Warner Bros. Television development chief Steve Pearlman has decided to hang up his studio hat and hang out his shingle.
Pearlman will step down as exec VP of creative affairs — and the top creative exec under studio prexy Peter Roth — at the end of May. He’ll then launch his own WBTV-based pod, Class V Prods., as part of a two-year, seven-figure overall development deal with the studio that begins June 1.
Class V will develop programming for broadcast and cable nets, with a particular focus on drama and alternative skeins. Pearlman is expected to tap a development exec for the shingle shortly.
An 18-year vet of the studio, Pearlman has focused on development since 1997 and is credited with helping guide WBTV to its current position as the leading studio supplier of network programming. During his tenure, the studio developed hits such as “Without a Trace,” “The OC,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Everwood” and “Two and a Half Men.”
“This is truly a bittersweet day for our studio,” Roth said Friday, citing Pearlman’s leadership qualities and industry relationships as “a major factor in the success of our division.”
“While we regret his departure as our head of development, everyone at Warner Bros. Television looks forward to working closely with Steve in his new role,” Roth added.
A replacement for Pearlman is expected to be announced later this month.
Pearlman, who has been in his current post as exec VP since May 2000, joins the ever-burgeoning ranks of network and studio suits who’ve decided to ankle the exec suite for pod life. WBTV alone is home to no less than four ex-studio toppers.
“I’ve often wondered what it would be like on the other side of the table,” Pearlman admitted, calling his decision to launch a pod “the next logical step” in his career.
“I love the process of making television, from development to current, from pre-production through post,” he said. “Producing for me is not about one or the other. It’s about developing shows and staying with them to nurture and ensure their success.”
Michael Robin, whose Shepard-Robin Co. produces WBTV’s “Nip/Tuck,” said Pearlman’s exit from his exec post reps “a big loss for us” — not to mention the introduction of a new competitor.
“On the down side,” Robin quipped, “he’s going to be selling great projects, take up slots and hurt our ability to sell stuff.”
“Everwood” exec producer Greg Berlanti, who’s developing two WBTV pilots with Pearlman this spring via his Berlanti/Liddell shingle, said Pearlman was “available and useful.” He possessed obvious positive qualities that are “the hardest to find in executives.”
Pearlman joined WBTV in 1986 (when it was still Lorimar), working as a research intern while still enrolled at USC. He was upped to VP in 1990, moved into current programming two years later and was tapped senior VP of drama development in 1997.