The Barry Diller Story: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Entertainment Mogul


Perhaps more than any other studio executive in recent history, Barry Diller has influenced the viewing habits of both big and small screen audiences. With creativity and insight, he drastically altered the landscape of television programming with groundbreaking, critically acclaimed concepts such as the movie-of-the-week and the miniseries - the first of which was the landmark premiere of Alex Haley's Roots. Always on the cutting edge, Diller also introduced such offbeat - and controversial - shows as The ...
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Perhaps more than any other studio executive in recent history, Barry Diller has influenced the viewing habits of both big and small screen audiences. With creativity and insight, he drastically altered the landscape of television programming with groundbreaking, critically acclaimed concepts such as the movie-of-the-week and the miniseries - the first of which was the landmark premiere of Alex Haley's Roots. Always on the cutting edge, Diller also introduced such offbeat - and controversial - shows as The Simpsons and Married With...Children. He has also exerted enormous influence over the motion picture industry, revolutionizing the process by which studios acquire scripts, and greenlighting a string of megahits, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, 48 Hours, and Terms of Endearment. The Barry Diller Story reveals how this media giant climbed from the mailroom of the William Morris Agency to top positions at Paramount Pictures, 20th Century fox, and QVC. With exacting detail, Mair deftly weaves tales of Diller's impressive accomplishments, from his rescue of Paramount Pictures to his historic launching of a fourth network, Fox TV. Here, too, are sobering descriptions of hard-fought failures, among them Diller's abortive attempt at a leveraged buyout of Paramount, and his bid for a CBS-QVC merger.

From his first brush with television greatness in the mail room of the William Morris Agency through his launching of the FOX television network with Rupert Murdoch to his recent success as the chairman of Silver King, a chain of TV stations, this biography offers a fascinating, all-engrossing portrait of Barry Diller, one of Hollywood's most visionary executives. 12 photos. 300 pp. 20,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Diller has been in the media spotlight for more than 30 years. After working in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency, he moved to ABC at age 24 and two years later was named v-p of prime-time programming, in charge of buying feature films for the network. While at ABC, he helped launch the made-for-television movie as well as the television miniseries, and began making contacts with the Hollywood elite. Bored at ABC, Diller, then 32, was appointed chairman of Paramount Pictures, where he assembled a team that included Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Although Diller had a strong track record at Paramount, he clashed with Martin Davis, chairman of Paramount's parent company, Gulf + Western, and jumped at the chance to start the "fourth TV network," which was being created by Rupert Murdoch and was to be called Fox Broadcasting, in 1986. The section of the book dealing with the development of Fox is the most enlightening, with Mair showing that the establishment of Fox was due to Diller's vision and tenacity as well as to luck. Mair (Oprah: The Real Story) devotes a great deal of time to the Joan Rivers talk show, which was intended to be an important show for Fox but turned into a fiasco, with Fox canceling it after only a short run and Rivers's husband commited suicide. Mair documents Diller's post-Fox days, which included investing in and running QVC and failing to acquire CBS and Paramount, as well as Diller's current position as head of Silver King Communications. Although Mair notes some of Diller's shortcomings, such as his abrasive management style, this is a highly flattering portrait, one that does a nice job of tracing Diller's career but only skims the surface in examining what makes him tick. (May)
Library Journal
Barry Diller has been a Hollywood player since his days in the mail room of the William Morris Agency, a job he landed with the help of Marlo Thomas. A few years later, he invented the ABC movie of the week. Today he is the chairman of Silver King Communications, after having once run Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox studios. A former CBS executive and celebrity biographer, Mair (Oprah Winfrey, LJ 11/15/94) has written the first Diller biography, which attempts to chronicle the successes and failures of this media mogul. Unfortunately, the reader gains no insight into Diller's personality and his drive to influence American media. The book is a set of overheard anecdotes narrowly focused on business dealings in the media industry. There is barely a mention of Diller's family background or personal life, essentail for a biography of such an important personality. Not recommended.Lisa N. Johnston, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., Va.
Kirkus Reviews
Despite backroom machinations, swashbuckling deals, and towering personalities, this tepid biography is far from being a thriller-diller.

While it requires a substantial stretch of imagination to call Barry Diller America's "greatest entertainment mogul," he is certainly one of the more visionary and driven players in the media marketplace today. He was largely responsible for creating the Fox network, his feel for "product" is superb, and his attention to detail is legendary. No surprise then that his various wheelings and dealings are closely watched as harbingers of the industry's future direction. Like many wildly successful people, Diller skipped college in favor of an early start on his career, rocketing from that great clichéd launching pad, the mailroom of William Morris, to ABC, where he quickly rose through the ranks. From there it was off to Hollywood, where, still in his early 30s, he helped save Paramount. This won him the job of CEO at Fox, where he deftly turned the ailing company into the fourth network. But then came the inevitable falling out with owner Rupert Murdoch, and Diller was swiftly jettisoned. Since his ouster, using the home-shopping channel QVC as his lever, he has tried to work his way back to power. After the failed pursuit of Paramount and CBS, he is now buying up independent television stations with the presumed goal of building another network. All fascinating stuff—but fumbled in Mair's (Bette, 1995, etc.) gawky hands. He has a slim grasp of the telling detail or anecdote, the dead-on quote, the revealing aside. He is also woefully reticent about the notoriously private Diller's personal life.

Mair does have a good, gut feel for the raw and often brutal workings of big business, but his overarching narrative clunkiness undoes him.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471299486
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 7/1/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 356
  • Sales rank: 993,019
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

GEORGE MAIR, formerly Editorial Director for CBS, is the author of 12 books, including Oprah Winfrey: The Real Story and Best Bette: The Life of Bette Midler. Mr. Mair lives in Dana Point, California.
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Table of Contents

An Issue of Privacy.
The Mailroom and Beyond.
Reinventing the Wheel.
At the Movies.
The "Killer Dillers." Aboard the Twentieth-Century Express.
Setting the House in Order.
Creating the Fourth Network.
Truth or Consequences.
The Plots Thicken.
"Don't Have a Cow, Man." In Development Hell.
Saying Goodbye.
The Odyssey.
"What's the Idea?" Of Paramount Importance.
Breakfast at Tiffany's: The Bid for Black Rock.
Silver King.
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