In a surprising move at Time Warner, Inc. today, Kevin Tsujihara was named to succeed Barry Meyer as head of Warner Bros. Entertainment, beating out the heads of both the movie and TV divisions (Bruce Rosenblum and Jeff Robinov, respectively). Tsujihara will replace Barry Meyer, who is retiring at the end of 2013 after 14 years at the headship of the entertainment group.
Since 2005, Tsujihara has run the home entertainment business for Time Warner, a section of the company that's undergone serious turmoil in recent years as DVD sales have cratered and replacement physical formats like Blu-Ray and HD have failed to catch on to the same degree that DVDs did. Tsujihara shuttered Warner Premiere last year as the Home Entertainment division continued to focus more on cloud-based formats; in 2011, the home entertainment division acquired Flixster.
“Driving the growth of digital ownership is a central, strategic focus for Warner Bros.,” the executive said at the time, and with TWX chairman Jeff Bewkes placing an ever-higher premium on digital ownership, Tsujihara seems very much the logical choice to head the company's entertainment businesses, albeit only in hindsight.
The other two execs appeared to be as surprised as the media. "Obviously I'm disappointed; who wouldn't be?" emailed Bruce Rosenblum, unusually blunt for an executive passed over for a promotion. Robinov, too, seemed like a logical pick, given his role in the production of extremely rich WB franchises like the Harry Potter and Batman films, but he was more staid than his colleague in his reaction. "The company will be in great shape under Tsujihara's leadership," he said.
The move bespeaks a serious endorsement of Tsujihara's guiding programs: a vigorous anti-piracy campaign (if you downloaded a Harry Potter movie, you probably weren't able to download the sequel from the same site); a commitment to virtual media, especially streaming (although the company's download-to-own business also appears to be a focus); and a focus on multiplatform content, especially when it's authenticated.
Tsujihara will be in charge of both the TV production side of the business and Warner Bros.' interest in the CW, as well as the company's movie assets and DC Comics. Turner Broadcasting (including TBS, Cartoon Network and TNT) is not part of Warner Bros. Entertainment.