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Bartis ankles NBC for 3 Arts TV arm

Inhouse studio to streamline television biz

NEW YORK — 3 Arts Entertainment, one of Hollywood’s leading talent management companies, is establishing a new television production unit to be headed by David Bartis, who is ankling as senior veep of primetime series at NBC Studios.

The move by 3 Arts — headed by partners Howard Klein, Michael Rotenberg and Erwin Stoff — echoes bids by Brillstein-Grey and Artists Management Group to streamline the process of placing talent in television programs by essentially creating an inhouse studio.

“We’ve always felt we had an incredible inventory of assets at the company … and that the time would come when we would need someone to help us put things together,” Rotenberg said.

“This allows us to truly be a production partner with the other studios and networks, because we will have someone who will be working on the creative process of getting a show into production and on the air.”

Amicable departure

As for Bartis, his departure comes as the Peacock continues talks with former ABC topper Ted Harbert about leading an effort to expand operations at NBC Studios (Daily Variety, Aug. 19.)

Bartis had been aware of NBC’s plans for several months and, with the network’s blessing, had begun searching for new opportunities. He said his departure from the Peacock was amicable, and that he has already talked to NBC brass about “doing business” with the network.

Bartis’ new unit, dubbed 3 Arts Television, will develop and produce programs for networks, cable and syndication. 3 Arts currently has a first-look deal with Twentieth Century Fox Television, but that pact will not affect the new TV unit’s ability to partner with other studios on projects.

While 3 Arts will “be talking to different sources” about financing for projects, Rotenberg said there are currently no plans to link up exclusively with a single web. He added that the current trend toward increased vertical integration at other studios, such as Touchstone and Warner Bros., only benefits 3 Arts Television.

‘Creative and financial sense’

“We don’t care who our partners are, as long as it makes creative and financial sense,” he said. “We can work with anyone. We’re committed to our clients being on the network most appropriate for them.”

Added Bartis: “3 Arts Television will be positioned as a company that’s streamlined and aggressive and can work all over town.”

The 3 Arts client roster includes a wide array of TV thesps, including Dave Chapelle, Debra Messing, Faith Ford, Kristen Johnson and Maura Tierney. The company also reps producers such as Mike Judge and Greg Daniels (“King of the Hill”), Roger Kumble (“Manchester Prep”), Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (“The Opposite Sex”) and Matt Reeves (“Felicity.”)

Other major clients at 3 Arts include Keanu Reeves, Salma Hayek, LL Cool J and Oliver Platt.

3 Arts already has television production experience in the network, cable and syndie worlds, co-producing ABC’s “The Hughleys,” Fox’s “King of the Hill,” HBO’s “The Chris Rock Show” and the syndie talker hosted by client Howie Mandel. Bartis will not be involved in those productions.

‘Tremendous opportunity’

Bartis emphasized to Daily Variety that he was not leaving NBC simply because the net was considering installing an exec over him.

“Given the people at 3 Arts and the clients there, this is simply a tremendous opportunity for me,” he said, adding that the timing of his exit “has more to do with not missing the chance to start work at the beginning of the (development) season” than with word of Harbert’s possible pacting with NBC.

Bartis’ skills as a comedy developer mesh well with 3 Arts’ solid lineup of comedy thesps and producers. In addition to developing the hit “Will & Grace” at NBC, he developed and supervised production on HBO Independent Prods.’ “Martin” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

In recent weeks, Bartis has been actively working to secure future programming for NBC Studios, inking new deals with writing team Eileen Heiser and DeAnn Heline, as well as Jack Burditt (“Just Shoot Me.”)

Bartis also oversaw development of the Peacock drama hits “Providence.”

Before joining NBC Studios in 1997, Bartis spent four years as West Coast veepee of original programming for HBO. From 1991-93 he was veepee of creative affairs for HIP.

In his pre-cable days, Bartis was director of programming at Quincy Jones Entertainment, where he helped develop and launch “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

3 Arts has ventured into television before. In 1996, the company briefly pacted with Sony’s Columbia TriStar Television and CBS for a joint venture that produced the syndie hit “Pensacola: Wings of Gold.”

(Cynthia Littleton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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