.
However, Roku’s announcement made it clear that oversight of relationships with content providers remains the domain of Tedd Cittadine, VP of content partnerships, “who continues to lead Roku’s relationships with third-party apps and streaming services.”
Roku said Collier will be tasked with collaborating on “commercial strategy” with Cittadine and Gil Fuchsberg, senior VP of corporate development and strategic partnerships, with Cittadine continuing to report to Fuchsberg.
Roku ad sales executives Alison Levin (VP of ad revenue and marketing solutions), Louqman Parampath (VP of ad product) and Mirjam Laux (VP of international advertising and content) will report to Collier. So wants Rob Holmes, VP of programming.
“Roku is a pioneer in streaming television and has achieved scale and significant relationships with our partners that will continue to be unique and valuable at this pivotal time in the industry,” Collier said. “As a partner of Roku, I’ve seen firsthand the power and potential the platform provides advertisers, partners, content creators and consumers. I’m eager to work with Roku’s talented team to continue to innovate, grow and bring the company and its partners to the next level.”
Collier’s move to Roku caught most people in the industry by surprise, including many of his Fox colleauges. There’s no word yet on a successor. A Fox spokesman would only say that the company has a “fantastic team” and that an announcement on a new entertainment chief is expected soon.
Collier and Fox Corp. cast their parting as extremely amicable. In a statement to Variety, Lachlan Murdoch, Fox Corp. executive chair and CEO, expressed gratitude to Collier for helping to rebuild entertainment operations on the Fox studio lot following the 2019 sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney. Murdoch cited Collier’s leadership and “unbridled enthusiasm” as crucial to getting the new company off the ground.
“He and his team have executed a creative strategy in entrepreneurial and profitable ways that leveraged our broadcast leadership to build and support businesses to position us for future growth,” Murdoch said.
Collier returned the sentiment: “It has been a privilege and pleasure to work alongside so many remarkable Fox colleagues,” he said. “Sincere thanks to Lachlan for the opportunity to be a part of the evolution of the storied Fox brand and business.”
Collier joined Fox Corp. in late 2018 as the company was being formed following Rupert Murdoch’s sale of his 21st Century Fox assets to Disney, a deal that was completed in March 2019.
Collier is well known throughout the TV business as a strong manager of people and a savvy marketer of content. During his tenure at Fox, Collier steered the company’s entertainment strategy and the rebuilding of its production infrastructure after the separation from 21st Century Fox. Collier spearheaded Fox’s acquisitions of animation shop Bento Box Entertainment, the TMZ celebrity and entertainment news franchise and the busy production company MarVista Entertainment.
After the Bento Box deal, Collier championed the creation of the Blockchain Creative Labs unit to take Fox into the emerging world of NFTs and Web3 content applications. He also established the Studio Ramsay production joint venture between Fox and superstar TV chef Gordon Ramsay.
In programming, the biggest hit the Fox broadcast network fielded on Collier’s watch was talent competition series “The Masked Singer” and the successful expansion of the “9-1-1” drama franchise with “9-1-1: Lone Star.”
Before joining Fox, he spent 12 years at AMC Networks, rising to president in 2008. He helped drive that company’s exponential growth with the success of distinctive original series such as AMC’s “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” and SundanceTV’s “Rectify.”
Collier got his start in cable during the heady 1990s era of growth. He worked in advertising sales at Court TV (now Turner’s TruTV) prior to joining AMC Networks in 2006. Before Court TV, he held sales-related posts for A+E Networks, Oxygen Media and local TV ad sales firm Telerep.
Katz joined Roku earlier this year after being part of the team that launched Peacock in his role as president of direct-to-consumer for NBCUniversal. Before that, he led the Sky streaming platform Now and helped launched Virgin Media’s VOD service.
Ozgen, a seasoned tech executive and veteran of the Turkish Navy, joined Roku in February 2019. He has spearheaded key initiatives for the company including the Roku TV, Roku Players and Roku Ready Soundbars. Before Roku, Ozgen was CEO of SmartKem, a producer of semiconductors. He’s also held senior roles at such tech and engineering firms as QD Vision, Sigma Designs, CSR, Zoran, Oak Technology, TeraLogic and Wind River Systems.