Picture (1997 by bu.edu)
Jeff Sagansky was born 1/26/52 in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He got his BA from Harvard around 1972 and his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1974. When he told his parents he wanted to work in show business, "my mother predictably was incredibly dismayed. She said that I was wasting all this good education that I had gotten. And my father sort of said, well you know if you're going to be in show business, you might as well just join the carnival." (www.bu.edu)
In the summer of 1977, Jeff began his career as an entry-level intern in the Burbank programming department of NBC for three weeks. Then Jeff rose to become the manager of film programs, and three years later became NBC's manager of dramatic programming.
"Steve Cannell and Meta Rosenberg took me under their wing and, in a very gentle but firm way, told me to just shut up and listen. If I did, I would probably be around in a couple of months. From there, I kept getting promoted, even though I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Finally, when Fred Silverman came into the network, which was about two years after I had gotten to NBC, I was going to be made Vice President of Development, and I knew I didn’t know a damn thing! So I resigned and fled.
"David Gerber took me in and I stayed with him for about three years. He really taught me a lot about producing. After that, Grant Tinker was a huge influence in terms of how to be an executive. I don’t think anybody has started as successful a production company as Grant. He was also a superb executive because he knew so much about production! After I was successful at NBC, I decided I wanted to spread my wings a bit and was offered the job running TriStar. I was mentored by Ray Stark, who is one of the greatest producers in the history of the motion picture business." (Point of View magazine, year 2000)
David Friendly, before he became a movie producer, wrote a weekly Hollywood column for the LA Times: "I did a piece [around 1987] about writer Dale Launer (Ruthless People, Blind Date). He didn't have an agent. He did his own deals. David Permut was producing Blind Date with him. And I published Launer's fee, which at the time was about $150,000. The head of the studio, Jeff Sagansky, didn't want that published. That was the angriest any source got at me. I remember holding the phone two feet from my ear, with Jeff screaming away: 'You've made it impossible for Tri-Star to do business in this town.' It was like something out of a movie. It was great. And all I'd done was print the number that David Permut had shown me."
Jeff Sagansky was production president of TriStar in the late 1980s. He'd make more than $7 million some years. Some joked it was more than TriStar made. Sagansky oversaw a string of flops and one hit - Look Who's Talking. When Peters-Guber took over Sony, Jeff took a job as head of programing for CBS. He got good ratings but lousy demographics (disproportionately old people).
Sagansky was a friend of Heidi Fleiss's lover Ivan Nagy.
"[Jeff Sagansky] had a reputation for disliking the glitz of the film world, for refusing to coddle talent, for shunning the Hollywood party circuit." (Hit & Run, pg. 436)
"He is a wonderful guy to work for," an executive who likes Sagansky told Hit & Run. "He's self-effacing and aggressive at the same time." (Hit & Run, pg. 437)
Sagansky became the CEO and President of Paxson Communications in 1997. "I also thought the idea of a network based on family and faith was something whose time was right. You only have to look at what are called fluke shows … but they are the number one shows for their respective networks. Whether it’s Seventh Heaven or Touched By An Angel or Providence, these are all shows that have somehow, in the last couple of years, busted out of all that clutter and become those networks’ newest hits.
"The audience has changed … they are looking for other forms of entertainment. My generation particularly, the baby boom generation, who are on the verge of reaching 50 or are already there, has been through the incredible prosperity of this decade. They are now asking a new set of questions … Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What are the answers to these bigger questions? In their own way, these shows deal with these issues, but there is no network that deals with them. Yet the audience is screaming for that kind of programming. “Hey, this is what we want! This is what’s missing from television!” These programs deal with these larger life issues.
"When I started in 1976, virtually every show had a producer who was really a producer ... a producer in every sense of the word. They controlled the budgets; they controlled the creative content, and usually they worked only with a story editor or two. That’s the model that we are going back to, and I think that all of the networks are going to have to go back to if they’re going to produce programming on a more cost competitive basis.
"Right now there are huge overheads on every one of these shows ... so-called above-the-line overhead that is just taking up space but not really adding to the effectiveness of the show when you look at the rates of failure! We’ve decided to really put our network in the hands of producers who know what they’re doing … both established producers and new producers that have learned their craft and are ready to step up. (Point of View magazine, year 2000)
From Jeff Sagansky, President & CEO, PAX TV: "The novel 'Christy' has always had a special place in my heart as well as my family's. I believed in the series based upon 'Christy' when we first launched it on CBS, and now it is with tremendous pride and pleasure that we bring Catherine Marshall's heroine back to network TV on PAX. We are working very closely with the Catherine Marshall family to ensure that these three feature-length productions are authentic and faithful to untold chapters from the original book. We're certain that 'Christy' fans and PAX viewers will have a lot to celebrate with the return of 'Christy' to television."