Katalyst in 4-pronged deal at CBS

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Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg's Katalyst Films has inked a broad, multifaceted two-year deal with CBS Corp. that spans four TV divisions of the media conglomerate.

An overall pact with CBS Paramount Network Television will make Katalyst exclusive to the studio for scripted development.

Networks CBS and the CW, CBS' joint venture with Warner Bros. Entertainment, will have a first look on Katalyst's alternative/reality projects.

Additionally, Katalyst is making its first foray into the first-run syndication business with an exclusive development deal at CBS Television Distribution.

Katalyst comes to CBS from 20th Century Fox TV, where it was under an overall deal for the past three years, developing such projects for the studio and its alternative production arm Fox 21 as the CW's hit reality series "Beauty and the Geek" and comedy series "Miss/Guided." The latter, Katalyst's first scripted series, recently was picked up by ABC for midseason.

Unlike the deal with 20th TV, the pact with CBS allows Katalyst to retain the international format and distribution rights to its unscripted shows. The format for its popular "Beauty" series has been a big international seller for 20th TV.

Under the deal with CBS, Katalyst's TV efforts will continue to be shepherded by principal Karey Burke, who has signed a new deal with the company.

"Their track record speaks for itself," CBS Paramount Network TV president David Stapf said of Katalyst, which burst onto the primetime scene in 2003 with MTV's hugely successful reality series "Punk'd," which Kutcher and Goldberg created.

"They have terrific creative instincts, they have a strong point of view, and there is a lot of specificity in the way they develop their characters and tell their stories," Stapf said. "Their shows make me cry and make me laugh. They move me."

Stapf said his team already is talking to Burke -- with whom he has a long-standing relationship going back to her days as a network executive -- about several projects.

In its scripted development for CBS Par TV, Katalyst is expected to continue working in comedy but also branch out into drama.

CBS executive vp Ghen Maynard, who oversees alternative programming at CBS, the CW and CBS Par TV, said he has been a fan of Katalyst for a long time. He has worked with the company on "Beauty"; the CBS game show/hidden-camera pilot "Game Show in My Head," a co-production with Fox 21 and Hat Trick Prods., which is still in contention; and on several scripted projects during his stint at NBC.

"They'd come in with terrific, very imaginative ideas," Maynard said. "They have a clarity in their vision and point of view, which is a real value."

CBS and the CW's first-look deal with Katalyst for unscripted shows is a key piece in the two networks' strategy of ramping up reality development. Both nets are adding buzzworthy new series next season, including CBS' "Kid Nation" and the CW's "Crowned" and "Farmer Wants a Wife," but are on the lookout for more, Maynard said.

"I need all the best ideas possible, particularly with a comedic spin, and I think they will have a lot to contribute with respect to the comedic reality genre," he said.

In addition to the deal with CBS and the CW, Katalyst is close to a deal elsewhere for exclusive rights to its cable reality projects, sources said. The company's alternative projects are overseen by Colleen Hall.

In the syndication arena, Katalyst execs already have met with Terry Wood, creative affairs and development president at CBS TV Distribution, to discuss potential projects.

Like all other shows carrying the Katalyst brand, the company's first efforts in syndication will be "fresh and inventive" but adaptable into the syndication model, Goldberg said.

While everyone at Katalyst is excited about the new opportunities in syndication, the company's main focus will remain primetime. In a TV universe with hundreds of channels for viewers to choose from, the goal is to develop shows that stand out, Goldberg said.

"We're thinking big," he said. "We are looking for concepts that are commercial but also forward-thinking, out of the box and inventive."

The over-arching deal with CBS Corp. makes "a lot sense from both creative and business standpoint," Goldberg said.

"It is absolutely, no question, the right fit," he said, noting the company's great experience with CBS and CW executives on "Game Show" and "Beauty."

Katalyst's roster of unscripted series also includes NBC's "The Real Wedding Crashers" as well as MTV's "Adventures in Hollyhood" and "Room 401."

The company is repped by Endeavor and attorneys Robert Offer and Lindsey Strasberg.
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