SNTA Focuses on Future And Looks for a Leader

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The Syndicated Network Television Association is concentrating on multiple priorities going into the fall. While the search is on for a new president, the organization also is putting plans in place for its second annual conference next March in New York.

In the meantime, settlement talks between SNTA president Gene DeWitt, who departed in August with two years left on his contract, are in the hands of the lawyers.

There were rumors last week that the dispute over the contract—and how much severance is owed to DeWitt—was headed for court. SNTA board chairman Howard Levy said he couldn't comment on that situation.

Reached last week and asked if the dispute had gone to litigation, all DeWitt would say was this: "I guess the only thing I could tell you, which probably tells you something is that I'd have to check with my lawyer before I could respond." No word back by deadline however.

In the mean time, the search for a new SNTA president is underway, but it's "not close" to being completed said Levy. While the board has had talks with some prospective candidates Levy said it was premature to discuss the search process. But syndication sources report that at least two people (and probably more) have discussed the job with SNTA. They include Rick North, formerly of Warner Bros. and Warren Seidel, a former executive with drug marketer GlaxoSmithKline.

As to next year's conference, Levy said he probably will be ready to go wide with details in the next two to three weeks. The format will be similar to last year's well-received event, which consisted largely of one-on-one meetings between member syndicators and ad agencies and advertisers, held over two days.

One possible difference is that the conference next time may be confined to one day.

But the bottom line is that despite the DeWitt issue, "We've had a terrific year. The [advertising] market is incredibly strong," said Levy. "Some years you don't get a lot of shows working but this year there was [Who Wants to be a] Millionaire and Dr. Phil in first run and Will & Grace and That 70's Show in off-network," combined with higher ratings for a bunch of other syndicated offerings.

"The perception is we're this rag tag group that sits in a room and argues about everything and that's really so far from the case. We're going forward and working together on the larger mission of getting more people to consider and buy syndication."

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