TV/radio briefs: Former 99Xer Brian Phillips, Will Packer’s ‘Bigger,’ Anika Noni Rose, Sinclair/Fox Sports

Originally posted Monday, May 6, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Brian Phillips, program director for 99X during the alternative rock station’s rise to  prominence in the 1990s, returns to Atlanta for the first time in two decades as Cumulus Media’s executive vice president for content and audience.

He takes over for Mike McVay, who returns to consulting with Cumulus as his first client. 

Phillips, who last worked as president of Nashville-based CMT until 2017, will split time between Atlanta and Nashville. (He worked  for many years at CMT with former Morning X host Leslie Fram there. She remains as senior vice president for music and talent.)

Cumulus is the second largest radio company in the country with about 434 radio stations, including several in Atlanta including Kicks 101.5, Rock 100.5, Q99.7, OG 97.9 and a jockless 99X at 98.9. (Talk 106.7 is about to be sold to K-Love, a syndicated Christian music format.)

Phillips said Atlanta will be the only city he has ever worked at more than once over his long career.  Sunday, he said, felt like an episode of “The Twilight Zone” because his former employee and Morning X host Jimmy Baron, now a successful Keller Williams real estate agent, spent the day driving Phillips around Buckhead as he sought a new home to purchase near Cumulus offices. 

He said he’s looking forward to moving Cumulus forward under the capable leadership of Mary Bernerwho has helped Cumulus right a sinking ship starting in 2015

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 01: Producer Will Packer attend Universal Pictures' Special Screening Of "Breaking In" - Arrivals at ArcLight Cinemas on May 1, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Will Packer, Atlanta-based producer of “Ride Along,” “Girls Trip” and the recent comedy “Little,” is also tackling three TV projects: a reality show called “Ready to Love” on OWN, an upcoming soap “Ambitions” also on OWN and a new comedy on BET called “Bigger,” which just began production in Atlanta.

“Bigger,” formerly called “Peachtree Place,” has this descriptive: “five thirty-somethings living in Atlanta as they try to build professional and personal lives they can be proud of, but the one thing they don’t have keeps impeding their progress: love. Unresolved feelings from college are uncovered and secrets revealed, forcing these friends to finally deal with uncomfortable truths about each other."

In a text, he said the cast is primarily newcomers. 

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Earlier this year, several TV pilots were shot in Atlanta. The first one to get declined is Anika Noni Rose’s “Beast Mode” for TNT, which is technically still based in Atlanta. 

AT&T just officially took over Time Warner, which owns TNT and is splintering what was Turner into three parts. Brett Weitz, TNT’s new GM, told Deadline.com in February he did not want to do “really dark, depressing dramas.”

“Beast Mode” was about the life of a tough complex female boxing trainer. 

TNT  has just two original dramas in its current line up: “Animal Kingdom and Claws.” Three are forthcoming: “Raised by Wolves,” “Telle Me Your Secrets” and “Snowpiercer.”  

 We await the future of other pilots shot locally such as ABC’s “The Baker and the Beauty” and “Heart of Life,” Syfy’s “(Future) Cult Classic” and “Cypher” and Fox’s “Deputy” and “Lovestruck.”

We are also holding our breath to see if Fox will renew “The Passage” and “Star” and whether CBS will give “MacGyver” a fourth season. (Fox’s “The Resident” and the CW’s “Dynasty” and “Legacies” have already been renewed. “The Gifted” was cancelled after two seasons.)

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And if you missed my colleague Tim Tucker’s column last week, Sinclair Broadcast Group is acquiring all 21 Fox Sports regional networks for about $10.6 billion. 

When ABC/Disney picked up 21st Century Fox, it was required to dispense with Fox Sports regional networks because it already owns EPSN. This means Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast, which air the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks, will be getting new names under new owners. 

Maryland-based Sinclair is known as an owner of 191 local TV stations which requires its stations to run management-led editorials that lean conservativeLast year, it required all major news anchor to read the same script regarding “fake news” which was turned into a viral video. The company’s efforts ast year to buy Tribune Broadcasting fell through

The sports networks will operate under an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Sinclair called Diamond Sports Group. Entrepreneur Byron Allen, who purchased Atlanta-based Weather Channel last year, will become an equity and content partner.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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