Warner gives bucks for Bruckheimer

Producer cuts 4-year deal with TV arm

Jerry Bruckheimer is keeping his booming small-screen business at Warner Bros. TV, inking a rich four-year overall deal anchoring him to the studio through May 2007.

Bruckheimer is one of the few feature heavyweights who’s been able to translate his bigscreen success to primetime. Producer’s “CSI” is TV’s top-rated drama, while his two frosh CBS hours — “CSI: Miami” and “Without a Trace” — are the season’s most- and second-most-watched new hours, respectively.

In addition, Bruckheimer has three hourlong pilots at three webs (CBS, Fox and the WB) in contention for fall 2004.

Exclusive pact covers drama, comedy and reality programming. It also anticipates that Jonathan Littman will continue to head up Bruckheimer Television.

Financial details of the complicated deal weren’t immediately available, though industry insiders said the pact guaranteed Bruckheimer and his shingle at least $10 million over four years. In success, however, Bruckheimer stands to reap much more.

WBTV prexy Peter Roth said the studio had quietly added another year to Bruckheimer’s original two-year deal, inked in 2001. As part of negotiations for the new pact, Bruckheimer and WBTV tore up the old deal and replaced it with a new four-year arrangement that will cover all overhead and talent costs for Bruckheimer’s TV efforts.

Roth said the deal repped a “landmark day” for WBTV.

‘Best’ trifecta

“The thing about Jerry that’s amazing is that he has the best commercial instincts, the best work ethic and the best craftsmanship of anyone in television in recent memory,” Roth told Daily Variety. “He’s been blessed with the golden gut you hear so much about.”

Roth also praised Littman, saying, “The combination of the two of them is what makes the company so unique and so special. These are very ambitious, very hungry guys.”

Bruckheimer said that while many corporations simply serve as banks in dealing with producers, Roth and his team of execs have focused on the human touch.

“It’s all about the personal relationships you have with the people you deal with at these companies,” he said. “Peter’s been a great partner who makes me look good. And he’s got a lot of depth in his organization. We have a small company, and we need the backup of bright people.”

Developing talent

Producer said that he loves the speed of television, while the medium has proved to be a good farm league of sorts for his feature productions. “We can try new talent that we can then use on features. It’s a great proving ground.”

That said, Bruckheimer noted it has been important to bring feature-level production qualities to his shows. “We do ‘feature television,’ ” he said, using a phrase coined by “CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker. “Our casts are all feature-quality actors, and we try to do the same behind the camera.”

CBS prexy-CEO Leslie Moonves, who slotted four Bruckheimer-produced skeins this fall, said the producer “is one of the few creative forces whose talents have successfully crossed mediums.”

“He has done of remarkable job of taking his distinct brand and style for motion pictures and translating it into enormously successfully television programs,” Moonves said.

Littman believes that Bruckheimer has succeeded in television where other film producers have failed because he doesn’t see the medium as a side job. “We’re very serious about the TV business,” he said. “That why he got me to came here. He’s unrelenting.”

“Without a Trace” is the first hit series to emerge from Bruckeimer’s deal with WBTV. The two “CSI” skeins are co-productions with CBS and Alliance Atlantis. Bruckheimer’s reality skein “The Amazing Race” is produced with CBS, Touchstone and Bertram van Munster.

Bruckheimer is repped by CAA, which brokered the new deal.

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