Mel's Diner: Chuck Larsen
February 5, 2007 6:14 PM
Who: Chuck Larsen, president, October Moon
When: Jan. 30, 2007, lunch
Where: Delmonico’s Seafood Grille, Los Angeles
Dined On: Delmonico’s is a classic chop house tucked away on a block of Pico just west of Robertson. You could call it old school, though not stuffy or dead. It was, in fact, hopping at lunch.
It’s an entirely appropriate place to meet Chuck Larsen. Not just because it’s convenient for him from his home office in Pacific Palisades. But Chuck, too, is a classic, with old school roots, whose business is clicking along right now.
We both started with the always good (particularly on a drizzly day like this one) lobster bisque. He had the seafood paella, I had the Cobb salad.
I thought maybe sharing some chocolate four-layer mousse cake would butter him up—maybe get him to fork over even a tiny newsy tidbit from his vast bank of knowledge of where the money is flowing in the TV business. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. (Note to boss: Blame the baker?)
The Dish: Ok, it’s not the baker’s fault. It’s the love-hate relationship I have with Chuck Larsen.
On the love side, he’s genuine, warm, wise and generally one of the most stand-up executives in the business.
He also is the single most frustrating person for someone like me to talk to.
He explains best exactly why he makes me so nuts:
“I know probably more about the syndication business than anybody—where the money is in TV—but can’t really share any of it,” he said with a smile at lunch. “Guess that’s got to be tough for you?”
Well, yes, Chuck. It is.
He knows what percentage of what everyone is getting probably on just about every television show. He knows how the deals are structured. He knows where shows are sold for what license fees. He knows ad prices. Basically, he knows more about everything to do with where the money is in the business than anyone.
And he won’t tell me one bit of it.
This is primarily due to his steady work as a producer’s rep for the past decade.
A lot of people say they keep things quiet, but Chuck really does. He has to.
As a producer’s rep, his first objective is to make sure a TV show will be sold to its maximum potential, making the most money possible.
The studios let him in on very closely-held information for those strategic purposes with the understanding that he does not share that data with other clients or, of course, newshounds like me. The only way to keep that info coming is to be consistently ironclad about no blabbing.
Second to the consulting on the sales strategy, he looks out for his clients to get the best possible deal.
“You can’t fight over that money until it’s there,” he said.
He started the consulting-rep business after the syndicator where he was a muckety-muck, MTM, was sold to Fox.
While he was looking for a job, a friend who had profit participation in a show going into syndication called for some consultation.
Other folks started calling with similar requests, and six months after MTM was sold, Chuck realized he didn’t need a job. He had one.
The perception long has been that the studios will screw you, he said.
In reality, that’s not really the case. But the studios are huge now, so the executives there “have so much to think about,” Chuck said. “I can focus on one.”
As the consulting business grew, opportunities to distribute shows have popped up and Chuck became one of the busiest independent syndicators.
“As the little guy, life’s much simpler,” he said. “You come up with an idea, try to convince people it’s a good idea. If you can make money, you do it. If you won’t, you don’t.”
His latest idea is a first-run Monday-through-Friday comedy competition series, “Laugh Off,” which he expects to announce as a go for the fall soon. He’s collaborating with Bunim-Murray on that one.
He identified a need among stations for original comedy about a year and a half ago. So he put his head together with Bunim-Murray principle Jon Murray, who Chuck has known since distributing Bunim-Murray’s “The Real World” and “Road Rules” in broadcast syndication.
He’s also picking up two more producer rep clients. I regret that I can’t tell you who they are or what big shows are being rolled out in syndie soon. Chuck would have to kill me if he dished on that.
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