"SNL," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" vets jumping into book biz

NEW YORK — The people who bring you “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien are jumping head-first into the book biz.

Broadway Video Inc. announced Thursday that it has acquired a major-ity interest in TV Books LLC, publishers of TV show companion books.

As the result of a separate three-year contract that goes into effect Jan. 2, HarperCollins Publishers has signed on as exclusive distributors of the new company’s books in the U.S. and Canada.

Peter Kaufmann, founder of 2-year-old TV Books, will serve as publisher and prexy of the newly configured company. Serving as rights and business affairs director will be former Jim Henson Prods. staffer Albert Gottesman.

The transaction was brokered by Pamela Meyer’s Manhattan Studios, a Gotham-based firm specializing in strategic media investment.

“This deal really brings us to the next level. We couldn’t have asked for a better investor and partner,” Kaufmann told Daily Variety.

Broadway Video, founded in 1979 by “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels, has interests in television, film and the World Wide Web. Their most recent acquisition before TV Books was the Burly Bear Cable Network, made up of 200 affiliated stations serving college communities around the country.

The company has dallied with book tie-ins to “SNL” and its characters, but now will work on extending its “myriad new television properties into book format through TV Books,” according to Broadway Video CEO Steve Shippee.

TV Books had developed a “successful niche,” Shippee said, for publishing nonfiction books from documentaries, entertainment books from network programming and books with vintage TV tie-ins.

The new company already has sev-eral projects in development, Kaufmann said. Those include: “Israel and the Arabs: The Fifty Years’ War,” based on a six-hour PBS/BBC docu-mentary; “Defending Everybody: A History of the ACLU,” tied to a Florentine Films/PBS production; and “Reagan: Rise and Decline,” due in February and based on an “American Experience” documentary from WGBH Boston.

A number of other “more entertainment-oriented” projects are in the works and will be announced next fall.

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