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Tribune Entertainment Drops Syndication Business

Tribune Entertainment is completely exiting the business of distributing syndicated shows to TV stations, but it will continue its ad-sales business, Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said.

“Tribune Entertainment has not been shut down,” he added.

To that end, the company laid off three salespeople in Chicago, Weitman said but L. Clark Morehouse III and some 25 staffers will continue to focus on national ad sales in syndicated product.

Currently, Tribune Entertainment distributes and sells national ads in FremantleMedia’s American Idol Rewind; Comedy Central’s SouthPark, which is mostly distributed by Debmar-Mercury; Soul Train; and DreamWorks’ movie library, including such films as Saving Private Ryan, Shrek and American Beauty.

Tribune also distributes Telco Productions’ first-run weekly shows Missing, Animal Rescue and Dog Tales and the weekly three-hour kids’ TV block offered by DIC Kids Network.

Tribune will have to wind down these distribution deals, and producers will have to find other distributors for these shows before the company will officially be out of the distribution business.

Before consolidation, Tribune was a prolific producer of first-run shows including Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules in the 1990s. Later, Tribune distributed and sold ads in science-fiction dramas Andromeda, Mutant X and Beastmaster in the United States in partnership with Canadian production company Fireworks Entertainment. Andromeda and Mutant X both proved initially popular, but both series went out of production in 2004 when Fireworks folded.

More recently, Tribune partnered with Universal and then Sony to produce and distribute first-run shows Home Delivery and The Greg Behrendt Show. Both shows failed quickly.

Tribune Entertainment also turned profits by renting out studio space in its recently refurbished Hollywood lot, which includes 70,000 square feet of sound stages.

The owner of Sunset Gower Studios, just a few blocks away, has a deal pending to purchase the studio, the Los Angeles Times reported in November. Experts valued the space at $175 million, according to the story. CBS’ Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown and Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana all shoot at the lot.

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.