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MGM Television Banks on Big Stars and Strong Storytelling to Drive Growth

Mark Burnett took the reins of MGM Television and Digital just in time to steer the independent television studio through the choppy waters of digital disruption. Good thing he’s not a traditional studio executive.

“We’re in an interesting equilateral triangle right now,” Burnett says of the changing business landscape for content producers. “We’re going down a road where all the studios will soon be dealing directly with consumers.”

The silo effect of such global platforms as Netflix and Amazon buying up worldwide rights and increasingly producing shows in-house will make it harder for studios the size of MGM TV to prosper with high-end content. The upside is limited when a studio doesn’t have the ability to sell a show in markets around the world.

This is a big part of the reason MGM shelled out $1 billion last year to buy out its partners, Viacom and Lionsgate, in the Epix premium cable channel. Epix has been streaming since its inception in 2009 and could easily be the spine of an MGM direct-to-consumer service. MGM TV at present is using Epix as a U.S. launch pad for series such as “Get Shorty,” a redo of a film property from the MGM vault, and the upcoming boxing-competition series “The Contender” (a revival of Burnett’s previous NBC series), and the miniseries  “The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair,” starring Patrick Dempsey.

Burnett, who is a keynote speaker at Variety’s annual TV Summit on June 13, is well equipped to tackle the

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