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3 Arts TV accord ends

The highly touted alliance between 3 Arts Entertainment, CBS and Columbia TriStar TV has been dissolved after the venture — the first of its kind — failed to produce any primetime TV projects for the Eye web.

The three-way alliance, called 3 Arts TV, was created in June 1996 with much fanfare because no network, studio and management company had ever partnered before to create a new production company (Daily Variety, June 11, 1996).

CBS has been unhappy with the deal for many months, though, and sometimes-tense negotiations to get out of the partnership have been ongoing since this summer.

Jeff Wachtel, president of 3 Arts TV, recently settled out of his deal, but he remains as executive producer on Eyemark Entertainment’s weekly syndie action hour “Pensacola: Wings of Gold,” the one project he developed at 3 Arts TV. As part of the settlement, Arts no longer has any involvement or ownership in “Pensacola.”

CBS originally had promised to invest about $10 million to $15 million in 3 Arts TV, and one source close to the situation said 3 Arts for some time had played hardball and was holding CBS to some form of payment.

CBS TV president Leslie Moonves said the partnership simply “petered out” and the parting was “amicable.” He said CBS has agreed to give Columbia TriStar TV and 3 Arts a couple of series commitments over the next two years as part of the settlement.

CBS originally made the deal in order to get access to talent repped by 3 Arts, but Moonves said the reason the deal didn’t work was that “their stars are more suited for other networks.”

Top TV clients of 3 Arts include comedian Chris Rock, producers Mike Judge and Greg Daniels of “King of the Hill,” Jennifer Aniston of NBC’s “Friends,” Howie Mandel and Kristen Johnston of NBC’s “3rd Rock From the Sun.” The one 3Arts client CBS has a deal with is Faith Ford of “Murphy Brown.”

Moonves acknowledged that despite his network’s investment, “It’s hard to get their stars into shows because of conflicts of interest.” A management company still has to represent its clients and accept the best offer from a network rather than giving CBS a leg up. Moonves added that in general, “a management company’s focus is not necessarily on production.”

Another expensive and high-profile deal between a network and management company, ABC’s deal with Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, is also close to being dissolved. Most of Brillstein-Grey’s shows ended up on NBC, and the deal meant less to ABC after Disney bought the network.

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