Universal Shuffles Home Entertainment Division — Kornblau Out, Cunningham In25 Feb, 2014 By: Thomas K. Arnold
In a surprise move, Craig Kornblau is out as president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment after 16 years of leading the division.
The new president of the newly minted Universal Pictures Worldwide Home Entertainment is Eddie Cunningham, previously president of Universal Pictures International Entertainment. Universal says the move is designed “to provide closer collaboration and a greater global focus across the organization.”
Cunningham will continue to report to Universal Pictures president and chief distribution officer Peter Levinsohn, who in a statement said, “As the home entertainment landscape continues to evolve, we need to ensure that we’re operating as one global team positioning ourselves for the greatest success. Eddie has had tremendous results as head of our international home entertainment division and he will be a terrific leader for our group as we work to shape the future of Universal’s home entertainment business with an even greater global focus.”
Cunningham, who is based in London and has been international for eight years, will relocate to Los Angeles.
The sudden move comes just two months after a similar shakeup at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. There, veteran president David Bishop, who assumed the top spot in September 2006, was replaced by Man Jit Singh, who previously had been CEO of Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd., the operating company for Sony Pictures Television’s TV networks in India.
Industry insiders are stunned by Kornblau’s departure, which was noted near the end of the press release announcing Cunningham’s appointment. It simply said Kornblau “will be leaving to pursue other endeavors.”
Just a few months ago, Kornblau was given expanded duties at Universal as his division assumed responsibility for all of NBCUniversal’s digital distribution and marketing, including VOD and EST. Kornblau also won industry kudos for working closely with NBCUniversal sister division Comcast Cable to launch a digital storefront to sell digital copies of its movies to 25 million subscribers, and for crafting a fulfillment contract with Paramount Home Media Distribution to capitalize on Universal’s supply-chain strengths.
He also finalized renewal of agreement with Open Road Films to handle all marketing, sales and distribution services for Blu-ray Disc, DVD, EST and VOD platforms of Open Road Films' theatrical titles through 2017.
For Kornblau, 2013 also was one of his most successful years at the helm of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, with the division staking claim to top-selling DVD/Blu-ray Disc of the year (Despicable Me 2), the No. 1 EST title of all time (also Despicable Me 2), the No. 1 catalog title of the year (the original Despicable Me) and two of the top five rental titles (No. 1, Identity Thief, and No. 5, Ted). Identity Thief was also the No. VOD title of the year.
Kornblau came to Universal from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, where he served as SVP of worldwide operations and logistics. He pioneered direct account management and served as the chief architect of this system, which set a new standard within the home video industry.
Kornblau currently serves as vice chairman of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s executive committee and is a member of the Consumer Electronics Association’s board of industry leaders.
In a statement circulated to staff, NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer said of Kornblau, “Craig has been an extraordinary business leader and friend to all of us at Universal for 16 years. He was instrumental in helping form our home entertainment business and he transformed the way we approached things, ensuring our business thrived through many years of change and uncertainty. I'm incredibly proud of how Craig and his team have positioned us for the future and everything accomplished."
Cunningham has been president of Universal Pictures International Entertainment since November 2006. Earlier, he was managing director of Polygram’s U.K. home entertainment business and budget music labels, a position he assumed in 1994, five years before their acquisition by Universal Pictures. He subsequently was named chairman of U.K. Operations and regional managing director for the Nordic countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.
After his promotion to president of Universal Pictures International Entertainment, Cunningham guided the studio to market-share leadership in various operational territories and introduced groundbreaking non-traditional growth initiatives in the international home entertainment sector.
Earlier in his career, Cunningham held a number of roles in retail and distribution. He was an operating board member of the Woolworths retail business and commercial director of Entertainment U.K.