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Paramount agenda

New programming chief aims to create hits for all Viacom units 5/06/2001 08:00:00 PM Eastern

As Paramount Domestic Television’s new president of programming, Greg Meidel hopes to churn out hits not only for broadcast stations, considered the division’s core business, but for just about everybody within the gigantic Viacom media family, which houses Paramount’s syndication unit.

Meidel is an old pro in the business, having been television chief at Universal and Twentieth. (Most recently he was a founding partner of digital rights firm Massive Media.) Obviously, he knows how to create hits, having previously overseen such series as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and America’s Most Wanted.

Now, he says, he is not “just thinking about traditional syndication,” a sluggish programming arena of late. “I’m looking at cable, I’m looking at first-run, I’m looking at network,” Meidel ticks off. “I look forward to working with all the various Viacom-owned companies. I really believe there is a synergy here that is addictive. I wouldn’t be surprised if [King World CEO] Roger King and I did a project together someday.”

He asks, “Why can’t we do an ET Kids for something like Nickelodeon with a sixth day run of it on CBS Saturday mornings?” referring to leveraging a children’s version of Paramount signature strip Entertainment Tonight to two Viacom subsidiaries.

Under the Viacom parent banner, Meidel could work with everyone from CBS’ Les Moonves to MTV’s programming head Brian Graden, both of whom worked closely with Meidel during his stints at Universal and Fox.

“To me, syndication is like a third of our business,” Meidel adds, explaining that he will focus on reality, alternative and some typical first-run formats. “I want to come up with the next Survivor. I’m not saying doing Survivor for syndication. I’m saying doing the next reality hit for prime time.”

His move, effective May 1, coincided with Joel Berman’s being named Paramount Domestic Television’s sole president, after Frank Kelly, the company’s co-president left the post for a three-year production/development deal with the studio.

Yet Paramount TV Group chairman Kerry McCluggage offers assurances that Meidel will enjoy a seamless transition back to Paramount, the place where he got his start in 1979 selling such shows as Entertainment Today (now Entertainment Tonight). “This is about a number of things. Frank wanted to make a change in his career. And this is about a long-standing desire on my part to have Greg here.”

There is some speculation that Meidel is just in a holding pattern, waiting for a bigger spot at Paramount or Viacom. One rival syndicator said, “He won’t be president of programming one year to 18 months from now. He’ll be doing something bigger.”

Meidel is not the top studio executive. He will report to Berman, in a role reversal; less than a decade ago at Paramount, Berman reported to Meidel, the company’s then-general sales manager.

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