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Litton, Trifecta Joining Forces

Apr 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Two of television’s top independent syndication companies, Trifecta Entertainment & Media and Litton Entertainment, are merging sales operations to maximize sales for their bulging roster of series.
The new partnership, designed to bolster the strengths of both entities, will pool selected programming from the companies’ libraries for sale to stations and advertisers. Trifecta will handle ad sales for those series while Litton will oversee domestic distribution.
In addition, the two companies are looking to jointly produce and acquire shows to bring into the 2009 marketplace and beyond.
However, both Trifecta and Litton will continue to operate independently under their individual monikers, as well as developing and distributing other shows as they see fit.
“This partnership will allow us to grow to a much larger scale,” said Hank Cohen, Trifecta CEO. “Both companies are doing really well, but with a complicated and tricky marketplace to contend with, we figured that it only made sense for us to combine our strengths in order to grow even faster.”
“We can now approach stations with a grander palate and have that many more tentacles working on our behalf,” added Litton President-CEO Dave Morgan.
The two executives began discussing the deal just before NATPE. They would not disclose financial details of the relationship.
Among shows to be sold and distributed under the agreement will be Trifecta’s “American Idol Rewind,” “Punk’d,” “UFC Wired” and “Hollywood Shootout” and Litton’s “Storm Stories,” “Pimp My Ride,” “NASCAR Angels,” “Animal Exploration With Jarod Miller” and “BusinessWeek.”
The combination of the two big independents signals the latest evolution of the syndication marketplace, which has seen a profusion of smaller players emerge in the last few years.
Major syndicators like CBS and NBC have locked up the market with long-term contracts for shows such as “Oprah” or “Access Hollywood,” but smaller players have exploited niches that the bigger companies have left vacant to build their portfolios.
Trifecta and Litton, as well as Debmar-Mercury and Program Partners, have managed to
overcome the obstacles posed by the studios by successfully selling series such as “Trivial Pursuit: America Plays” for 2008 and a talk show starring Marie Osmond for 2009.
Many independent distributors faced a difficult era following the ’90s. That saw the end of the FCC’s financial interest and syndication rules (aka fin-syn), which sought to prevent vertical integration in the broadcast landscape by preventing the major TV networks from owning programming they aired in prime time.
The demise of the rules bolstered internal development, production and distribution at the studios, at the same time taking TV station schedule time away from independent producers.
Subsequently, many of those studios bought up the stronger unaffiliated distributors, drastically reducing the number of players in the syndication landscape.
Litton and Trifecta both have made noise in the past year, launching series such as “UFC Wired” and acquiring series for syndication such as “American Idol Rewind,” “Pimp My Ride,” “Storm Stories” and “Punk’d.”
The companies will look to expand their first-run lineup as well by co-producing series for both daily and weekly programming schedules.
Litton was one of the few companies to come out of the post-fin-syn era unscathed, having produced and distributed programs for 20 years under Mr. Morgan.
Trifecta, on the other hand, was formed in 2005 by Mr. Cohen, the former MGM Television president, as an independent multimedia company with partners Michael J. Daraio, Scott Spungin and Shelly Brown.
Former Paramount Television Group Chairman Kerry McCluggage and former head of TriStar and CBS Entertainment Jeff Sagansky acquired a stake in Trifecta in December.

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