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To Mosko, loyaltys the thing

It's always tough to start a new job, especially when you're stepping into a company's top spot. But Columbia TriStar Television Distribution's (CTTD) new president, Steve Mosko, believes he has what it takes to make his colleagues proud.

However, replacing Barry Thurston, who stepped down from the position last spring, Mosko does have his work cut out for him. In managing CTTD, Mosko must nurture Thurston's crowning achievement, the raking in of more than $1.5 billion in two selling cycles of Seinfeld, and maintain such CTTD first-run staples as talker Ricki
and V.I.P.

Then, of course, Mosko (formerly CTTD's head of sales) has to go about making his own mark on the company.

First off, Mosko is grateful for being able to retain several senior-level executives during the shift, "people in key positions whose deals were up, like [Executive Vice President of Research and Strategic Planning] David Mumford and [Executive Vice President of Marketing and Promotion] Bob Oswaks," he notes. "The point is that our management team is in place and we were able to get everyone to communicate and work as a team. It's been great."

The seamless transition will help protect the studio against the effects of industry consolidation, such as News Corp's recent move to buy the Chris-Craft stations, which if finalized would give News Corp. subsidiary Twentieth Television two distribution-ready stations in several large markets. That's one new challenge facing CTTD.

"As an independent and not having the built-in distribution, we have to be better at the servicing of our clients," says Mosko. "We have to be more creative with the ideas that we come up with for our programming. We just have to be better than our competitors at everything we do."

Even with this added competitive crunch, Mosko is in good shape for fall 2001 with the off-net syndicated launch of Just Shoot Me-
a top-10 prime time show and NBC Must-See Thursday player, a description that also applied to CTTD's latest off-net jackpot, Seinfeld.

"I'm not sure that there will ever be another Seinfeld," admits Mosko, "But we think that Just Shoot Me
will do fantastic. It's got all the right elements."

The studio will also unveil The Steve Harvey Show
and will tease sales of King of Queens
(available in 2003). In addition, the studio recently sold repeat runs of V.I.P.
to cable channel TNN for a hefty $500,000 per episode.

On the first-run side, CTTD is expected to bring a pair of new shows to NATPE. Shipmates
is described as Blind Date
goes sailing on the Carnival Cruise Line. Donny Osmond, who formerly co-hosted Donny & Marie
for the studio, is expected to be the front-man for a remake of Pyramid, a $100,000 version of the classic game show.

In terms of the studio's returning syndicated series, rookie Judge Hatchett
is faring well, but the studio's high-profile Cybill Shepherd talker, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,
is still scrambling to find viewers. Mosko says the plan is to stick with Mars, Venus
for 2002, seeing the show as less of a setback and more of an example of CTTD's business philosophy.

"We've gained a great deal of respect among the talent community because we really get behind all of our shows, whether they've been on the air for eight years or are in their first year," says Mosko.

He points out CTTD's extreme dedication to Ricki, nearing its eighth season, as something others have questioned.

"Someone said to me, 'Gosh, I can't believe how much time you're spending keeping Ricki
top of mind,'" recalls Mosko of his company's current campaign to get Ricki
renewed through its ninth and tenth seasons. "I don't think other studios pay attention to these kinds of shows the way we have with Ricki. But I tell you, [Ricki Lake] appreciates it. And I know our stations appreciate it."

Mosko is also pushing to create content for cable, building on CTTD's Ripley's Believe It or Not
for TBS and Strong Medicine
for Lifetime. And in addition to straight programming, CTTD's ad-sales group, under Mosko, works for DirecTV and The Game Show Network.

"As the syndication market gets tighter, we're developing for cable, and we see that as a real growth business," he explains. "So, when I look at how I'll prepare our company for the future, I see myself as a portfolio manager with different stocks and investments. We're trying to build a diversified content organization, so we cover all of our bases."