The revolving door continues to spin at USA Networks Inc.,
with the latest departure being that of Barry Schulman, vice president of programming at
Schulman announced last week that he is leaving Sci-Fi,
where he has headed up programming since the network launched in September 1992. Schulman
will stay on for several weeks to help the network make the transition once he's
gone. Schulman, who couldn't be reached for comment, will be replaced shortly,
officials said. It's not known what his plans are.
Schulman is the latest USA Networks official to head out
the door since Barry Diller acquired the company and hired Stephen Chao as president of
programming and marketing. USA founder and chairman Kay Koplovitz, USA Entertainment
president Rod Perth, USA vice president of long-form programming Ian Valentine and Iris
Burnett, senior vice president of corporate communications, are among those who have also
Schulman was at the helm as Sci-Fi significantly upgraded
its programming. He engineered the acquisition of cult series Mystery Science Theater
3000 for Sci-Fi, and he has overseen the network's dramatic expansion into
original series this year. One of his program packages is the relaunching of the original Star
Trek series in September in the form of a digitally remastered, 90-minute version.
In a recent interview, Stephen Brenner, USA Networks'
president of operations, complained that initially, "frankly, we didn't program
[Sci-Fi] as well as we'd have liked to. At that time, there weren't many TV
series that could be stripped for Sci-Fi, so we had to go with series like NBC's SeaQuest."
But Brenner said Sci-Fi now "has an enormous number of
big, attractive series coming on that will change the network." Those include
original anthology series Welcome to Paradox; new episodes of Poltergeist: The
Legacy; and Farscape, an epic being designed as Sci-Fi's signature series,
from Jim Henson Co., which will debut next year. Schulman also acquired the rights to a
library of science-fiction shows from MGM Worldwide Television, including The Outer
Limits, Stargate SG-1 and Poltergeist.
"Sci-Fi has been making a major effort with original
programming and with branding," said Audrey Steele, senior vice president of
strategic-media resources at Zenith Media. "It has a unique audience, with more
males, younger and upscale."
According to Bill Croasdale, president of national
broadcast at Western International Media, "[Schulman has] done an admirable job while
he was there. But when there are management changes, you can expect some form of shakeout,
and I guess that's what happened here."