Columbia Pictures Television

Columbia Pictures Television, Inc. (abbreviated as CPT) was launched on May 6, 1974 by Columbia Pictures as an American television production and distribution studio. It is the second name of the Columbia Pictures television division Screen Gems (SG) and the third name of Pioneer Telefilms. For 26 years, the company was active from 1974 until New Year’s Day 2001, when it was folded into Columbia TriStar Television (which is currently known as Sony Pictures Television), a merger between Columbia Pictures Television and TriStar Television. A separate entity of CPT continues to exist on paper as an intellectual property holder, and under the moniker CPT Holdings (the initials standing for Columbia Pictures Television) to hold the copyright for the TV show The Young and the Restless, as well as old incarnations from the company's television library such as What's Happening!!.

Columbia Pictures Television, Inc.
IndustryTelevision production
Television syndication
FateFolded into Columbia TriStar Television
PredecessorPioneer Telefilms (1947–1948)
Screen Gems (1948–1974)
SuccessorColumbia TriStar Television
Sony Pictures Television
FoundedMay 6, 1974 (1974-05-06)
DefunctJanuary 1, 2001 (2001-01-01)
Area served
OwnerSony Corporation
ParentSony Pictures Entertainment


Early years (1974–1982)

The studio changed its name on May 6, 1974 and was suggested by David Gerber.[1] As the successor in interest to Screen Gems, it assumed productions of the daytime soap operas Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless. Its first produced series is the sitcom That's My Mama. It was originally slated to be a Screen Gems production.[1] On June 13, 1977, CPT acquired worldwide distribution rights to Barney Miller and Fish from Danny Arnold, Quinn Martin's Barnaby Jones and Soap from Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions.[2] On June 27, CPT bought domestic distribution rights to four series made by Spelling-Goldberg Productions including S.W.A.T., Starsky & Hutch, Charlie's Angels and Family from Metromedia Producers Corporation.[3] From 1978 to 1986, CPT co-produced series with Spelling-Goldberg including Fantasy Island, Hart to Hart, and T. J. Hooker. On February 19, 1979, CPT acquired TOY Productions, whose output included What's Happening!! and Carter Country.[4] On August 13, 1981, CPT acquired the television assets of Time-Life Films.[5] On May 17, 1982, Columbia Pictures acquired Spelling-Goldberg Productions for more than $40 million.[6][7]

The Coca-Cola Years (1982-1989)

The 1980s brought significant changes to CPT. On June 22, 1982, The Coca-Cola Company bought Columbia Pictures for $750 million.[8] In 1983, Coca-Cola formed CPT Holdings and demerged CPT from Columbia Pictures Industries in 1984 and transferred CPT to CPT Holdings. On January 30, 1984, CPT joined forces with Lexington Broadcast Services Company by creating a joint venture between the two companies called Colex Enterprises to distribute library shows such as Father Knows Best and The Monkees,[9] while throughout the 1980s and 1990s, other shows such as Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Partridge Family were licensed to The Program Exchange. The same year, CPT acquired distribution rights to Benson.

On June 18, 1985, Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio sold their company, Embassy Communications, Inc. (Embassy Pictures, Embassy Television, Tandem Productions, and Embassy Home Entertainment) to Coca-Cola. The company gained the rights to such shows as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude, Diff'rent Strokes, Archie Bunker's Place, The Facts of Life, One Day at a Time, Who's the Boss? and Silver Spoons, among others. AITF at the time however, was still distributed by Viacom Enterprises but under license by Embassy. Coke also made plans to spin-off Embassy Pictures and Embassy Home Entertainment.[10] Under Coca-Cola's ownership, Embassy saw success with 227 and Married... with Children. The same year, Columbia and LBS Communications launched What's Happening Now!! in first-run syndication. The show was a sequel to the 1970s ABC sitcom What's Happening!!.

