At Touchstone, Tollin/Robbins Prods. will develop, exec produce and direct new projects over the next two years, with an option to extend the pact for another two years beyond that.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, although insiders pegged the worth at somewhere in the high seven figures, depending on how the company’s eventual development fares.
Smaller was better
Tollin/Robbins had spent the last four years at Warner Bros., most recently producing series such as “What I Like About You” and “Black Sash,” in addition to the Superman-themed entry “Smallville,” which has become the No. 1 skein on the WB among total viewers.
With their deal up at Warner Bros., the duo said they were enticed by the idea of moving to a smaller shop like Touchstone.
“Warner Bros. has a ton of deals, while there aren’t a lot of people at Disney who do what we do,” Robbins said. “But we leave Warner Bros. on great terms, so it’s bittersweet for me. It was an extremely hard decision, but (Touchstone topper Steve McPherson) made a strong case.”
Tollin and Robbins, who also produce teen-centric shows for Nickelodeon (such as “All That” and “Nick Cannon”) and the sports show “Slamball” for TNN, were also attracted to Disney’s diverse mix of cable outlets.
“There’s a lot of valuable real estate at ABC right now, and there’s also a sense that with their cable networks, there’s potentially a great fit, with Disney Channel, ABC Family and ESPN,” Tollin said.
No discretionary fund
Tollin/Robbins’ new deal puts it firmly inside Touchstone TV, unlike its deal at Warner Bros. — where Tollin/Robbins was set up as a “pod” separate from the TV studio, reporting directly to Warners exec VP Bruce Rosenblum. The pod received funds separate from Warner Bros. TV, although most of Tollin/Robbins’ primetime productions were produced alongside the TV studio (led by prexy Peter Roth).
This time out, Tollin/Robbins won’t operate with its own discretionary fund, like it did at Warner Bros., but will develop series in concert with Touchstone.
Tollin said the duo didn’t think they were sacrificing that “pod”-style independence by moving to Touchstone.
“I think because we share philosophies, and because Steve appreciates our passion and vision, he’ll be supportive,” Tollin said. “It’s not about having your own discretionary fund, or the independence on paper, it’s about day-to-day how this is going to work.”
Tollin/Robbins already got a taste of working with Disney this season, having landed two pilots (with Warner Bros. TV) at ABC: the Kevin Falls/ Peter O’Fallon drama “Better Days” (also known as “The Flannerys”) and Chris Henchy/Marco Pennette comedy “I’m With Her.”
“I think for us, the primary thing is I love their taste,” McPherson said. “I think the youth they bring in terms of the demos that their shows tend to attract are very attractive to us and to ABC as a broadcaster.”
Tollin/Robbins also has a comedy pilot set up at Fox and a drama project at the WB. Tollin/Robbins’ TV division is led by Joe Davola; development is headed up by Chris Castallo and Shelley Zimmerman.
The company also produced HBO’s long-running skein “Arli$$.”
In feature film, Tollin/Robbins — which is set up at Paramount — has produced entries including “Big Fat Liar” and “Varsity Blues.” As directors, Tollin helmed the upcoming Revolution release “Radio,” while Robbins directed the Paramount entry “Perfect Score.”
The Tollin/Robbins deal was struck by UTA and the company’s chief operating officier Jeff Blye.