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HomeNewsKenneth S. Williams has taken on the role of CEO at Ascent...

Kenneth S. Williams has taken on the role of CEO at Ascent Media Group

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By Peter Caranicas
Kenneth S. Williams has taken on the role of CEO at Ascent Media Group, moving up after serving one year in the COO position. Ascent is parent to a global collection of post and media services companies, including Encore, Soundelux, Todd-AO, Modern Music, Company 3, Blink Digital, POP Sound, Hollywood Digital and A.F. Associates. Williams—a veteran of companies like Technicolor Digital Cinema, Stan Lee Media and Sony Pictures Entertainment—gave Below the Line a glimpse into his vision for Ascent’s future direction.
The task at hand: Before, I had responsibility for all the business unit heads. Stepping to CEO involves the additional responsibility for the CFO, general counsel, human resources, administration—all the fun stuff… [We will] work more tightly together and have more local authority here in Los Angeles in the daily operations of the company. I hope to push a little bit more autonomy out to some of the guys in the field so we can be more client-responsive.
Who’s the Boss: I report to Bill Fitzgerald [chairman and senior VP of Liberty Media] who is based in Denver. He’s been a great partner. But it was always understood that once I got my arms around the operating side of the company, with any luck, I would step up.
Accomplishments so far: We’ve done a pretty good job of pulling together this collection of companies, large and small. We’ve consolidated individual facility operations, we’ve streamlined, we’ve rebranded in many cases, although we’ve continued to maintain our more creative boutique brands where there was a lot of brand equity and client consciousness. We have substantially collapsed down the cacophony of brand clutter.
Next assignment: We’re moving from the analog-to-digital transition into the digital-to-data transition. Moving to a file-server environment provides opportunities across the whole spectrum of production, content management and distribution. It opens up all kinds of interesting electronic transport opportunities.
The challenge: To create content, manage it, store it and move it around—that’s where the industry is going in fits and starts. The challenge—and only a few companies in this world of media services have the scope to try to architect this, let alone pull it off—the challenge is to get all this together in an interoperable file system, and then combine this data-management capability with a deep understanding of clients and their service expectations.
Client knowledge: A lot of people know how to manage data but don’t have the knowledge of client workflow. When computer companies try to move into entertainment, even when they’ve got great technology, often the barrier is they don’t have the client relationships. Or even if they can get in the door they really don’t understand how the business is done.
The road ahead: In a three-to-five-year period there will be a dramatic transformation. It may not represent a complete integration, but already we’re seeing certain aspects of this change. For example, just in the last year we’ve seen a huge surge of interest and activity in the film digital intermediate area. We’ve begun to move from traditional telecine in the HD space to more a data-oriented virtual telecine, where the telecine is really just used as a scanner, but all of the imagery is maintained as data files in a distributed nonlinear environment. In DVD, content comes in as data and stays as data in a tapeless environment. This technology is falling into place. There’s a real opportunity for us is to knit these islands of data together into seamless global capability.

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