Its all fun, games and action
Company figuring out how to maximize consolidation with CLT-UFA
By Joe Schlosser -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/14/2001 7:00:00 PM
In 1997, Los Angeles-based syndication and production company All American Television was considered the world's largest distributor of game shows, with some 90 different shows on the air in more than 30 countries.
All American was home to the famed Goodson and Grundy TV libraries, whose titles included such game shows as The Price is Right, Sale of the Century, Family Feud and Card Sharks. All American was also home to popular weekend series Baywatch and it owned international production and licensing company Fremantle Entertainment. Also, All American Television was a perfect fit for UK-based Pearson Television's long-term, global TV plans.
So at the end of 1997, Pearson acquired All American and started producing and exploiting The Price is Right and many of its other game show titles for the international market, many on its own cable and broadcast outlets throughout the world. At the same time, Pearson Television set up a U.S. division that brought together top Pearson executives from Europe and a handful of former All American executives.
Since the acquisition of All American, Pearson TV North America has launched three games shows: Match Game, Family Feud and To Tell the Truth. The syndicator also launched Air America with Lorenzo Lamas and redesigned longtime weekend series Baywatch and moved it from the shores of California to Hawaii, renaming it Baywatch Hawaii along the way. And just as Pearson Television appeared to be settling into the U.S. market, last year the company was again put through a big transition.
On April 7, 2000, Pearson Television merged with European TV and radio giant CLT-UFA, creating the largest broadcast and content company in all of Europe. Pearson's U.S.-based division quickly took on a new look following the merger, with Brian Harris, Pearson TV International's former managing director of program distribution, becoming CEO of Pearson Television North America. Harris moved to Los Angeles, replacing Tony Cohen, who moved back to London to head Pearson's worldwide production division. Harris has brought in new faces to Pearson's Los Angeles headquarters, including Sara Rutenberg, Pearson Television North America's new president of business development.
"One of the reasons [CLT-UFA] bought us was because they are very interested in increasing their presence in North America," says Rutenberg. "It's really the early days of the relationship now, but I think you'll start to see exciting things from us very soon. [CLT-UFA comprises] a great group of people. They're smart, they have done tremendous things in Europe, and I'm sure they will here as well."
Rutenberg says Pearson's North American division will likely continue to hold its "core competencies" of light entertainment, game shows and weekend hours. The Goodson game-show library will also continue to be utilized here in the U.S. and this fall, Pearson is bringing out a new version of Card Sharks with Pat Bullard as its host.
"We're committed to content and we're committed to developing and producing quality shows," says Joe Scotti, Pearson TV North America's president of distribution. "We're committed to light fare, which is daytime, early access and late night."
Pearson's Baywatch franchise is going into its 13th season in syndication, and Scotti says the company will continue to produce for weekend business. This year, Pearson executives shot three action-hour pilots and they are deciding which to bring to NATPE. Under consideration at Pearson is Undercover Blues with former Baywatch star Angie Everhart, Colosseum with comedian Andrew Dice Clay and Lean Angle with Antonio Sabato Jr.
"The action-hour business is a very difficult business," says Scotti. "But when you have an international presence like we do and have production facilities around the world, it becomes a bit more attractive."
And as the U.S. syndication business becomes more and more consolidated, Pearson TV continues to be one of the few production entities not aligned with a broadcast station group or network. Will that change down the road?
"That's unclear," says Rutenberg. "It makes us open-market players. We can take a product and find out where it best fits in the marketplace and we are not locked in or hamstrung by having a distribution group we have to answer to. On the other hand, would we like to have our own distribution group? It would probably be helpful in some situations."
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