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Hollywood Notes

Aug 13, 2001  •  Post A Comment

ATG lays off half its staff
Artists Television Group, the network TV production arm of Michael Ovitz’s Artists Management Group, has laid off close to half its staff as rumors fly that the onetime Hollywood uber-agent is trying to find a studio buyer or a partner for his 2-year-old TV unit. ATG handed out pink slips Aug. 8 to 18 of its 38 staffers, with the layoffs involving production personnel, business affairs executives and administrative assistants, an ATG spokesman confirmed.
The layoffs come on the heels of industry speculation that Mr. Ovitz’s management company has been looking in recent months to find an outside studio to acquire the TV production unit or share in the financing of network series production. ATG is said by sources to have approached several studios, including Paramount Television Group and Sony-owned Columbia TriStar Television. However, various production sources said Columbia TriStar, already a partner with ATG in providing advance money for international distribution sales rights to series, has recently rebuffed ATG’s request to fold the indie production unit into the major studio.
One source close to Columbia TriStar said ATG had specifically approached the major studio about taking over production on the fall 2001 CBS sitcom “The Ellen Show” and its upcoming “Lost in the USA” reality series for The WB Network. “There just was not a good financial incentive to take that kind of risk,” said a source privy to Columbia TriStar’s talks with ATG. On top of the freshman pickups of “The Ellen Show” and “Lost in the USA,” ATG has two midseason pickups for sitcoms “Cedric the Coach” and “No Ordinary Girl,” both seven-episode orders from The WB.
Thomas to star in WB’s `Off Centre’
Eddie Kaye Thomas, who has starred in both “American Pie” movies, has been cast to star in The WB’s fall 2001 buddy comedy “Off Centre,” created by “American Pie” producers Chris and Paul Weitz. Mr. Thomas replaces Josh Radnor in the role of Mike, a staid, slightly neurotic guy who is in stark contrast to his sophisticated, womanizing British roommate Euan (played by Sean Maguire).
Warner Bros. syndie vet retiring
Syndication vet Dan Greenblatt will cap a 36-year career at the end of September, retiring as executive vice president of sales at Warner Bros. where he oversaw the two syndication arms of the studio, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Telepictures Distribution. He will relocate to Florida. Mr. Greenblatt was named to his current post in October 1999, becoming the two syndication divisions’ No. 2 executive and assuming oversight of both distribution operations. He was responsible for the distribution sales activities for both divisions’ first-run and off-network properties, and he also oversaw the day-to-day operations of administration, research, marketing, creative services, programming and new business development.
Wallach joins NBC Enterprises
NBC Enterprises has tapped Barry Wallach as executive vice president of the syndication division, where he will oversee all domestic broadcast and cable sales activities for shows that include “Access Hollywood,” “The Other Half” and “Weakest Link,” as well as off-network syndication sales of NBC’s “Providence.” Mr. Wallach comes to NBC Enterprises from WorldNow, where he served as executive vice president of distribution and marketing. Before that, he worked with NBC Enterprises President Ed Wilson at CBS/Eyemark Entertainment, where he was executive vice president of domestic syndication.
Fox Broadcasting promotes Lundberg
Giles Lundberg, an audience research veteran at Fox for 13 years, has been promoted to executive vice president of research and marketing for Fox Broadcasting Co. Mr. Lundberg has overall responsibility for handling affiliate, audience, consumer, program/market research, sales and sports research for Fox’s entertainment, news and sports divisions. He will continue to report to Gail Berman, president of Fox’s entertainment unit. Before the promotion, Mr. Lundberg was senior vice president of research and marketing.