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‘Bloomberg Game Changers' Returns With Focus on Entertainment Business Giants

Rupert Murdoch, Reed Hastings, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and J.K. Rowling are among those featured as business channel prepares to launch more original series.

NEW YORK — Bloomberg Television’s business biography series Bloomberg Game Changers returns Tuesday night for its second season, which will focus on people — including Rupert Murdoch, Reed Hastings and J.K. Rowling — who have changed the face of the media and entertainment industry.

The new episodes of the weekly documentary series, described as a Behind the Music about business leaders, comes as the business and financial news network is looking to launch at least two additional original series during the coming months.

Bloomberg Television is looking to program beyond the coverage of the day’s markets and deals action with longer-form looks at companies and individuals impacting business and society. The strategy is championed by Andy Lack — the former NBC News president and now Bloomberg Media Group CEO — with the goal to attract a broader mix of viewers in the evening hours.

Without sharing viewership data, execs said Game Changers did well in its first season. The series has generated advertiser interest, with U.S. Bank sponsoring it in the States and BNP Paribas sponsoring it in the Asia-Pacific region.

Game Changers airs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

The new season’s seven episodes will feature looks at News Corp. chairman and CEO Murdoch, Netflix CEO Hastings, Harry Potter author Rowling, famously reclusive Amazon.com boss Jeff Bezos and British entrepreneur Richard Branson, among others.

In general, the episodes are 30 minutes long, but the episode on Murdoch will be twice that.

Bloomberg TV also is working on an extended 60-minute version of last season’s show about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Also profiled in the first season, which focused on tech leaders, were Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, music mogul Jay-Z and Apple leader Steve Jobs.

Bloomberg places the full episodes online after they air. The Jobs episode ranks among the top 15 most-viewed videos on Bloomberg.com, according to Omniture data.

Nina Weinstein, executive producer of Game Changers, said this season’s focus on media and entertainment figures makes sense because of audiences’ familiarity with their companies and the entrepreneurs’ compelling stories.

“I think people are more interested in these stories now. You can even tell from The Social Network where everyone thought, ‘Who is going to watch a movie about a start-up?' ” she said. “They have compelling, fabulous and interesting stories. There is drama in their lives and how they built their businesses.”

Except for the Branson episode, the show typically doesn’t include interviews with the personalities in focus. Instead, friends, relatives, former business partners and others talk about them.

For example, the Murdoch show includes former right-hand man Peter Chernin, who remains a big Hollywood player with his Fox-housed production deal; Fox Sports head David Hill; Anthea Disney, the former CEO of HarperCollins; and Andrew Butcher, Murdoch’s former spokesman.

“Last season, nobody had heard of the show, so we had to do this whole song and dance to try and get people to do an interview,” Weinstein said. “This season, when we called executives, they all knew the show.”

What are some of the things that Weinstein learned this season? “I didn’t know that Reed Hastings was as involved in education as he is,” she said. “He was on the state board of education for years. He was appointed by Gray Davis.”

She also learned how emotional it was for Branson to sell Virgin Records “and how he just broke down in tears,” Weinstein said. “He told us that, and we had his former assistant of 30 years who said he just cried and cried and cried. The guy looks like a happy-go-lucky guy who doesn’t seem to get that emotional about anything, and it just broke his heart.”

Most of these business leaders have one thing in common, she’s noticed. “They are not doing it for the money after a while,” Weinstein said. “They could all retire and be very happy. They are not driven by money. Almost every single show, somebody says they want to change the world.”