Executive Director Courtney Pledger
Courtney Pledger is the Arkansas Educational Television Network Executive Director. She has been with the network since 2017, previously serving as executive director of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute/Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.
As AETN executive director, Pledger is responsible for policy implementation, strategic planning, budget preparation, and operations and management of the statewide educational network and its private foundation, among other duties.
Pledger has worked for more than three decades in the film and television industry, immersed in management, story development and production. An Arkansas native, her first job was as an intern at a public television station while attending Millsaps College. She then spent many years in Los Angeles, London and New York before returning to Arkansas in 2012 to revitalize and reinvent the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. Under Pledger's leadership, HSDFF was designated an Oscar-qualifying festival in the category of Documentary Short Subject by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
From 2011-2014, Pledger served as a creative consultant to award-winning Aardman Animations in the UK ("Chicken Run," "Wallace and Gromit," "Arthur Christmas").
From 2009-2011, she held the position of senior vice president of production for Los Angeles-based Radical Pictures/Radical Studios where she helped build the company's publishing and film brands, forging partnerships with major film studios including DreamWorks, Disney, New Regency, Fox, Warner Brothers and MGM. Among the industry elements engaged to create book-to-film properties were screenwriter Terry Rossio, actor Vince Vaughn's Wild West Picture Show, director McG's Wonderland Sound and Vision, director Gore Verbinski's Blind Wink, actor Dwayne Johnson, producer Mark Gordon and screenwriter Paul Tamasy. Pledger was instrumental in developing and packaging the underlying properties for Radical features "Oblivion" with Tom Cruise for Universal and MGM's "Hercules."
Prior to joining Radical, Pledger was a producer with Illumination Entertainment/Universal Studios where she specialized in identifying book material for family-friendly films from both the U.S. and U.K.
From 2000-2004, she partnered with British producer and former Working Title Films co-founder Sarah Radclyffe in London-based Jigsaw Films, under the Miramax umbrella. "The Vampire's Assistant", based on the best-selling book series "The Saga of Darren Shan," was released by Universal in 2009 starring Academy Award Nominee John C. Reilly. Development continues on Jigsaw's adaptation of the classic children's book "Kensuke's Kingdom" by "War Horse" author Michael Morpurgo.
Pledger began her career at Hearst Entertainment. She was vice president of development and production at the IndieProd Company and Rastar/IndieProd where she worked for noted producers Ray Stark and Dan Melnick, and was involved in a range of projects including "Roxanne," "L.A. Story" and "Air America." During those years, she produced a number of significant television dramas for CBS, ABC and NBC, including: "Lois Gibbs and The Love Canal," starring Academy Award-winner Marsha Mason; "Evidence of Love (aka A Killing in a Small Town)," starring Brian Dennehy and Barbara Hershey, for which Hershey won a Best Actress Emmy; and the Christopher Award-winning miniseries "The Challenger," revealing the struggle by NASA engineer Roger Boisjoly to bar the faulty space shuttle from its launch. She produced the international series "A Fine Romance" from ABC/London Weekend Television/Television France and was responsible for other series pilots starring actors Anthony Perkins and Ian McShane.
She is a recipient of Women in Film's Lillian Gish Producing Award and has been nominated for a primetime Emmy. Most importantly, she is the proud mother of three children, Miranda, Liam and India.
Chief Operating Officer Ed Leon
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.
Chief Operating Officer