In his first major appointment since taking over as Columbia TriStar Television topper, Len Grossi has named veteran Paramount exec Tom Mazza as the studio’s president of network production.
Mazza replaces Helene Michaels, who was asked to resign on Wednesday (Daily Variety, Oct. 18.)
Position puts Mazza in charge of all comedy, drama and longform development for the studio; current series and longform production; signing talent; and roster management. Mazza spent 17 years at Par, most recently as exec VP of creative affairs for the network television division.
Grossi said he has a “long history” with Mazza, having known the exec for years. While Grossi said he had “several suitable candidates” to choose from, he said Mazza stood out because of his “leadership, maturity and experience.”
“I like his background — he started in research,” Grossi said. “I like his sensibility. He demonstrates a maturity, a leadership ability, a management capability. That seemed to fit nicely with the existing staff here, with me, and with what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
Mazza’s deal with Par was up, allowing him a clean exit. His decision to leave was amicable, he said.
“It’s been a great run for me (at Paramount). I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” Mazza told Daily Variety in an interview. “But this is a tremendous opportunity to go over (to CTTV) and be able to run a division with Len and to have more of an impact.”
In recent months some industryites have questioned just how committed CTTV parent Sony is to the network production biz. Some insiders have suggested the company may be looking to reshape itself into a distribution arm, relying on deals with Artists Television Group and Brad Grey Television.
Mazza said his appointment should quell those rumors.
“I’m going (to CTTV) to move the company further along in an already tremendous tradition,” he said, noting that Sony’s position as a nonaligned studio has advantages he’ll seek to exploit.
During his stint at Par, Mazza helped develop and supervise a number of the studio’s series, including “Frasier,” “JAG,” “Nash Bridges,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Cheers” and “MacGyver.”
After starting his career in marketing and PR for WUSA in Washington, D.C., Mazza joined Par in 1983. He held various positions at the studio, including VP of research, exec VP of current programs and strategic planning.
“I said to him, ‘It’s time for you to be No. 1,’ ” Grossi said.
Grossi added that he briefly considered internal candidates to run the studio as a combo similar to the Dana Walden/Gary Newman presidency at 20th Century Fox TV.
“I thought about it long and hard, and we have an incredible team, but I really determined that the best possible person to do this was Tom Mazza.”