Rick Jacobson, Viacom Entertainment Group’s newly tapped prexy of domestic markets, suggested yesterday that he will explore direct broadcast satellite as well as more traditional methods of program distribution for the company’s programming.Citing last week’s deal in which Viacom-owned cable webs signed a distribution pact with United States Satellite Broadcasting (Daily Variety, March 4), Jacobson said his division would also likely explore DBS. Viacom Entertainment Group chairman-CEO Neil Braun has encouraged the new distribution head to avoid “the traditional way of doing things,” said Jacobson, who most recently was VP and general sales manager, West, for Disney’s Buena Vista Television. He hopes to assemble a sales team that is not bound by conventional selling methods. The company has already gone outside the traditional syndie boundaries by using its cable webs as a testing ground for the firstrun market. Jacobson, who oversees Viacom’s distrib efforts for syndication, cable, homevideo as well as merchandising and licensing, said that with “the right property and the right deal,” webs are willing to accept cable-grown fare. Broadcasters have traditionally been hesitant about licensing shows that have had previous cable runs, but Jacobson noted the business is changing and stations seem more amenable to the prospect. His goal is to get station groups involved in the process from the beginning. Over the years, Viacom has tapped its kiddie cabler Nickelodeon for syndie product. The latest example came in January when the company introduced “Guts,” a weekly children’s sports show that premiered on the cable service this season, as a last-minute addition at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab. To date, Viacom has cleared the late firstrun arrival in more than 30% of the country. Jacobson emphasized that Viacom will still rely on outside developers to craft product that can go directly to the firstrun markets, such as an unspecified “pro-social” kids project.
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