Top executives with the always-feisty WB network, who have long traded barbs with their arch-rivals at UPN, are now needling their big brother Warner Bros. Television, a major supplier of network prime-time shows like "ER."
So far, Warner TV hasn't pitched any shows of "ER" quality to the aggressive weblet, irking top WBsters. Indeed, during the network's first two years, Warner Bros. Television did little to help the newborn.
WB officials blame Tony Jonas, president of Warner Bros. Television, for the poor batting average with WB. Such remarks are highly unusual for colleagues working for the same company.
"They haven't delivered us pilots as good as the ones from Spelling and Disney and other companies," said Jamie Kellner, WB's chief executive. "Maybe, there's a hex on us."
Walt Disney Co. supplied WB's hit "Felicity," and Spelling Entertainment produces "Seventh Heaven."
The tiff bemuses Tom Nunan, President of UPN Entertainment. "There has been an ongoing quiet battle since the WB was born," he said. "Fox went through a similar time in its history. Twentieth Television, the established company, looked down its nose at the pipsqueak network."
Is Seagram Co. going to dump the entire film operation at its troubled Universal Studios Inc.?
That's the question being pondered inside the gates of the Universal City-based studio now that USA Networks Inc. chief Barry Diller is looking to take over Universal's boutique, October Films.
Diller could also get PolyGram Filmed Entertainment's domestic assets, now owned by Seagram following the acquisition of Dutch-based music giant Polygram NV. If these deals came to fruition, Seagam's major film asset would become Universal Pictures.
Insiders now fear that Seagram President Edgar Bronfman Jr., who wants to build Universal's music assets into an international giant, will get rid of all his film operations. Bronfman sold off most of Universal's TV assets to Diller last year.
"There is a clear lack of enthusiasm for filmed entertainment," a Universal source said. "It would appear that (Bronfman) wants to sell off pictures and turn Universal into a music and theme-park company."
Not everyone is buying into that possibility. Another Seagram source expected the company to retain Universal Pictures, partially because of what's believed to be a strong feature slate for 1999. Even the success of "Patch Adams," which has earned more than $83 million at the box office so far, is generating some momentum in an otherwise lackluster holiday lineup.
Spokesmen at Universal, USA Networks and Seagram declined comment. A source familiar with Bronfman's thinking said the deal with Diller is indeed in progress. There is also another suitor for PolyGram's film assets.
Victor B. Miller, an analyst for Bear, Sterns & Co. Inc., doubts Diller would want to buy the ailing Universal Pictures. "Why saddle his rocket ship with this?" Miller said. "He wants the least costly, least risky move into the movie business. The model he looks at is (Disney's) Miramax (division), and that is a very successful, long-term model."
ABC has dropped plans to air a new series starring Mary Tyler Moore. The sitcom would have reunited her with Valerie Harper, her sidekick on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The series had been in development for more than a year. Friends of the actress had pressed her not to return, fearing she could not top her classic series. Some even declined to become involved in the production.
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