R.I.P. Al Masini, Founder of Television Program Enterprises

The industry is morning the death of prolific producer Al Masini, who passed away on Monday at his Honolulu home at the age of 80 due to cancer.

Masini was instrumental in creating successful first-run syndicated programming including Solid Gold, Entertainment Tonight, Star Search, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and a spin-off, Runaway with the Rich and Famous. He also spearheaded Operation Prime Time, which gave independent television stations an opportunity to air prime-time, first-run programming in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Programs in this consortium included Solid Gold, specials including 1980’s Yogi’s First Christmas, and numerous TV movies (The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything.)

In 1981, Entertainment Tonight was a pioneer as the first nationally syndicated first-run magazine strip to deliver its shows to stations five days a week via satellite instead of bicycling, which meant transporting videotapes to each station via courier – a common (and more expensive) practice for delivery of syndicated fare before the 1980’s. By 1985, almost every first-run syndicated program was delivered to stations via satellite.

In 1982, Masini formed Television Program Enterprises to sell the first-run  shows he created and launched, including Star Search, Lifestyles,  and Runaway. Unfortunately, Masini was unable to duplicate his success with the launches of You Write The Songs (1986) and first-run strip Preview: The Best of the New (1990), neither of which lasted a full season.

Cox Communications later became owner of TPE and merged the company with Rysher Entertainment in 1993, the independent distributor founded two years earlier by former Warner Bros. syndication executive Keith Samples. In 1999, Rysher TPE sold its entire domestic television library to Viacom (now CBS Television Distribution.)

Masini is survived by his wife Cherlyn, and his sister.