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Jan 23, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 11:50 a.m. (PT); last updated at 1:45 p.m.

NATPE supporters emerge amid Robertson-led revolt

A war of words over syndicators’ relationship with NATPE that started innocently enough at a press conference called to announce clearances for “The Caroline Rhea Show” has quickly escalated.

A number of syndicators were vocally upset about Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution President Dick Robertson announcing Tuesday afternoon that plans for a March ad conference in New York were under way — without the consultation of the National Association of Television Program Executives — through the re-emergence of the Syndicated Network Television Association. Mr. Robertson also implied that his company would not return to the January convention in New Orleans next year and would be taking additional syndicators with him.

After the press conference and into Wednesday, varying reaction from executives continued to surface, implying that plans to move forward with or without NATPE may not have been as organized as first thought.

Already a line in the sand appears to be drawn, as a number of distributors were quick to respond that they would not likely follow suit and coveted NATPE’s participation in a March and fall event. On the other side of the line, several syndicators joined in Mr. Robertson’s sentiments that the convention and market were outdated and costing too much money to be patient while the nonprofit organization examines its future.

At a session Wednesday morning, NATPE President Bruce Johansen reiterated the need for unity among the various television groups. He also announced that registration for the event was not as bleak as predicted with the show running 31 percent behind last year’s figures with 9,600 people signed on.

“There could be legal issues that would need to be addressed if any plan Mr. Robertson proves to be exclusionary,” warned Mr. Johansen.

CBS names Tarnofsky-Ostroff to head UPN Entertainment: Going from estrogen-oriented Lifetime Television to testosterone-driven UPN, former Lifetime programming exec Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff has been named president of UPN Entertainment — marking the first major management move since CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves took oversight of the weblet on Jan. 1.

Mr. Tarnofsky-Ostroff, who served as senior programming executive at Lifetime Television since 1996 and has held a variety of Hollywood studio executive positions, fills the entertainment slot left vacant since Tom Nunan resigned from the post in June 2001.

Mr. Moonves added oversight of UPN, also owned by CBS parent Viacom, at the start of the new year. Dean Valentine stepped down from his post as chairman and CEO of the network as part of agreement in principle to settle his $23 million breach-of-contract suit against UPN.

In her new post, which she will assume effective Feb. 11, Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff will be responsible for all creative aspects of UPN’s operations, including development, current programming, specials, movies and miniseries. She will also work closely with all other areas of UPN, including scheduling, business affairs, media relations, promotion, research, finance and other departments that support the creative efforts of the company. She will be headquartered in Los Angeles and will report directly to Mr. Moonves.

“Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff has been a successful programming executive on both sides of the process, for Lifetime and as a producer with some of the top production companies,” Mr. Moonves said in a prepared statement. “With her keen creative instincts as a programmer and development executive, and with her dynamic leadership, she has been a major player in Lifetime’s impressive growth. I welcome her to her new post as an old friend and as the best possible choice for this challenging assignment.”

“I am gratified to have the exciting opportunity to work with the excellent creative staff of UPN and with the talented people there, as well as with the vast resources of CBS,” Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff said in the statement. “UPN has shown this season that it can attract its target viewers — and I look forward to working with Leslie on the challenge of expanding our audience and making UPN a creative and economic success.”

In a hiring that Mr. Moonves kept characteristically close to the vest until Wednesday’s announcement, Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff’s background as programmer at Lifetime could presage a slight shift from UPN’s more male-demographic-targeted approach to one that is also inclusive of female viewers. Among the broadcast networks this season, UPN and CBS were the only ones to exhibit double-digit percentage growth in the young adult demos, even in the females 18 to 34 category.

Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff most recently served as executive vice president of entertainment for Lifetime, a post she began in August 1999, as a second-in-command to President Carole Black. Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff joined Lifetime in October 1996 as senior VP of programming and production.

Prior to that, Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff was senior VP of creative affairs at 20th Century Fox Television, where she was involved in the development of “King of the Hill” (Fox), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (The WB) and “The Practice” (ABC). She also served as president of Michael Jacobs Productions, where she produced and supervised the production of comedies such as “Boy Meets World” and “Dinosaurs” for ABC and “The Torkelsons” for NBC. From 1984 to 1989, Tarnofsky-Ostroff served as VP of development at the Kushner-Locke Co. She began her career in news as a reporter for WINZ-TV, then a CBS affiliate in Miami. She also worked in local news at WPLG-TV and WTVJ-TV in Miami.

‘Law & Order’ going to Russia: “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf said he was in late-stage negotiations with Russian broadcaster RTR to create a Russian version of “Law & Order.” Speaking at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference Wednesday just after accepting the organization’s 2002 Creative Achievement Award, Mr. Wolf said the show will be filmed in Russia with Russian actors and will focus on the Russian legal system.

Appel named senior VP, Turner Trade Group: Kellie Appel has been named senior vice president and general manager for Turner Trade Group, which is responsible for putting deals together with national advertisers based on both cash and trade elements.

Ms. Appel previously served as senior vice president for strategic planning and business development at Turner Broadcasting System, a position she held since May 2000. She joined the group as a vice president in July 1998, after serving with Turner Broadcasting’s legal department for three years. In that capacity, she was senior counsel for legal and business affairs for the worldwide entertainment program acquisitions group. Earlier, Ms. Appel provided legal counsel to both the domestic syndication and international television distribution units of Turner Broadcasting, then-called Turner Program Services.

Scholastic to produce series for HBO Family: Scholastic Entertainment announced Wednesday that it will produce the children’s property “I Spy” as a TV series for fall 2002 on HBO Family. HBO Family is a 24-hour channel dedicated exclusively to family programming.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications