Key Viacom Post to Wood

Jan 24, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Terry Wood last week was named president of creative affairs and development for both King World Productions and Paramount Domestic Television, marking the only major executive change among Viacom’s syndication operations since Leslie Moonves, co-president and co-chief operating officer of Viacom, gained oversight of Paramount TV in June 2004.

Ms. Wood has served as executive VP of programming for Paramount Domestic Television. In the newly created position, she will expand her responsibilities to include program development for both companies.

Mr. Moonves reiterated last week in a statement that King World and Paramount Domestic Television would continue to operate independently. When Mr. Moonves merged Viacom’s two major television production entities-CBS Productions and Paramount Network Television-in September, he denied widespread speculation that King World and Paramount Domestic Television would someday merge.

“Each has four humongous hits,” Mr. Moonves said in September (TelevisionWeek, Sept. 13, 2004). “It is far better to keep them autonomous. I’d rather have a salesman go in the door with four big hits than eight. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Ms. Wood also said the move should not be seen as a step toward folding Paramount and King World into one syndication company, since both have separate, successful businesses.

“What Leslie has done is he has made a smart business decision,” she said of Mr. Moonves. “There isn’t a problem. If they weren’t working well, he might look at it differently.”

Mr. Moonves said the move is aimed at amping up production at the two units. “To take advantage of [Ms. Wood’s] talents, we have created a unique structure with an eye on putting more programming into the pipeline of Viacom’s two syndication powerhouses,” Mr. Moonves said in a statement. Neither King World nor Paramount Domestic TV are bringing out new first-run strips for syndication this fall.

In the new job, Ms. Wood will have a unique reporting structure. She now reports to Roger King, CEO of CBS Enterprises and King World Productions, and Joel Berman, president of Paramount Worldwide Television Distribution. For her current programming responsibilities at Paramount, she will continue to report to Greg Meidel, president of programming for Paramount Domestic Television.

It is unclear whether any more executive changes will follow Ms. Wood’s appointment. A spokesman for Paramount declined to comment on future shakeups. Mike Stornello, King World’s senior VP of development, is staying with the company and will report to Ms. Wood. In addition to taking on development and production of new programming for both of Viacom’s syndication divisions, Ms. Wood will continue to oversee the production of Paramount series “Entertainment Tonight,” “The Insider” and “Dr. Phil” (which is distributed by King World). She has also been charged with maintaining the brand extension for Paramount’s properties, which include “ET on MTV,” “ET on VH1,” “ET” for the United Kingdom and the “Dr. Phil” and “Entertainment Tonight” prime-time specials for CBS.

Ms. Wood said she expected to continue developing new syndicated product off of current shows, a strategy that has worked well for King World, which helped build Phil McGraw’s profile as a frequent guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” before the launch of his own strip. “Oprah” regulars Nate Berkus and Paige Davis are among the personalities considered possible headliners for future “Oprah” spinoffs at King World.

The strategy has also worked for Paramount, which has the top rookie strip of the season in “ET” spinoff “The Insider.” A pilot for a series starring “ET” and “Insider” correspondent Steven Cojocaru is being eyed for a fall 2006 bow.

“I like to take a lot of time looking at what we have already and figuring out how to grow them,” Ms. Wood said.

As for new projects that are not extensions of existing King World or Paramount shows, Ms. Wood declined to specify what would distinguish a King World Show from a Paramount show. She did say, however, that she is “going to be the bridge” between King World and Paramount. “You have to let them breathe, in a way,” “I bridge the gap, saying `Yes, that will work for King World. That will work for Paramount.”‘ While Paramount is known in the first-run arena for its top-rated court shows (“Judge Judy,” “Judge Joe Brown”) and entertainment magazines, King World is defined by its industry-leading game shows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” and the queen of the talk strips, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“They have both been established a long time,” she said of the two companies, touting their sales forces, industry contacts and executive staffs. “They take on their own forms of personality.”

She also said she will not have to spend time introducing herself to her new constituencies, since she is a known commodity within both Paramount and King World.

“I already have those relationships,” Ms. Wood said. “I already split part of my time talking to King World about `Dr. Phil.’ The communication lines have already been established.”

Ms. Wood joined Paramount Domestic Television in November 1998 as VP of programming and was responsible for overseeing “Entertainment Tonight” and “Hard Copy.”

Before joining Paramount, she served in a job that brought her close to King World and its top executives long before “Dr. Phil” was even conceived: Ms. Wood was executive director of development for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Entertainment, the production company behind “Oprah.”

Bill Carroll, Katz Television Group VP and director of group programming, said having Ms. Wood in the new position is “ideal.”

“She has the association of having worked for Harpo, which will be [developing] the next project for King World, and having been involved in `The Insider,’ the extension of `Entertainment Tonight,” he said. “If there is a marriage made in heaven, that’s pretty close.”