Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra has recruited a former lieutenant, Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins, to fill the top Sony Pictures Television job that had been vacant since the departure of Sony Pictures TV chairman Steve Mosko 17 months ago. The news of Hopkins’ exit from Hulu and arrival at Sony is being shared with the staffs of both companies right now.
At Hulu, Hopkins will be succeeded by Randy Freer, president and COO of Fox Networks Group and current Hulu board member, who has been named new CEO.
Hopkins has been named Chairman, Sony Pictures Television, overseeing all television production, distribution and marketing operations globally for the studio, as well as SPE’s media networks business. He will start in late November and report to Vinciquerra.
Hopkins had been president of distribution for Fox Networks Group under FNG chairman and CEO Vinciquerra until Vinciquerra’s 2011 exit from Fox. Hopkins was named CEO of Hulu in 2013 amid turmoil at the streaming service, co-owned by 21st Century Fox, Disney, NBCUniversal and Time Warner, which at the time had been run by an interim CEO while its owners were exploring a sale. Over the past four years, Hopkins has built up the company, which doubled revenue and tripled its market valuation and recently made Emmy history with 10 statuettes, becoming the first streaming service to land a Best Series Emmy for breakout drama The Handmaid’s Tale.
“I’ve known Mike for years and can think of no better person to lead our television businesses during a time of such extraordinary evolution and opportunity,” Vinciquerra said. “Mike is a proven and innovative leader who has played a key role in redefining today’s television landscape, both for consumers and for how content producers reach them.”
Hopkins’ appointment will streamline Sony’s reporting structure on the TV side. Following Mosko’s departure, all of his key reports — presidents of programming and production Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, president of worldwide networks Andy Kaplan, president of distribution Keith Le Goy, and president of ad sales & research Amy Carney — began reporting directly to Vinciquerra’s predecessor Michael Lynton. The setup remained the same when Vinciquerra came on board earlier this year, with Jeff Frost succeeding Van Amburg and Erlicht as a direct report when the two left in June. (Frost was named president of Sony Pictures Television Studios, overseeing domestic production sans international and marketing which had been part of Van Amburg and Erlicht’s purview, with Chris Parnell and Jason Clodfelter upped to co-presidents.)
Moving forward, the heads of SPT’s domestic and international television production, distribution, advertiser sales and research, marketing and Sony Pictures Worldwide Networks will report to Hopkins.
Hopkins’ departure from Hulu, which has been on an upswing, capped by the Emmy triumph of The Handmaid’s Tale, is somewhat surprising. Still, Hulu is a long ways away from catching up with SVOD leader Netflix. Dealing with the board of a company like Hulu that has multiple owners is always challenging, especially with one of the owners, Disney, recently announcing plans to launch a rival streaming service on its own. While Hulu’s setup with four parent companies has been described as particularly difficult to navigate, it is not believed to have been the deciding factor for Hopkins’ decision to leave as he already had been a Hulu board member for two years and familiar with its inner working before taking on the CEO job. With Hulu on solid footing, a big job offer at Sony and an opportunity to reunite with Vinciquerra proved hard to pass up.
“Tony has long been a colleague and mentor of mine, and I’m really excited to join him and the rest of the talented team at SPE,” said Hopkins. “There is a tremendous opportunity to build on SPT’s momentum globally and I look forward to working with the team to realize that potential.”
Under Hopkins, a 20-year industry veteran, Hulu has grown its audience to 47 million total unique viewers; expanded its business to include live news, entertainment and sports in addition to its existing SVOD offering; and entered premium original programming with Casual, The Mindy Project, The Path and The Handmaid’s Tale. On the acquisition front, Hulu has signed deals for movies from Epix, full libraries of exclusive programming from AMC Networks and FX Productions, as well as all episodes of such current and classic series as This is Us, Homeland, Black-ish, Seinfeld, CSI, Empire, Fargo, Nashville, Golden Girls and South Park.
As President of Distribution for Fox Networks, Hopkins oversaw the distribution strategy, sales and marketing for the company’s 45 linear and non-linear U.S. channels, as well as on-demand and digital extensions. His team also developed authenticated and digital video products BTN2GO and Fox Now.
The independent Sony Pictures TV Studios, which is facing increasing challenges and has been fighting its way through increasing vertical integration, will produce or co-produce more than 30 broadcast, cable and digital series on air in the 2017-2018 season. That includes The Blacklist and The Goldbergs, now in their fifth seasons; breakout new ABC drama The Good Doctor, already renewed for a full season; CBS’ S.W.A.T.; as well as The Tick, Atypical, Better Call Saul, Preacher, Outlander, The $100,000 Pyramid, SuperMansion and the upcoming Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and Cobra Kai.
Sony TV projects with big production commitment by the broadcast networks include Norman Lear’s Guess Who Died for NBC, Carol Mendohlson and David Hudgins’ Chiefs for CBS, and an untitled Gloria Calderon project for CBS.