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Viacom revives Paramount Television studio, eyeing multiple platforms

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Media giant Viacom Inc. is reviving the Paramount Television studio, a storied production company that once made such television jewels as "Star Trek," "Cheers," "Frasier" and "Family Ties."

Paramount's return to television production after seven years signals the increasing importance of producing content for broadcast and cable channels and newer digital platforms as technology blurs the definition of television.

With streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon producing big-budget series alongside broadcast giants ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, Paramount questioned the wisdom of remaining on the sidelines of an increasingly vibrant business.

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"The definition of television has changed," said Amy Powell, who was promoted Monday to president of Paramount Television, from head of digital entertainment.

"We want to build something that is going to create television for all of these different screens: premium pay channels, traditional broadcast, cable channels and all of these other new platforms," she said.

Viacom surrendered its Paramount TV production capabilities as part of a corporate split that created separate publicly traded companies, Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp.

Viacom held on to the Paramount Pictures movie studio and its stable of lucrative cable channels, including Nickelodeon and MTV, and CBS claimed the valuable Paramount Television library and production arm, which makes not only prime-time fare but also syndicated shows such as "Entertainment Tonight."

CBS rebranded the studio CBS Television Studios.

Paramount will have to build its TV production studio from scratch, an endeavor the company estimated could take as long as five years. Powell said Paramount would be selective in its projects.

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The company probably will scour its movie vault for potential TV content.

Earlier this year, Paramount formed a high-profile partnership with Sony Pictures Television to develop a TV show based on the blockbuster Paramount movie "Beverly Hills Cop," which starred Eddie Murphy. CBS did not pick up the series, but the episode illustrated how some of Paramount's assets could be adapted for TV.

Unlike the recent venture with Sony, Paramount plans to control the financing and production of its projects, Powell said. Although Paramount lacks a TV distribution network, it intends to develop projects for some of Viacom's cable channels, including MTV, Powell said.

Powell, who began her career at CNN and joined Paramount in 2004, has for two years led the studio's digital arm that develops original content for the Web and other media platforms. That unit has released Ben Stiller's "Burning Love," which premiered on Yahoo and will make the leap to NBCUniversal's cable channel E!.

Powell also will continue to serve as head of Paramount's small-budget film division, Insurge Pictures.

meg.james@latimes.com

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