New toppers to fill in key positions while fresh initiatives aim to bolster channels
Who knows where the time goes?As another action-packed year in showbiz and media draws to a close, it’s a good time to make a mental inventory of the people and companies poised to make news in 2013. In Hollywood, there’s no more eagerly anticipated premiere than that of the successor(s?) for Barry Meyer as chairman-CEO of Warner Bros. Time Warner topper Jeff Bewkes has kept the town guessing for months, but he can’t sustain the drama past the first quarter without running the risk that WB staffers will lose their minds. The rejuvenation of James Murdoch is another brewing story. As News Corp. prepares to commit corporate cell division, splitting media and entertainment assets from publishing, James’ profile in the U.S. is only going to grow, barring any surprising late fallout from the U.K. phone-hacking investigations. Beyond the palace intrigue at WB and News Corp., there’s no shortage of interesting players to watch next year. And because somewhere it is written that every columnist must provide a year-end list, here’s mine: • Marc Graboff: The NBC alum spent the past year reorganizing the former CKX as Core Media Group and assembling an exec team. Now he’s expected to start using some of parent company Apollo Global Management’s private equity coin to grow its production-distribution business. There may even be a wedding in store for Core and Endemol thanks to the debt that Apollo holds in Endemol. • Peter Liguori: Once the ink on Tribune Co.’s bankruptcy settlement deal is dry, the former Fox and Discovery exec is ready to join as CEO, bringing a marketer’s touch to Tribune’s 23 stations and WGN America cabler. • Diana Mogollon: The g.m. of NBCUniversal’s Mun2 cabler has smartly positioned the channel to take advantage of the exploding interest in the bilingual and bicultural Latino audience. This is not your padre’s Spanglish TV network. • Scott Sassa: The TV vet kept a low profile after joining Hearst Entertainment in 2008, but the past two years he’s been busy growing Hearst’s production operations through acquisition pacts with Mark Burnett, NorthSouth Prods. and others. And Hearst is adding another channel to its cable family (ESPN, A&E, History, Lifetime) through a deal with NBCUniversal to give an Esquire-themed upscale guy-oriented makeover to the struggling G4 cabler. • Evan Shapiro: The former programming chief of IFC and Sundance Channel joined Participant Media as head of TV in April. He kept a low profile until Monday, when Participant announced its purchase and intended relaunch of the Documentary Channel. • Nancy Tellem: After a long run at CBS, she joined Microsoft in September to launch an L.A.-based studio to develop content for Xbox and other devices. It’s simple math: Tellem’s dealmaking and programming savvy + Microsoft’s deep pockets and hefty platforms = a sleeping giant ready to stir. • Christina Wayne: The former AMC exec who shepherded “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” surprised bizzers when she joined Canuck indie Cineflix Media in 2010 to start a Gotham-based scripted division. She’s off and running with shows, such as BBC America’s “Copper,” while Cineflix continues to invest by hiring NBCU alum Pete Smith as CEO of the studio in August and more development execs working under Wayne. Plus, Participant Media took an equity stake in Cineflix in April. Clearly, there’s a lot more to come from this lot. • Modi Wiczyk: Netflix has a lot at stake with the launch of its first home-grown original drama, “House of Cards,” and so does producer Media Rights Capital. MRC co-chief Wiczyk deftly steered the Kevin Spacey-David Fincher political thriller past HBO and on to the Netcaster in a two-season deal. Now all of the “Cards” constituencies are hoping for a bingeing frenzy when all 13 hours of the show land on Feb. 1. • Gerhard Zeiler: The former head of Euro TV heavyweight RTL Group surprised global TV watchers when he left his high Teuton perch in February to join Turner Broadcasting as head of international. With Time Warner increasingly focused on growth overseas, the world is awaiting some big moves from this seasoned pro. These are my best guesses of some people likely to make interesting news in the new year. Thanks for reading, and here’s to a peaceful and prosperous 2013 for all.