Craig Cegielski

World Screen Weekly, August 24, 2006

VP, Programming and Sales

Lionsgate International Television

Some people enter the television business by chance and happenstance. Others know deep down inside that they are pre-destined for it. Craig Cegielski is part of the latter group. “I knew I was going to be doing this since I was eight,” says the executive, who joined Lionsgate Entertainment in 2005 to start up its international television division. “I was one of those kids that watched television and movies all the time. I would ride my bike to the video store, watch something nine times, then ride back and drop it off.”

Cegielski, the son of a jazz musician, took his first step into TV while delivering pizzas in Valencia, California. One of his stops was to producers of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. “That was my entr�e,” he remembers. “I delivered the pizza and said, ‘I’m looking for a job.’ I ended up spending six months on the sets of MMPR.”

It was the mid ’90s. Cegielski went on to Bunim/Murray Productions’ Real World, the MTV show that started today’s reality craze. “We didn’t know we were making groundbreaking television,” he says. “We thought it was throwaway programming.”

He later worked on several other shows that aired on networks like FOX and TLC, and his responsibilities progressed from production coordinator, to production manager, to directing and producing. He ended up at Paramount International Television in 1998 because the company wanted to tap his experience for the reality co-productions that it was planning.

While at Paramount, Cegielski’s responsibilities shifted from production to marketing. “I worked with [executive VP of sales and marketing] Joe Lucas, one of the godfathers,” he says. “Joe took me under his wing. I spent three years doing sales strategy, market research, and competitive analysis. It was an unbelievable education.”

After Paramount, Cegielski went to CBS/Kingworld International, specializing in local production and programming. While there he launched local adaptations of such formats as America’s Next Top Model and game shows such as Wheel of Fortune. Then CBS and Paramount joined forces, and Cegielski found himself in the position of working simultaneously for his present and former employer.

“It was a win-win for me,” says Cegielski. But then he got a call from Lionsgate’s president of television programming and production, with whom he had co-produced series while at Paramount. “He said, ‘What if I told you we’re going to start up our own international television division, one that distributes our content, and that I want you to head it up?’ That sounded pretty darn interesting.”

In his new role, Cegielski has oversight of all distribution, sales and marketing for the international television group, and is charged with developing Lionsgate product into a global brand. These titles include Weeds, the Showtime series about a suburban mom who sells pot to help make ends meet; the Erik McCormack-produced comedy for Lifetime, Lovespring International; the Nicolas Cage-executive produced The Dresden Files for SCI FI Channel; and the reality series I Pity the Fool for TV Land. In addition to helping sell Weeds to over 125 territories, he has signed a volume deal with Nine Network Australia, and has negotiated co-production deals with British Sky Broadcasting. Not bad for a former pizza delivery boy with a dream.

—By Peter Caranicas