Courtney Pledger joined the Arkansas Educational Television Network as executive director in 2017. As AETN's chief executive, she is responsible for policy implementation, strategic planning, budget preparation and operations and management of the statewide educational network. Pledger has instilled a fresh vision for Arkansas's only statewide network with a focus on digital storytelling and distribution, universal elements in stories for broader appeal, refreshed local broadcast and education efforts, fundraising strategies and community connection.
Under Pledger's leadership, AETN has launched AR-CAN (Arkansas Citizens Access Network), a hub for live-streaming coverage of state government proceedings and civic literacy; brought support to student athletes and their communities through the broadcast of high school championship football, basketball, baseball and softball games statewide on AETN Sports; and has driven digital production and engagement, as well as producing for national PBS distribution with "State of the Art," telling the personal stories of diverse artists at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Prior to joining AETN, Pledger worked for more than three decades in the film and television industry in story development, production and management. She began her career at Hearst Entertainment, Rastar and the IndieProd Company and has had senior leadership roles at multiple film and television organizations including Universal's Illumination Entertainment where she focused on IP for family-friendly films, London-based Jigsaw Films/Miramax, Radical Pictures and the U.K.'s Aardman Animation where she served as a creative consultant. From 2012-2016, Pledger was director of Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, where she revitalized the longest-running nonfiction festival in North America, earning designation as an Oscar-qualifier in Documentary Short Subject for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Pledger is member of the PBS Board of Directors, a member of the Executive Committee of the National Educational Television Association (NETA) and serves as co-chair of the Organization of State Broadcast Executives (OSBE). She is on the advisory board for Arkansas Women in Film.Courtney Pledger
Ed Leon is Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director of the Arkansas Educational Television Network where he helps guide multiple operational areas related to strategy, content and media operations. Ed joined AETN in 2018 and brings along more than three decades of diverse experience in commercial broadcasting, digital media, educational media, marketing, web and digital app product development, VOD and creative television production to further AETN's mission to inspire, entertain and educate.
Most recently from 2009 to 2017 he served as Chief Brand Officer and SVP of Product Development for The Great Courses, a global digital media company specializing in long-form video series for lifelong learning. He led an award-winning content studio that produced hundreds of series across a wide spectrum of subjects including, science, history, business, art, music, engineering, health wellness, culinary instruction, photography and more. He led content development and created long term partnerships with National Geographic, Mayo Clinic, Smithsonian, A E History, the Baseball Hall of Fame and The Culinary Institute of America; while expanding multiplatform distribution of The Great Courses to Amazon Channels, Netflix, Audible, Comcast Xfinity, Roku, Facebook Live, SiriusXM Radio and The Great Courses Plus, a proprietary subscription video on demand platform that provides a Netflix-style viewing experience via mobile apps, connected devices and online streaming.
His background also includes deep experience in national television programming and production in Los Angeles. In 2004, he helped launch a new cable television network as a founding executive of SiTV. The network (which has since rebranded and now operates as FUSE) was ground breaking in that it programmed to a large, yet underserved millennial Latino audience with culturally authentic programming in English that represented their unique identity and lifestyles.
In four years as SVP of Programming and Production, Ed built the network's operational infrastructure from start-up, developed the brand and programming vision, and served as Showrunner/Executive Producer for hundreds of hours of original programming in comedy, reality, public affairs, music, game, talk, variety, news, fashion and independent film that spoke to that demographic.
His many credits as a hands-on creative producer of signature national TV series include: Senior Producer of Dr. Phil for CBS Television Distribution where he earned multiple Emmy nominations; Supervising Producer of The Other Half on NBC starring Mario Lopez, Dick Clark and Danny Bonaduce; Creator and Executive Producer of the daily ensemble news show That's Life for FOX; Supervising Producer Field Director for Caryl Marilyn; Real Friends on ABC; Writer-Producer of the Emmy winning Good Day Live on FOX; Producer-Director of George Alana with George Hamilton; Creator and Executive Producer of the animated IQ Kitties for Kids WB; Supervising Producer of Gabrielle with Gabrielle Carteris; Producer of Truth on MTV; Producer-Director of Disney's One Saturday Morning on ABC; Producer of Jones Jury with Star Jones; and Producer of The Montel Williams Show for Viacom.
Ed is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angles where he earned a BA in Communication Arts. He has been awarded multiple honors including the Emmy and Golden Mike for news; Cable ACE Awards for documentaries; a Prism Award; multiple Telly Awards for educational media; and multiple Promax/BDA for excellence in video marketing. The Imagen Foundation named him as "One of the Most Influential Latinos in Entertainment." A native of Havana, Cuba, Ed and his wife Wendy are recent transplants to beautiful Central Arkansas.Ed Leon