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Eye’s People outlet taps Darby prexy

Longtime Nickelodeon executive and producer-director Geoffrey Darby has, as expected, been named the first president of the new Westinghouse/CBS cable entertainment/information network CBS Eye on People, which has a projected March 31 launch.

Darby joins the startup venture Feb. 10. He also will have the title of executive VP, Group W Satellite Communications.

“This is a great opportunity because it is one of the last — if not the last — broad-based network that is a niche,” Darby, 43, said Tuesday in an interview. “The niche happens to be people, the diversity of people and their real stories.”

Darby has made his biggest mark as a nine-year veteran of Viacom, serving there most recently as prexy of Viacom Interactive Services. He joined Nickelodeon in 1985 as executive producer and moved up to VP, production, senior VP, production, and finally senior VP of programming & production between 1985 and 1992.

During that period, Darby helped establish the network’s inhouse production unit and create such Nick franchise staples as “Double Dare,” “Eureeka’s Castle,” “The Kids’ Choice Awards” and “Nick News.” Darby also spear-headed the development of the kid network’s Nicktoons animation block of “Rugrats,” “Doug” and “The Ren & Stimpy Show” in 1991.

Darby has garnered three CableAce awards for his Nickelodeon work and also received a Peabody Award and a Dupont Award as the executive in charge of “Nick News.”

“Geoffrey brings to CBS Eye on People in-depth experience in creating innovative, signature programming for new networks,” said Donald Mitzner, prexy of Group W Satellite Communications. “He has the creativity, leadership skills and network savvy we need.”

Darby said that while Eye on People will draw heavily from the CBS News resources and archives it has at its disposal, the network will not be an oldies channel and won’t resemble an all-news venture.

“There already are four 24-hour TV news networks out there, and the audience doesn’t need another one,” Darby said. “People already have plenty of places to get news stories that are 45-seconds-and-out. So it wouldn’t serve us to do headlines on the hour and factoids.

“We have an opportunity here to give perspective to events and tell stories about the human condition. That’s what I plan to do.”

Darby added that CBS and Westinghouse have committed “a lot of resources” to making the network a success.

“Where I can help is in bringing to the table the idea of how to brand a network. I’ve done that in the past and been successful at it. That’s where we plan to focus our energy early on.”

In addition to his Viacom positions, Darby has worked for Whittle Communications’ Medical News Network, for Canada’s Bushnell Communications and as a producer-director for public TV station WGBH Boston.

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