Major changes took place in 1986. On May 5, Coke acquired Merv Griffin Enterprises, producer of the popular series, Dance Fever, The Merv Griffin Show, and the two game shows, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune; (the nighttime versions were distributed by King World, which is now handled by successor CBS Television Distribution.[11] However, Sony Pictures Television handles off-net syndication reruns by broadcasting them on GSN, while sister company Sony Pictures Home Entertainment owns DVD rights, though, as game shows, are unlikely to get a proper release). Also in 1986, the former Lear units (Embassy Television, Embassy Telecommunications, and Tandem Productions) were merged to become Embassy Communications; the Tandem unit ceased production to be used after the cancellation of Diff'rent Strokes but remained in-name-only, while the Columbia and Embassy units continued to exist separately. Also on the same year on August 28, CPT acquired Danny Arnold's Four D Productions, Inc. for $50 million.[12][13][14] On November 24, 1986, Coca-Cola regrouped CPT, Embassy Communications, and Merv Griffin Enterprises into Coca-Cola Television,[15] and Coke formed a new first-run syndication unit; Coca-Cola Telecommunications due to Coca-Cola merging the distribution unit of Columbia Pictures Television and The Television Program Source (a syndicator that was a joint venture between Alan Bennett, former King World president Robert King, and CPT that was created on October 15, 1984, which Coca-Cola had a small investment in originally, and notably distributed the 1985–1986 nighttime syndicated version of The Price Is Right and was slated to distribute a new version of The Match Game for syndication in 1987).[16] Coca-Cola Telecommunications also took some programs that were or slated to be distributed under the Columbia Pictures Television banner including What's Happening Now!!, The Real Ghostbusters, Dinosaucers and Punky Brewster as well as taking the US distribution rights of Hardcastle and McCormick from Colex. Punky Brewster, a former NBC in-house production, Columbia acquired the rights to Punky from NBC because fin-syn regulations prevented the network from producing more episodes for syndication after they cancelled it. During the fall of 1986, the sitcom Designing Women began a successful seven-year run on CBS. The same year, Tri-Star Pictures formed Tri-Star Television and produced the short-lived series Downtown. Tri-Star produced more series in 1987, Take Five, Nothing in Common, My Two Dads, Werewolf and Buck James.

Columbia Pictures Entertainment (1987-1989)

On December 21, 1987, Coca-Cola spun off their entertainment holdings and sold it to Tri-Star Pictures, Inc. for $3.1 billion.[17] Tri-Star was renamed as Columbia Pictures Entertainment (which they partially owned)[18] after the film Ishtar turned out to be a notorious failure both critically and financially. CPT Holdings then became a stand-alone division from CPT. In January 1988, Columbia/Embassy Television and Tri-Star Television were formed to create the new Columbia Pictures Television and Embassy Communications was renamed to ELP Communications. Meanwhile, Colex Enterprises, Coca-Cola Telecommunications, and Embassy Communications (the distributor arm) were merged into the new Columbia Pictures Television Distribution. All shows in the era ended with the Columbia logo between 1988 and 1991. On February 2, 1988, Barry Thurston; vice-president of Columbia/Embassy Television, became president of Columbia Pictures Television Distribution.[19]

On February 2, 1989, Columbia Pictures Television formed a joint-venture with Norman Lear's Act III Communications called Act III Television to produce television series instead of managing.[20][21]

The Sony years to the end (1989-2001)

On November 8, 1989, Sony Corporation bought Columbia Pictures Entertainment for $3.4 billion and the next day, Sony acquired the Guber-Peters Entertainment Company (formerly game show production company Barris Industries with the library of game shows including The Newlywed Game, The Dating Game and The Gong Show) for $200 million after hiring film producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters to run the company. On November 5, 1990, CPE folded its first-run syndication unit Guber-Peters Television into Columbia Pictures Television Distribution.[22] On August 7, 1991, CPE changed its name to Sony Pictures Entertainment[23] and TriStar Television was relaunched on October 10. Throughout the 1990s the studio launched such successful shows as Beakman's World on TLC and CBS in 1992, Mad About You on NBC in 1992, Ricki Lake's talk show in syndication which lasted 11 years, The Nanny on CBS in 1993, Party of Five on FOX, NewsRadio on NBC, Malcolm & Eddie on UPN in 1996, and the short-lived cult animated series The Critic on ABC and FOX in 1994. One of the most successful by far was Seinfeld, a Castle Rock Entertainment production which Columbia distributed in off-net syndication years later. On August 21, 1992, Columbia's subsidiary CAT Holdings, Inc. (Columbia Act III Television) and Franklin/Waterman Entertainment created a joint venture called Franklin/Waterman 2.[24] On December 7, 1992, Sony Pictures acquired the Barry & Enright Productions game show library. On May 10, 1993, CPT and MCA TV formed their barter divisions. CPT's barter division was called Columbia Pictures Television Advertising Sales (a.k.a. "Columbia Television Advertising Sales"). The sales division handled series by TriStar Television and Merv Griffin Enterprises; as well as off-net series by Castle Rock Entertainment, HBO Independent Productions, and Brillstein-Grey Entertainment. CPT used other companies such as Group W Productions for Beakman's World, MTV's One World Entertainment for Married... with Children, and Tribune Entertainment for Designing Women.[25]

Merger with TriStar Television, restructuring, and expansion (1994-2001)

On February 21, 1994 as a merger between Columbia Pictures Television and TriStar Television under the leadership of Jon Feltheimer, the two combined studios became Columbia TriStar Television. After the merger, Columbia Pictures Television Distribution was renamed as Columbia TriStar Television Distribution.[26][27][28] During that year, SPE acquired a vast back catalog of independently produced game shows with the acquisition of Stewart Television. Along with the Merv Griffin, Chuck Barris, Barry & Enright, and CPT game shows they've already owned, these were part of the basis of the Game Show Network, launched on December 1, 1994. In 1998, ELP Communications became an in-name unit of Columbia TriStar Television.

