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KCET-TV in $50-million deal for new local shows

August 16, 2011 | 10:42 am

KCET will team with a former Walt Disney Co. executive to produce and acquire original series about Southern California.

Since KCET-TV Channel 28 left the PBS network in January, one big question was how the newly independent public station could find unique programs to replace network shows like “Charlie Rose” and “Sesame Street.” Now it’s hoping to take a big step toward that goal with an entrepreneurial partnership that could be worth as much as $50 million.

The station announced today that it will team with Dominique Bigle, a former Walt Disney Co. executive and the founder of an Encino-based visual-effects and production company called Eyetronics Media & Studios, to produce and acquire original series about Southern California. KCET says it hopes to start producing the first five shows by the end of the year and will add staff to do so.

Bigle is the son of Armand Bigle, who helped oversee Disney’s expansion into Europe. In an interview, KCET chief Al Jerome said he met Bigle through Steve Unger, an executive recruiter, and the pair had been talking for months about a deal.

The KCET programs will celebrate “the vibrancy of Southern California’s people, places, and culture, as well as its history,” the station said in a release. While not offering titles or specifics, executives said the shows will cover such topics as food, technology and entertainment. Details will be forthcoming in several weeks, they added.

KCET left PBS in January after months of disputes over dues and other issues. Many of the programs the station has aired this year are either reruns, such as the old British crime series “Prime Suspect,” or general-interest news shows from overseas providers, such as Al-Jazeera or Japan’s NHK. 

The deal is KCET’s largest cash infusion for new programming since a $50-million partnership with oil giant BP and other donors led to a “A Place of Our Own,” a nationally distributed series for preschool caregivers.


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Photo: Al Jerome, pictured in his office in 2010, has made a $50-million deal for new programs on KCET-TV. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times