By Jim Benson
Executive changes prepare for syndicated, broadband projects
Telepictures unveiled a series of high-level promotions and appointments as it ramps up for new syndicated and broadband projects.
The Warner Bros. production unit's president, Hilary Estey McLoughlin, has elevated company veteran Lisa Hackner to the newly created No. 2 position. As executive VP, creative affairs, Hackner will be responsible for overseeing all of Telepictures' new program and content development for first-run syndication and digital.
According to insiders, Telepictures has several format-driven broadband projects in development with an eye toward television—a similar model that it has used with TMZ.com, which spurred a syndicated-TV version that starts this fall. One of the broadband projects is said to be a “targeted destination” like TMZ.
Telepictures is also focused on high-profile, personality-driven talk for syndication in fall 2008. While its executives won't comment on development, it is known that comedian Steve Harvey has been shopping a show set at his New York radio morning show. He has strong ties to Warner Bros. that stretch back to The WB's The Steve Harvey Show from 1996 to 2002 and hosting the syndicator's Showtime at the Apollo.
The newly promoted Sheila Bouttier and David McGuire will serve as senior VPs reporting to Hackner, who will oversee development, programming and producers.
Bouttier will continue to oversee Tyra Banks and will work closely with Hackner on new projects and initiatives.
McGuire, meanwhile, will remain responsible for The Ellen DeGeneres Show and work with newly named Programming Manager Leigh Collier on Judge Mathis, The People's Court, Showtime at the Apollo and new programming. He also will expand his role in managing the creative execution of product integration for Telepictures' shows.
To fill out the ranks, Emmy Award-winning producer Lauren Blincoe has joined Telepictures as VP of development, working with Hackner on developing first-run series and digital content. Collier will report to McGuire on current programming and to Hackner on development.
The goal of the new team, McLoughlin says, is “to build breakthrough brands and destinations for the digital space, like TMZ, that will migrate to television.”
Previously senior VP of development, Hackner rejoined Telepictures in June 2004 from Universal Domestic Television, where she was executive VP for two years over programming and development.
Until joining Universal in 2002, Hackner had spent her entire career at Telepictures, starting in 1990 as a receptionist and working her way up to VP of development.
A 17-year veteran of Telepictures, McGuire has served since May 2003 as VP of development/creative executive on Hardly News, an interactive comedy-news-game-hybrid produced for Bud.tv by Telepictures and Warner Bros.' Studio 2.0.
Bouttier, VP of programming at Telepictures since June 2004, was development VP under Hackner at Universal. Previously, she worked in development at Buena Vista Prods., as a producer for elimiDate, TV manager at John Wells Prods. and at Fox in comedy. She began her television career as a producer for Jerry Springer.
Blincoe has been senior supervising producer of Tyra Banks since June 2006 and previously held senior producing roles on elimiDate and The Rosie O'Donnell Show. The executive has a long line of talk-show credits and was VP of artist development at Tonos.com.
Collier had been a media research manager for Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, before segueing to Telepictures.
USA Network's heavily promoted limited series The Starter Wife turned in a solid performance for the network with its premiere, averaging 5.4 million viewers, with 53% of its audience composed of adults 18-49 (2.9 million). The two-hour episode on May 31was the first of five consecutive weeks of the show, an adaptation of the Gigi Levangie Grazer novel starring Debra Messing.
The premiere more than doubled USA's average primetime audience in May—2.3 million viewers—but it wasn't quite as big as that of its The 4400. That show debuted as a limited series in July 2004 to 7.4 million viewers and ran for five weeks before USA greenlighted it to a full series. It returns this summer for a fourth season.
Still, Starter's premiere is a solid hit for the network. In the adults 18-49 demographic, it topped the summer 2006 series premiere of Psych on the network, the most-viewed new cable scripted original of last year. And with 2.76 million adults 25-54, it matched Psych's premiere audience in that demo.
Starter also outperformed the broadcast networks with women 18-49 for its 10 p.m. hour, a feat for the cable network even though both CBS and ABC programmed reruns (Shark and Grey's Anatomy, respectively) and NBC aired a new episode of its cast-off Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
The big question now is whether USA will greenlight Starter to series as it did with 4400. Network executives have said they are not averse to developing a similarly themed program if the limited series continues to perform through its run.
Among other major cable limited-series premieres are TNT's 12-hour Into the West, which debuted to 6.47 million viewers in June 2005; Sci Fi's Taken, 6.1 million viewers in December 2002; and Lifetime's Beach Girls, 3.6 million viewers in July 2005.
Amy Carney has been promoted to president, advertiser sales, of Sony Pictures Television (SPT), reporting to President Steve Mosko.
Carney will continue to lead the company's advertiser-sales operation, which extends beyond first-run and off-network syndication to encompass Sony Pictures Entertainment's digital businesses, Sony BMG's Music Box and In Demand's high-definition channel, Mojo. She directs the sales teams based in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“Amy is an expert in the evolving ad-sales arena and is using her wide range of experience to master the opportunities in SPT's businesses across several platforms,” Mosko says.
Based in New York, Carney joined SPT in September 2003. In December of the following year, she was promoted to executive VP and named head of the division. She earlier worked as sales VP at Univision Online in New York, where she launched the company's online-sales division, and also created the national-sales and client-services team.
Earlier, she was general manager, Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch, and VP/general sales manager at CBS affiliate WTVR Richmond, Va. She came out of the rep business, having served as VP/general sales manager at Telerep.