Tartikoff holds forth at NATPE

Brandon Tartikoff may no longer live in L.A., but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the entertainment business.

The former Paramount Pictures topper and NBC programming chief — who now refers to himself as an executive without an inbox — is busy developing programs for local stations in the New Orleans market, including a kids show, a gameshow and a topical serial.

He made his remarks during a press conference following his keynote address at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention.

While Tartikoff didn’t give specifics about the programs in development, he did say the kids show– being produced at Quincy Jones’ WNOL-TV — is scheduled to shoot this spring, with auditions taking place in the next few weeks, and ideas coming from the children themselves.

The gameshow, being produced at Tribune Broadcasting’s WGNO-TV, probably will begin production this summer.

He described the effort as a return to his roots in local television, but said he hopes the shows will prosper to the point where they could be rolled out nationally.

While he has personally bankrolled the shows he is developing thus far, he said he would be spending the coming week in L.A. looking to scare up some outside investment.

Tartikoff left Paramount in November and moved to the Big Easy, where his daughter Calla is undergoing rehabilitation for a head injury suffered in a car accident two years ago.

Tartikoff seems to be enjoying his life in the Crescent City, where he says he’s not only the biggest fish in a small pond, he’s the only fish. “It’s the most fun I’ve had since the mid-’80s,” he said.


Earlier in the day, during his NATPE keynote address, the self-proclaimed mogul-without-portfolio admonished television executives to change the way they do business or perish in the rapidly approaching 500-channel TV universe of tomorrow.

“For most of commercial television’s first four decades we’ve gotten by on evolution, gradual refinements effected in a viewer universe that promised profitability at every turn.”

“But with the technological wave now cresting on the near horizon, and the money-gushing propositions harder to come by, evolution is no longer sufficient–revolution is what is called for: A radical rethinking of how we do business, and how we define ourselves. Without that, all of us–big and small–will be nibbled to death by the piranhas of encroaching new channels and services.”

To that end, Tartikoff said that many of the tenets that have governed broadcasting — programming for trends, programming for demographics and programming by committee — should be abandoned.

Tartikoff said the networks need to refocus on the things that make them unique–original weekly series and quality made-fors.

“With the proliferation of more and more channels playing more and more reruns, it is imperative that networks remain ‘firstrun theaters’ if they want to remain the audiences primary focus in the future.”

Despite the need for change, Tartikoff said he continues to be optimistic about the future of broadcast television.

“If somebody in the future puts on a good show, one that is different, well-made and compelling, and it is left in one place long enough for the American television audience to find it, that audience will support the show and make it a success,” he said. “They always have and they always will.”

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