With a sweeping reorganization of exec responsibilities in TV and home entertainment, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara has taken a big first step toward making the studio more attuned to the demands of new and globally oriented distribution platforms.
An overhaul of these key units has been among the top priorities for Tsujihara since he took the reins as CEO on March 1. The TV management situation demanded attention because the longtime group leader, Bruce Rosenblum, let it be known he intended to move on after being passed over for the job that went to Tsujihara. In home entertainment, Tsujihara had to fill the void left by his own ascent.
But the timing of the opportunity to overhaul the leadership of those two key areas was opportune for Tsujihara, who got the job because of his vision for how Hollywood’s largest studio needs to adjust its business models to react to fast-changing markets and consumer behavior.
“One of the key objectives was, how do you create an organizational structure that aligns our interests with the way the business in changing,” Tsujihara said. “You work backwards from the consumer and look how new technologies are driving the globalization of our business. That’s how we come to a structure that takes advantage of the strengths of our executives in ways that make sense for our businesses.”
The biggest gainer in the shakeup is longtime Warner Bros. Intl. TV topper Jeffrey Schlesinger (right), who now takes on oversight of all domestic and international TV distribution, including SVOD and the sale of films to TV platforms — a very lucrative biz for WB. Aligning responsibility for TV distribution under a single unit is a sign of the times. “With Netflix, Amazon, Google and a lot of the new partners that are beginning to emerge, we increasingly need to be thinking about the global implications of the deals we’re doing versus looking at them as international and domestic opportunities,” Tsujihara said.
Schlesinger will now serve as prexy of Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution. Like Rosenblum, Schlesinger came to WB through its acquisition of Lorimar Telepictures in 1990. He’s headed international TV for the studio since 1994. WBTV prexy Peter Roth (right) becomes president and chief content officer for Warner Bros. TV Group. He’ll add creative oversight of the Telepictures Prods. unit and Warner Bros. Intl. TV Production, a growing arena of local-language production for the the studio.
Craig Hunegs (right), formerly Warner Bros. TV Group exec veep, becomes president of business and strategy for Warner Bros. TV Group. He’ll oversee all business matters, filling a big void left by Rosenblum’s departure, and be involved in expanding its production businesses around the world. He will also join the boards of the CW and U.K. production shingle Shed Media. Schlesinger, Roth and Hunegs now report to Tsujihara. Roth and Schlesinger will jointly oversee Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Marketing headed by TV group CMO Lisa Gregorian.
In home entertainment, Ron Sanders (right) advances to president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution. Thomas Gewecke, formerly president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, rises to chief digital officer and exec veep of strategy and business development for Warner Bros. Entertainment. Sanders and Gewecke report to Tsujihara. Those two execs will work with Schlesinger on developing strategies for windowing WB product around the world.
Gewecke will also oversee the studio’s technical operations, corporate development activities and Flixster arm, among other operations.
As part of the shuffle, DC Entertainment prexy Diane Nelson (right) adds oversight of the WB Interactive Entertainment unit overseeing its vidgame biz. She’ll now have dual report to Tsujihara and motion picture group topper Jeff Robinov. WB Interactive prexy Martin Tremblay will now report to Nelson and Sanders.
Even with all the shifts unveiled Wednesday, Tsujihara said it’s “business as usual” for the film side as the studio hunkers down on a summer slate that includes “Man of Steel,” “The Hangover III” and “Pacific Rim.” There’s no shortage of speculation about the long-term fate of Robinov, and whether Tsujihara will appoint an exec to a corporate No. 2-type role. On the latter subject, Tsujihara said he had “no plans to do that right now.”
Wednesday’s news brought Rosenblum’s 25-year tenure at WB to a close in a muted way — something that was noted by biz observers even amid the distraction of the network upfronts unfolding this week in Gotham. Tsujihara said he and Rosenblum “came to a mutual decision” that they determined “was in the best interests of both of us and the company.”
Tsujihara reiterated that he made his first major exec decisions based on careful consideration of the demands of the marketplace and the specific skill sets of the execs in place at the studio.
“The strength of Warner Bros. is our people,” he said. “Any change is difficult and challenging. This has not been an easy process. I do feel very strongly that this is the right structure with the right people in the right places.”
Here’s the internal memo sent to WB staff regarding Bruce Rosenblum’s departure:
We wanted to let you know that our valued colleague Bruce Rosenblum, President of the Warner Bros. Television Group, has decided to leave the Studio.
In his 25 years at Warner Bros., as all of you know, Bruce helped build one of the world’s most successful global television production and distribution operations. With his great energy, skill, creativity and vision, Bruce – and the strong team he has built around him – was responsible for some of the most popular and successful television series of all time, including “Friends,” “ER,” “The West Wing,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Two Broke Girls,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Bachelor.”
Bruce has been a vital member of the Warner Bros. family and a good friend to so many of us, and he will be missed.
Please join us in congratulating Bruce for his remarkable tenure at the Studio and wishing him great success as he embarks on the next chapter of his career and life.
Barry Meyer Kevin Tsujihara