Two major television program suppliers, MCA Inc. and King World Productions, announced Wednesday that they have formed a 50-50 partnership to produce television series. Executives at both companies said they believed the deal signals the first time that a joint venture in television production has been formed by two major distributors.
Each company has committed an initial $10 million to the venture, which still lacks a name, staff or headquarters. Office space in Los Angeles will be provided either by MCA or King World, and only a handful of executives are likely to be hired, King World President Michael King said.
At a press conference, King and MCA President Sidney J. Sheinberg said that no new distribution company will be formed to handle the product. Instead, distribution will be handled by the partner deemed most appropriate for the occasion, the executives said. Regardless of which company handles distribution, any profits will be divided evenly, the two men said.
"We're not looking to cream profits through distribution," Sheinberg said. "We've consolidated our greed."
As the executives noted, King World's strength lies in selling syndicated shows to stations affiliated with networks. The affiliates have eagerly bought such non-prime time shows as "Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy!" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show"--the three highest-rated series in national syndication, all distributed by King World.
MCA, on the other hand, has excelled in making hourlong dramas such as "Murder, She Wrote" and "Simon and Simon" for major networks, then selling the shows' re-runs to independent stations.
"We do a lot of things that they don't do; they do a lot of things that we don't do," MCA Television Group Chairman Al Rush said.
The joint venture grew out of discussions last fall between Rush and King World executives concerning a specific project, Sheinberg said, but he refused to describe it or any others in development. King, however, said he believes that the market is saturated with game and talk shows and indicated that the venture will explore other subjects and time periods other than the 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. slot already dominated by King World shows.
For the past year, King World has had a business relationship with Walt Disney Co., an arch-rival of MCA's in several entertainment fields. Under the arrangement, King World has been selling Disney's advertising spots for syndicated programming in the United States.
But recently the two parties have had disagreements about whether Disney has the option to require King World to proceed with a joint venture that would make the arrangement exclusive, said Disney General Counsel Joe Shapiro.
Late last week, MCA announced a 10-year pact with the parent company of Network Ten Australia, granting that company exclusive access for "free" television to MCA's television programs and feature films in that country. As part of the agreement, MCA said it would receive options to acquire a 10% stake in the parent company, Northern Star Holdings Ltd., over the next five years.
MCA produces or distributes 12 TV series currently airing on major U.S. networks. Among the first-run syndication shows distributed by MCA are "Charles in Charge" and "Puttin' on the Hits."