EXCLUSIVE: Team Whistle, parent of digital media operations such as Whistle, New Form, Tiny Horse and Vertical Networks, has promoted Michael Cohen to CEO, replacing company founder John West.
Cohen, who joined the company as EVP of finance and operations and has held the title of president since 2018, is also joining the board of directors. West will take on the full-time role of executive chairman, continuing to serve on the board.
Along with the executive change, the company has set a partnership with former Electus CEO Chris Grant, who will advise on long-form studio opportunities based on the company’s owned properties.
Team Whistle, which has grown in recent years through a series of acquisitions, is a home for scripted, unscripted and interactive shows, as well as podcasts, music and merchandise. Its ad-supported streaming network, Whistle TV, is available in 51 million homes and will soon launch on Amazon Fire TV, Google Android TV, Peacock and Roku. Cohen summed up Team Whistle’s specialty as “positive, uplifting content” that provides “brand-safe opportunities for advertisers” in an email to Deadline.
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“As one of our earliest team members and my right hand over the last eight years, Michael has been a
trusted employee, dedicated leader, and a key architect of our vision and strategy,” West said. “He is the right person to lead the company through this time of accelerated digital media transformation, as we continue to adapt to this fast-paced and exciting environment.”
Cohen thanked West for his “friendship, support and most of all his mentorship over the years,” saying the two have embraced adaptability as a key trait. “This mindset has enabled us to facilitate strong growth across all our business segments – with exceptional viewership, watchtime and engagement across our fully-distributed, diverse portfolio of positive, relatable and inclusive content.”
Grant, who has long focused on finding ways for advertisers and programmers to work more closely together, will join Team Whistle as a senior advisor to help accelerate long-form studio development. At Electus, which was sold to Propagate in 2018, Grant worked with producer and former NBC entertainment chief Ben Silverman on projects included Running Wild With Bear Gryllis. With Grant’s assistance, Team Whistle and Banijay established the Bear Gryllis Digital Network with the survivalist and adventurer.
“Team Whistle is a great company at an exciting moment in its evolution,” Grant said. “They have a
solid 360 pipeline of products and services which has incredible potential for brands and distributors
alike, and I am thrilled to work with Team Whistle in the next phase of their journey.”
Changes to the production process forced by COVID-19 will benefit Team Whistle beyond 2020, Cohen noted.
“Through this shift in content production, we’ve continued to prove we can produce top-tier content with smaller teams in remote locations and also deploying new technologies,” he told Deadline. “Though it’s a side-effect of the pandemic and safety measures, we see this as a significant continued growth opportunity into the future. We’re able to engage new creators and talent with smaller, more cost-effective teams producing shoots, and this also gives us the opportunity to get more creative and rethink formats relevant to young generations, while shaping this new normal of production.”