The Peacock wins Ed

NBC feathers its nest with Wilson heading syndicated unit
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Get ready for some Must-See syndicated shows.finally. After kissing off potential syndication riches for several years, NBC is getting into off-net/first-run programming.

The network nabbed former Eyemark Entertainment President Ed Wilson as the new chief of its syndication division and is vowing to bring at least one new offering to NATPE this winter. Hottest prospect: Guys (like ABC's daytime View but injected with testosterone) to market for fall 2001.

NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa acknowledges that it could have done more with 2002's syndication run of in-house production Will & Grace. But lacking a syndication division, NBC left distribution to Warner Bros.

"It did make us really take notice that we should be in the business," says Sassa.

And why did it take NBC years to get into syndication, given that the FCC allowed networks entry into the off-net business in 1996?

"Well, we are doing it now," says Sassa. "The timing is everything. You have to have the right amount of product, the ability to do it-and we're doing it now. And the real dinner bell here is Ed Wilson."

NBC had been eyeing Wilson since Eyemark and King World were consolidated earlier this year, and, just last month, Wilson was let out of his contract. Since 1996, Wilson had served as president of Eyemark, which handled first-run and off-net CBS properties.

He came to CBS in 1996 after the network acquired MaXam Entertainment (a distribution company he founded in 1994). Wilson had been courted by a number of suitors, including Fox's Twentieth Television.

"You've got a network that's attracting the top talent at NBC. So if someone says I'd like to be in business with someone that can give me syndication, can give me a great network presence-who better than NBC right now?" asks Wilson, president of the newly coined NBC Enterprises and Syndication. "When it came down to what's a great opportunity, this was it."

Don't look for NBC to establish an old-fashioned syndication division.

"Ed and I have talked about this," Sassa says. "The two things about most sales groups is that you need newer thinking and part of that newer thinking [involves] people who really embrace technology."

Over the past year, NBC executives have made a commitment to revamping their daytime lineup, hiring a number of syndication and former daytime producers, Stuart Krasnow (The Martin Short Show) and Linda Finnell (The Today Show) among them.

Besides the NBC stations, another obvious pipeline for the network's syndicated programming is Pax.

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