DreamWorks TV co-chief Ken Solomon has been named the new president of Universal TV in place of Tom Thayer, who resigned last week and signed a production pact with the studio.
Solomon, 34, emerged as the leading contender early this week, and his appointment was expected (Daily Variety, June 10).
Solomon and Universal TV Group chairman Greg Meidel have a long history together, and the U TV president post was the last major division chief replaced since Meidel took over the TV group early last year. Solomon worked with Meidel as a syndication sales executive at Paramount Domestic TV in the 1980s and later at Twentieth TV, where Solomon was executive vice president.
“This is truly the case of drafting the best athlete,” Meidel said. “He’s been involved in every aspect of the business from the studio side to the network side. He understands it’s not a volume business, but a business of creating hits.”
In addition to his sales experience at Par and Twentieth, Solomon also worked in sales at Disney’s syndie arm Buena Vista TV from 1989-92, when he sold “The Golden Girls,” “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” and “The Disney Afternoon.”
Meidel said the sales experience will serve the needs of Universal well. “Returning show are so important that we need to spend more time nurturing and maintaining our presence with the networks,” he said. “It takes on more of a sales aspect.”
Just before joining DreamWorks in 1995, Solomon was executive VP of network distribution at Fox Broadcasting Co., where he helped with the numerous affiliate switches, including the New World TV stations’ move to Fox affiliation. While at News Corp., he also helped launch the FX cabler and NFL and NHL franchises.
At DreamWorks Solomon has been involved with development of firstrun projects, including a new syndie access strip with Connie Chung and Maury Povich that was recently pulled off the market.
After DreamWorks recently released Povich from his deal, the talkshow host signed on with Meidel at Universal.
Although Solomon’s background is in syndication rather than network TV programming, several industry execs praised him as a good choice for the top network TV development job. “A lot of successful studio executives have come out of the sales ranks,” said ICM exec VP Alan Berger.
“Kenny’s the kind of executive who will be able to adapt to a whole new ballgame,” added Rich Frank, chairman and CEO of C3, who also worked with Solomon at Par and Disney.
Solomon, who starts in July, said he had no plans to make any immediate changes at U. “One of the things I’m going to make sure we do is focus on the situation comedy,” Solomon said. “My goal is to make sure we’re as strong as possible in that arena. I’ve gotten to work and play in a majority of other areas, and this has always been a dream of mine.”
DreamWorks gave its blessing to Solomon’s move. Bob Jacquemin, who has been running DreamWorks’ syndication arm with Solomon for the past two years, remains there as the syndication chief, and he was quick to dispel rumors Wednesday that he also might leave the studio.
“The best way of saying it is that there are no changes to our commitment to television,” said Jacquemin, who added that there’s also no rush to fill Solomon’s shoes.
With the Povich-Chung project gone, DreamWorks has no firstrun product to peddle, and any potential off-net sales from the fledgling studio’s one remaining network show, ‘Spin City,” are probably still a few years off. Jacquemin is now actively scouting firstrun development projects for 1998.