Warner Bros. Television President Peter Roth has extended his deal with the studio under a new five-year agreement and will expand his purview to include oversight of the newly created Warner Horizon Television, which will create lower-budget scripted and reality fare for networks and cable prime time series.
“As the television business continues to change and business models evolve, Warner Horizon Television will enable us to take more creative risks,” says Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group.
The studio’s move to expand its basic cable presence comes as Sony Pictures Television (SPT), the only major studio left that is not aligned with a broadcast network, has begun to see a return on its investment. It made basic cable a prime component of its overall TV production strategy after cutting back on deficit-financed broadcast network pilots in the face of industry consolidation.
SPT sold FX’s The Shield to Spike TV for a per-episode price reported to be in the low to mid six figures, marking the first cable-to-cable off-network deal.
Warner Bros. already produces Nip/Tuck and The Closer for cable, but its primary focus under Roth, the former Fox Entertainment president who joined Warner Bros. in March 1999, continues to be on the more profitable broadcast network business. It has been the prime time production leader the past three seasons and 16 of the last 19.
This past season, Warner Bros. placed 33 series on the prime time schedule, including a record 17 returning shows, 11 new programs and five for midseason. The list includes many of the projects that Roth green lighted, including The West Wing, Two and a Half Men, Without a Trace, The O.C.,Cold Case, Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Smallville, George Lopez, Supernatural and The New Adventures of Old Christine.
The new Warner Horizon unit is expected to operate with a separate staff. The new company will also handle reality shows currently under Warner Bros. TV Group’s Telepictures division, including The Bachelor, and possibly develop low-budget series for broadcast and digital platforms.--Anne Becker contributed to this story