Universal was the last of the major studios to not have put its home entertainment operations under a global head. It has done that now, announcing today it has elevated Eddie Cunningham to president of Universal Pictures Worldwide Home Entertainment. He had run the international business the past eight years from London, and he now will relocate to LA to work closely with Universal Pictures president and chief distribution officer Peter Levinsohn, who arrived from Fox last May. The reorg means the departure of Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau, a 16-year Uni veteran. The respected industry pro was given additional duties in September in an initial organizational restructure, when he was given oversight of digital home entertainment sales for Universal Pictures and Focus Features theatrical releases, NBCUniversal TV shows, and direct-to-video content and acquisitions in addition to his duties managing distribution of physical media including DVDs. “Craig has been a tremendous asset to our company, consistently delivering incredible results for our films throughout his 16 years at Universal,” Levinsohn said today in a release announcing the moves. “He’s been a leader in our industry and he’s helped Universal to continually find new and innovative ways to distribute and market our films in the home entertainment space. We are extremely grateful to him for his years of service.”
It was one the Home Entertainment division’s best year’s financially in 2013, with home video sales of Despicable Me 2 outweighing the downturn in Universal Studios‘ box office sales during the most recent fourth quarter. The film unit ended up with cash flow of $192M (+127.4%) on revenues of $1.4B (+4.9%). Universal and Illumination Entertainment‘s Despicable Me 2 took in $80 million in physical and digital sales and sold roughly 4.5 million units in its first week of home entertainment release. It also hit No. 1 as the best first-week digital sales of all time.
Cunningham has been president of Universal Pictures International Entertainment since 2006. Before that he was Managing Director of Polygram’s UK home entertainment business and budget music labels, preceding its acquisition by Universal Pictures in 1999. He then became Chairman of UK Operations and Regional Managing Director for the Nordic countries as well as Australia and New Zealand. “As the home entertainment landscape continues to evolve, we need to ensure that we’re operating as one global team positioning ourselves for the greatest success,” Levinsohn said. “Eddie has had tremendous results as head of our international home entertainment division and he will be a terrific leader for our group as we work to shape the future of Universal’s home entertainment business with an even greater global focus.”
Here’s Levinsohn’s memo on today’s news:
The home entertainment business continues to evolve, becoming even more complex while offering greater opportunity for our films. Like any company, we are constantly evaluating our organizational structure to align with market conditions and our strategic goals. As such, we have decided to unify our home entertainment operations under one leader to provide closer collaboration and a greater global focus across the organization.
We are announcing this morning that Eddie Cunningham, who currently serves as President of Universal Pictures International Home Entertainment (UPIE) will become President, Universal Pictures Worldwide Home Entertainment. Eddie, who has been with our company for 20 years, will be expanding his portfolio to include the company’s domestic home entertainment operations. He will be re-locating to Los Angeles in order to work more closely with me and the Universal Pictures executive team. Universal will continue to maintain a strong presence in its London office.
President of Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE) Craig Kornblau will be leaving our company to pursue other endeavors. Throughout his career at the studio, Craig has been an invaluable asset and played a major role in developing the strategic direction of USHE and the home entertainment industry as a whole. He has been a highly-valued member of our executive team and a well-respected leader among his colleagues and counterparts. Craig’s work has been dedicated to consistently delivering excellent results for Universal’s films and we are tremendously grateful for his many years of service.
Ron Meyer shared this thought about Craig: “Craig has been an extraordinary business leader and friend to all of us at Universal for 16 years. He was instrumental in helping form our home entertainment business and he transformed the way we approached things, ensuring our business thrived through many years of change and uncertainty. I’m incredibly proud of how Craig and his team have positioned us for the future and everything accomplished.”
Although it saddens us all to see Craig go, this is an important re-alignment for our company and we believe it will help to further position us for even greater success.
Below is the press release that will be distributed shortly. Please join me in congratulating Eddie on his new position and wishing Craig the best in his new ventures.
Here’s Universal’s release:
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, February 25, 2014—Universal Pictures today announced that Eddie Cunningham has been named President, Universal Pictures Worldwide Home Entertainment. Cunningham, who currently serves as President of Universal Pictures International Entertainment (UPIE), will expand his portfolio to include the company’s domestic home entertainment operations, a move designed to provide closer collaboration and a greater global focus across the organization. Cunningham will continue to report to Universal Pictures President & Chief Distribution Officer Peter Levinsohn who made today’s announcement.
Cunningham, who is based in London and has been UPIE’s President for eight years, will relocate to Los Angeles in order to work more closely with Levinsohn and the Universal Pictures executive team. The company will continue to maintain a strong presence in its London office.
Prior to his current role at Universal, Cunningham was Managing Director of Polygram’s U.K. home entertainment business and budget music labels in 1994, preceding the acquisition by Universal Pictures in 1999. He then became Chairman of U.K. Operations and Regional Managing Director for the Nordic countries as well as Australia and New Zealand, before being promoted to President, UPIE in November of 2006, where he oversaw the elevation of Universal to market leader in the majority of operational territories and introduced ground-breaking non-traditional growth initiatives in the international home entertainment sector. Before joining Universal Pictures, Cunningham held a number of roles in retail and distribution. He was an operating board member of the Woolworths retail business and Commercial Director of Entertainment U.K., the biggest entertainment software wholesaler/distributor in the world.
President of Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE) Craig Kornblau, who has been with the company for 16 years, will be leaving to pursue other endeavors.
“It has been an incredibly rewarding 16-year run at Universal and I leave on a high note with an immense sense of pride and accomplishment,” said Kornblau. “I am very fortunate to have teamed with such an exceptional group of talented individuals and appreciate all of the innovation, collaboration and camaraderie that have rendered this organization second to none in the industry.”