Fates & Fortunes Weekly Round-Up: Oct. 9, 2009


Here are this week’s media moves, headlined by one big change at Disney and one potentially big change at CBS. As always, you can follow us on Twitter @BCFates (or me personally @PaigeA). Forward fates to me at BCFates@gmail.com or at palbiniak@gmail.com. I try to get everyone in these round-ups — memory allowing — so email  me!

Big Kahunas

Rich Ross, long a stand-out star at Disney, was named chairman of Disney’s movie studio. Variety’s Cynthia Littleton gets into this in depth, but as chairman of Disney Channels Worldwide, Ross proved himself a master brand-builder, taking such franchises as Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven and High School Musical and turning them into smash hits with worldwide followings.  Ross will now be in charge of worldwide production, distribution and marketing for all of Disney’s film divisions, including Walt Disney, Touchstone, Miramax and Pixar. He’ll also head Disney’s theatrical and musical groups.  Ross has long worked at the right-hand of Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group. Ross replaces Dick Cook, who departed the company in September. A replacement for Ross at the Disney Channels group is expected in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, Hollywood is waiting to see what Nancy Tellem’s next move will be. Like Rich Ross and Anne Sweeney, Tellem has long worked as the right hand of CBS CEO Leslie Moonves. The trades went nuts this week reporting that Tellem, 55, might be moving into a less hands-on role at the network.

Corporate Changes

Mark Rosenbaumreturned to the News Corp. family in the newly created position of chief financial officer of social-networking site MySpace, where he will oversee all finance and accounting operations, reports WebNewser. Rosenbaum most recently was a consultant to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Prior to MGM, he served as SVP of corporate finance for Gemstar-TV Guide International, which was owned by News Corp. at the time, and as CFO of the tvguide.com and TV Guide Mobile units. He has also worked with SmartJog, 20th Century Fox and Disney.

Broadcast Pix’ co-founder Russell Whittaker has been named the tech company’s SVP, while Arco Groenenberg has been promoted to VP of sales. Whittaker had been vice president of sales for the company, while Groenenberg had been director of sales, Americas and Asia. Whittacker will remain in the company’s main office in Billerica, Mass., while Groenenberg is based on Las Vegas. Broadcast Pix also announced the opening of a new sales office in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is where I would go work if I knew anything about broadcast technology or sales.

Natalie Farsi will manage mobile business efforts for Warner Bros. Digital Distribution and Warner Bros. Television Group. Farsi’s been a consultant to Warner Bros. on mobile issues for the past two years. Prior to that, she was SVP, mCommerce and content for Fox Mobile Entertainment. Before that, she was VP of Media at New York-based m-Qube. From October 1997 to November 2003, Farsi was an independent media consultant. She’s a graduate of UC Berkeley, with a BA in communications.

Programming Prospects
Sander Schwartz, former president of Warner Bros. Animation (which owns rights to characters like Batman, right, and I thought it would be cool to add a little bit of the bat to today’s blog), has been named EVP, head of children and family, at FremantleMedia Enterprises. Schwartz also has held a senior position at Sony Pictures Television and was head of Columbia TriStar’s children’s programming.

Meanwhile, Schwartz’ old shop, Warner Bros. Animation, added three executives to its ranks. Peter Girardi was named SVP, series and alternative animation; Ed Adams was appointed SVP, business and legal affairs and administration and former Cartoon Network exec Jay Bastian was named vice president, series. The moves represent the completion of the division’s restructuring under WBTV President Peter Roth.

Jason Holzman was promoted to SVP, brand creative, at NBC Universal’s USA Network.

Bill Bergmann and Jim Urick each have been named VPs of finance at Starz Entertainment and Starz Media.

The Weather Channel’s long time ad sales chief Paul Iaffaldano is leaving the company after almost sixteen years. Iaffaldano’s exit is the first high profile departure since the arrival of new president CEO Michael Kelly, who arrived in July. Based in Atlanta, Iaffaldano was EVP/GM of The Weather Channel Media Solutions Group. He was promoted to his current position in July 2004 from his post as SVP network sales and advertising product development. Iaffaldano had also worked at Travel Channel and ad agency FCB, part of Interpublic Group.

Eric Cavanaugh has been named VP of program research at Bravo Media, spearheading all brand, new media, marketing, scheduling, acquisitions, development and consumer research efforts for the network. Cavanaugh joins Bravo from Zenith Media’s Strategic Resources Group. Before joining Zenith in 2001, Cavanaugh spent several years at Tribal DDB as an associate media director. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Cavanaugh is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, Pa.  He currently resides in New York with his wife, Melissa.

Station Switches
Robert G. Totsch has been named vice president and general manager at Meredith’s KCTV/KSMO Kansas City. He succeeds Kirk Black, who shifted to WGCL Atlanta.  Totsch, 46, was director of sales, marketing, promotions, Internet and local entertainment programming for Belo’s KMOV St. Louis, where he spent 21 years. He helped create the sales and marketing strategy for all Belo stations, and served as executive producer on three KMOV programs. Totsch is a 1986 graduate of the University of Missouri. He is president of the CBS Sales Advisory Committee.

Quincy Newspapers Inc. (QNI) has realigned the management structure of its TV stations, effective Oct. 12. Jerry Watson has been named regional VP, with oversight of the company’s six NBC affiliates. Tom Allen has been named a regional VP, with oversight of the QNI’s ABC and Fox affiliates. Chuck Roth has been named director of business administration. For the past year, Roth has worked on special projects for QNI.

Journalism Jumps
WOFL Orlando Assistant News Director Jeff Zeller has been named VP and news director at the Fox O&O. The promotion is effective immediately. Gavin Maliska departed WOFL’s news director post last month.  Prior to WOFL, Zeller spent six years at WPXI Pittsburgh, first as an executive producer and then as a managing editor/senior executive producer. He also spent two years at WHIO Dayton.

Rob Morrison, formerly of WNBC, is moving over to WCBS to anchor Saturday and Sunday mornings and report three days a week, reports NewsByte2.  Morrison had anchored WNBC’s Today in New York until May 2008.

Sylvia Strobel has been named interim president of American Women in Radio & Television. Strobel is senior partner in entertainment law firm Lehmann Strobel, and will head up the search for a permanent replacement. (Will she pull a Cheney and name herself?) Valerie Blackburn of CBS Radio in Los Angeles replaces Strobel as chair of the AWRT board. Strobel got the temporary assignment after Maria Brennan, who had been president since 1998, resigned to become president of Women in Cable & Telecommunications.

George Bodenheimer, ESPN President and co-chair of Disney Media Networks, and Tom Might, president of Cable One, will each receive the President’s award from the Association of Cable Communicators during CTAM’s annual meeting in Denver on Oct. 26.

Douglas Duitsman, 81, a veteran publicity executive and a former president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, died Sept. 17 after a three-year battle with cancer. Duitsman lived in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Duitsman, who held senior positions with Columbia Pictures Television and Warner Brothers Television, grew up in Inglewood, Calif. He is survived by Reba, his wife of 62 years; his two daughters, Karen Jensen and Joni Sears; two sons-in-law, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.