Seems to me that everyone is getting the Gail Berman to Paramount story all wrong when they worry that Donald De Line is the target. I would suggest that it should make Rob Friedman a lot more nervous than De Line.
Tom Freston is no idiot and he knows that Gail Berman is not a film production executive. But the evolution of The New Paramount is one of integration… as all the Split Viacom stories have pointed out, Freston and the feature side is keeping the key cable nets. This is to make the machine run an a truly synergistic machine. And as most people who have worked in the Paramount/MTV/Nickelodeon nexus will tell you, the leaders of the TV nets are angry and hurt and ready to get payback as their power increases. Who will put a stop to that?
In his first few months, Freston has shown, by both action and inaction (aka not firing everyone), that he is interested in letting people who can do their jobs do their jobs without micromanaging. He has also shown that he is very interested in macromanaging.
Someone has to be the point person in the integration of all the divisions. Brad Grey will be busy, he hopes, making movies. Dealing with the personalities of all the nets is a full time job… too much for one leader, especially as the effort is to break new ground.
Who is the odd man out? It’s not De Line, though that may happen in the future. It’s Rob Friedman, whose job responsibilities have grown wide and far and is, you might notice, never mentioned by anyone regarding Paramount these days. With Grey and Berman, there is not an “appropriate” level for Friedman to land. And there is a real chance that his exit has already been determined, preceding the determination that they needed to go find someone of Berman’s level to lieutenant Grey.
Could Friedman be on his way to Disney as the hands on chief of the New Miramax? The deafening silence around that job lately… a job that Disney has to be itching to move forward with… suggests that someone might already be on tap. Rob Friedman would not be the expected choice, but as I have written before, the Mouse House seems to be looking to make New Miramax into a New Line/Searchlight combo, ultimately supplanting the slowed down Touchstone label, and not into an arthouse division.
And just worth noting, there seem to be three high end exec jobs hiring inside at least two studios as we speak. One is definitely at one of the studios in this story. Another is a bit more of a mystery. But Paramount, Fox and New Miramax are all in play in a lot of roles in town…
I personally believe that the Paramount team in place has the summer to prove themselves. But the Gail Berman move suggests that someone jumped or was pushed before that period came up. And the only job out there that high on the food chain, although many feel it is a fool’s errand, is the New Miramax role, which would be an interesting choice for a studio guy who has not had the chance to really lead the creative side. As for the rest of Paramount, $175 million for The Longest Yard and $8 million for Mad Hot Ballroom are targets that could change a lot of lives, whether met or not. (Clarification: These are rough domestic box office targets that represent job-saving success in each case, not the cost of each film.)
But hey… I’m just a guy blogging in Bermuda… what do I know?