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Mosko gets green light

If Steve Mosko, the soon-to-be president of Columbia TriStar Television Distribution, is concerned about taking over a syndication operation without a co-owned station group or network to its name, you wouldn't know it from talking to him. In fact, he says it's a position of strength, not weakness.

"Barry [Thurston] has left this division in fantastic shape," says Mosko. "And we are going to take advantage of our great situation, which is that we are not aligned with a network and we are in business with everybody. We are going to expand on that in terms of development of new programs in both syndication and cable. We are in an enviable position."

No one blinked when Mosko, the studio's executive vice president of sales, was named to succeed Thurston atop CTTD, a move that had all the suspense of a coronation. "Everyone would have been shocked if he didn't get the job," says Dick Kurlander, vice president at rep firm Petry Television. "He has an excellent rapport with station reps and stations groups. [His appointment] is richly deserved."

Now the pressure is on Mosko to keep up the pace set by Thurston and to do it in a landscape increasingly populated by vertically integrated competitors.

"Yes, it's so much easier for a King World show or a Tribune show to get on the air because of their built-in launch pads," says Ruth Lee Leaycraft, vice president of rep firm Katz Television. "But it really is about the quality of the projects, and Columbia TriStar is known for putting out great projects. [Columbia's] Donny & Marie is going into its third season, and it may not be Oprah-esque in the ratings, but stations aren't embarrassed to carry it, which is important for any sales guy going into a market to sell to a station."

That said, Mosko is looking to ramp up first-run production. In the fall, the studio is slated to launch three first-run series: a talk show based on the best-selling book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, court-show entry Judge Hatchett and action hour Sheena. Those efforts , however, face big-name competition from the likes of Paramount's Dr. Laura and Dick Wolf-produced Arrest and Trial.

Still, even Hollywood rivals seem to like his odds.

"Steve is a great competitor and has done a remarkable job overseeing sales at Columbia TriStar. I'm sure he'll do a tremendous job and is a worthy successor to the admirable legacy of Barry Thurston," says Tribune Entertainment President Dick Askin.

Mosko moves into familiar territory in his new role. During his tenure at CTTD, he helped steer several of the company's sales efforts, including for off-net Seinfeld (expected to generate some $2 billion in revenue for the company) and first-run series Ricki Lake, Donny & Marie and V.I.P.

Mosko got his start at CTTD eight years ago as vice president of its western sales region, rising to senior vice president of syndication in 1994. Prior to teaming with CTTD, Mosko was vice president and station manager at WPHL-TV and general manager of WTAF-TV, both Philadelphia.