Cunningham upped at UPIE

Replaces Smith as home ent. head

Universal Pictures said Monday that it has upped Eddie Cunningham to president of Universal Pictures International Entertainment, its overseas home entertainment arm, effective Jan. 1.

London-based Cunningham, who will report to Universal Pictures vice chairman Rick Finkelstein and co-chairman David Linde, replaces Peter Smith, who recently was appointed president of NBC Universal International.

Cunningham most recently was chairman of Universal Pictures U.K. and regional managing director of the U.K., Ireland, the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland) and Australia/New Zealand.

UPIE has directly owned operations in 23 territories and licenses product to more than 30 countries. Cunningham said he is tasked with finding new sources of growth for the home entertainment business and pointed toward downloading as a potentially major revenue stream.

"(General Electric) generally looks for double-digit growth from its businesses over the longer period, and it is going to be my responsibility to find as much growth as I can in what is generally a flat market," he said. "I do think that the digital download is going to be massive for us as an industry. There are lots of challenges to overcome, but over the long term I think it will revolutionize the way we all consume movies."

Veteran U.K. executive Johnny Fewings will serve as interim managing director of Universal Pictures U.K. until a replacement can be found. He declined to put a timetable on the appointment.

Cunningham joined Universal Pictures U.K. as chairman in 1999 and has led the U.K. operation to market leadership with a 17% market share.

Before Universal, Cunningham was managing director of PolyGram Video and held several senior retail and distribution management posts.