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HOLLYWOOD Artists Management Group partners Michael Ovitz, Rick Yom and Julie Silverman Yom are taking on the TV biz.

After months of speculation, the triumvirate has officially unveiled their TV production venture, Artists Television Group, headed by former Columbia TriStar TV prexy Eric Tannenbaum.

Tannenbaum has been made a partner in ATG and will serve as its prexy and CEO. Col TriStar granted Tannenbaum and three other execs an early release from their contracts in exchange for inking a long-term distribution deal with ATG.

A number of Col TriStar TV's overall production deals will follow Tannenbaum to ATG, but details of this transfer are still being hammered out.

ATG aims to cast a wide net, developing programming for all areas of the TV biz, as well as content for the nascent Internet and broadband programming arenas.

"We won't be a traditional TV company," Ovitz tells Variety. "We are going to create content for all forms of media.... The company will be very, very artist-oriented--that's the whole goal."

Ovitz stresses that ATG and AMG will operate as stand-alone entities.

"There'll be a series of announcements of creative people who will be coming over (to ATG in the) next few weeks, and I'd say 90% of them are not (AMG) clients," Ovitz says, allowing, however, that AMG execs will help ATG scout for new talent, particularly in the comedy arena.

Asked how much seed money would be invested in ATG, Ovitz would only say "as much as it takes."

Full service

Indeed, ATG aims to be "a full-service TV studio and as progressive a company as there is in the business," Tannenbaum says.

"We'll be able to use the resources that Michael is building, not just with his management business but with his sports, music and film businesses," Tannenbaum says.

The departure of Tannenbaum and crew to mount a new business at ATG is reminiscent of Col TriStar topper Jon Feltheimer's own move in 1991 from now-defunct New World Television to head what was then TriStar TV. In fact, Tannenbaum was among the handful of New World execs who joined Feltheimer in launching TriStar TV, which yielded such hits as "The Nanny" and "Mad About You."

"It's the nature of the business right now," Feltheimer says of the transition under way at Col TriStar TV. "Everybody's growing through diverse channels, and it's all about getting content into your pipeline. Through this deal, we're building up our ability to have access to great product. So Eric's ambition fit well into my vision of the future."

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Date:Jun 21, 1999
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