However MGM by no means invested sufficient in Lightworkers to show it into greater than some scattered programming and a little-watched tv channel, Gentle TV, exhibiting family-friendly reruns. MGM’s greatest guess by means of Lightworkers, the $100 million 2016 movie “Ben Hur,” misplaced cash. Repeated guarantees of a high-powered streaming service by no means materialized.
Mr. Burnett’s relationship with Mr. Trump has additionally shadowed his run at MGM. He had lengthy been a part of a form of media trade kitchen cupboard for the developer, together with CNN’s chief, Jeff Zucker, who had put “The Apprentice” on NBC, and the expertise agent Ari Emmanuel. He and Ms. Downey had usually supported Democrats (Ms. Downey wrote a verify to Marianne Williamson’s 2014 California congressional marketing campaign), and he stated in 2016 that he wasn’t truly supporting his buddy’s White Home bid.
However though Mr. Burnett promised associates that his friendship with the president could be nice for enterprise, he was additionally intensely delicate to criticism of his outdated buddy. He objected specifically, two individuals current on the time stated, when an MGM board member, Jason Hirschhorn, started sharply criticizing Mr. Trump in his publication, REDEF in 2016. Katie Martin Kelley, MGM’s spokeswoman, stated Mr. Hirschhorn’s “public statements on the time brought about friction for many individuals at MGM,” and Mr. Hirschhorn, who left the board in 2017, declined to remark.
Because the 2016 election, Mr. Burnett has gone to nice lengths to maintain a public distance from Mr. Trump, batting away options that he helped with the Republican Nationwide Conference. “They aren’t in communication and he had no involvement with any of the president’s public actions round his hospitalization for Covid-19,” Ms. Kelley stated in an e mail.
Mr. Trump is only one thread within the inside pressure at MGM involving Mr. Burnett. He’s all the time been a tough boss, and even earlier than the pandemic, he was a man-about-town deal maker — not an office-bound supervisor. He’s had so little enter within the successes of the corporate’s scripted division, together with “The Handmaid’s Story” and “Fargo,” that the division’s chief, Steve Stark, was lately pressured to make clear to The Hollywood Reporter that he nonetheless stories to Mr. Burnett. He performed a task within the messy 2018 ouster of Mr. Barber, which has left the corporate working with out a chief government. Now, MGM is topic to perennial acquisition rumors and depending on components it may’t management: It’s hoping theaters might be packed for the discharge of a brand new James Bond movie subsequent yr and that the tradition might be prepared for the return of “Reside PD,” a Burnett acquisition that was canceled this summer time amid the wave of revolt at police violence.
After Mr. Barber’s ouster, Mr. Burnett introduced that he and Ms. Downey would elevate $100 million to begin a Lightworkers subscription service. However these plans, Ms. Kelley stated, have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, although “conversations have and are anticipated to proceed.” For now, Lightworkers is simply producing content material for MGM, and lately accomplished manufacturing on a function movie referred to as “Resurrection.” It additionally scaled again its digital presence in July, taking a lot of its content material off the web, together with articles by Charlotte Pence Bond, the daughter of Vice President Mike Pence. (One had the headline, “Are You Narcissistic? Let’s Discover Out.”)
Mr. Burnett didn’t reply to interview requests instantly or by means of an MGM spokeswoman. After years within the headlines, he’s holding his profile low, and his title didn’t even seem in a current, gloomy Wall Road Journal evaluation of MGM’s funds. A few of his outdated companions, like Les Moonves at CBS and Paul Telegdy at NBC, have been pressured out of their positions, and a brand new era of community executives doesn’t soar fairly so shortly at his calls. But when he’s not fairly the manufacturing star he as soon as was, he’s nonetheless closing offers. In 2018, Amazon Prime resurrected a present referred to as “Eco-Problem,” which Mr. Burnett began producing within the 1990s, although Amazon has dropped plans for a second season, MGM confirmed. Once I requested MGM’s chief communications officer, Ms. Kelley, concerning the notion that Mr. Burnett had misplaced his artistic contact, she responded with a litany of his long-running reveals.