Eye lift for Par TV

Move comes amid talk that Grey may start new division

In the latest fallout from the CBS-Viacom split, CBS Corp.’s studio arm is changing its identity.

Move, to be officially announced today by CBS Corp. prexy-chief exec Leslie Moonves, unveils a new logo and name — CBS Paramount Television — and has been in the works for some time. It also comes amid published speculation that Brad Grey may try to start his own TV division under the Viacom-based Paramount Pictures banner.

Under the terms of the CBS-Viacom split, Moonves-run CBS Corp. retained the right to use the Paramount name in its TV operations– even though Paramount Pictures remains the domain of Tom Freston’s Viacom.

The rebranding closes a major chapter in TV history. The Paramount Television label had existed since the late 1960s, when Paramount Pictures snapped up Lucille Ball’s Desilu banner and launched a TV operation with shows such as “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible.”

While the Paramount name will live on in the TV world, it will now share the spotlight with an even older brand, CBS. Cohabitation is evident in the studio’s new logo, which combines the Eye and mountain symbols and boasts the familiar cursive lettering for the Paramount half of the name.

“We didn’t want to call it just CBS or just Paramount,” Moonves told Daily Variety. “We had two great names that both represent great things. This is reflective of Paramount Television now being a part of CBS Corp.”

There’s been talk that Grey may try to launch his own TV studio or use the DreamWorks banner to get into the small-screen business. The Los Angeles Times reported that Grey was seeking to land J.J. Abrams, whose deal at Touchstone expires later this year.

Par’s Gail Berman also has a strong TV track record on both the studio and network side of the biz.

Some have speculated that CBS Corp. would be peeved by such a move, but in fact, it could actually end up helping the Eye. That’s because any Par-based TV studio would compete for talent that might otherwise land at NBC Universal or 20th Century Fox, which give their sister nets first crack at their roster. A Grey-controlled studio would be more likely to funnel programming to the Eye’s CBS, UPN and Showtime networks — though it would obviously compete with CBS Par Television as well.

CBS Corp.’s newly named studio will consist of three main units: CBS Par Network Television (broadcast and cable shows); CBS Par Domestic Television (syndie); and CBS Par Intl. Television (global distribution). International division was branded CBS-Par about a year ago.

CBS Corp. is keeping the King World Television banner as well as CBS Consumer Products, which manages the licensing, distribution and homevideo activities of various CBS Corp. divisions.

CBS Corp. and Viacom have worked out a short-term agreement with Par Home Video to distribute CBS Par TV product on DVD.

The former Paramount Television has been under Moonves’ control since June 2004. Soon after taking over, Moonves essentially shut down the old CBS Prods. banner and folded its operations into Par Network Television, tapping longtime Moonves loyalist David Stapf to run the new supersized studio (under the direction of CBS/Par honcho Nancy Tellem).

Despite the changes, Moonves initially saw no need to put the CBS imprint on the Par TV brand. Just the opposite: The CBS Prods. label disappeared, swallowed by Par.

Moonves said it “didn’t feel right” to rebrand Par Network TV while it was still part of Viacom.

But with Paramount Pictures and the old Par Network TV now part of separate companies, it apparently made sense to brand CBS Corp.’s flagship TV studio with the CBS name. Keeping “Paramount” in the new name was a nod to history as well as recognition that the Par brand still has some equity among viewers. Studio is associated with a number of franchises, from “Star Trek” to “Frasier.”

NBC followed a similar model when it combined NBC’s inhouse production with Universal, forming NBC U Television Studio.

Joel Berman, John Nogawski, Greg Meidel and Terry Wood remain the key execs at CBS Par Domestic Television, while Armando Nunez heads up international.

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