Scripps is the latest to go around webs

The E.W. Scripps Co. has become the latest network-affiliated station group to take on the webs.

Scripps is launching a full-fledged Hollywood TV and film production company that will create fare to preempt weak spots in the networks’ primetime schedules.

Santa Monica-based Scripps Howard Prods., previously a one-man operation that was dormant for the past few years, has been revived with a massive infusion of cash and personnel.

TV station vet David Percelay has been named president of the new venture. Former NBC drama and comedy veepee and current indie producer Michele Brustin is heading programming under a three-year pact in which she will exec produce, supervise development and production and consult.

The production firm, whose sta-tions cover more than 10% of the country, intends to become involved in domestic and international TV, including the networks, cable and firstrun syndication.

It will specialize in primetime series, telepix and miniseries, as well as news, information and entertainment services for emerging media.

Scripps also intends to capitalize on the company’s United Features Syndicate library, which includes Peanuts and Garfield, by looking at animated theatrical films.

With Scripps already entrenched in broadcasting, cable and publishing, company prez-CEO Lawrence Leser said the company now wants to develop a “fourth leg.”

Echoing the sentiments of other station groups forming programming alliances (Daily Variety, Sept. 1), Percelay said broadcasters think the time is right to “create new opportunities” for themselves in the wake of a weak advertising market, lower ratings and rising programming costs. With three major syndicators — King World, Paramount and Twentieth TV — supplying most of the product in the pipeline, Scripps wanted to create its own programming to fill the voids in the networks’ primetime schedule. Percelay calls primetime preemptions “an unstoppable trend.”

Unlike Group W Prods., which also has its own station wing, Scripps Howard Prods. does not intend to become involved in selling its shows. Instead, the production entity will seek to parlay Scripps’ station clout into advantageous distribution deals with outside syndicators.

Percelay spent 12 years at CBS in news and sports, including a stint as station manager under former KCBS-TV g.m. and current Scripps TV head Frank Gardner.

The production company intends to come out of the gate with an hour action-adventure series for primetime syndication at a network budget level. Scripps has the ability to entirely finance the project, but Percelay indicated the group may seek a co-financing partner.

It has also optioned two projects to be shopped around to the networks.

He described one as an “epic … in the vein of ‘Roots’ ” that is based on a true story.

The second is also a true story based on a family that goes against the medical establishment by risking the life of one twin to save the other, Percelay said.

Until moving into his current position, Percelay served as managing partner of Jacobs & Gerber Entertainment, where he fashioned a development umbrella for the company at Universal TV covering telepix and miniseries.

A project that carries over from his previous association involves a true story that Percelay took to Michael J. Fox’s Snowback Prods. It is now being written as a pilot script for CBS Entertainment.

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