CFO Michael Angelakis didn’t offer details, but he told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference that Comcast expects Jeff Shell to “change some things” at Universal following his surprise appointment this month to run the studio. It made sense to to take advantage of Shell’s experience running NBCUniversal International because “international is a much bigger component now” for film revenues. That’s important as sales of DVDs have plummeted creating what Angelakis referred to as “structural challenges.” Comcast wants to run “a pretty profitable film studio,” which he says swung from a loss of $70M year-to-date loss last year to a $100M gain so far in 2013. One big question: “How do we build a slate that has a modest risk?” Part of the formula, he says, is to load up on animation, with help from Illumination Entertainment, and sequels.
London – 10 September 2013 – Kevin MacLellan has been promoted to the role of Chairman, NBCUniversal International, following Jeff Shell’s move to Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group in Los Angeles.
With more than 25 years of experience in international and domestic television production, programming and management, MacLellan is based in London. Effective immediately, MacLellan will take responsibility for day-to-day operations and lead international expansion opportunities, increasing non-US revenues and driving collaborative business growth across NBCUniversal operations outside North America, including Theatrical, Home Entertainment, Theme Parks and Television distribution, networks and production. Additionally, MacLellan will continue Shell’s prior remit in supporting Comcast’s overseas expansion strategy. In his new role, MacLellan will join the Executive Committee of NBCUniversal.
Steve Burke commented, “Over 12 years with Comcast, Kevin MacLellan has proven himself to be a dynamic and talented executive. With his extensive international experience, I am confident Kevin’s strategic leadership will take NBCUniversal International into its next phase of growth.”
Belinda Menendez (President, International TV Distribution & Universal Networks International) and Michael Edelstein (President, International Television Production) will continue to report to MacLellan in his new capacity. Additionally, MacLellan will work in close partnership with David Kosse (President, International, Universal Pictures), overseeing international film operations and Eddie Cunningham (President, UPIE), who manages Universal’s international home entertainment business.
UNIVERSAL SHAKEUP: Adam Fogelson Out, Donna Langley Sideways, Jeff Shell In, And Ron Meyer Up As Studio Taken By Surprise
UPDATE: The studio has made this official. (See release below.)
BREAKING… SHOCKER! In a shocking development, Adam Fogelson will exit his post as Universal Pictures chairman, with Jeff Shell taking over Universal Studios. Ron Meyer is becoming the sole vice chairman of NBC Universal through 2017, and Donna Langley has been promoted chairman of Universal Pictures. Shell, who comes from the studio’s parent company Comcast, had been running Universal International. With that strong international background under his belt, he is coming to Hollywood.
To say this is a stunner is an understatement. I saw the Universal gang last night in Toronto for a drink before the premiere of the Ron Howard-directed Rush, and if he knew there was something amiss at the time, Fogelson is a world-class actor. They all headed back this morning and the change was made while they were flying. That’s when the turbulence hit.
Fogelson had the studio on a roll but his emphasis was on domestic distribution and marketing first. Given Shell’s expertise, the mandate going forward will be to emphasize a global game plan. The prospect that a Shell game was in the works, in this exact scenario, was rumored months ago, when Shell bought a house in Hollywood. But they were denied by the studio at the time. After weathering rumors that Comcast tried to get DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider to return to Universal, or that longtime chief Meyer would retire, all the rumors died down. Fogelson, a level-headed exec who came out of marketing to take the top job and replace Marc Shmuger, seemed to be on stronger footing with Langley. After weathering a rough period including losers like Battleship, the motion picture group turned the corner last year with hits like Ted, and was doing better than a lot of other studios lately, and they are No. 2 in market share behind Warner Bros. Both of them were re-upped in late 2011 through 2014.
The momentum certainly helps Langley, who has taste and strong relationships with talent, something that will help Shell as he gets going. The studio has the stability of the hit-making family film division, Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment, and a coterie of long term producing deals with the likes of Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, and Scott Stuber. They also just made an overall deal with Legendary Pictures, Thomas Tull’s financing and producing company which left Warner Bros.
In another executive fallout from the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, Peter Smith, the popular president of NBCU International, is leaving the company at the end of this month. I’m told that Smith felt edged out by former Comcast Programming Group President Jeff Shell who’s been brought in from the U.S. to oversee international TV production division of NBC Universal as chairman of NBCU International. “He could have taken a lesser job but it’s a bit of a shame,” says a friend. “This kind of thing always goes on whenever you have new management.” Smith, whose resume also includes a stint at PolyGram, tells me he hasn’t decided what to do next. At NBCU International, Smith was behind the company’s acquisition of Carnival Film & Television in 2008, which brought to the fold the ITV/PBS hit Downton Abbey. As part of the post-merger top management restructuring, Steve Burke, chairman of the combined NBCUniversal, announced in November that Smith would be reporting to Shell.
