Trib to distrib Hearst

Co. exits TV syndie biz; Lakesore inks for o'seas sales

Tribune Entertainment has signed a 10-year deal to take over exclusive domestic TV distribution of Hearst Entertainment’s library of series and movies.

In a parallel negotiation, the Lakeshore Entertainment Group has agreed to a 10-year contract to sell the Hearst product outside the U.S.

With these two deals, Hearst has firmly exited the TV-syndication business. The company will now focus on the production of 100 hours a year of reality programming for various cable networks. In the works are “Modern Marvels” for History Channel, “Makeover Mamas” for A&E and a batch of “Biography” hours for A&E and “Intimate Portraits” for Lifetime. Hearst is half owner of Lifetime (with Walt Disney) and 37.5% owner of A&E and History (Disney also owns 37.5% and NBC the other 25%).

Lifetime lifeline

Until two years ago, Hearst produced as many as a dozen TV movies a year, nine of them for Lifetime. But when network license fees for movies remained stagnant, and revenues from foreign buyers began to dry up, Hearst, faced with growing deficits, stopped producing the pictures.

But over the years Hearst racked up a library of more than 250 titles, including a few theatricals like “An American Werewolf in London” and “Endless Love.” Tribune will license these pictures to cable networks and TV stations in the U.S. and Lakeshore will sell them internationally as part of packages with theatricals like “Runaway Bride,” “The Hunted,” “Bulletproof Monk” and “The Mothman Prophecies.”

Tribune also gains access to ongoing weekly firstrun syndicated programs such as “B. Smith With Style,” “Famous Homes & Hideaways” and “Ron Hazelton’s House Calls.”

Deal expansion

New deal is a major extension of the arrangement Hearst had worked out with Tribune two years ago under which Tribune took over the barter sales of Hearst’s syndicated programming in the U.S.

The most visible of the Tribune-produced series for firstrun syndication are the weekly action hours “Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda,” “Mutant X” and “Beastmaster.”

The executives who signed off on the deals are Bruce Paisner, president of Hearst Entertainment; Tribune Entertainment prexy-CEO Dick Askin; and Lakeshore chairman Tom Rosenberg.