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Sony re-creates itself

In a move Sony officials describe as "geared to meet the targeted programming needs of the upcoming broadband decade," the media giant officially began dismantling its network-TV division in Hollywood last week and promoted syndication veteran Steve Mosko to oversee the push into the future.

Sony is putting all its TV eggs into newly minted Columbia TriStar Domestic TV's basket, combining network wing Columbia TriStar Television and Columbia TriStar Television Distribution, the division Mosko has been running since July 2000. Mosko, whose new title is president of Columbia TriStar Domestic TV, will oversee Sony's domestic prime time, cable, syndication, soap-opera and game-show production.

The studio announced that it is laying off roughly 20% of its work force, many of them from the network production side, including Len Grossi, Columbia TriStar TV president, and Tom Mazza, who headed network production under Grossi. The syndication side is also expected to lose as many as 75 staffers.

"This is part of a wave of change that is going across our television industry in part and one that sort of mirrors what is happening in the overall economy," says Mel Harris, president and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. "Television production remains a key part of our business, but the traditional network business model doesn't make economic sense anymore for independent suppliers."

Columbia TriStar was one of the last Hollywood TV studios not aligned with a broadcast network or top cable network. Sony's moves are part of a series of cost-cutting efforts by top Hollywood studios in recent weeks; according to word from the Warner Bros. lot last week, that studio is looking to cut costs and eliminate some of its development deals.

Mosko's new division will take over responsibility for the studio's six current network series and nearly 50 pilot script or talent commitments to the major networks, many of them at CBS, for the upcoming development season. Harris says the division is "taking steps to serve the interest of all parties involved."

But the emphasis at Sony on the TV side will now be less about network TV and more about first-run programs for cable, syndication and other platforms. Over the past several years, Columbia TriStar Television Distribution has pushed into producing series for cable, including Ripley'sBelieve It or Not
for TBS (it also airs on The WB) and Strong Medicine
for Lifetime.

"We're looking for a smarter way to do business, to produce programming," says Mosko, whose new domain also includes oversight of Sony's interests in soaps Days of Our Lives
and The Young & the Restless, as well as game shows Wheel of Fortune
and Jeopardy.