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Deep Pockets, Family Feel at Mark Burnett’s One Three Media

Burnett’s banner plans to stay nimble even as it pushes into new sectors

Mark Burnett’s One Three Media is run like a family business — albeit one with a well-heeled new member in Hearst Corp.

Burnett by design has kept the company lean at its core, with about 30 full-time staffers, so as to maintain focus on quality not quantity.

Burnett and Hearst each own 50% of One Three under the agreement forged in 2011, with Burnett holding operating control of the company. One Three chief operating officer Brian Edwards, who joined Burnett in 2009 after stints at Relativity Media and DreamWorks, is the boss’s right hand on all things business.

“Hearst liked our approach and didn’t want to upset it,” Edwards says. “They’re involved but not intrusive. It’s a terrific partnership.”

Hearst has undergone significant changes since the deal was struck. Former Hearst Entertainment topper Scott Sassa, who wooed Burnett for years, exited in March. In June, Steven Swartz succeeded Frank Bennack Jr. as Hearst Corp. CEO. Swartz says there is no question about the importance of One Three to Hearst’s entertainment growth strategy.

“As a company, we are only as good as the talented people who work with us,” Swartz says. “Mark Burnett is one of the most talented people in the media business, or any business.”

Burnett sees his exec role at One Three as being the “chief encouragement officer” — an approach he credits to observing Leslie Moonves’ management style.

“My mission is to find the greatest players, not to go on the field and try to slam dunk everybody,” Burnett says.

The backing from Hearst has helped give Team Burnett the resources to expand the scope of its development activities — from syndication to scripted to programs for international markets. Terry Wood, a CBS alum who joined One Three as prexy of unscripted and syndication late last year, says there’s no better day at the office than one spent going over concepts and pitches with her boss.

Mark loves to be thrown a curve or a challenge that makes him open his eyes to something he hasn’t thought about before,” Wood says. “He’ll be the first to say, ‘I don’t get it, but I trust you so tell me why an audience will watch this.’ ”

Burnett has long stood apart from other indie reality mavens for having the clout to retain international distribution and format rights to many of his shows.

“We win more than we lose,” says Scott Cru, senior VP of One Three Intl., who has been with Burnett for 11 years (“We met over a warm beer in Borneo” during the “Eco-Challenge” days, he says.)

Cru and his “mighty team of three” are responsible for making sure there’s an Australian version of “The Apprentice” and a Canadian edition of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” et al., in addition to selling the U.S. episodes of shows including “The Bible” mini.

One Three has also expanded into third-party distribution deals for outside producers. It has the luxury of being selective.

“There’s an advantage to working with us,” Cru says. “When (buyers) walk into our booth at MIP, your show is going to be one of six to 10 shows we’re pitching, not one of 350.”

Up Next

Among the projects in the pipeline for One Three Media and LightWorkers Media:

“Trust Me, I’m a Game Show Host” (pictured)
TBS

Hosts D.L. Hughley and Michael Ian Black challenge contestants to guess which one of them is lying.

Premieres Oct. 22

“Spin Off”
CHCH (Canada)

Contestants spin a wheel to answer trivia questions and win prizes. The format will be shopped in the U.S. and other markets.

Premiered Sept. 11

“AD: Beyond the Bible”
NBC

Scripted miniseries follow-up to “The Bible” centers on the upheaval around the birth of Christianity and the end of the Roman empire.

In development

“Plymouth”
NBC

Scripted limited series chronicles the Pilgrims’ arduous journey to America and early struggles. Walon Green (“The Wild Bunch,” “NYPD Blue”) is writing the script.

In development

“Next Wave”
Starz

The global exploits of three pro surfers and the people and things that surround them: girls, parties, sponsors – and sharks.

In development

“The Edge”
TNT

Focuses on the work and the personal lives of an elite search-andrescue team.

In development

Son of God

Feature film adaptation of Jesus story from “The Bible” miniseries, to be released by 20th Century Fox in the U.S. and international markets.

Targeted for 2014

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