It's July in Hollywood, and the air is heavy with rumors of who won't be around this September. By the time the new fall lineups debut on the six broadcast networks—in a couple months—there may be some new faces calling the programming shots.
Most of the speculation centers on NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa and UPN President Dean Valentine.
Sassa's contract is up at the end of the year, and he may feel like the odd man out. An executive shuffle landed former Today
producer Jeff Zucker in Hollywood as president of NBC Entertainment and his old news boss Andy Lack in New York as the president of the entire network. If Sasssa goes, his job would likely be consolidated into Zucker's.
NBC executives would not comment publicly on the Sassa-Zucker talk, but some privately say he could stick around. A new three-year contract is on the table, they say.
Valentine has another year and a half on his contract, but, with ownership of the network unsettled and sluggish prime time results, his status is uncertain. Viacom now owns the entire network, but Fox may come in as a partner.
ABC's top two programming executives, Stu Bloomberg and Lloyd Braun, are facing contract renewals this season as the network looks to bounce back from a lackluster 2000-01 prime time. But most observers believe both will be back.
The WB has just moved Jordan Levin into the top programming post, and he's currently rounding out his drama, comedy and reality teams.
Fox and CBS seem to be the most stable in their upper ranks, but, in Hollywood, nothing lasts forever. "It's either firings or disappointment out there at a lot of the networks," says one top boss. "There's the usual bounty of instability at the top."
Despite the instablity at UPN, Valentine is busy recruiting a replacement for outgoing programming chief Tom Nunan, who resigned after a four-year run. Names surfacing include former Columbia TriStar executive Helene Michaelson and Fox Executive Vice President David Nevins.
Steve McPherson at Touchstone Television was considered a leading candidate until he was promoted to president of the Disney-owned studio last week.
Across town at rival The WB, the announcement last month that Susanne Daniels was leaving the network meant that Levin was suddenly alone at the top. (They shared co-president status.)
Last week, Levin promoted three programming executives. Tracey Pakosta and Mike Clements are the new senior vice presidents of comedy development. Carolyn Bernstein is the new senior vice president for drama development. Levin is expected to add a new head of reality within next few weeks.
Levin said he did not name a number-two programming executive because he wants the network to "speak with one voice, move quickly, and be lean and mean."