Warner unites distrib, syndie

Analyst sez WB brand aided by streamlined operations

NEW YORK — Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution and its sister syndication company, Telepictures Distribution, have merged their staffs, leading to the dismissal of six sales execs and the elevation of Rick Meril to head of sales for Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas.

“Warners and Telepictures have bowed to the inevitable,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Communications, a TV syndication analyst. “As consolidation has continued on the broadcast side, which buys the shows, it’s only logical that the same kind of consolidation has to take place on the syndication side.”

The merged distribution setup will operate under the Warner Bros. banner.

Meril was senior VP of sales for Telepictures. His counterpart, Bill Marcus, senior VP of sales for Warner Bros. Domestic, will take charge of the company’s New York and Atlanta divisions. Both men report to Dick Robertson, president of the merged operation, and Jim Paratore, exec veep.

Meril raised his profile at Telepictures when, during the last eight months or so, he presided over the successful clearance of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Sharon Osbourne Show,” two five-a-week talkshows that will debut in firstrun syndication this fall.

Warner Bros. tends to be at a disadvantage in selling programming in syndication because, unlike NBC, Buena Vista, Fox, Paramount and King World, it doesn’t own TV stations that could serve as natural outlets.

Although it’s getting out of the distrib business, Telepictures will continue to produce firstrun syndicated shows for Warner Bros. Domestic TV.

Warner Bros.’ off-network pipeline is filled with planned pre-sales of the comedies “Sex and the City,” “Good Morning, Miami” and “What I Like About You.” The company also eventually will start engineering syndie renewals of the rerun episodes of “Friends,” “Will & Grace” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Carroll said another plus for the merger is that “it will end confusion among TV station buyers about which company to talk to about a particular show. And streamlining the operation will only solidify the Warner Bros. brand.”

Four of the execs let go in the consolidation are from Warner Bros.: Jeff Hufford, senior VP and Central sales manager; Shelby Mason, director of Central sales; Mary Ryan, director of Southwest sales; and Anthony Arbucias, manager of Eastern sales.

The two others are from Telepictures: Mark Robbins, director of Midwest sales, and Jeff Muir, manager of Eastern sales.