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Studios Look to Veterans to Keep Home Video at Top Speed

9 Mar, 2003 By: Kurt Indvik

The final open spot in home video unit leadership positions at the major studios has been filled with the appointment last week of Mike Dunn as president at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

He replaces Pat Wyatt, who had departed in December as head of consumer products (which included home video as well as licensing and merchandising of Fox Filmed Entertainment) to pursue the launch of a new production company specializing in anime product.

Dunn, with Fox for some 16 years, is the latest industry veteran to assume the wheel of a home video unit. Jim Cardwell, after 20 years with Warner Home Video (26 years with Warner Bros.), recently took the reins of the studio's home video business. Tom Lesinski, a mere pup in this group with 10 years at WHV, including running its domestic video business, moved to Paramount Home Entertainment for the chance to head its global video business. Lesinski just last week also wisely tapped Meagan Burrows as head of Paramount's domes-tic video business. Burrows spent 17 years climbing through the Paramount video ranks.

It is often the case that companies look elsewhere for “fresh” talent — even outside their own industries — for executives untainted and unencumbered by the internal politics and tired ideas of the company or industry they are entering to lead.

But it's not surprising, and I think its encouraging, that these home video companies all chose to either promote from within or hire industry veterans from other companies.

These home video units are responsible for significant revenue and cash flow for studios, and the very dynamic business climate and shifting operational challenges facing home video companies right now means that, more than ever, it's important that one has experienced hands on the wheel. It's the sort of position that requires a lot of institutional and industry memory. There is little time for new people trying to reinvent the wheel or getting up to speed.

That's not to say it will be business as usual with this new group of studio leaders, as if business as usual were possible in the home video industry right now.

Indeed, these executives, with their years of experience, have ingrained knowledge that will only serve to make whatever changes they bring to the business that much more targeted. (Whether you agree with them is, of course, another matter.) They know what the hot buttons are.

As Tom Rothman, co-chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said, he looks for Dunn to approach this dynamic business “creatively, and not be bound by conventions or tradition.” I expect the same could well be said for all of the new, and existing, video unit leaders.

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