That sigh of relief you heard Thursday afternoon may well have come from the Warner Bros. lot.
Studio vets were upbeat in the wake of the shakeup atop AOL Time Warner, relieved that fears of a shakeup giving Robert Pittman oversight of the film operations could be put to rest.
Pittman came to conglom from the AOL side of the AOL-TW merger and was seen as less sympathetic to the studio’s concerns. Conversely, Time Warner-bred Jeff Bewkes — a TV and film vet — and Don Logan are seen as being more familiar with the studio’s initiatives and Hollywood in general.
“It looks like the Time Warner crowd will be running the show,” a highly placedWarners exec observed.
Warner Bros. prexy and chief operating officer Alan Horn will continue to report to chairman and CEO Barry Meyer, who now reports to Entertainment & Networks Group chairman Bewkes.
As far as the lot’s concerned, that’s great news. Bewkes spent nearly 25 years at HBO and is respected as a smart and creative executive who, best of all, truly understands the film and television business.
Meyer told Daily Variety that he’s enjoyed a long personal and professional relationship with Bewkes and that should help make the exec transition mesh quickly.
“Jeff Bewkes is a longstanding friend and a colleague,” he said. “And it feels very good to have him as head of this group.”
Meyer added he also knows Logan well and said the new exec hierarchy is well received on the lot.
“It feels like a very good structure and one in which the studio can thrive in,” he said. “The studio functions as a unit and is doing — knock on wood — very good. But every time there is a cloud or speculation about the company, it’s not good.
“So, to the extent this serves as clarification of the structure of the company, that’s good — not just for us, but for all of the parts of the company.”
Meanwhile, Meyer suggested that Bewkes’ control of content operations might curtail any exaggerated attempts at corporate synergy.
“Jeff and I share a common philosophy,” Meyer said. “We both feel that the way these companies have to be run is to have each division continue to be the best in their class. There has to be some cooperation between the divisions or else you’re not getting the benefit of having these companies under common ownership. But you can’t force it or mandate it — the cooperation has to come organically.”
In the past, he added, “I think that we’ve tried very, very hard, and maybe some times we have tried too hard to make things work together.”