The next wave of the ongoing shakeup at Austin-based online studio Rooster Teeth hit today with the news that entertainment veteran Jordan Levin will be taking over as general manager, while several core figures – including many of the company founders – move into new positions.
The studio, which is part of Otter Media, has been going through a round of shakeups as part of the aftershocks from the merger of Time Warner and AT&T. Earlier this month the firm laid off 13% of its staff – its first ever large staff cut – and now the restructuring heads all the way into leadership.
Levin was one of the formative voices in the early days of the WB Television Network (now the CW) tapping into the underserved young-adult market with groundbreaking shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson's Creek. He later became president of programming and in 2003 became the youngest CEO in broadcast television history. He has also been the NFL's first chief content officer and general manager of XBox entertainment studio before joining Awesomeness (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, PEN15) in 2017 as CEO, before overseeing the firm's sale to Viacom.
However Levin's entry means the biggest shakeup in company history, as major figures in front of the camera and in the managerial structure move to new, creative-centric positions.
• Cofounder Burnie Burns steps down as chief creative officer and becomes an executive producer, concentrating on developing new projects companywide.
• Cofounder Matt Hullum steps down as CEO and takes on the newly created role of chief content officer.
• Cofounder Geoff Ramsey takes on an expanded role as executive creative director.
• Luis Medina becomes SVP of Partnerships & Strategy, overseeing operations and strategic partnerships for the content behind the RT paywall and on their YouTube network, including Achievement Hunter, Funhaus and The Roost.
• Doreen Copeland moves from Head of Live Action to become VP, Head of Production Operations, overseeing production of RWBY, gen:LOCK, Immersion and projects in development.
• Barbara Dunkelman, known as much for her performance in RWBY as fan favorite Yang, moves from her current post as social and community marketing director to become creative director for Rooster Teeth’s direct comedic content, including RT Shorts and RT Life.
This all comes three months after Head of Animation Gray G. Haddock moved into a solely creative role after concerns about a "crunch culture" became public.
For a company in which creative and management have been consistently intermingled, with many staff and leaders wearing multiple hats, this is a major shift in philosophy creating a clearer line than ever between the creative and business sides of the studio. It remains to be seen how the studio's loyal fanbase – who have often been very vocal in their support of the company's independent nature – will respond to the restructuring.
Levin has issued a statement, praising the work done by the founders: "Over the past sixteen years, Matt, Burnie, Geoff and Gus have built a world class entertainment company amidst a turbulent marketplace engaging a fervent community of fans through a diverse portfolio of successful, entrepreneurial businesses,” said Levin. “I’m fortunate to have gotten to know them over the years and thrilled for the opportunity to join them going forward to lead this unique media brand with the full support of my friends at WarnerMedia. I’m grateful to be returning to both Austin, which has been my family’s second home, as well as the WarnerMedia family, to realize Rooster Teeth’s ambitions of producing more content in more places to reach and expand its community wherever they are and will be.”
Announcing the change, Hullum wrote, “Leading Rooster Teeth has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. Despite an ever-changing industry and an ongoing series of acquisitions and integrations, we managed to grow the company to more than ten times the size it was when I began as CEO just over 7 years ago. It’s been an incredible ride, and now I’m beyond excited to be returning to the creative work that inspired me to want to co-found Rooster Teeth in the first place.”
Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, added that “today’s announcements are a reflection of our commitment and confidence in Rooster Teeth and its value inside the WarnerMedia portfolio. ... We look forward to the future and Levin’s leadership.”
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