Viacom TV confirms Simon slot

Viacom has confirmed the appointment of Perry Simon to the newly created post of president, Viacom Television, West Coast, overseeing all network TV production for the Viacom Entertainment Group.

The company also said that Gus Lucas, prexy of West Coast operations and exec VP of Viacom Entertainment Group, had resigned to take an independent production deal at Viacom, as reported (Daily Variety, Sept. 3).

In an interview, Simon — who left his post as exec VP of primetime programs at NBC Entertainment only six weeks ago — said his marching orders are to develop and produce programming primarily for the networks but also for alternative outlets. He will work closely with development personnel from Viacom’s various cable networks.

“There’s a tremendous desire and mandate to work as a team throughout the company,” noted Simon, 38, who reportedly underwent a lengthy courtship by top Viacom officials and will assume his new job later this month.

Deborah Beece — who became president of TV programming and production at Viacom Entertainment last October, a few months after the appointment of chairman/CEO Neil Braun — reiterated that collaborative theme, saying the company is looking to create an entrepreneurial atmosphere that cuts across division lines. “There are no rules about who gets to have a good idea,” she said.

Viacom owns such well-defined cable franchises as MTV, Nickelodeon and pay service Showtime, as well as interests in Comedy Central and Lifetime. That provides opportunities for dual-exhibition deals — such as Viacom’s shared Nickelodeon-ABC sitcom “Hi Honey, I’m Home”– as well as a flow of program concepts that can find their way from cable to the networks and syndication, or vice versa.

Simon, who alluded to relationships with Viacom personnel from “my old life” at NBC, was involved in similar deals (such as a movie shared by NBC and Showtime competitor HBO) and said he sees great potential in the company’s creative resources.

The company has dabbled in half-hour comedies in recent years without much success and has been most prolific in movies and drama series. Beece acknowledged that Viacom was looking to increase its network output and feels Simon would help attract talent to those efforts.

Viacom’s network roster for the coming season includes “Matlock” (ABC), the “Perry Mason” leg of NBC’s “Friday Night Mystery” wheel and the CBS midseason Dick Van Dyke series “Diagnosis Murder,” all in association with producers Fred Silverman and Dean Hargrove. “Deadly Games,” a six-hour limited series for ABC, is also planned with Leonard Nimoy producing.

Simon started at NBC in 1980 and was named to his last position as exec VP, overseeing all primetime programs under division prez Warren Littlefield, in 1990. Lucas, a longtime ABC exec, joined Viacom in 1986, assuming his most recent position a year later.

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