At Sony Pictures, Hopkins will oversee all television operations, reporting to studio chief Tony Vinciquerra. Freer, a 20-year Fox veteran, will take on the job of expanding Hulu’s fledgling digital MVPD service and beefing up its original content offerings.
Hopkins’ departure from Hulu after four years at the top was highly unexpected. Hulu — the 10-year-old venture that is jointly owned by 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal, Disney and Time Warner — has been on a roll of late thanks to the groundbreaking win last month logged by its drama series “The Handmaid’s Tale” at the Emmy Awards. The move to Sony reunites him with Tony Vinciquerra, who was Hopkins’ boss during his previous tenure at Fox Networks Group.
Hopkins takes on the senior TV leadership role left vacant since early last year when Steve Mosko exited as Sony Pictures TV chairman.
“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,” said Vinciquerra. “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’ move to Sony TV fills the leadership vacuum at the studio and it allows Vinciquerra to put his stamp on the TV operations. The studio has seen significant turnover in the past two years with Mosko’s departure and the exits of former production chiefs Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who moved across town in June to run global video for Apple.
Vinciquerra inherited an unwieldy reporting structure in TV when he took the reins of Sony Pictures Entertainment from Michael Lynton in June. In the absence of a central leader, four department heads reported into the CEO: Sony TV’s international networks division, headed by Andy Kaplan; global distribution, run by Keith LeGoy; research, headed by Amy Carney; and domestic production. After Erlicht and Van Amburg departed, Vinciquerra named a trio of executives to run U.S. production: Jeff Frost, Chris Parnell and Jason Clodfelter.
Vinciquerra made it clear that he wanted to take his time in getting know the TV division. Still, few on the lot were aware he was working to recruit Hopkins for the top job.
“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.”
Sony TV is off to a good start to the fall season with its freshman drama “The Good Doctor” doing solid business for ABC. But the challenges of running a large TV studio much bigger than the broadcast network scoreboard.
Sony TV in the past decade has greatly diversified by producing for cable and streaming services and growing its international reach through its networks and productions such as Netflix’s “The Crown” and Amazon’s upcoming “Electric Dreams.”
The studio’s handicap against its Hollywood rivals is the lack of vertical integration with a major broadcast or cable network. The task ahead for Hopkins and Vinciquerra is to determine how to keep its busy production roster profitable at a time when the economic models for programming are changing, at home and abroad. Sony has also been aggressive in building out its portfolio of international channels but there is also concern that the potential there may be plateauing as streaming competitors become more plentiful in the most desirable overseas territories.
Before he was named CEO of Hulu in 2013, Hopkins worked in network distribution for Fox Broadcasting and the Fox cable group.
In a statement, Hopkins called his tenure at Hulu “the single-most meaningful experience of my career.”
Freer was a natural choice as Hopkins’ successor, given his exposure to Hulu through his position at Fox Networks Group.
“Randy has a unique knowledge of Hulu and expertise building consensus among its owners, and an excellent track record leading a complex organization at the nexus of the television business. There’s no better candidate to lead Hulu as it embarks on its next chapter,” the board statement said.