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New World buys assets of Reeves

New World Entertainment has announced an agreement in principle to expand its production division by acquiring assets from Reeves Entertainment, the Thames TV unit that had to be disposed of under terms of its acquisition by Pearson PLC (Daily Variety, June 1).

The deal would include all active Reeves programs, among them ABC’s daytime “Home” show and “Homicide: Life on the Street.” NBC confirmed Friday that it had given another chance to the critically acclaimed Barry Levinson-Tom Fontana drama series with a short-order pickup for next season.

The Reeves pact continues a recent spate of activity by financier Ronald O. Perelman, whose Andrews Group owns New World, to rebuild his TV production and distribution holdings after letting most of New World’s staff and product go in 1991 under a similar transfer of assets to Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Just a few weeks ago Perelman acquired a 50% interest in a domestic syndicator, Genesis Entertainment, through his program library subsidiary Four Star Intl. (Daily Variety, May 21). Reeves could add additional product to both the New World and Genesis pipelines, though the announcement made no mention of the Reeves library, which includes such shows as “Kate & Allie,””Gimme a Break” and “That’s Incredible.”

John Hyde of MCEG Sterling, which handled the negotiations for Thames, said in a statement he looks forward to finalizing the agreement “so Reeves’ executives, talent and programming will continue operation through New World without interruption.”

Reeves president Richard S. Reisberg — who had been trying to engineer a management buyout of the company — and most of its 100-plus staffers will apparently segue directly to New World. That would also incorporate overall talent deals, which Reeves pursued aggressively with the backing of Thames, signing such producers as Gil Grant (“Covington Cross”), Pam Norris (“Designing Women”) and Kathryn Pratt & John Eisendrath (“WIOU”).

Reeves had informed staff last week, under plant-closing requirements, of its intent to close its doors July 30 barring such a deal.

New World has functioned primarily as an overseas sales operation since the Sony deal (its assets were used to reactivate TriStar TV), distributing serials (among them “Santa Barbara” and “The Bold and the Beautiful”), movie and internationally oriented series such as “Zorro,” which airs domestically on the Family Channel.

As for “Homicide,” NBC confirmed ordering a minimum of four episodes of the show, which comes from Levinson’s Baltimore Pictures in association with Reeves. The pick-up returns a low-rated critical favorite to prime time, after NBC canceled “I’ll Fly Away,” CBS dumped “Brooklyn Bridge” and ABC closed “Homefront.”

Other active Reeves prime time programs include producer Bruce Paltrow’s “Down Home,” a midseason CBS series; “Trailer Park,” a hold-over pilot still under consideration at the Eye web; and various properties in development for the networks and cable.

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