COMCAST-NBCU: Ted Harbert And Bob Greenblatt To Run NBC, Pat Fili-Krushel Also Coming, Fired Jeff Zucker Weeping
2ND UPDATE: Comcast’s new NBC Universal boss Steve Burke is supposed to finalize his new organizational structure and announce it today. We’d told you previously that Ted Harbert, president and CEO of the Comcast Entertainment Group, might be getting a big new job: it’s alongside former Showtime entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, and the two men will run NBC as equals reporting to Burke. Harbert will oversee stations, affiliates, and sales in NYC while Greenblatt will run programming and possibly marketing as well in LA. These are just two of the big changes that couldn’t wait for FCC regulatory approval, not if NBC wanted to have a development season. As it is Greenblatt and Harbert may not physically take the reins at NBC until mid-January, sources tell us, which is late for this pilot season. ”It’s going to be a long, steep, uphill climb in a tough world,” one insider described to us. “At least those GE boobs will be out of the way.” Meanwhile, sources tell us that fired NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker has been holding mini town hall meetings with company employees and in two different gatherings started crying and had to stop to re-compose himself. Yesterday was the latest breakdown. Last week, he actually closed his office door and cried.
The NBC operations job was previously discussed with chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group Tony Vinciquerra and CBS Corp’s Nancy Tellem who we’re told “agonized over the decision and went back and forth and wound up somewhere inbetween” after talking to Burke and Greenblatt about it. Sources tell us that Tellem wanted Greenblatt to report to her, but Burke made it clear he had made a commitment that Greenblatt would have unfettered access to him. So Tellem kept pondering until Burke moved on without her in the past 10 days.
Also in the mix will be Pat Fili-Krushel, the former president of the ABC television network and most recently EVP of Administration of Time Warner Inc. She’ll be taking over NBCU’s HR, legal, and other administrative areas. In her role with Time Warner, she worked closely with the other members of Time Warner’s senior management team and its operating divisions on a variety of organizational, developmental and diversity issues. Her responsibilities included oversight of philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, corporate human resources, worldwide recruitment, employee development and growth, compensation and benefits, and security. Burke knew Fili-Krushel from his days at Disney/ABC.
Comcast Programming group president Jeff Shell will be based in London in an international post. NBC cable’s Bonnie Hammer will oversee USA, Syfy, and E!, while Lauren Zalaznick will run Bravo, Oxygen, and Style. We also hear that G4 will mostly likely go to Hammer, and Telemundo to Zalaznick. Sources tell us that today’s announcement won’t mention Angela Bromsted who may or may not survive all these changes, depending on the source, or that eventually Greenblatt may possibly bring in outsiders including Jennifer Nicholson Salke and Danielle Gelber.
8TH UPDATE: Comcast is clearing the way for its pending announcement of the new NBC Universal top executive structure. Jeff Gaspin, who had felt more and more as the odd man out in Comcast’s plans for the post-merger NBCU, just sent out a note to NBC Universal employees announcing that he will depart the company following its merger with Comcast after he and new NBCU CEO Steve Burke “could not agree on an appropriate role” for him in the new company. Gaspin had 4 years left on his contract, which was breached by the merger and Burke replacing Jeff Zucker. Gaspin was furious when a report last week claimed he was gone because it wasn’t true: in fact the two men hadn’t made that decision yet even though everyone guessed that’d be the ultimate conclusion because it’s known that Burke wants to decrease the media company’s layers of management. Gaspin has spent a combined 19 years at NBCU, most recently as chairman of NBC Universal TV Entertainment. “I want to thank Jeff for his many significant contributions to NBCU and for his professionalism throughout the integration process,” Burke said in a statement. After sending the memo, Gaspin gathered his senior executive team for an emotional meeting.
EXCLUSIVE… 6TH & 7TH UPDATE: Jeff Gaspin is flying on an NBC Universal corporate jet from NYC back to LA right now and is telling fellow passengers that a report he is leaving the company is “not accurate”. As we’ve been saying all along, there are a lot of moving parts to this NBCU organizational restructure, and a lot hasn’t been pinned down yet. Gaspin, who is NBCU Television Group President/COO, falls into that category. We’ve learned that he hasn’t had a “definitive conversation” with Comcast about his future yet. And the fact is that, as of today, his future has not been decided. “It may turn out to be true that he leaves. And he’s preparing for it. But it’s not true right now,” an insider just told us.
EXCLUSIVE… 5TH UPDATE: We’ve confirmed that onetime CBS bigwig and now consultant Nancy Tellem has indeed been in formal talks with Comcast brass about taking a top job at NBC alongside Robert Greenblatt. The idea was that he would be in charge of creative, and she would fill a parallel NYC-based network president-type job. Both would report to new NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke. As we reported Comcast hopes to announce the new NBC Universal organizational structure — one which now may or may not include Jeff Gaspin who got on a plane Monday for NYC Monday to meet with Comcast brass. About Tellem, “Comcast is talking to her. Nothing has been decided yet though because there are still ongoing issues. But people are trying to work through those issues,” one insider told us. ”She wants to do it. She just has to make sure the job is right.” Tellem was among half a dozen top-level broadcast executives (including Fox Network Group Chairman/CEO Tony Vinciquerra) approached by Burke some months ago after the Comcast/NBC deal was announced. Tellem was most recently boss of the bulk of CBS Inc’s entertainment operations until she stepped down in December 2009 to become Senior Advisor To The CEO.