Broadcasting & Cable
By Schlosser, Joe
Page Pg. 63; No. 3, Vol. 129;
Brief XENA mention in an article explaining what the heck USA Studios is and what it does and more importantly who it owns and controls!
Classic '50s series, Jerry and princess warrior come with Universal TV buy When Barry Diller's USA Networks acquired the majority of Universal Television shares last February, the new owners got much more than just The Jerry Springer Show and popular action series Hercules and Xena. Diller's multibillion-dollar purchase, which included USA Networks and the Sci-Fi Channel, brought with it a TV tradition that began in the early 1950s when Lew Wasserman headed Universal and MCA. Wasserman, a long with Jules Stein, got Universal into the TV business before most other major movie studios realized the future was the small screen. "The feeling in the early 1940s and '50s among most studios was that television was going to stop people from going to the movies," says Studios USA Domestic Television President Steve Rosenberg. "Lew Wasserman was ahead of the game in realizing that TV was going to be a business that could work hand-in-hand with the studio's movie division." The studio got into the TV business in 1952 with GE. Theater, hosted by then-actor Ronald Reagan. Three years later Alfred Hitchcock Presents was launched, and in 1957 Universal introduced the classic series Leave It To Beaver. Over the years, the studio produced series such as McHale 's Navy, The Munsters, Kojak, The Bionic Woman, Magnum P.I. and Knight Rider After network runs of many of those shows, Universal sold them into syndication and grew rich from the continual sales of Leave It To Beaver and The Munsters. In 1986, Universal got into first-run syndication, taking the canceled network series Charles In Charge and producing more original series for the station marketplace. The studio had many other series in first-run, including a short-lived syndicated show with Larry King. In 1994, Universal launched a syndicated first-run movie package that included two-hour made-for-TV movies with titles such as Hercules, Tech War and Vanishing Sun. Four original Hercules movies were made, and the ratings for the legendary action series and for Vanishing Sun caught the attention of Universal executives. The following season, the studio launched two weekly action-hours based on the Hercules and Vanishing Sun films. "We brought those two series out in syndication and Hercules put up some impressive numbers," Rosenberg says. "Vanishing Sun wasn't holding Hercules' lead-in so we canceled it doing a 4.2 rating. The people who did Hercules for us, Renaissance Pictures, had a good idea with a character named Xena, so we canceled Vanishing Sun after one season and gave Xena a try. The rest is history." Hercules: The Legendary Journey and Xena: Warrior Princess have flourished in weekend syndication and both have been renewed through the 1999-2000 television season. On the talk show front, Rosenberg credits his predecessors at Universal Television for much of the success enjoyed by Studios USA with The Jerry Springer Show, Sally Jessy Raphael and its new show entitled Maury, with Maury Povich. In December 1996, Universal acquired Multimedia Entertainment, which distributed both Springer and Sally Jessy Raphael in syndication. Although Povich had told his longtime distributor Paramount Domestic Television that he was no longer going to host a syndicated show, Universal executives convinced him to get back into the game this past season. "It takes so much money to launch a first-run show, and they are very hit or miss," Rosenberg says. "To have the foresight to say that we can spend less money buying shows that already exist, and can wind up as hits for years to come, I think, was a stroke of genius on their [Universal TV executives] part." Studios USA executives are developing a first-run series for next season called Free Speech and selling a number of series in off-network. Studios USA 100 Universal City Plaza Universal City, Calif. 91608 (818) 777-1000 EXECUTIVES Steve Rosenberg President, Studios USA Domestic Television Bob Fleming Group President, Studios USA Susan Krakower Senior Vice President, Programming Lonnie Burstein Senior Vice President, Development Susan Kantor Senior Vice President, Marketing Arthur Hasson Senior Vice President, Sales Elizabeth Herbst Senior Vice President, Advertiser Sales Jeff Dellin Vice President, Research LATEST SHOWS Free Speech, Xena, Hercules, The Jerry Springer Show, Maury and Sally Jessy Raphael EVERGREEN Law and Order, Adam 12, Coach, Leave it to Beaver, The Munsters, Miami Vice, The A-Team, Ironside, Knight Rider, Murder, She Wrote
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