Telemundo eyes Tortorici

Exec said to be in line for top spot

Former CBS entertainment prexy Peter Tortorici is expected to be named to the top executive post at Telemundo after Sony and Liberty Media’s purchase of the U.S. Spanish-language network is completed, sources said Thursday.

Sony Pictures Entertainment can’t enter into a formal deal with Tortorici until the FCC approves the company’s purchase of the Miami-based network, but serious talks have been ongoing and Tortorici has been targeted as the only lead candidate.

Tortorici recently ankled his production post at indie powerhouse Carsey-Werner and entered into a consulting deal with Sony’s Columbia TriStar Intl. TV (Daily Variety, May 15). At Sony, he’s worked on a number of programming and scheduling issues for Sony’s international channels, but sources speculated all along that he would join the company in a more permanent position.

Telemundo’s current president and CEO, Roland Hernandez, is expected to remain with the company in another top capacity, and Tortorici is expected to name a new programming president after his own deal is completed. Sony had no comment and Tortorici could not be reached.

Telemundo shareholders already have approved the Sony/Liberty Media $539 million buyout, and FCC approval is expected to come this fall at the latest.

While Sony isn’t officially allowed to make any Telemundo decisions yet, the studio clearly placed its mark on the network’s programming lineup for fall. Telemundo’s new lineup features Spanish-language series that are inspired by several Sony library shows, including “Charlie’s Angels,” “One Day at a Time,” “Who’s the Boss,” “The Dating Game” and ‘The Newlywed Game.”

Telemundo is a distant second to Univision in the U.S. Spanish-language network battle, and Sony is hoping the new lineup and the guidance of Tortorici will help Telemundo narrow the gap and even take the lead.

Ironically, much of Sony’s work on Telemundo was spearheaded by ex-Sony exec Jeff Sagansky, now with Paxson Communications, who was also president of CBS Entertainment and Tortorici’s boss at the Eye web earlier this decade. Tortorici replaced Sagansky as president at CBS in 1994, and in a sense, he’s following in Sagansky’s footsteps again.

At CBS, Tortorici worked in scheduling, current programs, specials, feature acquisition and sports before heading up the en-tertainment division for one year until 1995, when Leslie Moonves replaced him. He also spent some time working for ABC Sports, and at Carsey-Werner, he served as a producer of ABC’s comedy “Grace Under Fire” and an executive producer of CBS’ “Cosby.”