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Programming Chief at Showtime to Leave Post

March 18, 2003|Sallie Hofmeister | Times Staff Writer

Jerry Offsay will step down as president of programming for Viacom Inc.'s Showtime Networks at the end of the year, ending months of Hollywood speculation about his future role at the premium cable channel.

Offsay is credited with expanding Showtime's slate of original movies and series threefold over his decade at the network, and for pursuing high-caliber projects with award-winning potential. Of the nearly 300 films Offsay greenlighted, 69 were nominated for Emmy awards.

Producers said he sought out subjects others shunned, such as the ethnic drama "Soul Food" and the first series to explore the gay experience, "Queer as Folk."

Friends said Monday that Offsay has been frustrated by the changing economics of TV movie-making that have led to a shift in emphasis at Showtime toward series and away from film. Late last year, Showtime cut its movie output by two-thirds, to 14 movies a year.

"I'm leaving at a high point, at a time when the pipeline is really full," said Offsay, who plans to explore movie projects and a possible teaching career, and will devote more time to his synagogue and his favorite charity. "It's a lot less fun now that I get to say 'yes' a fourth of the time and 'no' four times as much."

Offsay said he has been planning since he was 25 to retire when he turns 50 and told Showtime chief Matt Blank of his plans last summer. Offsay's 50th birthday is in December.

Offsay said he has 20 candidates to succeed him and will work with Blank to choose his replacement, who probably will come out of series development rather than movie production like himself.

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