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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8 Comments

This sounds like Microsoft's changes are moving in more unified and consistent direction.

They got too caught up in the base technologies of Plays4Sure v2 that was the center of the problem for Zune that also provided the licensing for the early version of Xbox Video content. This created a lot of fragmentation in their content ecosystem that has started to be consolidated with Xbox Music/Video using new licensing services in Windows 8/WP8/XB360/XB1.


As someone with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, I'd really like to see more aggressive licensing for shows OR for other services to sell content on it like Amazon.

Considering "licensing issues" the is the main quoted reason people outside the US never seem to get any love, good riddance to him.

LMFAO!!! Blair said, "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,". Yes Blair, they no longer need to pay a senior executive as a f'ing news clipping service! Blair was not like by anyone and if they say they liked Blair, it's because they had sold their soul to help protect him and he would do the same for them. Blair, never personally crafted, built, planned, or executed on a single thing within the company or before at Universal. Blair was a politician that decided to do his business inside a company and not have to deal with constituents. He regularly chased after people that didn't like him or that made him look bad because they actually got sh*t done. Blair never had any positive impact on Microsoft and everything that was accomplished in any division he was in never came from his head, hands, or work. On top of all of this, the mans ego was bigger than the Hollywood stars he use to ignore in his big office in the sky at Universal. He never created anything there either. In fact, before he was fired from there, Mr. Segrams himself asked Blair WTF he actually did for the company? He was later fired by accounts of...people that were in the room. Good ridden Blair, on to the next idiots that need someone to read daily variety and scan the articles before emailing them to the entire company 50 times per day. Please allow the door to strike your ass and knock your ass off the planet.

O la la, calm down there boy. It's okay to not like someone, but no need to paste a complete wall full of hatred here

No doubt that every company is filled with incompetent people; but still ;-)

Jarrichvdv said,
O la la, calm down there boy. It's okay to not like someone, but no need to paste a complete wall full of hatred here

No doubt that every company is filled with incompetent people; but still ;-)

I disagree. It's important to know whether an executive is actually important to the success of a product or merely dead weight. If I was looking to invest into a service and read that an exec was continually making it worse then I would be less likely to invest until a change was made. Or, if an exec with a proven track record was brought in then I'd be more interested in the product.

Well I'd have to say its probably a good thing hes leaving because he failed Microsoft. I was in the Microsoft ecosystem from the time the hooked-up with MTV for URGE, then they dropped that for PlaysForSure which they dumped for Zune which was also dumped for XBox Music. Hopefully, they've finally got their **** together because my days of buying digital content (outside of MP3s) from Microsoft are on hold till they figure out what the hell they wanna do.

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