Ex-Viacom syndies go indie

Three former high-ranking Viacom exex have formed Tele-Film Entertainment, which will specialize in domestic TV syndication on behalf of outside producers and later expand into firstrun projects of its own.

Heading the new venture are Joseph Zaleski, a consultant for the past three years who previously served as syndication prexy for Viacom Enterprises; Michael Gerber, who until recently served as Viacom’s president of firstrun, international distribution and acquisitions; and Robert Tucci, a former senior VP of finance and administration and chief financial officer for the Viacom Intl. Entertainment Group.

In its first deal, the Stamford, Conn.-based company has pacted with Trimark Pictures for the domestic syndication of a film package consisting of current and upcoming titles, including the just-released “Leprechaun.”

Others in the wide-ranging package include the sci-fi flick “Solar Crisis” along with “Extreme Justice,””Dead Fall” and “Cyborg II.”

Most of the pix in the Trimark package will be available within six months, according to Zaleski.

Cable, syndie mix

Terms will evolve out of sales meetings slated to begin this week in Los Angeles, with some sort of cable and syndication mix possible.

TFE will be meeting with buyers at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab next week, then head to New York stations after the confab before determining a marketing plan.

The new company is expected to make additional movie acquisitions before the American Film Market in late February, a move that will bring its inventory to more than 100 pix. Trimark prexy-CEO Roger Burlage confirmed the company is discussing other programming ventures with TFE.

Within six months to a year, TFE plans to expand into off-net and firstrun series as well as co-productions involving international telepix, action hours and miniseries.

Unlike other distribs who have come out of the gate with major firstrun projects, only to see them quickly perish in flames, TFE has opted to cautiously build up with Trimark as its foundation.

Gerber, responsible for the debut of Viacom’s successful “Montel Williams Show” in the summer rather than the more traditional September launching pad, said TFE would continue to pursue the strategy of unveiling shows in non-customary months.

Zaleski, one of the engineers of the record off-net sale of “The Cosby Show” for Viacom, will serve as the company’s prexy of sales and marketing. Gerber, meanwhile, will be prexy of acquisitions and business affairs while Tucci becomes exec VP and chief financial officer.

TFE intends to open sales offices in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco, with an executive office slated to open in Los Angeles later this year.

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