Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra spent most of Friday morning calling producers, network executives and talent agency leaders on the heels of the news that studio’s longtime production division chiefs are departing the Culver City lot for new posts at Apple.
The decision by Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to move to Apple leaves Sony Pictures TV without experienced leaders in the production and development unit that has been the driver of the vast majority of the larger studio’s profits in recent years.
The timing of the pair’s exit is particularly tricky as the selling cycle for the 2018-19 television season is about to kick in to high gear. Sony TV has a bench of strong creative executives, but the selling process requires a seasoned hand, especially for an independent studio at a time when the major networks are laser-focused on owning most, if not all, of the shows on their air.
Vinciquerra has been on the job at Sony for all of 15 days. But he has a deep background in television, from running local TV stations to helping Fox ramp up its cable business during his decade as CEO of Fox Networks Group. The shakeup at Sony Pictures TV will give him the chance to quickly put his stamp on Sony’s operations in an area he knows well.
“This is going to give me a real opportunity to get to know who is there and learn who the strong players are,” Vinciquerra told Variety. “I’m looking forward to doing that.” He would not speculate as to whether successors for Van Amburg and Erlicht would likely come from within or be an external hire. His inbox was exploding on Friday with interesting suggestions from industry insiders, he said.
Vinciquerra said he intends to be hands-on in the management of the division for the immediate future while he evaluates the management structure and its existing team. Vinciquerra inherited a TV hierarchy set up by his predecessor, Michael Lynton, that is unwieldy in the absence of a single leader for all things TV on the lot.
After longtime Sony Pictures TV president Steve Mosko exited the studio in April 2016, leadership roles were parceled to five executives: Erlicht and Van Amburg on the production side; Andy Kaplan, who runs the international networks group; Keith Le Goy, who oversees distribution; and Amy Carney, who runs advertising sales and research.
It’s understood that Vinciquerra was already prepared to address the structure of the TV leadership before the news of Erlicht and Van Amburg’s exit hit on Thursday. It was no secret that Erlicht and Van Amburg’s contracts were to expire in August and there was a good chance they were prepared to walk after logging 15- and 20-year tenures at Sony, respectively.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior VP of Internet software and services, called Vinciquerra on Thursday to inform him of the executive hires that put Apple squarely in the business of developing original TV-esque content for the first time. Vinciquerra said it was cordial conversation and that he pitched the Apple exec on becoming a customer of Sony Pictures TV as it expands its video business.
As for Sony’s strategic focus in television, Vinciquerra said it was too soon to say whether the company would stay the course set under the previous regime. He emphasized that Sony sees opportunity in having the TV content side work more closely with Sony’s PlayStation group.
“We obviously have a great position in the marketplace and a lot of tremendous relationships with creators and networks,” he said. “We want that continue. Sony is very well-positioned given the fact that we have PlayStation as a sister company. We look forward to mining those fields for opportunities for the future.”