MCA Ropes In Meyer's Talent; New Recruit's Creativity Needed To Pump Up Television

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Creative Artists Agency President Ron Meyer's experience with creative talent will be put to the test when he takes over as MCA's president-chief operating officer two weeks from now.

That will be nowhere more necessary than within the key MCA Television Group.

MCA senior executives are counting on Mr. Meyer's arrival and MCA's new Seagram Co. ownership to pump up the group's long-term prospects.

"We need to be pro-active in exploring all of the different distribution options, and the new ownership is aware of that," said Tom Wertheimer, chairman of the MCA Television Group and Home Entertainment Group. "But we also have to continue to be good at producing quality programs."

MCA Television Group is now bent on:

Aggressively expanding Universal Television's network comedy activity, allowing syndicator MCA TV more revenue potential and market clout down the road.

Remaining a top supplier of network dramas, which have been a boon to MCA International.

Expanding direct relationships with advertisers and program sponsors to create more revenue and lessen production risks.

Maximizing exploitation of the MCA library.

Wall Street has given Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman high marks for his diplomacy in handling the transition. Earlier, MCA had courted Mr. Meyer's boss at CAA, Michael Ovitz, but no agreement could be reached.

With the hiring of Mr. Meyer, longtime MCA Chairman Lew Wasserman was made chairman emeritus and placed on the Seagram board. And MCA last week set up Mr. Wasserman's top lieutenant Sid Sheinberg (whom Mr. Meyer will replace) with a new MCA-financed independent studio operation.

Another key to MCA's production activities is the conglomerate's ability to improve its strategic position with regard to long-term distribution.

Many industry observers say they do not expect Mr. Bronfman to rush into any major acquisitions, although he has declared his intention to grow MCA by buying other businesses.

CBS is thought to be on that list. Its acquisition would help the MCA Television Group to develop programming on the CBS and Westinghouse stations and also distribute it to consumers via the CBS network.

But CBS chairman and CEO Laurence Tisch is holding firm to his estimated $80 per share asking price for the TV network company. That price has already cooled some of the earlier and most interested studio bidders, including The Walt Disney Co.

Industry analysts say it will be several years before new management can noticeably change the financial status of MCA's film operations, which will be dragged down by the extraordinary costs associated with MCA's summer film "WaterWorld."

Mr. Tyrer is Electronic Media's Los Angeles bureau chief; Ms. Mermigas is financial editor.

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