Kevin Tsujihara to Head Up Top Hollywood Studio

Kevin Tsujihara has been picked to become the new CEO of Warner Brother Entertainment which is generally considered Hollywood’s top film and TV studio.

Tsujihara, 48, won out over two other top Warner executives with more high-profile experience in Hollywood’s marquee business of making filmed entertainment. One is Bruce Rosenblum, head of Warner’s TV production. The other is Jeff Robinov, head of the Warner’s movie studio.

By contrast Tsujihara has been heading up Warner Brothers Home Entertainment (WBHE) which deals with the far less glamorous task of squeezing revenues from DVDs, games and digital sales while fighting digital piracy.

The surprise nod to Tsujihara wasn’t exactly a snap decision. In September 2010 Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes had launched a kind of reality-show style contest among the three executives by joining them at the hip to form an Office of the President. By sharing CEO duties each candidate had the opportunity to learn about the others’ areas of responsibility as well as to demonstrate his ability to share responsibility constructively.

But like any good reality show, the arrangement fostered tensions, mistrust and backbiting up and down the ranks of management. The situation presented Bewkes an ideal opportunity to observe and evaluate each man’s ability to handle the stresses of leadership amid intense competition. In the end he decided that the genial, low-key Tsujihara best embodied the collegial culture that had taken root at Warner Brothers since the studio’s 1923 founding by brothers Jack, Harry, Sam and Albert.

“We’ve had four management teams in 90 years,” Tsujihara said. “From my perspective, the thing we absolutely have to safeguard is the culture here at Warner Bros.”

As its new CEO Tsujihara will preside over a studio that has enjoyed stellar performance in all areas. At the box office it has invariably rotated in and out of the top spot with Paramount or Sony/Columbia. It’s been consistently number one in home video sales and generally sells the most shows to the TV networks. Its 2012 revenues rose 9% to $12.6 billion. Of that box office revenues accounted for only about $1.6 bil., explaining one important reason for the respect Tsujihara enjoyed as home entertainment chief.

Still as the head of Warner Brothers Tsujihara will be expected to provide the vision to produce the kinds of blockbusters that energize studios like the Warner hits Dark Knight, the Harry Potter series, Argo, as well as enduring TV series like The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. In that respect, Tsujihara’s experience entirely on the digital side of the business makes him a bit of a risk. The closest experience he has had to creating a feature movie was starting up an online income-tax filing service before joining Warner in 1994.

On the other hand, Tsujihara has taken some big gambles by investing heavily in new delivery platforms like Flixster and UltraViolet. While neither service is a runaway success yet, in an increasingly digital entertainment landscape, the ability to lay new pipeline for squeezing the most ancillary revenues out of a studio’s canned assets may be even more important to the bottom line than experience in making movies that fill theaters.

Tsujihara has been head of WBHE since it was created in October 2005. In that capacity he has shown a knack for farsighted dealmaking that has positioned Warners at the forefront of Hollywood’s digital entertainment landscape, not only in revenues but in establishing new money-making channels for delivering content to consumers. In addition to Flixster and UltraViolet, Tsujihara has aggressively linked Warner content to iTunes, Xbox LIVE and various cable and satellite providers around the world.

Tsujihara has also built up Warner’s video game business into a bigger revenue source than its box office releases with the acquisitions of Turbine, TT Games, Snowblind Studios, the assets of Midway Games, and a majority stake in Rocksteady Studios.

Before heading up WBHE Tsujihara was executive VP for corporate business development & strategy. Before that as EVP of new media, he was responsible for all of Warner’s new media projects. He joined Warner in 1994 as as finance director to help manage Warner’s interest in Six Flags.

Kevin Tsujihara earned a BA in business administration from USC. He then spent four years as a manager in Ernst & Young’s entertainment division working in audit and mergers and acquisitions before returning to school to earn an MBA from Stanford.

Tsujihara sits on the Boards of Directors of the MPAA, City Year Los Angeles, an education focused, nonprofit organization, the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, OnLive, the Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation, the Entertainment Software Association and Kabam.