Darris Sherman Krannert MBA alumnus Darris Sherman is vice president of digital platforms at NBCUniversal Media. (Image provided.)

No Business Like Show Business

MBA alum Darris Sherman leads NBCUniversal’s transactional business

When the Covid-19 pandemic began closing movie theaters this spring, the entertainment industry quickly looked for new distribution outlets. From resurgent drive-ins to increasing video-on-demand, movie and television producers are responding with fresh content and creative delivery methods for a hungry audience of quarantined viewers.

Krannert MBA alumnus Darris Sherman, vice president of digital platforms at NBCUniversal Media, has a front-row seat to the ongoing transformation.

“Our team is responsible for the studio’s digital transactional business,” Sherman says. “Essentially the transactional business encompasses the rental or purchase of digital film and television content through partners like Amazon’s Prime Video or Apple’s iTunes or Comcast’s Xfinity.”

That business became especially critical this spring when Trolls World Tour, a franchise film under the company’s DreamWorks label, premiered April 10. With movie theatres shutdown because of the pandemic, the studio released the movie through a premium digital rental.

“We were the first major studio to launch a tent-pole film in the home,” Sherman says. The movie became Universal's most successful day-one rental and set several streaming records.

According to reports, Trolls World Tour finished number one for Prime Video, Xfinity, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, and DirecTV. After three months of release, the movie remained in the top five across most services.

For Sherman, such success is all part of the bigger picture.

The transactional side of the digital platforms group also distributes films from NBCUniversal’s other labels, he says, as well as a myriad of television series from its network and cable channels. Sherman’s digital content distribution role encompasses business and partner strategy, financial planning, business development, marketing, merchandising and operations.

“Our company is driven by quantitative analysis, from finance and decision-making to business strategy and marketing,” Sherman says. “Our group focuses on helping the company determine how we can maximize our content investment.  We are constantly thinking through big questions such as, ‘What are the right business models and how do we go to market?’”

As the company’s film and television production continues to return, Sherman will be watching the numbers closely. “The demand for content was high when people were staying at home, so it will be interesting to see how that trend evolves and how it will affect distribution going forward,” he says.

Sherman says his analytical skills are a byproduct of his Krannert MBA experience. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history from the University of California, Davis, he found his way to Silicon Valley, where he used his strategic marketing and communications skills to help grow several tech companies. This experience furthered his desire to strengthen his business knowledge, eventually bringing him to Krannert’s MBA program.

“I was looking for a globally focused MBA program that had expertise in strategy and marketing, and Krannert’s program seemed like the best fit,” Sherman says. “It was an intense and wonderful experience.”

Sherman says he enjoyed his two years at Purdue and advises current and prospective students to do the same.

“Being on campus is a special time, so it’s important to take advantage of the opportunities available to you,” he says. “My advice is to be present, stay open to different ideas and develop relationships with the other students.”


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