12 to Watch: Hilary Estey McLoughlin

Jan 29, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Telepictures Productions President Hilary Estey McLoughlin in August was tapped to run the business she joined 20 years before and helped build into a top producer of syndicated programming. Now she’s looking to change the way the syndication business is run.

“At this point our core business continues to be syndication even though it has become challenged for various reasons, so it is up to us to expand from the traditional business model that we’re doing into new media and cross pollinate our brands into other platforms,” said Ms. Estey McLoughlin.

Telepictures’ first series to follow that model will be “TMZ,” the celebrity news show sold to the Fox station group this month. The show evolved out of TMZ.com, an entertainment news-driven site, developed by Ms. Estey McLoughlin’s team and AOL. The site gained cachet after breaking stories including Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest and Michael Richards’ racist tirade at the Laugh Factory, and it now ranks as the top entertainment news destination on the Internet, company executives said. By first establishing a brand as a Web site and cultivating it, launching a newsmagazine show in syndication became easier.

“What’s great about the Web is that it can be experimental, unlike syndication,” she said. “In `TMZ,’ we have a terrific example of how broadcasters, program suppliers and new media can combine their respective areas of expertise to break new ground in programming.”

Another series to follow the “TMZ” model could be “Hardly News,” which will launch Feb. 5, the day after the Super Bowl, on Anheuser-Busch’s entertainment Web site Bud.tv. The series will put a comedic twist on the current events and pop culture game show genre. If all goes well and the production is able to build a loyal following online, the Web series could come out as a television series for syndication.

“`Hardly News’ is one of those irreverent game shows that we have high expectations for,” said Ms. Estey McLoughlin. “By launching it on Bud.tv’s Web site, it’s just another way we can find ways to incubate ideas and concepts and formats and then take them out as television shows.”

Ms. Estey McLoughlin’s career with Telepictures began in 1986 when she joined the Lorimar-Telepictures research department. Since that time, she’s held titles including senior research analyst and director of research. She was named director, development at Telepictures Productions in 1989 and was promoted to vice president, development in 1992. She later took a turn as executive producer for “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” before shifting back to the executive ranks as vice president, programming, Telepictures Productions. In July 2002, she was named executive vice president and general manager of the company and oversaw day-to-day operations.

“What I love about our company is that we are basically autonomous, almost boutique, and very entrepreneurial, despite being part of a bigger corporation,” she said of Telepictures, the production division for program distributor Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “That was something [former Telepictures President Jim] Paratore set up from the beginning.”

Ms. Estey McLoughlin is quick to point out the benefits of beginning her career in the research department.

“Having a research background was the best thing I’ve ever done going into this business,” she said. “It quickly taught me about audiences and that you always have to pay attention to the viewers and what they are saying. I’ve continued to rely on understanding the audience and I take their point of view as a strong factor in the development and execution process.”

Series developed under her watch include “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Tyra Banks Show.” Executives at Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution credit Ms. Estey McLoughlin for much of the success of both series.

“I have always been impressed by the quality of detail she brings to all her product,” said Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “She has a great ability to find a voice and perspective for talent and polish it up. By optimizing that person’s abilities, she’s shown a pretty good track record in this business, and I expect that to continue for a long time to come.”