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New Line taps its TV topper

Exec ready to 'look for ways to break the rules'

Jim Rosenthal has been upped to prexy of New Line Television, replacing recently departed topper Bob Friedman.

Rosenthal, who had been president of new media and business development for New Line — home of feature franchises such as “Austin Powers” and “Lord of the Rings”– will now be responsible for development and production of primetime programming, firstrun syndie product and licensing and merchandising. He reports to New Line Cinema chairman and CEO Bob Shaye and prexy-CEO Michael Lynne, who announced the promotion Tuesday.

Longtime New Line Television topper Friedman shifted to sister company AOL TV last week (Daily Variety, March 8.)

Shaye praised Rosenthal for his “fresh perspective” and called the exec “uniquely qualified” for his new gig.

“He is one of the company’s strongest managers, and he has been one of our most trusted senior business advisers for years,” Lynne added. “We have placed New Line Television in the care of an executive who has helped structure many of the division’s deals and is intimately familiar with the production, distribution and development team we have in place.”

Rosenthal said New Line TV’s mandate remains “coming up with programming that’s compelling for some reason and typically targeting young adults as in our core film business.”

Exec, who’s been at New Line since 1992, will also work closely with the studio’s new president of production, Toby Emmerich, as well as New Line Television’s three exec VPs: Laura Armstrong, development; David Spiegelman, distribution; and David Imhoff, worldwide licensing and merchandising.

“We’ll mine what Toby’s got, in terms of characters, storylines, industry relations and talent, and come up with distinctive programming, like what people are expecting from the film side,” Rosenthal explained.

He said the TV arm would create new projects but also continue to focus on New Line’s core franchises.

“Let’s deal with the low hanging fruit first, taking stuff that the feature side has already created,” he said. “We’ll continue to be smart, opportunistic and look for ways to break the rules.”

Rosenthal said he’s been itching to branch out from the studio’s new-media division, which he’ll continue to oversee.

“I’ve been hungry to do something like this for a while,” he said. “This is getting much closer to our core business. There’s a lot more opportunity to create upside for New Line.”

Partnerships proceed

New Line continues to work closely with sister company Warner Bros. TV to develop primetime programming. New Line inked a first-look deal with the TV studio last June to create and produce network series.

Exec also said New Line will continue to focus as much on cable production as broadcast.

“We’ve got inhouse networks, both WB on the broadcast side, and on cable TNT, TBS and HBO. We’re hoping to supply product to all of them,” Rosenthal said.

New Line is focusing on its bigscreen efforts when it comes to franchises such as the upcoming “Lord of the Rings” feature and “Austin Powers” sequel.

As for other TV adaptations, “lots of potential things might make sense,” Rosenthal said. “Maybe ‘Rush Hour’ or a ‘Love and Basketball.’ We’re just getting into figuring it out.”

New Line Television produces the syndie actioner “The Lost World,” now in its third season. Previous efforts include adaptations of “The Mask,” “Dumb and Dumber” and “Mortal Kombat.” Studio had developed an animated version of “Austin Powers,” but that project was later shelved.

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