Pic topper DeKoven ankles Peacock

Exit marks end of rocky road for exec

In a move that’s at once unexpected and unsurprising, NBC executive VP of movies and miniseries Lindy DeKoven has ankled the Peacock web, effective immediately.

NBC West Coast prexy topper Scott Sassa dropped the bombshell announcement Sunday morning during a session with reporters gathered in Pasadena for the Winter 2000 Television Critics Assn. press tour.

He characterized DeKoven’s resignation, which comes just 10 months after she inked a new long-term deal with the network, as a personal decision sparked by her desire “to pursue other interests.”

Wanted out

“We had a conversation, and she said, ‘You know, I’m not sure I want to do this anymore,” Sassa said.

However, television industry insiders familiar with the circumstances surrounding DeKoven’s exit say it’s more likely she was at least partially pushed out.

DeKoven’s relationship with Sassa and NBC Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier — never warm to begin with — had turned particularly frosty in recent months as the execs disagreed over the future direction of NBC movies and minis.

Failures didn’t help

Contributing to the ill feelings: the high-profile failure of last November’s big-budget Robert Halmi Sr. mini “Leprechauns,” as well as weak advance buzz on next month’s 10-hour Halmi epic “The 10th Kingdom.”

Sassa conceded that NBC “probably did too much big-budget, special effects fantasy stuff in a row. It’s not that we shouldn’t have done them; we did too many in a row.”

Reps for NBC and DeKoven were said to have worked late into the evening Saturday negotiating a settlement agreement. DeKoven’s staffers began hearing the news late Saturday night.

DeKoven had a solid relationship with former NBC West Coast topper Don Ohlmeyer and had been expected to follow him out of the network early last year. Instead, she became one of the first holdovers from the Ohlmeyer regime to re-up, inking a new multiyear pact.

Successful tenure

Despite the recent fumbles, DeKoven’s tenure at NBC was marked by a number of major successes. Her decision to partner with Halmi on “Merlin” and “Gulliver’s Travels” resulted in huge ratings and helped usher in a slew of epic, special-effects laden productions. More recently, DeKoven struck gold with music-themed minis “The Temptations” and “The 60s.”

Those triumphs were tempered by a number of costly misfires, including “Leprechauns” and “Brave New World,” as well as a slew of critically savaged productions such as “Asteroid,” “Noah’s Ark” and the just-aired David Cassidy biopic.

DeKoven history

DeKoven joined NBC in 1993 as a senior veep; she was upped to exec veep in 1996. Pre-Peacock, she was veep of movies and minis at Lorimar Television.

There’s no word yet on who will replace DeKoven, who was unavailable for comment. Industry speculation has long had DeKoven taking an exec position with Halmi’s Hallmark Entertainment should she exit NBC.

Elsewhere during NBC’s press tour session:

  • Ancier confirmed that NBC would replace full-length drama pilots this season with shorter, 30-minute pilot presentations. Presentations are cheaper — they cost around $1.35 million vs. $2.3-$2.4 for pilots — but they also allow webs to commit to more projects. Ancier used a similar strategy successfully while at the WB.

  • Sassa said he’s asked several studio toppers to split the cost of NBC’s recently announced, NAACP-prompted initiative funding a minority writer position on every soph NBC skein. Studios, who so far seem open to Sassa’s idea, would chip in only for shows ultimately sold into syndication.

  • The network has inked a 13-week deal with VH1 personality Cynthia Garrett to serve as a regular host of the net’s “Later.” She’s the first long-term host the show has had since Greg Kinnear ankled.

  • Despite NBC’s high hopes for “Twenty-One,” Ancier said ABC’s reliance on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” could do long-term harm. “It’s like crack,” he said. “Once you’re on it, it’s wonderful because you get these giant ratings. But no one believes it’s going to last forever.”

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