Atlas ready to carry TV world on its shoulders

Aug 13, 2001  •  Post A Comment

After recent success in its nonfiction programming department, Atlas Media Corp. is readying to break into the syndication marketplace with new divisional units and an exclusive contract with the world’s shortest twins to develop a series around them.
Atlas founder Bruce David Klein launched the company in 1989 after serving as a program director in local TV. The company currently produces more than 70 hours of original programming, with a specialty in nonfiction. According to Mr. Klein, the company worked its way up through cable production companies and now has plans to take on broadcasters.
“Basic cable networks may not be able to afford a $3 million to $4 million movie to fill airtime, so the appetite for programming in the $500,000 to $2 million category has become an increasing need,” he said. “Now we have expanded our core business such that we are now looking to expand what we do well into other venues, with the two natural expansions being docudramas and network reality.”
The company is launching a docudrama unit and will produce four to six docudramas through its acquisition of New York-based production company DVTV. The acquisition brings into the fold several projects now in production, including “Alien Abduction” for the Discovery Channel and “Caught” for The Learning Channel.
In addition, the new unit has optioned Pope Brock’s novel “Indiana Gothic” and the original screenplay “Saigon: The Night America Fell,” written by Ted Schillinger.
“We like to do it our way when we approach outlets,” Mr. Klein said. “We prefer not to go for development deals as much as selling series that have already been developed our way.”
On the reality programming front, the company has expanded into the first-run/reality arena, inking a deal with William Morris agent Ben Silverman. Already Mr. Silverman has signed John and Greg Rice, the world’s shortest twins, to develop a nationally syndicated series around them. Production of the pilot is already under way for the twins, who in addition to hosting an infomercial, serve as motivational speakers and businessmen.
“They are so unusual, they would make it as TV personalities without being the world’s shortest twins,” Mr. Klein said. “So now, we are developing a show that highlights their abilities to reach out to audiences.”
Additionally, the company has signed a development deal for a reality project with Telepictures.
Set to run this year on the History Channel will be the miniseries “American Classics,” hosted by Dick Clark, during the November sweeps, and the miniseries “What Happened After.”
Atlas also just wrapped a deal with eBay.com to sell historical artifacts shown in “History’s Lost and Found,” its series on the History Channel. Other specials are set to air on the Travel Channel.