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Besch ankles USA Networks

Veep's departure latest in high-level exodus

NEW YORK — Andy Besch, who joined the USA Network right before it launched in April 1980, has resigned as senior VP of marketing.

The departure of Besch, 49, came as no surprise to industry observers, who say it follows in a line of resignations triggered by the sale of USA Networks late last year to Barry Diller for $4.1 billion.

The first person to resign was Kay Koplovitz, founder, chairman and CEO of USA, who stayed on for two months after announcing her decision last spring. On the heels of Koplovitz’s announcement, Diller restructured USA Networks in April, creating a co-presidency by hiring Stephen Chao to run programming and marketing for USA and its sister Sci-Fi Channel, and promoting Stephen Brenner to take charge of advertising sales, affiliate relations, finance and administration. Chao’s job was to shake things up, while Brenner, a 16-year veteran of USA, represented stability.

In June, Rod Perth resigned as president, entertainment, USA Networks, and July brought three more leave-takings: Ian Valentine, as VP of longform programming; Barry Schulman, as VP, programming, Sci-Fi Channel; and Iris Burnett as senior VP of corporate communications for USA Networks.

The industry perception is that Besch’s exit represents the last of the bloodletting of USA’s Old Guard. Besch was responsible for such campaigns as the “Sunday Night Heat” promotion for the firstrun action-adventure hours commissioned by USA, and the “Cure for the Common Show” series of ads to ballyhoo such original series as “La Femme Nikita,” featuring a beautiful woman as heroine of a violent, paranoid thriller.

Lynne Buening, VP of programming for Falcon Cable TV, a top multisystem cable operator, says she expects Diller and Chao to replace Besch with an executive whose marketing style will be “brash, bright and provocative … The problem is that that kind of a campaign is not as easy as it looks.”

Besch became senior VP of marketing for USA Networks in 1990. For the preceding seven years, he was a VP at USA, taking charge of all the marketing to cable operators, advertisers and consumers as well as expanding his role to include consumer promotions, events and merchandising, graphic services and media relations.

Some of his jobs before USA included Eastern-sales representative for Paramount Pictures Corp.; VP of sales for Finley Communications, where he wrote and produced films for outside corporations; and VP and East Coast sales manager for Heritage Enterprises. From 1969 to 1974, he was a branch manager for Paramount Pictures.

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