Magazine article Variety

Upheaval Continues as Sony Execs Exit

Magazine article Variety

Upheaval Continues as Sony Execs Exit

Article excerpt

THE RESIGNATIONS LAST WEEK Of tWO high-profile division heads - Sony TV chairman Steve Mosko and Motion Picture Group president Doug Belgrad - underscore the continuing turmoil and never-ending drama at Sony Pictures Entertainment over the past several years.

From a long string of costly movie flops to the agitation in 2013 of activist investor Dan Loeb and the unprecedented November 2014 hack of Sony's computer networks, studio insiders have felt buffeted by "bad news on top of bad news," in the words of a veteran senior exec.

The exits of studio vets Mosko and Belgrad will bring even more scrutiny to the management of SPE under CEO Michael Lynton, who shuffled execs on the film side early last year. SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal was forced out due to a combination of problems in the movie division and after her embarrassing, racially charged emails surfaced in the hack. The transition to Pascal's successor, former Fox film chief Tom Rothman, has been stylistically jarring for many executives on the studio's Culver City lot.

Sony Pictures ranks last among the major studios in domestic box-office market share for the year to date, with 6.5% as of June 5, according to Box Office Mojo.

Despite the studio's struggles, Lynton's contract was extended last year. In addition to the Hollywood operations, he also oversees Sony Music.

Sony insiders say the departures of Mosko and Belgrad had been brewing for some time. "Our industry is rapidly evolving and we need to change with it," says Lynton. "We firmly believe these changes will strengthen the studio moving forward."

Lynton's response to Mosko's departure was a testament to the increasing importance of television to SPE's bottom line. Instead of tapping a single successor as TV chief, Lynton will now have four top execs reporting to him - a sign that the CEO wants to become more deeply involved with the business that has contributed 60% or more of the studio's earnings for most of the past five years.

"The television side is very important to Sony and has been a source of earnings stability and productivity? says media analyst Hal Vogel.

Through all the upheaval and spilling of red ink on the movie side, television had been the bastion of creative stability at Sony. The division's shows make money and -+ «- win Emmys, and its far-flung operations around the world generally run smoothly.

But Sony Pictures TV is now in for its own shakeup following the June l disclosure by Variety that 24-year Sony vet Mosko is leaving as chairman after nearly 15 years at the helm. Sony's announcement of the new structure emphasized that the goal was to more "fully integrate" the TV operations with the rest of SPE. Mosko was well-regarded as a deal-maker and leader who galvanized his staff at low moments such as in the immediate fallout from the hack. But he also ran SPT as a fiefdom, with "total autonomy? in Mosko's own words. In a Q&A June 2 at the Paley Center for Media, Mosko offered as an example the fact that Lynton had big doubts about the viability of drama series "Breaking Bad" before it went on the air at AMC in 2007, but he didn't block Sony TV from producing the show.

Even within the TV division, the international operations - distribution and Sony's worldwide networks operation - rarely interact with the U.S.-based team. Under the new structure, programming co-presidents Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht now oversee worldwide production, with London-based international production head Andrea Wong reporting to the duo. And distribution has consolidated under former international sales chief Keith Le Goy, with U.S. distribution president John Weiser now reporting to him.

The goal is to have the teams work more closely together at a time when Sony is increasingly investing in the production of shows that originate outside the U.S. A case in point is the new anthology drama "Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick? which has one of Sony TV's top showrunners attached, "Outlander" exec producer Ronald Moore, with Bryan Cranston on board to star. …

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