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D'Works yanks shows over ownership

DreamWorks Television has pulled all three of its comedy pilots from NBC, claiming that the network’s de-sire to have an ownership stake in two of the projects is not in the production company’s interest.

Neither DreamWorks nor NBC would comment on the specifics of their spat, but according to industry sources this particular battle has as much to do with creative debates as it does with the much larger issue of increasing inhouse productions.

While it’s no secret that NBC and the other networks want to have ownership stakes in as much programming as possible, a Peacock spokeswoman said: “If the question is: Are we insisting on profit participation, then the answer is no.”

One of the three DreamWorks pilots, a comedy titled “Nearly Yours,” was said to be offered to NBC by Dream-Works with indie film star Parker Posey attached. However, the Posey deal apparently fell through, and NBC of-fered some of its talent, including prolific producer and director James Burrows, who has a deal with the network.

For that piece of the puzzle, NBC is said to have wanted an ownership stake in the show. DreamWorks balked and pulled the pilot and two other projects, the pilot “New Strings Attached” and “7:08,” which had a 13-episode commitment.

Contrary to reports, NBC execs are not planning to sit down with DreamWorks this week to iron out differences.

Regardless of what the NBC-DreamWorks battle is about, the growing level of inhouse production by the networks does have studios and production companies concerned.

Studio execs fear that the networks are getting too much clout when it comes to sealing a deal. On the other hand, NBC supporters say that since the Peacock web does not have a studio partner, it needs to have a strong inhouse production unit in order to compete with other media giants.

NBC Studios is developing seven comedies for the web, and NBC is also partnered with other studios on at least three other sitcoms. In some of these cases, the partnership came about because NBC had creative talent under contract that producers wanted for the show.

NBC has not landed ownership of every comedy in the works for its schedule. Paramount’s comedies starring Jenny McCarthy and Al Franken and Warner Bros.’ new Kirstie Alley sitcom are going ahead without Peacock participa-tion.

The Peacock is not the only network looking to have a stake in as much programming as possible. Fox’s sister di-vision, 20th Century Fox Television, has 11 shows in development at the network. CBS’ inhouse unit, CBS Prods., is either producing or partnering with a studio on seven shows. Walt Disney, which owns ABC, has seven shows in development at the Alphabet web.

And the key reason that Paramount and Warner Bros. launched their networks was out of a fear that the big webs would program the bulk of their primetime lineups with inhouse product.

Not every production company has played ball. Carsey-Werner’s track record allows it to continue to own its pro-gramming, as is also largely the case at Warner Bros.

The removal of the financial interest and syndication rules a few years ago cleared the way for the networks to take ownership stakes in the bulk of their primetime fare. It also led to Disney’s acquisition of ABC, and the launch of the WB and UPN networks.

Later this year, House Telecommunications Subcommittee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) is expected to hold hearings on the impact the removal of the financial interest and syndication rules has had on the entertainment in-dustry.

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