EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros.’ Bruce Rosenblum will run to become chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and if his bid is successful, he would become the highest-ranking executive to head the org since then-Disney Studios prexy Richard Frank in the mid-1990s.
Rosenblum, president of the Warner Bros. TV Group and part of a three-member office of the president along with film head Jeff Robinov and home entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara, had quietly begun notifying key TV Academy members of his decision to run. He confirmed his plans in an interview Wednesday.
“We spend so much of our time in adversarial roles in this business,” he said. “This is a chance to work on the same side of the table … with a common vision for the industry.”
By throwing his hat into the ring, Rosenblum will likely oppose Nancy Bradley Wiard. She is currently vice chairman of the org’s executive committee and was seen as essentially next in line.
Chairman John Shaffner is termed out after consecutive two-year terms at the TV Academy, which presides over the Primetime Emmy Awards. The election will be held in mid-November.
Despite the discord and internal politics that have sometimes surrounded the org, Rosenblum said that with the TV industry at a crossroads, the group has an opportunity to “maintain its heritage of excellence and at the same time become more relevant and influential.”
Although the chairman’s position is elected and voluntary — Alan Perris serves as COO overseeing the paid staff — it plays a key role in setting the TV Academy’s agenda. Some industry observers feel the group has suffered due to a lack of participation by leading industry figures in recent years, along with difficulty recruiting new blood to get involved.
Frustration with the TV Academy’s mechanics and internal machinations was responsible for an initiative by Sony Pictures TV prexy Steve Mosko — a former head of the Acad’s charitable foundation — and others to establish a separate TV awards telecast in conjunction with the Paley Center.
“I think it’s great that a high-profile person like Bruce is willing to put the time and effort into the Academy,” Mosko said.
Challenges faced by the next chairman include possible revision of the awards format, which could result in the presentation of fewer Emmys during the primary telecast. An effort to streamline the show in 2009 by taping selected categories earlier was scrapped after vehement opposition from the talent guilds; nevertheless, insiders expect the major networks — which share broadcast rights under an eight-year deal cemented this year — to continue pressing for changes to boost ratings and place more emphasis on popular categories like reality TV.
Because the TV Academy represents such a divergent array of constituencies — from animation and art directors through title design and writing — achieving consensus on such issues has been a formidable task.
Frank served a total of six years as chairman — from 1985-87, then again from 1993-97. During his second stint he orchestrated an Information Superhighway Summit attended by then-Vice President Al Gore, seen as a signature moment for the TV Acad in assuming a leadership role within the industry.
Currently a partner with Jeff Kwatinetz in the media venture Prospect Park, Frank said of his time overseeing the group, “The platform that I had when I was at Disney was really a help to me. If you have one of those jobs, you know many of the people who can reach out and get things done at the Academy.”
Other than Frank, elected leaders over a 25-year span have been, in sequence, the late PR exec Doug Duitsman; sound executive Leo Chaloukian; producers Meryl Marshall Daniels and Bryce Zabel; former Tribune Entertainment chief Dick Askin; and Shaffner, a production designer.
A longtime board member, Wiard is an independent producer and consultant, having spent 30 years working on daytime soap “The Young and the Restless” until 2003.
Voting will be conducted among governors representing the TV Acad’s 28 peer groups as well as the executive committee. Two years ago Shaffner wound up in a runoff election against then-committee member Brian Seth Hurst after the first vote ended in a tie.Asked why more top execs haven’t actively pursued leadership within the Academy, Frank said, “You just need somebody who in their heart wants to give back to the community. It’s a lot of work.”