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Finding safety in numbers

Dick Robertson President, Warner Bros. Domestic TV

With Time Warner's recent blockbuster merger with America Online, Warner Bros.' syndication division adds yet another page to its storied and complicated company history.

The famed Hollywood studio has been through quite a few mergers and acquisitions over the years, so many in fact, that Warner Bros.' syndication efforts are now split into three separate companies. Housed on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif., are: Warner Bros. Domestic Television, Telepictures Distribution and Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution.

Everything from The Rosie O'Donnell Show
to Access Hollywood
to The People's Court
are sold in first-run syndication by the three divisions. And on the off-network front, Warner Bros. handles the syndication sales on everything from Friends
to ER
to The Wayans Bros. Overall the three divisions supply more than 14,000 hours of syndicated programming to local stations and cable networks each year.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution is the original syndication division at the studio, well, sort of. Warner Bros. Domestic Television traces its roots back to the original Telepictures Corp., which opened its doors in the late 1970s as a distributor of off-network properties and then segued into first-run production with the original launch of The People's Court. In 1985, Telepictures merged with Lorimar, to form Lorimar-Telepictures Corp. The combined entity thrived with syndication rights to some of network TV's top dramas, including Dallas, Knots Landing
and Falcon Crest.

In 1989, Warner Bros. acquired Lorimar-Telepictures, forming Warner Bros. Domestic Television, which today is run by Dick Robertson. Robertson began his syndication career at the original Telepictures Corp. in 1978 and then headed Lorimar's distribution efforts and wound up at Warner Bros. through all of the mergers. Robertson also oversees Telepictures Distribution as well.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television (WBTD) currently handles the domestic syndication for Warner Bros. Television, Telepictures Productions, Time Telepictures Television, Warner Bros. Animation, along with select Quincy Jones, HBO Independent and Tollin/Robbins Productions. Warner Bros. Domestic Television also sells Castle Rock Television's post-1996 products, Lorimar's library, as well as feature films from Warner Bros. Pictures and the Turner Entertainment library.

The WBDTD label currently has seven shows in first-run syndication, including O'Donnell's talk show, Jenny Jones, Extra, Judge Mathis, Access Hollywood
(co-production with NBC), The People's Court
and Moral Court. In terms of off-network offerings at WBDTD, the division sells Friends, The Drew Carey Show
and a number of other recent network series. For fall 2002, WBDTD is handling the off-network sales of NBC-produced sitcom Will & Grace.

As for Telepictures Distribution, Warner Bros. executives opted to bring back the moniker in 1995 in an effort to not "dilute" the Warner Bros. Domestic Television division. Telepictures Distribution was created as a separate, full-service syndication division to primarily handle first-run projects, but some off-network properties as well. Telepictures Distribution currently handles the first-run distribution of Queen Latifah, Change of Heart, WCW Wrestling
and Street Smarts. On the off-network side, Telepictures Distribution sells ER, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Jamie Foxx Show
and a host of other titles.

Were that not sufficiently confusing, there is also a separate Telepictures Productions division at Warner Bros.-which concentrates on first-run production. When Time Warner absorbed Turner Broadcasting System in 1996, Turner's syndication division was placed under the Telepictures banner. And in addition, Telepictures Productions has a joint venture with co-owned Time Inc., called Time Telepictures Television. Time Telepictures TV has produced newsmagazine Extra
since 1994 and it produced the first season of Street Smarts.

And coming this fall from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Telepictures Distribution are a pair of new first-run efforts, The Tom Leykis Show
and Elimidate. Warner Bros. Domestic TV is handling the sales of radio personality Leykis' daily talk show, while Telepictures is behind the reality series Elimidate.

Can you follow that? There will be a test on Warner Bros. syndication at the end of NATPE-better read closely!