Symes tops MGM/UA TV

Former Paramount exec John P. Symes has been named president of MGM/UA Worldwide TV, overseeing development,production and domestic distribution of all television programs.

Symes, who left Paramount in September, will report directly to another studio alumnus, MGM chairman-CEO Frank G. Mancuso. Symes had been exec VP-creative affairs at Paramount Network TV since 1989 andbegan at the studio a decade earlier, overlapping with Mancuso’s tenure there.

The move marks an expansion in television under new management at MGM. Most TV production activities were essentially eliminated in July 1992, when French bank Credit Lyonnais — alarmed by deficits associated with production of one-hour series — laid off most of the staff and allowed then-TV chairman David Gerber to leave and take most of the network-related development with him. Gerber has since formed a partnership with ITC Entertainment.

Mancuso, who recently announced an ambitious movie slate, has also stated a desire for MGM to function as a full-service studio, including more activity in TV.

Currently, the company has several first-run projects in the works, such as an animated version of “The Pink Panther,” plus sales of the off-network series “In the Heat of the Night.” That CBS hour drama is currently the studio’s only primetime network show.

Although not expected to have resources on par with other major studios in terms of signing talent to overall deals, both Mancuso and Symes said in a statement that MGM will support creative people and find a role for the company within TV’s anticipated 500-channel future.

MGM announced an agreement with Showtime last month to co-finance production of original movies for the pay service, a project expected to be supervised through the TV division.

Sid Cohen, president of domestic TV distribution at MGM, will now report to Symes, as will development VP Hank Cohen. International distribution remains a distinct area under president Gary Marenzi.

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