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ABC to Name Prime-Time Chief

Television: Entertainment President Jamie Tarses will now report to Stuart Bloomberg. She is expected to stay.

June 24, 1997|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Seeking a way out of its ratings slump, ABC is appointing network veteran Stuart Bloomberg to the top position overseeing the network's beleaguered prime-time programming arm, sources said Monday.

The move is a tacit recognition that ABC Entertainment President Jamie Tarses, 33, who came to the network one year ago today, wasn't entirely prepared for the top job and that the division needed more management depth to dig its way out of trouble.

Tarses, 33, will report to Bloomberg, though some sources said she is cool to the prospect. Tarses, a former NBC executive, notified her staff of the change late Monday and is expected to remain at the network.

An ABC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Bloomberg's reassignment follows months of speculation about another round of changes at ABC, a division of Walt Disney Co. Ted Harbert, the former chairman of ABC Entertainment, left in February, and ABC Inc. President Robert Iger recently told the network's affiliates that he would take a more hands-on role running the entertainment division.

Sources say the network's goal is to "create a partnership" by pairing Bloomberg, who will be named chairman, with Tarses, who may have been overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the job. Yet by putting together two programmers who didn't choose each other--as was the case when Tarses was brought in under Harbert--ABC has again engineered a sort of shotgun wedding that risks putting the executives at odds.

Bloomberg, 47, has spent most of his professional career at ABC and previously worked under Iger as an executive vice president at ABC Entertainment. In that capacity, he preferred keeping a low profile while overseeing the development of such popular series as "Home Improvement," "NYPD Blue" and "The Drew Carey Show."

Citing a desire to relocate his family to the East Coast, Bloomberg moved to New York in 1995. He gradually ceded day-to-day involvement with the network, becoming president of television creative services at its corporate parent--an ill-defined position with little direct authority over programming decisions.

In recent weeks, however, it has become clear Bloomberg wanted "back in the game," as one TV executive put it, either at ABC or elsewhere. Bloomberg recently bought a house in Southern California and has been mentioned for senior production jobs at various companies, including News Corp.'s Fox, the UPN network and heavyweight independent production company Carsey-Werner.

Meanwhile, sources say higher-ups have had Tarses on a tight leash. Recently, for example, the executive ordered backup series from 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. for next season, only to be overruled later by Iger and Disney Chairman Michael Eisner.

Like Tarses, Bloomberg is one of the industry's most highly regarded developers of new shows. However, sources said that a few years ago, he was less than enthused about certain aspects of the top entertainment job, which, in addition to creating shows, includes dealing with affiliates, advertisers and the media.

Bloomberg also riled some producers with his management style, keeping what was known as a "life's too short" list of creative people deemed too difficult to work with again.

Still, the executive's track record in shepherding along hit programs is difficult to match, and sources say Eisner has been pressuring ABC for progress after the network's ratings dropped dramatically last season.

The revised prime-time schedule that will premiere in September received a lukewarm reception from advertisers.

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