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CANNES — One year after taking over as president of Paramount Intl. Television, Gary Marenzi says he has the bulk of his expanded team in place and expects Paramount to sign its first international co-production before the end of the year.
Paramount Television Group chairman Kerry McCluggage and Marenzi chose Mipcom to introduce a host of new faces on Marenzi’s team.
Marenzi has been in a hiring mode over the past nine months, bringing some eight key execs onto the staff as he has set up business development, international production, business affairs and marketing divisions. A Rome office has also been established, headed by Giovanni Pedde.
“I think we’ve made the transition from a company that mainly sold its product around the world to one that wants to form real partnerships in various territories. We want the traffic, including production, to be two-way, not one-way. We’ve gone beyond sales,” Marenzi told Daily Variety.
In January, Marenzi hired Jim Dowaliby as VP production, “probably the hardest job of them all as we had no international production to speak of,” laughed the Paramount Television Intl. prez. Dowaliby’s brief is to set up co-prod projects around the world, with the emphasis for the moment being on English lingo.
McCluggage confirmed that talks are well down the track on a first international co-production project but wouldn’t be drawn in on who the partner would be.
Part of the change in strategy at the Paramount unit is a recognition that locally produced programming is becoming increasingly strong in national markets at a time when U.S. fare, with the exception of a handful of powerhouse pics, is facing a shrinking share of network skeds.
“I guess you could say that what we are doing is our answer to the strength of local production,” Marenzi admitted. “There’s also the fact that if you do a straight sale you don’t really know where your show airs. If we can establish real partnerships we’ll be able to support programs better.”
Of the newcomers to Paramount, a fair sprinkling have come from Marenzi’s old stomping ground at MGM. Among the MGM transfers are Chris Ottinger, VP business development; Mina Patel, exec director of sales planning; and Jim Hurlock, VP Asia/Pacific.