WB strategy

Studio’s new chief divides the TV operation among distribution, content and biz strategy execs

Once it became clear that Bruce Rosenblum would leave his perch as Warner Bros. TV Group chief after being passed over the for the top job at the studio, a window of opportunity opened for CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

By necessity he had to rethink the management structure of the studio’s largest division, which meant he had free reign to remake it as he saw fit. Tsujihara chose to anoint worldwide czars of distribution and content as well as a business operations master, all three of whom report to him.

The structure is a departure for WB, which has tended to concentrate oversight of operations in uber-bosses like Rosenblum and his film counterpart, motion picture group prez Jeff Robinov.

The sweeping reorganization unveiled May 15 marks Tsujihara’s first big step in making Hollywood’s largest studio more attuned to the demands of new and globally oriented distribution platforms. Unavoidably, the changes also involved the home entertainment and digital divisions, where the Warner Bros. topper had to fill a leadership void created by his own ascent to the CEO post in March.

“One of the key objectives was, how do you create an organizational structure that aligns our interests with the way the business is 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, who 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 vs. looking at them as international and domestic opportunities,” Tsujihara said.

Schlesinger will serve as prexy of Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution. Like Rosenblum, he came to WB through its acquisition of Lorimar Telepictures in 1990. Schlesinger has headed international TV for the studio since 1994. Meanwhile, WBTV prexy Peter Roth becomes president and chief content officer for Warner Bros. TV Group, in addition to retaining his role as prexy of Warner Bros. TV, Warner Horizon Television and WB TV Animation. He’ll add creative oversight of the Telepictures Prods. unit and Warner Bros. Intl. TV Prod., a growing arena of local-language production for the studio.

Craig Hunegs, 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 chief marketing officer Lisa Gregorian.

In home entertainment, Ron Sanders 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 technical operations, corporate development and the Flixster arm, among other operations.

As part of the shuffle, DC Entertainment prexy Diane Nelson adds oversight of the WB Interactive Entertainment unit, overseeing its vidgame biz. She’ll report to both Tsujihara and Robinov. WB Interactive prexy Martin Tremblay will report to Nelson and Sanders.

The news of the promotions brought Rosenblum’s nearly 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 last 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.”

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