5 make distrib’n tube ties

Companies will stay independent

This article was corrected on Sunday, January 3.

NEW YORK — Five small TV companies are planning to get together to sell and market programs as an entity called the Distribution Group.

“We’re pooling some of our resources for specific projects, but each of the five companies will remain in business under its own banner,” said Phil Oldham, a veteran TV syndicator who runs his own company, Target Vision, and dreamed up the idea for the Distribution Group.

All of the companies in the group are managed by men with long experience in TV syndication. In addition to Target Vision, the companies are Gulf Stream Associates, headed by Bill Kunkel; FP Media, run by Fred Petrosino; and Malibu Marketing Partners, whose president is Doug Friedman. The fifth company asked not to be identified until final details of its agreement with the Distribution Group are ironed out.

“We all need each other’s expertise because the syndication business has moved beyond selling a TV show to a TV station,” said Oldham. “These same shows can also be sold to a cable network, a broadcast network or even an advertiser like P&G.”

Oldham is a distributor 205 half-hour episodes of shows hosted by travel writer and food expert Burt Wolf and has pitched corporations on signing up as sponsor of one or more of the seven series put together by Wolf. Alternatively, Oldham acknowledges, the Food Network or the Travel Channel would be more appropriate outlets for the Wolf shows than individual TV stations.

But TV syndication is where Oldham perceives an opportunity to carve out a niche that may be too small for one of the giant distribs like King World, Warner Bros., Buena Vista or NBC Universal to care about.

Two key niches, he said, are daytime Monday-Friday and weekend. TV stations frequently pay no cash for the shows they buy for those time periods, instead handing over advertising time to the distributor that becomes the distrib’s sole source of revenue.

Oldham’s plan is to line up a batch of TV stations in markets outside the top 10 for a particular daytime or weekend show, ideally covering about 35% of the country, by giving them not only advertising time within a show — the standard contractual arrangement — but a percentage of the revenues from spots sold nationally.

Another inducement to the stations would be to give them first crack at all future Distribution Group projects.

Once the 35% is taken care of, Oldham would go to the Fox stations or the Tribune stations to pick up New York, L.A., Chicago and other big markets in one deal. Oldham would offer them not only the local spots and a percentage of the national ad revenue within the TV show but a third goodie: another 15% fee on the national ads.

In effect, Oldham would relinquish the actual sale of the national spots — and the 15% commission — to Twentieth TV, the Fox group’s sister company, or Tribune Entertainment, the sibling of Tribune’s stations.

Malibu’s Friedman, who would cobble together the advertising and marketing for each show, said the Distribution Group will succeed “only if all five companies embrace the fact that this is a practical business relationship that could really work in the marketplace.”

“And what that means is that egos will have to be put aside,” he added.

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