HBO's top executive JeffBewkes has been put in charge of AOL Time Warner's entire entertainmentportfolio, including both Warner Bros and New Line Cinema, as part of amanagement re-shuffle that sees the back of the troubled media empire'schief operating officer Bob Pittman.
Pittman, who becameincreasingly frustrated at being made the media scapegoat for AOL TimeWarner's precipitous decline in fortunes, is finally stepping down aftermonths in the hot seat.
"After serving for the past three decades in a variety ofhigh-stress, high-profile positions, Bob wants - and deserves - to take abreather and enjoy time with his family," explained AOL Time Warner chiefexecutive officer Dick Parson in a letter circulated to staff.
But instead of replacing himdirectly, Parsons has carved up the world's largest media colossus intotwo massive divisions, each run by a veteran hand-picked from the old TimeWarner part of the company, rather than America Online.
Bewkes is heading up one ofthese two divisions as chairman of the Entertainment& Networks Group, which comprises HBO, New Line Cinema, The WB channel,Turner Networks, Warner Bros and Warner Music.
Former Time Incboss Don Logan will spearhead the other division, known as the Media &Communications Group and comprising America Online, Time Inc. and Time WarnerCable.
Both Bewkes andLogan, who each report directly to Parsons, made much of their hopes of pursuingcross-divisional growth as part of their immediate goals. "Don and I arecommitted to maximizing the value of each of our businesses by looking forinnovative ways to generate new growth through divisional cooperation andexciting new technologies," said Bewkes yesterday.
UnderBewkes' stewardship these past seven years, New York-based HBO has growninto the world's most profitable television network. Yesterday'spress release noted that HBO had delivered compound annual EBITDA growth of 16%during his tenure and increased its subscriber base from nearly 30m to 38.5mworldwide today.
As if toemphasize his success, Bewkes' elevation within the AOL Time Warner ranksbecame public on the same day that HBO collected 93 Emmy nominations -four more than its nearest rival NBC - on the back of such in-house showsas Six Feet Under, SexAnd The City and BandOf Brothers, not tomention numerous well-regarded made-for-cable movies such as the late John Frankenheimer'sPath To War.
Taking over fromBewkes at HBO will the Los Angeles executive credited with sustaining much ofHBO's pre-eminence in original programming, Chris Albrecht, who will beexpected to divide his time between the two coasts in his new role as HBO chairmanand chief executive officer. He will be assisted on the business side by a chiefoperating officer, Bill Nelson, formerly HBO's executive in charge of finance, informationand operations technology and business affairs.
In his remarksto staff, Parsons made no bones yesterday about AOL Time Warner troubles: "Irealize that these changes follow a period of tough going for our company, inwhich our initial expectations ran head-on into the dot-com bust, the adrecession and a general decline in investor confidence'Getting AOL TimeWarner on track and moving ahead as a united company, with one heart, spiritand purpose, remains our central challenge. Although achieving that unity ofvision and execution has proven harder than we first thought, the appointmentsof Don and Jeff mark a true turning point."