Hot Seat

When Fireworks Entertainment found itself in financial straits, it put Tribune Entertainment in the hot seat. Fireworks, a division of CanWest Global, produces action hours Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda and Mutant X in concert with Tribune. Tribune handles domestic distribution; Fireworks services international.

Fireworks' cost-cutting dilemma, brought on largely by the deteriorated state of the international TV market, forced it to consider dropping both shows. Enter Tribune Entertainment President Dick Askin, who persuaded Fireworks to keep producing Andromeda. The show is going into its fifth season, performs internationally, and starts a deal with the Sci Fi Channel this fall in which the original episode will premiere on cable, then air a week later in broadcast syndication.

"Because of Roddenberry and star Kevin Sorbo, Andromedaalways has been a bigger project on a global basis," Askin says.

Mutant X isn't as lucky. Fireworks ceased production, though the show is renewed for its fourth season and scores domestically. But internationally, it wasn't profitable. "When we got into both of these projects," Askin says, "the foreign market was much stronger than it is now."

Mutant X will air in best-of repeats on stations next fall, and Askin hopes another foreign production company will step into the breach, allowing Tribune to restart production for season five. "It would be challenging to reassemble the cast and crew," he says, "but we'd be able to relaunch if we could find the right partner."

For now, Tribune has been unable to find the partner it needs to meet an October premiere date.

A third action hour, Tribune's Beastmaster, is exiting broadcast syndication after three seasons, two in original production. It premieres on Sci Fi in September.

"The international market is improving, but it still has a long way to go," Askin says. "The consensus is that it will never get back to where it was five years ago."

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.