Ex-'Today' Producer Quits Tinker's Firm

Steve Friedman, the brash "Today" show producer whom Grant Tinker lured from NBC in 1987 to create the TV version of the USA Today newspaper, said Wednesday he's quitting Tinker's company on May 29.

While the announcement was a surprise--Friedman's contract runs through September, 1990--both he and Tinker, the former chairman of NBC, emphasized in interviews that the parting is amicable. They said it was prompted by the desire of Friedman, 42, to produce shows, but not to have to sell them to sponsors and networks.

Friedman has been president of GTG East, the New York branch of the Culver City-based GTG Entertainment production company that Tinker founded with media giant Gannett Co. after leaving NBC. Tinker said no decision has been made on Friedman's successor.

Responsible at GTG for creating what are known in the TV industry as "reality-based" programs, Friedman was the first executive producer of what now is "USA Today on TV." The show was critically drubbed when it premiered last September after $40 million in start-up costs.

The syndicated series has been revamped several times and is on its third executive producer. It has been renewed for a second season.

There has been speculation that Friedman might return to NBC, where for seven years he was executive producer of the "Today" show and engineered its rise from second to first in the network morning-show ratings. But he said he has had no talks with officials of NBC or any other network and has no immediate plans.

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