HOLLYWOOD — In few mergers do siblings manage to remain separate but equal. However, after more than two years, Paramount and King World seem to be bucking the trend.
Their distinct roles were enhanced recently when Joe DiSalvo was upped to prexy of sales at King World, following John Nogawski’s elevation to head of Par’s syndie operations in April.
“Despite all the speculation, there have never been discussions to merge,” says Joel Berman, president of Paramount Worldwide TV Distribution, which encompasses its domestic syndie division. “You have two successful organizations here. There would be no benefit.”
The companies’ super-conglom parent, Viacom, houses some 20-odd separate units, some of which have complementary roles, so it’s not really that odd that it’s keeping these two powerhouses separate.
Other reasons behind the separate identities have to do with the strong personalities running each unit and the different types of shows they handle.
Allen Frank, topper at the Post-Newsweek TV station group, says formidable leadership keeps the two syndicators apart.
“If you didn’t have such larger-than-life people at the top, their respective companies would have been swallowed up,” Frank says. “You can’t find anyone stronger than (King World CEO) Roger King, for goodness’ sake.”
King admits, “Eventually I’ll have to retire, but I built this company so that it can go on forever.”
He adds that Viacom chief operating officer Mel Karmazin sees the split arrangement as working, “so there’s no reason to change things. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I have my list of shows. Par has theirs.”
Yakker “Oprah” pulls in about $300 million a year in revenue for King World, while “Entertainment Tonight” brings home $100 million a year in revenue for Par.
King World also distributes long-running gameshows “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” Par boasts “Judge Judy” and off-net rights to a slew of series, perhaps most famously the “Star Trek” franchise.
“We are two full-time operations,” Berman explains. “What would you save by merging?”
Katz TV programming VP Bill Carroll says, “I think some people were surprised by the continued distinction. Conventional wisdom says consolidation means merging. But you have two very strong brands here. It would be foolhardy to change that.”
Next fall’s yakker “Dr. Phil” may be a test of how the two Viacom units will evolve their working relationship: Par is producing the show, while King World is distributing.
“Dr. Phil” already has a King World connection, since it was co-created by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Prods.
Par will have its hands full with the daytime strip “Life Moments” next fall.
Berman says the two units may team up again if another “Dr. Phil”-type opportunity arises.
For his part, Carroll says, “This is perfect synergy,” which for most units housed within media congloms these days is not easy to accomplish.