Former Variety European manager and editor-in-chief Roger Watkins died near his home in Birchington, England, on Sunday after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 69.
After working for the Mip TV trade show in Cannes, Watkins joined Variety in London as an advertising sales executive in the early 1970s. In 1975, he took over as European sales manager and turned the London bureau of the paper into a profitable operation.
He helped spearhead the expansion of European ad sales, especially in Germany, Holland and Scandinavia.
He was a fixture through the ’70s and ’80s at most of the film and TV markets and festivals around Europe, including the Cannes Film Festival.
Watkins was one of the so-called hybrids on the paper in those years, with responsibility for both editorial matters and advertising sales strategy.
After the sale of Variety to Reed Elsevier in 1987, Watkins was transferred to New York to take over as editor-in-chief starting in January 1988 at Variety headquarters on Park Avenue South. His editorship coincided with the initial transformation of the weekly edition of Variety, which began to update its format, introducing four-color ads and a few photos, and dropping some long-running editorial features like the soundtrack column.
After further management changes, Watkins stepped down as editor in October 1989, passing the baton to current editor-in-chief Peter Bart. He subsequently returned to the London office of Variety and focused on ad sales in Europe. He resigned from Variety in 1995 and started publishing a DVD newsletter.
Watkins is survived by his wife, Patricia; sons Ian and Andrew; and six grandchildren.