EXCLUSIVE: On November 17, the Board of Governors of the Television Academy will be choosing a new Chairman and CEO to replace outgoing Chair Bruce Rosenblum, who is terming out after serving five years in the role. Paperwork for those running had to be turned in by last Friday, and Deadline has learned that at least two candidates have emerged in the race: current Vice-Chair Kevin Hamburger,and Producers Branch co-Governor Hayma “Screech” Washington.
Whether any others applied will be known when the Academy tells the Board of Governors which candidates are running for the top position, and other officers, later this week, informed sources tell me. Normally candidates come from the board itself, though Rosenblum was recruited from the outside when he was still at Warner Bros. He did serve on the Executive Committee, though, and the Academy’s qualifications for Chair allow Exec Committee members eligibility as well. Sources say no outsider appears to be in the hunt this time.
Normally a Chair can only serve two terms of two years each before being termed out, but because of the ongoing construction of the new Wolf Theatre and Saban Media Center on the Academy’s North Hollywood campus, as well the fundraising for that project, rules were lifted and Rosenblum’s term, as well as those of the entire board’s, were extended from two years to three in order to maintain continuity during a crucial period for the group that also marked the organization’s 70th anniversary. The new facility opened in late spring.
Hamburger has been deeply involved in Academy affairs for the past 11 years as a board member, then Treasurer and finally Vice Chair for the past five years. He also worked on several committees and chaired the Creative Arts Committee, leading the charge to splitting the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony in half, with two separate events held this year instead of the usual bloated single show that often ran over four hours. Reception to the streamlined ceremonies last month was very good. In August Hamburger departed his job as Senior Supervising Producer of CBS’ daytime hit, The Talk and now is advising clients as a production executive, something he has done earlier in his career. He told me this morning that his extensive experience in and out of the Academy makes him feel he is perfectly suited for this new challenge. “We have a beautiful new facility and theater and can now look to the future,” he said while also promoting Academy efforts in several areas including diversity. But he said he needs to do more on that front, even though the recent Emmy nominations showed tremendous diversity in terms of key acting nominations and didn’t run into anywhere near the criticism the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has encountered over two consecutive years in which no actors of color were nominated.
Currently, however, there are only three African-Americans serving on either the TV Academy Board of Governors or the Executive Committee; one of them is Washington, who would become the first African-American leader in the organization’s 70-year history. (The other two being music branch governor Rickey Minor and Interactive’s Marc Johnson). A Governor of the Producers Branch for the past five years , he previously served on the peer group committee for Non-Fiction TV. He is a former VP at Disney, is a seven time Emmy winner for his work on The Amazing Race, and spent last year producing the Travel Channel’s Celebrity Adventure Club. Currently he is developing several other Reality and scripted documentary projects. He also serves on the National Board of the Producers Guild of America. Washington told me today he was approached to run, thought about it and decided now is the time to do it, mentioning that his career has been full of “never-been-dones and unique jobs.”
The key goal in a Washington-run Academy he says would be to keep it relevant. “The business is changing drastically and dramatically evolving,” he said. “We have to make sure we have our eye on all the emerging formats, both longform, and shortform, for which we just added categories this year.” As co-Chairman of the Academy’s diversity committee, he said it has to be a priority, as he notes it has been during Rosenblum’s term. “I want this committee to be out of business. TV has been doing better, but you have to educate the industry. It all starts in the beginning, in the hiring of showrunners and producers before we can even get to the point where we have worthy achievements to nominate, ” he said.
Because of last year’s extended terms, there now are more officers and board members being termed out than usual. That could mean much of the Television Academy leadership could be headed for a shakeup come November 17. As for the Movie Academy, that organization is facing an election for a new leader as, well when current President Cheryl Boone Isaacs — who is the first African-American and third woman to head AMPAS — is termed out in August after serving four years.
A spokesperson for the Television Academy said they do not comment on elections.