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Columbia, P & G in TV Venture

March 12, 1997|SALLIE HOFMEISTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Columbia TriStar Television Group has formed a 50-50 partnership with a leading advertiser, Procter & Gamble, to develop programs for prime-time, daytime and syndicated television.

The partnership will give P&G a guaranteed outlet for promoting its brands, while helping Columbia defray rising costs of television production and giving it more leverage at the negotiating table with the networks.

Changes in federal rules allowing the networks to own the shows they air have decreased the number of slots available to outside suppliers, such as Columbia, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which produces "The Nanny" and "Mad About You." The advertising clout of P&G, which has a long history of programming ownership, could make it easier for Sony to get its shows on network schedules.

"I'd like to think our ability as a content provider and their leverage as an advertiser will make our combined effort more credible," said Jon Feltheimer, president of Columbia TriStar. "As networks become more vertically integrated, we have to become strategically smarter."

The pact also gives Columbia the international distribution rights to the three soap operas P&G produces and to future soaps created by the partners. That could clear the way for Sony to start up a soap channel abroad.

Columbia TriStar has been interested for some time in starting a cable soap channel but has been deterred domestically by the capacity crunch on cable systems and a limited library. The partners are both leading producers of soap operas, with Columbia producing "The Young and the Restless" and "Days of Our Lives" and P&G producing "Guiding Light," "As the World Turns" and "Another World."

P&G is no newcomer to program ownership. It sponsored radio soaps of the 1930s and more recently formed teamed with Paramount Television Group to produce shows.

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