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Sony's ax to fall on Columbia TriStar

Sony-owned Columbia TriStar Television is planning to lay off the majority of its staff and get out of prime time network TV production, sources close to the company confirm.

Columbia TriStar, one of the few remaining Hollywood TV studios without a broadcast network or basic entertainment cable channel affiliation, will likely lay off close to 70 employees over the next several weeks.

Columbia TriStar TV's prime time productions include CBS' The King of Queens and Family Law, Fox's Pasadena and The Tick and The WB's Dawson's Creek.

The studio's sitcom What About Joan? was cancelled by ABC.

Sources say some staffers will remain to oversee the production of current network shows, which is expected to continue as long as the shows continue to be picked up by their respective networks.

"There is a bigger, more strategic play on this which will come out over the next several weeks," one top Sony executive said.

"This has nothing to do with any outside forces or network deals, it's just kind of how everything is going to be restructured over here. There will be a very different dynamic."

The syndication division will clearly be affected by the closing of the off-net pipeline for future series, though sources say executives at the distribution division may be the last ones left standing when things settle out.

It is unclear whether studio head Len Grossi and network production president Tom Mazza will stay with Sony.

Sony had no comment.