Vet Grossi tapped Col TriStar TV prez

Exec to o'see network television division

As part of a restructuring at Sony’s global TV operations, former UPN and Twentieth Television exec Len Grossi has been named president of Columbia TriStar Television.

Grossi will report to Sony Pictures Entertainment chief operating officer/co-prexy Mel Harris, who made the announcement Wednesday.

As CTT president, Grossi will oversee Columbia TriStar’s network television division, headed by Helene Michaels; its family entertainment department, led by Sander Schwartz; the Game Show Network; Sony’s investment in Spanish-lingo network Telemundo; and the company’s distribution deals with Brad Grey Entertainment and Artists Television Group.

“As the media, entertainment and content creation landscape evolves at breakneck speed, Len’s expertise, knowledge and depth of experience will prove invaluable,” Harris said. “We’re proud to welcome an executive of Len’s caliber to the SPE family.”

The Grossi appointment is part of a larger plan to streamline the structure at Sony’s global TV operations. Grossi picks up some of the duties formerly held by Columbia TriStar Television Group exec veep Andy Kaplan, who announced his departure Tuesday (Daily Variety, April 19).

Under the new structure, the Columbia TriStar Television Group moniker has more or less been retired. Harris has removed the layer of Columbia TriStar TV Group management that included former CTTD prexy Jon Feltheimer and Kaplan’s position. Most studios around town, with the notable exception of Paramount, have already moved away from a TV group structure.

Restructuring

Instead, three entities that previously reported to Columbia TriStar TV Group brass will now report to Harris: Columbia TriStar TV, under Grossi; Columbia TriStar Television Distribution and prexy Barry Thurston; and Columbia TriStar Intl. Television, under president Michael Grindon.

The Columbia TriStar restructuring has been in the works since last year, when Harris rejoined Sony in a position that included oversight of the conglom’s worldwide TV operations.

Grossi comes to the studio at a time when vertical integration has become the rule in Hollywood, with networks aggressively pursuing ownership stakes in programming.

Not a synergy fan

As a stand-alone, Sony has the added challenge of operating without a sister network. But Grossi said he’s not interested in pursuing inflated production tallies.

“I’m not of the mindset that you take on as much product that you can, hoping that something works,” Grossi said. “Synergy can be a very good thing, but it’s your worst nightmare when it goes the other way.”

Grossi left UPN in 1998 after serving as senior exec vice president and chief operating officer. He joined the network in 1994 before its launch. Since then he’s dabbled in a number of ventures, including partnering with ex-UPN CEO Lucie Salhany to purchase TV stations under the moniker LSLG Associates.

LSLG acquired a 49% interest in WHPN, the UPN outlet in Madison, Wis., but has sold that stake back to the station’s majority owner and ceased operation.

“Being a so-called independent entrepreneur was very enjoyable, but deep down I missed the business, the action of the business,” Grossi said. “It’s a business that I spent 20-plus years in. The opportunity to go back to it and do it with Mel made a lot of sense to me.”

Fox frame

Prior to his UPN tenure, Grossi spent eight years at 20th Century Fox, working his way up to exec VP at Twentieth Television, where he handled the studio’s global TV production, marketing and distribution, as well as licensing and merchandising.

Grossi spent two years as exec VP and CEO at Metromedia Producers Corp. before it was acquired by Fox. There he combined resources from the company’s five TV stations to produce programming.

Grossi’s experience also includes five years (1978-83) at Paramount Pictures’ TV and video distribution division, where he served as veep of finance and administration. While at Par, Grossi oversaw firstrun programming such as “Solid Gold” and “Entertainment Tonight,” as well as financial aspects of syndication, video and pay TV.

Grossi began his career in 1975 at Metromedia Television Sales. Most recently, he’s served on the boards at Film Roman, iBeam Broadcasting Network and 3-D character developer Protozoa. Grossi had also teamed with fellow ex-UPN exec Lucie Salhany to pursue opportunities in local TV station ownership.

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