Green light for CBS films; ex-Par exec Tobey is COO

CEO for new division yet to be named

CBS Corp. is moving ahead with the creation of a CBS Feature Films unit, saying Wednesday that it has named Bruce Tobey, a former executive vp at Paramount Pictures, as chief operating officer of the new division (HR 3/8).

CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves has repeatedly signaled in recent months that the company would enter the film business in a low-cost, low-risk way after last year's separation from Viacom Inc., which kept the Paramount studio for itself.

The CEO of CBS Feature Films will be named in the coming months, the company said.

"I can't think of a better first step in kick-starting CBS Feature Films than by bringing Bruce on board," Moonves said. "His significant operational experience and sophisticated understanding of the entire movie industry will make him instrumental in getting this enterprise started."

Tobey added that he will build "a financially disciplined operation that creates compelling original content."

Tobey is charged with establishing the new unit, CBS said. In addition, such departments as fi-nance, legal and business affairs will report to him. He also will oversee home video distribution of the unit's releases, CBS said.

CBS premium cable network unit Showtime has output deals with Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and MGM that come to an end late this year, and Showtime spends hundreds of million dollars on these deals. As a result, management has said it is looking at whether to continue some of these arrangements or simply buy rights for single films as other pay TV firms have done.

Moonves has signaled that CBS could produce four to six films a year in the $10 million-$50 million budget range, allowing Showtime to partly make up for some lost film product on canceled output deals while also giving it a chance to participate in the upside.