“It’s been brewing for a while,” outgoing Sony Pictures TV chairman Steve Mosko acknowledged tonight of yesterday’s news he was leaving the company.
And that was pretty much it, when it came to dishing about yesterday’s humdinger of a headline. Despite much prodding, Mosko declined to rise to the bait during Thursday’s PaleyDialogue event presented by Paley Media Council.
“The great thing is, I’ve been at Sony for 24 years” he told attendees at the event that had been organized long in advance of yesterday’s surprising development, and carried on despite the change in its star attraction’s status.
Asked about the timing (his contract was set to come up in the fall), Mosko said, “It was a really good time to take a step back.”
Earlier in the day, Sony announced Mosko’s top lieutenants will now report directly to Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment. That team includes Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, Presidents of Programming and Production; Andy Kaplan, President of Worldwide Networks; Keith Le Goy, President of Distribution; and Amy Carney, President of Advertiser Sales & Research.
“These are the guys that came up with me and they’re excellent and they’ll do a great job,” Mosko predicted generously, hours after the new set up was unveiled at the studio.
Mosko also pooh-poohed stories of friction between himself and Lynton:
“We worked together 13 years. I’ve never worked with somebody 13 years! We had a pretty good run together.” Lynton, Mosko said appreciatively, “gave me complete autonomy; you don’t find that very often.” He also gave Lynton props for not telling him not to do Breaking Bad, when “99.9% were saying ‘this is the worst idea’,” to sell to a drama series about a teacher with terminal cancer dealing crystal meth, who would be played by the actor who’d played the dad in Malcolm in the Middle., a cable movie network.
“People are going to believe what they’re going to believe,” Mosko conceded, of his relationship with the Sony CEO.
Moderator Michael Schneider tried another line of attack, asking Mosko to comment on the fact that his TV operation had been contributing more than 60% of SPE’s operating income, which had not resulted in television being represented in the leadership of SPE.
“I don’t think that’s a Sony issue” but an industry one, Mosko deflected deftly.
“Television tends to be somewhat the stepchild of the industry and it is what it is,” he said. “The Hollywood machine is built around big movies and that’s great. Television is this little bit blue-collar business… it’s the working side of the business.”
Ditto the Sony hacking scandal that was said to have deepened the rift between Sony’s film and TV divisions as it exposed emails indicating that, despite television’s increasing importance and status as a cash cow, SPE, run by film execs, had sometimes made major decisions that impacted the television operation.
“The bottom line, when you go through something like that, whether in family or business, when you are attacked, and your character is attacked and everything about your being is under siege… It was like being at war in a foxhole.
“The whole experience brought everybody closer together,” Mosko insisted stoutly.
Asked what was his next gig, Mosko joked, “Let me be clear. I’m not going away….I’m not going to become a director – inside joke.”
Just hours before Mosko’s Q&A, Doug Belgrad stepped down as president of the Motion Picture Group at Sony, after two years in the post, leaving the studio he has called home for 27 years to move into a producing gig. Adding to the fun, the Sony board was meeting today in San Diego.