Inside Moves

E! prexy search begins

NEW YORK — Who will succeed Lee Masters as president and CEO of E! Entertainment TV?

Masters resigned Sept. 15, and speculation about his replacement has become Hollywood’s latest parlor game. Comcast Corp., the fourth-largest cable operator in the U.S., operates E!, and Comcast’s top two executives, Brian Roberts and Steve Burke, are the ones who will choose the new E! president.

On everybody’s short list for the E! job is Rod Perth, who has an almost ideal resume for the post, having resigned two months ago as president of USA Networks Entertainment. Perth joined USA in October 1994 after more than two decades at CBS, where he rose to senior VP of latenight and non-network programming for CBS Entertainment.

Another name that’s cropping up a lot is Jim English, president of Playboy Networks Worldwide. English fits the role because E! has fallen in love with programming heavy on racy content such as “Howard Stern,” fashion shows that emphasize revealing attire, and biographical documentaries that probe the steamy side of Hollywood.

Other names that have surfaced include Chris Albrecht, president of original programming for HBO; Dawn Tarnofsky, senior VP of programming and production for Lifetime; and Bob Kreek, chairman of Broadway Video’s college-TV network and former president and CEO of Comedy Central.

— John Dempsey

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Specials, late night take hit at NBC

Among the programming casualties of NBC’s Friday downsizing were the network’s specials department and latenight. Two of the three employees (but not the top exec) who worked in specials received pinkslips, as did one programmer and some support staff in the movies and minis department. West Coast publicity also was hit hard with at least six layoffs because the electronic and print publicity departments were merged. Broadcast standards was significantly affected as well. Companywide, NBC laid off an estimated 250 staffers.

— Jenny Hontz

* * *

Orgs plan protest for UPN show

Sources say a couple of black organizations are planning a protest this week against UPN’s upcoming comedy “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer,” which is about a black British nobleman who winds up working in Lincoln’s White House as his personal butler and essentially runs the country because everyone around him is so stupid. UPN issued a statement in regard to the upcoming protest. ” ‘Desmond’ is set in the Abraham Lincoln White House, and parodies modern day politics. The show in no way finds humor in slavery. The character of Desmond Pfeiffer is smart and irreverent, and the show revolves around his wit and wisdom.”

— Jenny Hontz

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