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NBC eyes Hearst-Argyle syndie unit

NBC is in final negotiations to acquire Hearst-Argyle Television's syndication division, Hearst-Argyle Television Productions. The division's programming will be put under the new NBC Enterprises and Syndication banner at this week's NATPE conference.

The deal comes two months after NBC Enterprises and Syndication announced a distribution agreement with Hearst-Argyle Television and Gannett Broadcasting that clears 60% of the country for first-run programming out of NBC's new division. Sources say Hearst-Argyle will get a small ownership piece of the new NBC company in exchange for its programming. NBC and Hearst-Argyle executives had no comment.

Hearst-Argyle Television Productions is a small outfit, distributing a number of weekend series in syndication, including Rebecca's Garden. Other Hearst-Argyle shows include Living Better, SOS in America
and Wild Moments. The distributor was also set to unveil a second set of The Remarkable Journey
specials, which are hosted by NAACP President Kweisi Mfume.

Hearst-Argyle Television Productions also has an original first-run program that will likely be unveiled with the formal announcement of the deal. NBC and Hearst-Argyle executives had no comment.

"They have small projects but the ability to do a lot more," said one executive close to the negotiations. "It gives them greater distribution power, and NBC more product and a production partner."

Hearst-Argyle Television Productions is run out of Hearst-owned WCVB-TV Boston, and its programming head is Bruce Marson. The sales division has been run by John Budkins. Sources say both executives will join NBC Enterprises and Syndication and will likely remain on the East Coast.

NBC Enterprises and Syndication also is said to have reached a deal with MGM Worldwide Television for the international sale of NBC-produced programs. MGM and NBC executives weren't talking, but sources say MGM will take over the international distribution of NBC shows such as Providence
and Profiler
overseas. NBC Enterprises formerly handled all international sales on its own.