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TV set in T’Stone

Disney gives tube topper new deal and title

HOLLYWOOD — Touchstone Television topper Steve McPherson has a new long-term deal, as well as a new title: president.

Despite industry buzz that had him ankling, McPherson has instead quietly negotiated a pact that keeps him at the Disney-owned studio until 2004. More importantly, McPherson — who had been exec VP — will now have the title of prexy, semantically on par with his colleagues at the other major studios.

McPherson’s duties remain the same, and he continues to report jointly to ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairmen Lloyd Braun and Stu Bloomberg.

The new title, however, signals both Disney’s confidence in McPherson and the company’s desire to have a studio that supplies product to both ABC and other webs. Braun was the last person to hold a prexy post at Touchstone; the title was eliminated when the studio was folded into the ABC group in 1998.

“It’s an important evolution, important for identity of the studio,” McPherson said. “It’s important for the team here and important for the people at the other networks, too. There’s a head of the studio here just like they have at 20th and Warners.”

Restructuring at Touchstone follows a highly successful development season for the studio under McPherson. Studio landed skeins on four of the Big Six nets, including NBC’s buzzed-about laffer “Scrubs” and CBS reality hour “The Amazing Race.”

“This last year was a good representation of the kind of business we want to do: broad-ranging multinetwork development,” McPherson said. “We want to be in business everywhere, and we’re going to continue to pursue that. We’re modeling ourselves after the 20th and Warner models to become a major force in the business.”

Braun said the McPherson promotion “acknowledges the great work” the exec has done.

“He effectively steered Touchstone through the waters of our merger and has engineered a more prolific and efficient organization,” Braun said. “He is an invaluable member of our senior management team.”

Bloomberg added that he was “thrilled” McPherson is staying put.

“Touchstone is coming off of its best development season ever, and that success is due entirely to Steve and the creative team he’s put in place,” he said.

Always meant to stay

Rumors that McPherson wanted out of Touchstone had been flying for months, and were particularly intense last spring. Nonetheless, the exec said he never came close to jumping.

“I wasn’t looking to go anywhere,” he said. “I was just looking to make the right deal.”

Before joining Touchstone in 1998, McPherson was VP of primetime series for NBC, working on skeins such as “Just Shoot Me” and “The Pretender.” He previously had been a senior VP of creative affairs for ABC Prods., supervising numerous comedies and dramas, including “My So-Called Life” and “The Commish.”

McPherson has also done stints at Fox Broadcasting Co. and Witt-Thomas-Harris Prods.