Thriving on the edge
Exec VP's division has tallied over $1B in revenue since it began
Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/3/2000 7:00:00 PM
Building an entire television-syndication division from scratch would be enough of an accomplishment for most careers. But David Spiegelman is just getting started. Having started New Line Television-with Bob Friedman, now president of the division-and now steering sales of the studio's film packages and first-run programming to network, cable and pay-per-view outlets, Spiegelman isn't about to quit.
"I love this company. I know it sounds goofy and corny, but I really feel this way," insists Spiegelman, who also creates TV promotional campaigns for New Line products. "Monday is my favorite day of the week. I'm serious."
But after crafting the first dual broadcast/cable window for a theatrical release (Fox and Turner networks' airing of Jim Carrey vehicle The Mask), and launching New Line's first syndicated show ( Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World), what is there left to tackle?
One thing on Spiegelman's to-do list is touting the syndicated weekly series Hard Knox to broadcast stations. The Moonlighting-ish project, debuting in fall 2001, will feature Thomas Calabro ( Melrose Place) falling for martial-arts expert Kim-Maree Penn. Hard Knox also stars former Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors.
Since New Line does not have a station group, distribution for its product is never guaranteed. However, this just fires up Spiegelman. "You know what I say? [Having a station group] would make it too easy. We like to be on the edge. I think that, if the product is good enough, then we'll find station groups."
In making the rounds with Hard Knox, "I've never gotten a better reception to a sales tape," he claims. "First-run is incredibly challenging, which is why we bring out so few products, but the ones we bring out seem to really hit."
Currently, Spiegelman is fine-tuning his Hard Knox selling strategies for January's NATPE. Many of the major studios will have locked up show clearances before the convention starts, but the show affords the smaller New Line sales force a valuable opportunity. "NATPE is very busy for us," he explains. "We see a ton of our clients. I wish NATPE were four days long."
Although he "can't tell you how much" he loves his job-he caught the broadcasting bug designing a functional radio station while in high school-he is grateful to the people who allow him to enjoy his work. "If I ran the whole show, then we'd be in big trouble. It takes a group effort. It doesn't matter if you're an assistant or the president, everyone gets involved." As examples, he cites a man in New Line's sales unit who came up with the name Hard Knox and a woman in the studio's legal division who thought up First Date (a fall 2000 syndicated prospect that never launched).
However, Spiegelman deserves credit, too.
"He understands the marketplace. He's a salesman's salesman," says Eric Frankel, executive vice president of Warner Bros. 'domestic cable distribution and co-founder of Spiegelman's high-school radio station. "He loves to sell, loves to close a deal. That's why he's terrific at bringing in a huge piece of New Line's revenue."
Spiegelman estimates that since its inception, New Line's TV unit has tallied more than $1 billion in revenue.
Besides selling The Lost World, consistently one of the top-rated action hours according to Nielsen Media Research, Spiegelman has also sold film packages, including such hit movies as Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. He just publicity for upcoming New Line film The 13th Day with Kevin Costner: CBS will air Costner's The Bodyguard, with the star hosting, on the night of Day's theatrical release.
Frankel expects Spiegelman to take on more and more responsibilities at New Line. And Spiegelman is open to the idea. "Why not? This is a great place. I love motion pictures. I love television."- Susanne Ault
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