Pearson TV united; exec ranks shuffled

Euro CEO Cohen initiates moves

Pearson Television is undergoing another shakeup. Concurrent with top-level exec shuffles, Pearson Television Intl., Pearson North America and Pearson Enterprises will for the first time become one division.

Move is the result of a reorganization undertaken by Tony Cohen, who is CEO of Pearson’s Euro-based parent RTL’s Production Businesses and CEO of Pearson Television North America.

A shakeup was considered likely after Cohen was upped to his current post in March, following the departure of Richard Eyre as Pearson’s TV chief exec and as RTL Group’s director of content and strategy (Daily Variety, March 20).

Cohen has promoted Catherine Mackay from prexy of Pearson TV Enterprises to the new post of CEO of Pearson Television Intl. and Enterprises.

She’ll also take on the role of deputy CEO for Pearson TV’s North American division, which syndicates game shows “Family Feud,” “To Tell the Truth” and the upcoming “Card Sharks.”

Mackay and David Lyle, who is being upped from senior exec VP of Entertainment for Pearson TV North America to the new post of prexy of entertainment for Pearson TV North America, will both report to Cohen.

Mackay is based in New York, while Lyle is based in Santa Monica.

Harris ankling

Mackay replaces Brian Harris, who is stepping down as chief exec of Pearson TV Intl. and Pearson TV North America.

London-based Pearson TV Intl. prexy Joe Abrams is also ankling. Both Harris’ and Abrams’ moves had been anticipated (Daily Variety, April 16).

Pearson Television Intl. and Enterprises is a newly formed unit that merges international sales, Internet, wireless, broadband and ancillary activities.

Pearson Television is the global production-distribution division of RTL Group, Europe’s largest TV and radio company.

Joe Scotti, Pearson TV North America’s domestic distrib-marketing prexy, is expected to report to Mackay.

Lyle will be responsible for overseeing all Pearson Television entertainment programming in the United States aimed at the domestic syndie marketplace as well as at broadcast and cable networks.

He’ll also continue heading the worldwide development and acquisition operations for Pearson Television.

Unscripted future

Lyle said he will be focusing on unscripted fare, such as game, reality, talk, music and variety programs.

“I am simply not looking after scripted at the moment. That has never been my area of major interest,” he said.

By contrast, scripted programming was Harris’ forte.

Scripted programming is also an area that has become increasingly difficult to compete in globally, as the expensive weekly action hour and MOW bizzes have waned.

Pearson itself developed — then killed — at least two action hour projects for the U.S. market this year. “Colosseum” and “Lean Angle” were both brought to NATPE in January, then subsequently pulled from the marketplace.

The combination of Pearson’s new organizational changes, the shift in the worldwide TV market’s appetite for scripted fare and Lyle’s emphasis on unscripted programs does not bode well for a trio of execs who were upped in October.

Pearson’s news release made no mention of William Lincoln, Matt Loze or Sara Rutenberg, who were upped in October to chief operation officer, prexy of production/drama/longform and prexy of biz development and strategy, respectively.

The execs could be part of a second wave of exec shuffles at the company.

Meanwhile, The $150 million production fund that RTL was said to have earmarked in February for future program development and production under Harris’ regime “is not relevant anymore,” Lyle said (Daily Variety, Feb. 8).

“But I know there is still going to be healthy financial support for the entertainment business and its expansion in the U.S.,” he quickly added. “That’s both in terms of bringing classic and new formats from Europe to the States and in terms of developing and acquiring formats in the U.S. that can go to Europe.”

In addition to speculation of exec shuffles at Pearson in recent months, rumors also have been rampant that Pearson is aiming to make an alliance with a U.S. entertainment company in order to strengthen its American foothold.

Speculation centered on suspected talks between Pearson and Columbia as well as between Pearson and Tribune. No deals have come to light.

“I think if there were any, those talks were part of a previous regime,” Lyle said.