Faces to Watch in 2014: Digital media | Nancy Tellem, Mike Hopkins, Issa Rae

The Times asked its reporters and critics to highlight figures in entertainment and the arts who will be making news in 2014. Here’s who they picked:

Nancy Tellem | Microsoft’s president of entertainment and digital media

The veteran CBS television executive had her work cut out when she joined Microsoft Corp. in 2012 to launch a Santa Monica studio to create original content.

Long fascinated with changes in consumer behavior, Tellem is now playing an important role in determining what appeals to younger consumers accustomed to getting their entertainment on multiple screens. She is trying to build on the momentum that Microsoft has achieved by encouraging millions of consumers to consider the Xbox more than just a video game console. Xbox users spend more than half of their time online listening to music and streaming movies, TV shows and exploring other entertainment options. Microsoft wants to build a trove of exclusive content to differentiate its game system from the rival Sony PlayStation.


GRAPHIC: Faces to watch 2014 | Entertainment 

Microsoft’s slate of new shows designed to appeal to the digitally connected generation is expected to launch in the first half of 2014. Microsoft also brought Tellem on board to make inroads with Hollywood’s creative community. One of the first projects she announced was a live-action TV series, produced by Steven Spielberg, based on the “Halo” game franchise for Xbox Live, a feature that enables gamers to play against online opponents.

Tellem was trained as a lawyer and worked her way up the ranks in business affairs at Lorimar, Warner Bros. and then CBS. At the broadcast network, Tellem was a key executive in the development of new shows, including the hit reality show “Survivor.” She was one of the TV industry’s first female entertainment presidents.

— Meg James


Mike Hopkins | Hulu chief executive

Hulu, the popular online TV service known for its sleek design and free access to current TV episodes, has won raves from consumers who’ve flocked to the site since it launched in 2007. Users credited the company’s first chief executive, Jason Kilar, for building a service that could revolutionize TV. But momentum stalled as its media company owners — 21st Century Fox and Walt Disney Co. — were divided over how best to position the service.

Now Hulu is at a crossroads, and it’s up to Hopkins to navigate the thicket of problems that Hulu created for cable TV companies and Hulu’s owners. Hopkins also must figure out how to keep Hulu relevant as more aggressive digital services, Netflix and, spend lavishly to bolster their exclusive content.

Hulu is poised to remain a significant player in digital media as more people migrate to streaming services. The Santa Monica company’s revenue nearly doubled in 2013 to $1 billion, and new advertisers have jumped on board. 

RELATED: Faces to watch 2014 | TV

Observers are watching to see whether Hopkins will reposition the service. Some expect Hulu to become an offering from cable and satellite TV companies trying to retain subscribers who want to watch TV on their laptops, tablets and smartphones — not just the big screen at home.

Hopkins, who has an MBA From UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, spent more than 15 years at Fox, where he helped launch new cable channels and wrangle programming agreements with cable companies.

— Meg James


Issa Rae | Actress-writer-director

The 28-year-old actress and writer first attracted notice with “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” a Web series that follows the title character, J, through comically uncomfortable situations on the job and in her personal life (including one moment in which a white co-worker at a call center attempts to touch her hair).

Rae’s sharp writing attracted the notice of Pharrell Williams, who featured the series on his I Am Other YouTube channel, and also of “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes, who worked with her on a pilot called “I Hate L.A. Dudes” that ABC decided not to pick up. She’s joined with “The Bernie Mac Show” creator Larry Wilmore to write a pilot for HBO. 

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She created, wrote and sometimes directed the Web series “The Choir,” a comedy set in the United Church of Holy Christ in Fellowship’s choir as the members attempt to rebuild their dying congregation through innovative and sometimes inappropriate ways. When not in front of camera, Rae is writing a book of personal essays.

— Dawn Chmielewski

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