EXCLUSIVE: Nielsen/NRG has ousted one of its top executives, sending shockwaves across studios, talent agencies and filmmakers who looked to him for guidance and has prompted several calls into the company to voice their dismay over the decision. Nielsen/NRG president Derek McLay, who joined the company in 2009, was the behind-the-scenes guru for many high-ranking executives around town, well-liked and knowledgeable and, by all accounts, a straight-shooter unafraid to tell it like it is. McLay was the liaison between the company and all the major studios, providing the those in the industry with insight into the all-important area of research and tracking.
According to sources, McLay was called into the office Monday night and told his services would no longer be needed. Nielsen/NRG is one of the preeminent research firms for the entertainment industry.
In my 30 years of reporting, I seriously have not seen an outpouring of support like this (both on and off the record) for any executive after a firing. Clearly the guy had strong relationships and also, quite apparently, a dedication to his clients. Don’t take my word for it, just look:
“Derek McLay is the heart and soul of NRG and I’m crushed,” said Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Co., whose company relied on him for guidance and research expertise on a number of pictures including Oscar nominees Silver Linings Playbook, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Django Unchained to mention a few. Added TWC COO David Glasser, “It’s one thing to get information, it’s another thing to interpret it and have the personal relationships to communicate those results to the studio and the filmmakers in a way that we can not only understand it but use it to help shepherd our films.”
Filmmaker David O. Russell, said through his rep that he was surprised, noting that he “enjoyed working with McLay, and always found Derek extremely helpful.” (Russell is well-known to be a big believer in the research process and uses that information to help shape his films and the their marketing).
Those who have worked with him said McLay made sense of the research and translated the numbers to the executives and what mattered is that he truly understands marketing and distribution, having previously worked at MGM in distribution. Rob Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate, said “Derek is an excellent executive and a great help in all of our processes and hope he’s back at it soon so we can again take advantage of his talent.” Friedman, himself, is a marketing expert with many years under his belt and has an astute understanding of the importance of research to the overall picture. Read More »