Bruce Rosenblum Reveals His Plans for the TV Academy

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The Warner Bros. executive and new ATAS chairman and CEO talks to THR about the Emmys, his idea to create industry "summits" and how to reduce political infighting.

One big idea on the mind of the new chairman and CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Bruce Rosenblum, is to hold a television industry "summits," modeled after those put on in the 1990s by the last top TV executive to lead the group.

Rosenblum, who is a member of the office of the president at Warner Bros. and oversees all TV at the busiest studio in Hollywood, is the first high-level studio executive to head the TV Academy since Richard Frank, who was president of Disney TV during his tenure.

In 1994, Frank was the vision behind a summit that the organization calls “one of the most notable events in the Television Academy’s history," a daylong conference at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, titled “Information Superhighway Summit.”

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Then-VIce President Al Gore provided the keynote address, and participants included the chairman of the FCC, Bill Gates of Microsoft, John Malone (then head of the largest cable company), Brian Roberts (now of Comcast, which now owns control of NBC Universal), DreamWorks Jeffrey Katzenberg, Disney heads Michael Eisner and Robert Iger; and others.

“I hope we can put together a summit similar to what Rich Frank did during his tenure that I think elevated the visibility of the academy,” Rosenblum told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview shortly after his election Wednesday night. “We’re at a wonderful moment in time when technology is so dramatically influencing our business in a positive way that we can bring together a lot of the influential people in the industries to talk about where technology is taking our business.”

What Rosenblum does not want is to play the political games that have dogged the academy in the past or to dwell only on the Primetime Emmy Awards while ignoring everything else the group does.

“If you look at the results of the election tonight, I think you will see a group of new officers who are expressing a desire to work past the politics of old,” said Rosenblum. “I think we have a unified desire to bring new voices to the table and move the academy forward, not to retain the status quo. If the new group of officers can be successful at that agenda I think you’ll see a diminishment of the politics of old.”

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Rosenblum wants to improve the diversity of the group, address piracy concerns and bolster the work done by the Academy Foundation, in part by bringing this new attitude into play.

“A lot of the focus of the academy is traditionally around the Primetime Emmy Awards,” Rosenblum said. “Yet the academy provides a lot more functions though out the year that are not as well known. I think we can elevate the brand of the academy, elevate the awareness of the academy and certainly elevate the stature of the academy through things like professional development, and creating opportunity for there to be more relevance for the members other than just getting to vote for the Emmys. We can push forward a diversity initiative within the peer groups and governors. I think the philanthropic work of the foundation is terrific and the Academy can generate more revenue through digital opportunities or sponsorships. All of that will benefit the great work of the philanthropic foundation.”

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Before his election, there were some concerns expressed about whether “peer” members among the academy -- mostly crafts people -- would be able to deal honestly with Rosenblum because of his executive power.

“I don’t make those hiring decisions,” Rosenblum said. “Having met with almost every one of the governors personally before the election, I think the results speak for themselves. There was a comfort level that myself and others elected to positions tonight will bring a renewed vigor and hopefully excitement to the Academy.”

Rosenblum also responded to those who are concerned that as one of the members of management he might not side with rank-and-file members on key issues.

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“The chair position is one of leadership but it’s not one of making decisions,” said Rosenblum. “The decisions at the academy are made by the Board of Governors along with the executive committee. It’s a consensus building role. It’s a collaboration-building role and what I’m hopeful [for] is that I and the others elected tonight can bring to the academy just that -- consensus building and finding ways to add value to what the Academy can do for the members of all the peer groups.”

Still, it seems like there will be inevitable conflicts of interest. Rosenblum has said he wants to help boost local production and help create jobs, but what happens when it is in the interest of his studio to go to a state or country that offers greater tax and other incentives? Isn’t that a potential conflict?

“First of all, the academy needs to be careful because it is not a lobbying organization,” responded Rosenblum. “But to the extent that the academy can provide guidance to both the city and state on creating appropriate incentives to retain production locally, that will benefit all of the members of the Academy based in Los Angeles. This is not a situation of conflict. It is one of supporting the Academy in doing what is in the best interest of the membership of the academy.”

Rosenblum said it is too early to discuss what leadership he might provide on the direction of the Emmys. He doesn’t even officially start his term until January. For now, he wants to bring everyone together. To that end, he talked both before and after the election with producer Nancy Bradley Wiard, who ran against him in the race for the chairman’s position.

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“She was very gracious,” said Rosenblum. “She congratulated me. She wished me the best and I expressed to her that I hope she remains actively involved in the academy because she provides a lot of value, a lot of institutional knowledge, and she’s someone I hope I can turn to and so I encouraged her to remain involved.”

And why is Rosenblum involved? He has a busy job, a family and now a voluntary position that doesn’t pay anything but can take up a lot of time and carry with it huge responsibility, including pressure and scrutiny from the academy members, the media and the public.

“I know it sounds cliché, but we all are very fortunate to work in this industry,” replied Rosenblum. “As I said in my speech tonight (to the Governors and executive committee prior to the vote), I think we’re in a golden age of television. I think the caliber of the products being produced and the quality of the people working in our Industry has never been better. So this was an opportunity to give back and to get actively involved in an organization that I think can represent our industry to an even greater extent than it already does.”

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