Microsoft's head of Xbox media licensing departs company, citing reorganization [Update]

The executive in charge of Xbox media licensing at Microsoft has left the company, citing Microsoft's recent reorganization as the reason for his exit.

Blair Westlake, who joined Microsoft in 2004 to run its then-new media entertainment group, confirmed his departure in a statement to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. The statement is vague, however, only saying that his skills no longer fit the company as a result of its recent reorganization.

"As the reorganization has unfolded, it has become clear to me that the organization is moving in a direction that does not fit either my expertise or skill sets," said Westlake, a former Universal Television chairman. "Therefore, I have made the decision to leave Microsoft."

Microsoft is heavily emphasizing original content for Xbox Live with the recent launch of the Xbox One, though Westlake's licensing responsibilities should have remained important with Xbox Video's store. In December, Microsoft announced it would create a documentary series exclusively for Xbox Live, with the first installment looking at the long-rumored burial of millions of Atari 2600 "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" game cartridges. A live-action Halo TV series for Xbox Live is also in the works, with Steven Spielberg executive producing.

Despite the increased focus on original content, however, Xbox Video has lagged behind Apple's iTunes service. Microsoft only recently launched Xbox Video for Windows Phone 8, and its licensing restrictions remain unclear on several platforms. When buying a video via the Xbox Video store on Xbox 360, for instance, users will be told when the video's licensing rights expire; the same warning doesn't appear on the Xbox One or Windows 8 versions of the service.

As implied by Variety, Westlake's departure could be the result of reduced responsibilities thanks to Microsoft's hire of Nancy Tellem in September 2012. Tellem is overseeing the creation of original content for Xbox Live, and licensing likely took a backseat with her hire. Additionally, in August it was reported that several executives were considering leaving the company because of the reorganization, which left them with reduced roles at the company.

Tellem is notably absent from Westlake's statement, though he said he would miss the company of several of his other fellow Xbox executives.

"While I will miss their company and our interaction, I truly believe that this move is in the best interest of all parties concerned," he said. "I want to thank my talented and committed team, as well as Yusuf Mehdi, Robbie Bach, Will Poole and Hank Vigil, all of whom had a significant and positive impact on me during my tenure at Microsoft."

Neowin has contacted Microsoft inquiring who will oversee the company's licensing agreements going forward; this article will be updated if a response is received.

Update: A Microsoft spokeswoman provided the following response on behalf of the company regarding Westlake's departure: "Yes, we can confirm Blair Westlake is leaving Microsoft.  He made valuable contributions to the company and we wish him success in his future endeavors. We don’t have anything else to announce."

Source: L.A. TimesVariety | Image via Microsoft

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