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20th tops in TV

Fox first in filling primetime pipeline

NEW YORK — For the first time in the studio’s history, 20th Century Fox TV has emerged as the leading supplier of network primetime series, defeating Warner Bros., which had worn the crown for the past 12 years.

The studio, led by president Sandy Grushow, has set an all-time record of 22 series, including the new half-hour remixed version of “Ally McBeal.” Warner Bros. held the previous record, with 21 shows in 1995.

Twentieth also sold the most new series for fall (nine), has the most returning series (13), and topped the total tallies of its closest competitors, Warner Bros. and Columbia TriStar, by eight shows.

“This demonstrates what can happen when you invest wisely in the finest writers in TV,” Grushow said. News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin “was the architect. I’m just the contractor. But the executives who work here at the studio are the best in the business.”

The accomplishment by 20th Century Fox marks a quick growth spurt by the studio. When Grushow joined the company in 1997, 20th had five shows on the air, and the studio has now more than quadrupled that tally, upping last year’s total by seven shows. Twentieth and Warners tied for first place last year.

“Our goal is not just to be the leading supplier, but to be the most profitable,” said Grushow, whose new shows include a berth on NBC’s Thursday lineup as well as spots behind the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” and Fox’s “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

“Up and down, we have been incredibly well-treated by the networks, and I look forward to making lots of money for Rupert Murdoch,” he added.

Warner Bros. and Columbia tied for second place with 14 series, one fewer than last year for Warners and two more than last year for Col.

Columbia placed second in terms of new shows, with eight: three to Fox, three to UPN and two to CBS.

CBS Prods. was third in terms of new shows with six, while Warner Bros. was fourth with four new shows.

In the returning series arena, Warner Bros. was second with 10, including NBC’s “Jesse” and “Veronica’s Closet.” These were dubbed “very satisfying saves” by studio prexy Peter Roth, who joined the company toward the end of the development season.

“We feel very good in what has clearly been a transition year,” Roth said. “We feel very confident about the future.”

Paramount has seven series on the fall schedule, including two new ones and nine overall counting ones from Viacom Prods. When Par completes its purchase of Rysher, its total series tally will be eight. Rysher produces “Nash Bridges.”

Disney has seven skeins on the fall schedule. Three are new, including one from the fledgling Miramax TV division. Disney also has four guaranteed midseason pickups and is expecting at least two more.

Spelling has five shows on this fall, including one new one, while DreamWorks, Universal/Brillstein Grey, Regency TV and Carsey-Werner all have three shows. Studios USA has two series on this fall, including one new show, and another series debuting midseason.

Once again, the network inhouse production arms for CBS and NBC, the two webs not aligned with studios, broke into the top 10 supplier list. CBS Prods. was the fourth largest supplier, with 12 shows, including co-productions on all six of its new series for fall. NBC Studios was seventh with six shows.

CBS was clearly the network most aggressive in terms of inhouse pickups, with six out of six, all co-productions with other studios. News Corp. has a financial stake in five out of the eight new series on Fox, including two from Regency TV.

Two out of six of ABC’s new series are produced by Disney entities, including one from Miramax. The WB has an identical record, with two out of six new shows produced by Warner Bros. companies, including one from Castle Rock. Two of NBC’s seven pickups are from NBC Studios. None of UPN’s new series is from Paramount.

In total, the networks ordered 37 entertainment series for fall, and for the first time since 1989-1990, there are more new dramas (22) than comedies (15) on the fall schedule. In addition, ABC is adding a new night of 20/20 and UPN is skedding a two-hour wrestling block.

(Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.)