FremantleMedia last week threw in the towel on the domestic distribution business by allowing Tribune Entertainment to sell its first-run strips Family Feud, To Tell the Truth
and Card Sharks
in what a well-placed source says is a three-year arrangement.
Fremantle is not getting out of the U.S. TV business entirely; it will still produce programs. Already in the works for cable outlets is a rock-'n'-roll edition of Family Feud
and teen beauty show Looks Are Everything, which is similar in feel to the popular Web site Amihotornot.com. Fremantle is also revamping a classic Goodson game format for the Pax network and readying a project to star Jamie Oliver, headliner of The Food Network's The Iron Chef.
"We're absolutely not giving up on the U.S.," says Tony Cohen, chief executive of Fremantle, which laid off 40 to 50 people, including domestic syndication President Joe Scotti. Cohen says senior creative executives, including entertainment president David Lyle, are staying with the company.
Tribune can offer Fremantle a ready distribution outlet for its products in the Tribune-owned station group. And German broadcaster RTL, Fremantle's parent, does not know the ins and outs of barter the way Tribune does, admits Cohen, explaining that RTL prefers the license-fee-driven network and cable business.
Fremantle was one of three majors—Studios USA and Columbia TriStar, the others—not partnered with a station group.