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Michael Wright is climbing the ladder at MGM TV/United Artists.
The Epix president has been tapped to serve as president of MGM TV/United Artists. As part of the new gig, Wright has also extended his contract with MGM. Wright replaces Steve Stark in the role. Sources say Stark and MGM parted ways as the executive stepped down following a nearly decade run atop the studio for a producing deal. Burnett last renewed Stark’s deal in February 2020. Sources also note MGM staff were blindsided by Stark’s departure.
Wright will continue to oversee the MGM-backed premium cable network, reporting to the MGM board. As president of MGM TV/UA, he will also now report to MGM Worldwide TV Group chairman Mark Burnett.
“The last few years have been very exciting for Epix, growing our awareness and subscribers, premiering critically acclaimed programming from remarkable talent, becoming ubiquitously available with Epix Now,” Wright said. “Through it all, the team at MGM have been incredibly supportive partners. In this new role, I’m excited to continue that journey, while also working with Mark Burnett and his talented team to grow the footprint of MGM Television and its legacy brand.”
The news represents the latest in what MGM sources described as the Burnett-ification of the company since the reality super-producer was promoted to worldwide TV group chairman in mid-2018. In a November, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Burnett had tendency to meddle in areas in which he had no defined role and would frequently badger and criticize staffers and fellow executives. The culture led to high-level exits, threatened departures and at least one HR complaint.
Stark — who was well-liked and highly regarded by creatives and executives both inside and beyond MGM — developed hits for the studio including Hulu’s Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale, FX anthology Fargo and, more recently, CBS’ Clarice. Sources told THR in November that Burnett ruffled feathers by involving himself in Stark’s prestige scripted television division with the latter threatening to leave the company. MGM at the time insisted that Stark continued to report to Burnett, though multiple sources said Stark was assured that he could operate without interference.
As for Wright, the former TNT/TBS chief and Amblin CEO joined Epix in late 2017 after the premium cable network became fully owned by MGM. (It previously was a joint venture between Viacom and Lionsgate, with MGM acquiring full control as part of a $1 billion deal.) He was hired at Epix by former MGM CEO Gary Barber. Barber was fired in March 2018 amid tension with Burnett, among other factors.
Under Wright, Epix has launched a number of scripted originals that hail from both MGM TV and outside studios. His roster includes Ed Burns’ Bridge and Tunnel, Forest Whitaker’s Godfather of Harlem, Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia, Batman entry Pennyworth, Perpetual Grace LTD and the upcoming Stephen King entry Chapelwaite.
“Michael is an extremely talented and experienced television executive who I am grateful to have known and worked with for over two decades,” Burnett said. “He is the ideal decisive leader to steer MGM Scripted TV into achieving our full potential both creatively and financially. A long-time champion of premiere talent, his expertise is perfectly aligned with our goals of taking MGM Television to the next level.”
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