On July 1, 2000, Barry Thurston stepped down as president of Columbia TriStar Television Distribution after 17 years and was succeeded by then-current president, Steve Mosko.[29] On January 1, 2001, Columbia Pictures Television was folded into Columbia TriStar Television. On October 25, 2001, CTT and CTTD merged to form Columbia TriStar Domestic Television, Windows XP was also released on the same date giving users to check out films, TV shows and music from Columbia TriStar Domestic Television, Warner Bros., Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Universal Music Group.[30]

On September 16, 2002, Sony Pictures changed the name of its TV subsidiary to Sony Pictures Television.[31]

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Remodeling at Screen Gems". Broadcasting: 39–40. 1974-05-06.
  2. "Universal goes abroad with largest portfolio from fall line-ups". Broadcasting: 50. 1977-06-13.
  3. "Spelling-Goldberg puts four ABC hits in syndication". Broadcasting: 58. 1977-06-27.
  4. "New TOY". Broadcasting: 39. 1979-02-19.
  5. "New York Times" Time's Film Unit Sold to Columbia, Retrieved on August 14, 2013
  6. Perry, pp. 28
  7. "Columbia buys Spelling-Goldberg". Broadcasting: 42. 1982-05-17.
  8. "Coke Completes Columbia Merger". The New York Times. June 23, 1982. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  9. "Sale in the works for 'Eden' mini-series". Broadcasting: 45. 1984-01-30.
  10. Coke buys Embassy: 485 million. Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine,
  11. "Structuring and restructuring". Broadcasting: 66. 1986-05-12.
  12. "COKE TO BUY FILM CONCERN TO SETTLE SUITS". AP News Archive. August 29, 1986. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  13. "COMPANY NEWS; Coke Suit Pact". The New York Times. August 30, 1986. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  14. Eugene Register-Guard "Google News" Coke Gets 'Barney Miller', Retrieved on November 30, 2013
  15. KATHRYN HARRIS "Los Angeles Times" November 25, 1986 Nation, Retrieved on May 31, 2013
  16. "In Brief". Broadcasting: 96. 1984-10-15.
  17. KATHRYN HARRIS (September 2, 1987) Coke, Tri-Star Confirm Plans for $3.1-Billion Deal Los Angeles Times, Retrieved on August 8, 2013
  18. Dick, p. 46.
  19. "CPT's Barry Thurston: Supplying the demand". Broadcasting: 133. 1988-02-08.
  20. WILLIAM K. KNOEDELSEDER Jr. "Los Angeles Times" February 2, 1989 Norman Lear, Columbia Form Joint TV Venture, Retrieved on June 19, 2013
  21. RICHARD W. STEVENSON "New York Times" February 2, 1989 Lear Joins With Columbia To Produce TV, Not Manage, Retrieved on June 19, 2013
  22. "Swallowed Up?". Broadcasting: 10. 1990-11-05.
  23. She Holds Torch for Sony Pictures Entertainment,
  24. "Columbia and MCA both form barter units". Broadcasting: 15. 1993-05-10.
  25. "Los Angeles Times" February 11, 1994, Retrieved on June 28, 2012
  26. "EBSCO Host Connection" Feltheimer heads new Columbia TriStar TV, Retrieved on December 18, 2012
  27. "Feltheimer heads new Columbia TriStar TV". Broadcasting: 20. 1994-02-21.
  28. Joe Schlosser "Broadcasting & Cable" 5/14/2000 Barry Thurston is a firm go, Retrieved on October 11, 2013
  29. "The Free Library" Sony Pictures Entertainment Unveils Realignment of Columbia TriStar Domestic Television Operations., Retrieved on July 3, 2012
  30. Sony Pictures Entertainment Renames Television Operations; Domestic and International Divisions Take Sony Name,


  • Perry, Jeb H. (1991). Screen Gems: A History of Columbia Pictures Television from Cohn to Coke, 1948-1983. ISBN 0-8108-2487-6.
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