Schwartz to head international production

Sander Schwartz has been tapped to head Sony’s localized TV efforts abroad with the title president of international production for Sony Pictures Television Intl.

He will relocate shortly to London to oversee the company’s foreign programming initiatives from that outpost.

The appointment signals an expansion of the unit’s local-language programming biz, which to date has produced a whopping 9,000 hours in some 30 countries in 13 languages.

Among its hits, think versions of “The Nanny” all over Latin America, a drama series called “Post-Mortem” in Germany and “Born Ugly,” a sudser based on the original “Ugly Betty” telenovela on Russian TV.

Schwartz joins SPTI with the specific mandate to goose the unit, which likely means expanding the operation into new territories, licensing localized hits in one country to others, and widening the genres the unit takes on.  

“My first priority will be to connect the dots, and get to know the production chiefs we have in the main territories,” Schwartz told Daily Variety. “We are definitely going to be in growth mode.”

Sony was the first Hollywood studio to implement the idea of customized local productions in foreign territories back in the early 1990s. At the time, American-made series were not performing well in primetime abroad, and the key Hollywood players were looking for additional ways to boost their revenues.

Schwartz, who begins his job today, will report to SPTI’s president Michael Grindon and oversee several dozen production execs scattered around the globe. His first area of concentration will be Europe, which is where most of the revenues accruing to the unit originate.

He is the first to hold the prexy title within the unit.

Over the past 15 years, SPTI has set up production offices in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong, Miami (for Latin America), China and Russia.  

So far, SPTI has produced a wide range of programs in these markets including drama and comedy series, telenovelas, gameshows, light entertainment and reality formats.

Although a precise financial breakdown is well-nigh impossible, given different kinds of deals with local producers and broadcasters, execs at Sony have unofficially said from time to time that the unit Schwartz is spearheading is “increasingly profitable.”

“Sander brings with him his significant production experience, great management skills and a thorough understanding of international TV markets,” Grindon said. “We are very fortunate to have him back at Sony where he will devote his efforts to accelerating our growth in the international production business.”

Prior to joining SPTI, Schwartz was president of Warner Bros. Animation in Los Angeles since 2001 where he was responsible for that studio’s production of theatrical, made-for-video and classic animation. He also oversaw the utilization and adaptation of Warner Bros.’ classic library characters for all media, and managed the animation production facilities.  

Schwartz’s new position at SPTI marks his return to the Japanese-owned conglom where he previously spent 12 years in a number of executive positions. He joined Warner Bros. Animation from SPE’s family entertainment group, where he served as the division’s first president from 1999 to 2001. During that period, he was charged with the creation of character-based franchise properties and for implementing the online strategy for SPE’s family entertainment business.

From 1995 to 1999, Schwartz established and oversaw SPE’s children’s programming as exec VP and general manager at Columbia TriStar Television (now SPTV) in Los Angeles. Under Schwartz, the division produced 11 series consisting of 450 half-hours.

Schwartz joined SPE in 1989 as senior VP of business affairs for SPE’s television division. Prior to that, he had the same title at the Japan-based animation producer TMS from 1986 to 1989. Before that, he held various business affairs posts with Disney and CBS.

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