Uni vid marketing shifts to theatrical team

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In a dramatic streamlining, NBC Universal is putting its theatrical marketing team in charge of marketing new Universal Pictures films not just theatrically, but also on DVD.

Observers say the move underscores studio sentiments that windows are shortening and distribution channels are widening, particularly with the emergence of digital downloading, so it makes sense to unify marketing functions. Already, theatrical and home entertainment share media, digital and promotions services.

Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, will continue to oversee the division, working closely with Adam Fogelson and Eddie Egan, president and copresident, respectively, of domestic theatrical marketing.

�"It is a cultural reality at Universal that most of the barriers that traditionally exist at other studios have been broken down already here," Fogelson said. "The truth is, theatrical and home entertainment have worked in very close coordination for a long time, and this is just sort of a natural extension of trying to find the absolutely best cooperation and collaboration that can exist within these groups."

Ken Graffeo, the home video unit's executive vp of marketing, has been promoted into a new role in which he will now spearhead the studio's worldwide strategy for high definition. Graffeo will focus on Universal's exploits in the much-ballyhooed high-definition arena, in which the studio plays a prominent role for its exclusive advocacy of the HD DVD platform. HD DVD is supported by just three of the major studios, and the other two, Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures, also support rival next-gen format Blu-ray Disc.

Vivian Mayer, senior vp of publicity for home video, was offered a role in corporate publicity but declined and will leave the company.

Two of Graffeo's direct reports, senior vp of brand marketing Hilary Hoffman and senior vp of marketing services Pam Blum, will now report to Fogelson and Egan, as well as Kornblau, for Universal Pictures releases. For all other home video product-Focus and Rogue feature films as well as DVD originals, catalog titles and TV DVD-they will report to Kornblau only.

The home entertainment publicity team will report to Michael Moses, executive vp of publicity for domestic theatrical marketing.

Universal Pictures' creative operations also has been realigned and expanded into Universal Pictures Worldwide Creative Services, under the direction of Dan Wolfe, who becomes executive vp of the division. Wolfe reports directly to Rick Finkelstein, vice chairman of Universal Pictures. Wolfe's team will support Universal Pictures, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Focus Features, Rogue Pictures and Focus Features International.

Graffeo is a veteran marketer who is credited with much of Universal's video success over the last eight years, having orchestrated successful marketing campaigns for such high-profile theatrical titles as "King Kong" and "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." He also redefined the studio's marketing strategy for DVD originals such as the "American Pie" and "Bring It On" franchises, developed one of the studio's most successful catalog campaigns for "Scarface," and keyed into Oscar buzz with "Lost In Translation" and "Ray."

Mayer, who has headed Universal Studios Home Entertainment's publicity team since 2002, was instrumental in building up the division's public relations efforts to get theatrical-level publicity for Universal Pictures, Focus and Rogue DVDs. She played a key role in creating events to publicize new DVD releases as well as special-edition catalog titles such as "Jaws," "Scarface" and "E.T." She also took the lead in the studio's publicity efforts on behalf of HD DVD, TV DVD and DVD originals.

"It's been my great pleasure to work with the talented team at NBC Universal for the past five years," Mayer said. "Being at the forefront of the DVD explosion and, more recently, the home entertainment industry's expansion into the digital realm, has been a deeply rewarding experience. While I appreciate Universal's offer to keep me on in a more focused communications role, and will truly miss all my wonderful colleagues at the studio, I felt this was not the right position for me at this time."

The marketing realignment comes just one day after newly installed NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker restructured the conglomerate's television and digital operations into three pieces, each under a key executive. Beth Comstock, previously president of digital media and market development, was appointed to the new post of president of integrated media. Jeff Gaspin was tapped as president of cable and digital content; he previously was president of cable entertainment, digital content and cross-network strategy. And Marc Graboff, while retaining his title of NBC Universal Television, West Coast, has been given additional responsibilities across all aspects of NBC's entertainment division, television studio and marketing division.
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