Mr. T, beware. Michael Garin is going to kick sand in your face, and he doesn't care about your bulging muscles and bullying scowl.
Garin, co-founder of a syndication company, Telepictures Corp., is one of this season's hottest television stars. His company is among the industry's largest independent program distributors.
Major movie studios have always dominated program distribution, but Garin has put some static in that picture. His secret was good timing and the right combination of shows. Garin was a 32-year-old executive at Time-Life Films Inc. when he launched Telepictures in 1978. At the time, he recalls, the number of independent producers looking for new distribution channels like Telepictures was swelling. And the company tuned into success early, propelled by some hit shows and a lowbrow strategy.
Garin doesn't exactly vie for the "Masterpiece Theatre" crowd. This year, his first-run shows include the dreary likes of "Rituals," a serialized drama set at a private women's college; and "The All New Let's Make A Deal," a rehash of a show that dates from the Stone Age. Still, Telepictures expects to pass the $110-million mark in revenues this fiscal year.
But entrepreneurs won't easily repeat his success, Garin warns. "The TV business is a club," he says. "The people who get to make programs are the people who have made programs before." Instead, Garin advises small companies to pursue the more tangible aspects of the medium, such as buying local TV stations.
Telepictures itself is diversifying into magazine publishing, a medium somewhat closer to Garin's tastes."I'm reader," he confesses. "I basically don't watch television."