27 Feb Fast Forward Awards 2023: Bill Rouhana — AVOD Pioneer [Media Play News]
BY THOMAS K. ARNOLD
February 27, 2023 |Bill Rouhana walks into the conference room of his modest office suite in Cos Cob, Conn., out of which he runs Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment (CSSE), the biggest AVOD network not owned by a major media or technology conglomerate.
A spry 70, he extends his hand and flashes a warm smile, the sincerity of which is echoed in his piercing blue eyes. He appears genuinely glad to meet a visitor. It’s this trait, along with a sharp mind and a keen, strategic vision, that has helped keep him relevant in media and telecommunication circles for more than 40 years.
A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Rouhana began his career in entertainment law, developing new financing models for film producers such as Blake Edwards. Later, he founded Winstar Communications, an early broadband services provider known for the huge promotional blimp that flew over trade shows. After going public in 1994, the company saw a 600% stock gain, only to collapse during the dotcom bubble. In 2008 he bought a small book publishing company called Chicken Soup for the Soul, the cornerstone for the pioneering ad-supported streaming network that includes Crackle, Chicken Soup for the Soul and Popcornflix. Chicken Soup also acquires and distributes video content through its Screen Media and 1091 Pictures subsidiaries, and produces original video content through the Chicken Soup for the Soul Television Group. Last August, CSSE acquired Redbox, which brought it more than 145 free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels, a transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) service, and a network of more than 34,000 disc-rental kiosks, all supported by original film and television production and distribution divisions.