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Tinker Plans Independent TV Job : NBC Chairman Expects to Leave Network by Year-End

June 19, 1986|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

Tanned, tie-less and tearless, outgoing NBC Chairman Grant Tinker said Wednesday that he will leave the network that he helped revive "before the end of the year," probably to return to independent TV production on a small scale.

Tinker, under whom NBC posted a record pretax profit of $333 million last year, compared to a low of $48.1 million in 1981 when he took over, set no specific date for his departure, which he has been planning since December.

But he reiterated at a press conference here that the pending $6.4-billion takeover of RCA--NBC's parent company--by General Electric played no part in his decision to leave.

He said he feels that he is leaving NBC in good shape and that "it's just the nature of me to go on to something else."

Tinker, 60, who admittedly prefers the relaxed pace of Los Angeles to the rush of New York, where NBC is headquartered, noted that fact in what was his farewell address as NBC's chief officer to television writers gathered at the Century Plaza Hotel.

Rose to No. 1

"I live here and the job is in New York, and that's the heart of it," he said, dryly noting: "I think it's also, in the show-biz sense, a great time to get off.

"Who knows?" he playfully added. "It all may come crashing down. I don't want to be part of that."

Under his leadership, NBC-TV last season rose to No. 1 in prime-time ratings for the first time in 31 years, aided by such acclaimed hit series as "The Bill Cosby Show," "Family Ties," "Miami Vice" and "The Golden Girls."

The silver-haired executive said that before he leaves NBC, he "certainly will have a lot to say" about his successor as the company's chairman and chief executive. But he gave no list of candidates that he likes.

He said that he already has discussed the matter with GE Chairman and Chief Executive John F. Welch Jr. but noted that, "of course, it'll be his decision." According to NBC sources, possible successors to Tinker include NBC News President Lawrence K. Grossman or one of three executives who run different sections of NBC's broadcast group--Raymond J. Timothy, Robert S. Walsh or Robert Butler.

Unlike some network chiefs who leave their companies but are retained as consultants or sign exclusive contracts to produce shows for their former employers, Tinker said he won't be a consultant and won't have a producing contract with NBC.

Before taking charge as NBC's chief executive in July, 1981, Tinker for 11 years ran MTM Enterprises, which made such successful series as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Lou Grant" and which now makes NBC's "Hill Street Blues" and "St. Elsewhere."

But he scotched any notion that he might try to return to MTM, from which he severed all ties when he took the NBC helm. He also said he wouldn't decide or specifically announce his plans "until I'm out of the (NBC) building."

"I would think the drill would be to hang out a sign somewhere and try to recruit some creative people," he said of his probable return to producing programs for television. He grinned when asked if he would offer his first show to NBC.

"No, I'll do it for whoever asks," he said, jokingly adding: "I'm easy."

But Tinker, who last May called for cooperation by program makers and networks alike in settling a long-simmering dispute over program license fees, again urged resolution of the problem--but this time he urged producers to help in controlling production costs.

Producers contend that the license fees that networks pay for programs aren't enough to cover deficits incurred before the series are put into syndication after their network runs end. The networks contend that they can't keep increasing the fees.

Although soon to return to production, Tinker said that "I do think things are out of control, that the producers will have to do their share. It's not just a matter of how much networks are willing to pay. . . . I think we've hit the wall.

"There isn't any more give. So we better figure out how to make programs for less. . . . We've got to do something about those upwardly spiraling (program) costs."

Not Fully Satisfied

Asked to assess his tenure as head of NBC, he said that most of its program areas have greatly improved, except for daytime television, which, while on the upswing in ratings, still hasn't achieved all that he had hoped for.

He also said he was "disappointed in how slowly" NBC rebounded in prime-time ratings. He thought it should have achieved No. 1 status a year earlier than it it did, he said, attributing the delay to the 1983-84 season, when nine new series bombed.

He was asked what he'd like to be remembered for at NBC. "I would be very happy," he said, "just to be thought of as the guy who helped knit the team that put NBC back together. . . . I'd settle for that."

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