A&E to expand content with Weisbarth

Operation set up on West Coast

NEW YORK — A&E, which is ramping up production of U.S.-based original movies and scripted hourlong series, has set up its first-ever programming operation on the West Coast and hired veteran TV exec Michael Weisbarth to run it.

Production begins in two months on the most elaborate dramatic series ever commissioned by A&E, Sidney Lumet’s “100 Centre Street,” to be shot on the streets of New York. The Lumet series will go on A&E’s primetime schedule early in 2001. And Allen Sabinson, senior VP of programming for A&E, said the network will soon announce a second hourlong drama series, for slotting next year.

Weisbarth, whose title is VP of drama, will help locate and develop new series. He’ll also work on the eight or so firstrun movies and miniseries A&E plans to produce each year.

Sabinson said A&E’s goal is to keep the network’s programming division lean because “I want to create an environment where producers don’t have to run up against legions of executives and layers of management.”

A&E’s next big movie special is the latest adaptation of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” starring Mira Sorvino and Toby Stephens.

Weisbarth, who reports to Delia Fine, VP of film, drama and performing arts for A&E, was most recently head of his own production company after serving from 1991 to 1999 as president of Alliance Communications, the U.S. division of the Canadian corporation.

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