Tribune Layoffs After Show Stalls

Dec 20, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Tribune Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based studio and distribution arm of Tribune Co., has laid off at least two executives, and one senior sales staffer has announced his retirement.

Though a spokesman for Tribune declined to comment on personnel matters, sources said the company’s Atlanta-based sales executive, Sam Fuller, is retiring, while Rob Corona, VP of cable and ancillary sales, and sales executive Adriana Cevallos in Los Angeles have been laid off.

While some industry insiders speculated that layoffs also were expected among the company’s program development ranks, Donna Harrison, Tribune’s senior VP of unscripted and reality programming, is in negotiations on a new contract, sources said.

Earlier this year Tribune shot a “Real People” pilot, an attempt to revive the 1970s NBC prime-time, feel-good reality magazine series as a syndicated half-hour strip hosted by Mario Lopez. Tribune developed the pilot with The Gurin Co. and George Schlatter Productions.

Tribune’s “Real People,” which sources said would have cost about $300,000 per week to produce, was rejected in initial forays with station groups that balked at a cash-plus-barter model for the show and preferred a barter-only deal. Tribune has decided to hold “Real People” until at least the 2006 season.

Once a stalwart in the weekly first-run action-hour market, Tribune Entertainment, which in part is dedicated to producing programs for the co-owned Tribune Broadcasting stations, has also not launched new weeklies in several seasons in the face of challenges particular to the weekend game. By not taking “Real People” or any other strip out for fall 2005, the company will go three consecutive seasons without launching a syndicated strip. The last strip the company distributed was the former series “Beyond With James Van Praagh,” which launched in fall 2002. Tribune’s last hit strip was “Geraldo,” which aired for 11 seasons, from 1987 to 1998.

Tribune does have alliances with some outside companies in need of distribution services, including Fremantle, which produces the game show “Family Feud.”

Tribune has also been working with MGM to develop the 2001 feature “Legally Blonde” into a syndicated scripted weekly one-hour, but sources said MGM’s pending merger with Sony has put the project into question.