Twentieth takes Dalton

Oct 1, 2001  •  Post A Comment

With the new fall syndicated season just weeks old, Twentieth Television’s fall 2002 season started with a bang last week when the company tapped Robb Dalton to serve as president of programming and production.
Meanwhile, the distributor has cleared off-network runs of “The Hughleys” for 2002 in most of the country.
A beefed-up development slate and a schedule in need of programming have crowned Twentieth king of the hill, thanks to last month’s approval of the Chris-Craft Industries merger with the Fox stations. Twentieth President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Cook responded to the clear need to beef up production by hiring Mr. Dalton, rumored to be atop his wish list (EM, Sept. 24), to pave the way for a possible doubling or tripling of its development slate.
“The addition of Robb comes at a critical time in our growth and expansion as a result of the Chris-Craft acquisition,” Mr. Cook said. “Robb and I worked together at CBS and King World, so I know firsthand the wealth of experience and expertise he brings to the job.”
Mr. Dalton will now oversee the development of first-run programming to be aired on the Fox Television station group and for the national television marketplace as well as oversee the studio’s current slate of “Divorce Court,” “Power of Attorney” and “Texas Justice.”
“This presents a dream opportunity for me to do what I love most,” Mr. Dalton said. “Fox has clearly positioned itself to lead the syndication business, and I relish being a part of it.”
Mr. Dalton comes to Twentieth from Fireworks Television, where he served as president since summer 2000. At Fireworks, he spearheaded the company’s Los Angeles plans to develop, finance, produce and sell original programming to U.S. broadcast and cable networks. Among his accomplishments at Fireworks was VH1’s first original series, “Pulling the Strings,” executive produced by Barbra Streisand. On behalf of Fireworks, Mr. Dalton also oversaw ABC’s $20 million miniseries, “A Wrinkle in Time,” and the syndicated hour, “Mutant X,” with partner Tribune Entertainment.
Before that, he worked with Mr. Cook as senior vice president of CBS Enterprises, where he supervised West Coast development and production for Eyemark Entertainment, King World and CBS Enterprises.
Mr. Dalton said his first order of business will be to focus on current programs in the development slate and analyze the needs of the station group. Although strips have long been the order of the day at the division when its comes to first-run programming, plum holes in the UPN schedule have provided Twentieth with the unusual chance to fill some prime-time slots. The opportunity has not been lost on Mr. Cook, Mr. Dalton and Fox station group Chairman and CEO Mitch Stern.
“The entire station group has a lot of needs in a number of dayparts, and I anticipate that come NATPE we’ll be able to address those needs,” Mr. Dalton said.
A number of series have been reported under development for next year as well as potential regional tests during this season, similar to the plan that brought “Texas Justice” to the national spotlight. KTTV, Los Angeles, personality Jillian Barberie is at the center of two potential projects, one being a possible national run of Los Angeles morning show “Good Day L.A.” and the other teaming her with BET personality John Salley. Other series on the slate include one with former MTV veejay Kennedy; a show featuring Rob Nelson, the founder of Generation X advocacy group Lead or Leave; a Monet Lane series entitled “Girl Thing”; and “State of Mind,” a roundtable discussion of sex and relationships.
The appointment marks the first time a president with oversight of programming and production has served at Twentieth since Greg Nathanson stepped down from the post in late 1998. Since then, oversight of the operation had shifted to Twentieth Executive VP of Programming and Development Cliff Lachman.
On the off-network front, the Twentieth team has secured early clearances for upcoming off-network runs of “The Hughleys” for a fall 2002 launch. The strip has now been cleared on 55 stations representing 65 percent of the country, including each of the top 10 markets. Among the stations now set to air the series next season will be the WNYW-TV/WWOR-TV duopoly in New York and the KTTV/KCOP-TV duopoly in Los Angeles. Others include WCIU-TV in Chicago, WPSG-TV in Philadelphia and WSBK-TV in Boston. The deal is a 31/2/31/2 barter split for a double run over two years.