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Saban Seeks Older TV Audience : Programs: The founder of Saban Entertainment, which produces children's shows, takes the leap to prime time.

January 02, 1990|PATRICE APODACA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Industry veterans say the partnership with Scherick will help give Saban credibility when dealing with the networks. "It's a smart play," said TV producer Leonard ("Rags to Riches") Hill. But he warned that luring Scherick was only "a first tentative step" for Saban, and that the company will need to establish a stable of successful producers in order to become a major competitive force. "The only prime-time, creative, credible entity within Saban is Edgar Scherick," Hill said.

Saban got into show business when he started managing bands in Israel at the age of 22. He was a well-known music promoter by age 25. But when the 1973 Yom Kippur War broke out, Saban lost nearly all his money.

Starting over in France with his partner, composer Shuki Levy, Saban soon became a successful record producer. Saban Record's first release, by a 9-year-old Israeli boy, Noam Kaniel, went platinum with sales of 2 million copies. Within seven years, the company had 15 gold and platinum records. Meanwhile, Saban Records began creating sound tracks for French TV shows and for the European versions of American shows such as "Dallas" and "Hart to Hart."

In 1980, Saban decided to move to the United States, and after spending $150,000 to build a recording studio here, he began targeting the market for TV sound tracks. By 1983 his company had formed an association with Burbank-based DIC Enterprises, a leading producer of animated children's programs. Saban produced original sound tracks to DIC shows such as "Inspector Gadget." In 1985, Saban launched into program production by co-producing with DIC "Kidd Video," a show for children that mixed animation with live action in an MTV-like format.

Phyllis Tucker Vinson, vice president of children's programming for NBC, recalled meeting Saban in the early 1980s and being impressed with his new ideas. "We had been looking for a way to update Saturday morning music," said Vinson. Saban "offered to do some demos for us. He came up quickly with a theme we liked. It was more contemporary and hip, and we thought kids were listening to hip music on radio and then tuning into TV and hearing babyish sounds."

Today, Saban continues to run the business end of things, while his original partner, Levy--who is married to actress Deborah Shelton of "Dallas" fame--continues to write music.

Saban said he hopes to expand the company through acquisitions. He is also "dabbling" with a new record label and has signed his first artist, actor and musician Gary ("The Buddy Holly Story") Busey.

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