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The Importance of Producing 'Desire'

May 1, 2006 12:00 AM

You know a project is important when your top creative executive moves his entire family to a new city to supervise production. That's what Paul Buccieri, Twentieth Television's president of programming, did when he recently relocated to San Diego to be close to the set of the company's upcoming English-language telenovela "Desire." Initially developed for syndication, the five-nights-a-week series took on new urgency for Twentieth's parent company, News Corp., when it decided to pull "Desire" out of syndication and make it the linchpin of the debuting broadcaster MyNetworkTV's prime-time schedule. "Desire" has turned out to be a much more ambitious and costly venture than Twentieth first envisioned, according to Twentieth Television President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Cook. "We upped the production budget, changed the timetable," Mr. Cook said last week of the evolution of "Desire" from a syndication vehicle to a network program. That may explain why Mr. Buccieri is now in San Diego. However, Mr. Buccieri and Mr. Cook declined through Twentieth's spokesman to elaborate on Mr. Buccieri's relocation. It appears News Corp.'s desire for a success with its new telenovela may be as passionate as the sexiest character on "Desire": All that time on the set is keeping Mr. Buccieri away from L.A., where Twentieth is still developing first-run syndication fare. And though Mr. Buccieri is spending less time taking pitches from potential daytime judges or talk-show hosts, in the long term News Corp. may be betting that its attention to "Desire's" details will pay off. -Christopher Lisotta

Changes for Paratore

For weeks, every top job opening in television seemed to have the name of Jim Paratore, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution executive VP and Telepictures Productions president, attached as a potential candidate. Mr. Paratore, who has successfully shepherded talent such as Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres and Tyra Banks into syndication and who oversees ABC's "Bachelor" franchise, has a contract with Warner Bros. through April 2007. But Mr. Paratore is supposedly interested in an ownership position in the projects he develops, something executives have rarely gotten from studios. He didn't return calls for comment, but Mr. Paratore may be more interested in changing his relationship with Warner Bros. after last week's announcement that Warner Bros. Television President Peter Roth, who oversees the studio's prime-time scripted series, was given responsibility for the newly created Warner Horizon Television, along with a contract extension. The new production entity will take over prime-time reality development from Mr. Paratore's Telepictures division. Warner Horizon "really represents an expansion of our overall production base," Mr. Roth said, adding that the new division, which will have its own production executives, will focus on developing low-cost scripted fare for cable networks and broadcasters. "It's incumbent upon all of us to maintain quality in a more cost-effective manner," he added. The move makes Mr. Roth the go-to guy for prime time of all genres at Warner Bros. Mr. Paratore is on board with the changes, said Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, noting the change was not a reflection of Telepictures. "There's no turf war. We always should be looking at the best way to restructure our company," Mr. Rosenblum said, noting that Mr. Paratore, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution President Dick Robertson and Telepictures Executive VP and General Manager Hilary Estey McLoughlin "recognize the appropriateness of realigning our production assets, and they are optimistic they will be able to continue their production capacity alongside Peter building his production capacity." It remains to be seen whether Mr. Paratore will still be building on Telepictures' production in the same capacity come April 2007. -Christopher Lisotta