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Diller, Barry

DILLER, BARRY

DILLER, BARRY (1942– ), U.S. media executive. Born in San Francisco, Calif., Diller was raised in Beverly Hills and had a good Jewish education. He skipped college and got his first job in show business in the mail room of the William Morris Agency. He moved to the programming department of the American Broadcasting Company in 1966 and was soon placed in charge of negotiating broadcast rights to feature films. He was promoted to vice president in charge of feature films and program development three years later and inaugurated the television network's Movie of the Week, which became the most popular movie series in the industry and helped abc achieve parity with the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcast System in the ratings. Abandoning conventional narratives like Westerns and crime melodramas, Diller ordered films that explored current issues like homosexuality, the Vietnam War, and drugs. The 90-minute films, sometimes called docudramas, were produced at the relatively low price of $350,000 each and probed current newspaper headlines and American popular culture for gripping topics aimed at young urban and adult audiences. By 1972 the genre had become an established network programming practice.

In 1974, at the age of 32, Diller was named chairman of Paramount Pictures and assembled a team that included Michael *Eisner and Jeffrey *Katzenberg. Diller had been hired by Charles Bluhdorn, head of Gulf & Western Industries, a sprawling conglomerate that had acquired Paramount in 1966. During Diller's 10-year tenure, Paramount produced such hit films as Saturday Night Fever and Raiders of the Lost Ark and such wildly successful tv shows as Taxi and Cheers. In 1984, Diller quit Paramount after a dispute with Martin S. *Davis, who had succeeded Bluhdorn, and went to work for Twentieth Century Fox. After Rupert Murdoch bought Fox, Diller was put in charge of developing the studio's new network. Starting with limited programming, Diller built Fox into a fourth network to compete with cbs, nbc, and abc. He developed low-cost "reality" fare and balanced those shows with alternative and youth-oriented programming like The Simpsons.

In a surprise move, Diller quit Fox in 1992 to buy and run qvc, a television shopping network, with a $25 million stake. He made an unsuccessful bid to take over Paramount Communications in 1993 but lost to Sumner *Redstone of Viacom. Diller resigned from qvc in 1995 and acquired Silver King Communications, a small group of uhf stations, in an attempt to create a hybrid cable network that would offer a full schedule of entertainment, sports, and news. Also in 1995 he took over USA Interactive, which he expanded to include not only home shopping but a variety of successful companies that deal with interactive business on the Internet: Expedia, Inc., Hotels.com, and Ticketmaster. With these properties Diller became the leader of the online travel business. From May 2002 to March 2003 he served as chairman and chief executive of Vivendi Universal Entertainment. Diller served on the boards of several major corporations, including the Washington Post Company and the Coca-Cola Company.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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