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Feb 22, 2001  •  Post A Comment

‘First Years’ slated for NBC Monday night

In his second major programming move since being named president of NBC Entertainment, Jeffrey Zucker is scheduling the midseason drama-comedy “First Years,” in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Monday time slot starting March 19.

“First Years” replaces “Dateline” in the time period and is part of ongoing tinkering with NBC’s struggling 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. Monday schedule. NBC has been running specials in the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. hours for several weeks, continuing with plans to schedule a special two-hour “Dateline: Murder Before Dawn” special Feb. 26, followed by Part 2 of its “Jackie, Joan and Ethel” miniseries March 5 and another movie March 12. A pair of “Crocodile Hunter” specials follow March 19 and 26 in the 8 p.m. Monday slot.

Although Monday has been a consistently ratings-challenged evening with the earlier cancellations of “Tucker,” “Daddio” and “Deadline” this season, NBC’s sophomore drama, “Third Watch,” has remained a steady performer at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Created and executive-produced by Jill Gordon (“My So-Called Life,” “The Wonder Years”), “First Years” is loosely based on the hit British series “This Life” and portrays the lives of five first-year law graduates in San Francisco. The cast of law students features Samantha Mathis, Mackenzie Astin, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, James Roday, Ken Marino and Eric Schaeffer.

The eight-episode insertion of “First Years” marks Mr. Zucker’s second major programming initiative since moving over from NBC’s “Today” show last January. Going into the February sweeps, Mr. Zucker made the call to offer “super-sized” 40-minute versions of “Friends,” “Just Shoot Me” and “Will & Grace” as well as special 20-minute versions of “Saturday Night Live,” to compete against CBS’s “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” at 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday.

“First Years” is an NBC Studios production in association with Studios USA Television. Also serving as executive producers are Ken Topolsky and Mark Perry. Tom Moore directs the pilot episode.

Suleman promoted in wake of Infinity-Viacom merger: One day after the merger of Infinity Broadcasting into Viacom was completed, Mel Karmazin, Viacom’s president and chief operating officer, promoted Farid Suleman to president and CEO of the radio broadcasting and outdoor advertising division.

Mr. Suleman, 49, had been executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer and a director of Infinity Broadcasting.

Studios USA to launch new ‘Battlestar’ Studios USA has signed a deal with noted filmmaker Bryan Singer to executive-produce an updated version of the TV series “Battlestar Galactica,” which originally aired on ABC from 1978-80. A spokesman for Studios USA said the revival is being pitched to the broadcast networks, along with shared or staggered exhibition windows with USA Networks’ Sci-Fi Channel.

In a talent deal closed by David Kissinger, president of USA Television Production Group, Mr. Singer will co-create the new series and, his schedule permitting, serve as director of the pilot. Longtime Singer collaborator Tom DeSanto will serve as executive producer with Mr. Singer.

Mr. Singer’s directing credits include the upcoming motion picture “X-Men 2” for Fox as well as “Apt Pupil” and “The Usual Suspects” and “X-Men”-for which he also co-wrote the story.

“This is a unique opportunity to build on and reinvent a hallowed television franchise with one of the most inventive filmmakers working today,” Mr. Kissinger said in a statement.

The original “Battlestar Galactica” chronicled the adventures of a fleet of starships from an ancient civilization that seek a legendary lost colony known as Earth.

XFL tackles issue of advertising: The steep drop-off in XFL viewing since its debut three weeks ago has put the rookie football league on the offensive to do all it can to give advertisers their money’s worth. The XFL insists that giving free extra runs to advertisers starting this weekend does not constitute what the industry calls “make-goods” because, said an advertising spokesman: “It’s reaching out to advertisers in advance.”

“The XFL is working with our advertisers to deliver … the audience they purchased,” said Basil DeVito Jr., president of the XFL. The organization controls XFL commercial inventory and sales but shares the ad revenue with TV partners NBC, UPN and TNN, whose games averaged a 5.5 rating last weekend, down 36 percent from Week 2. That figure was also down from the 10-point combined rating advertisers were told they could expect when they paid $140,000 for a weekend’s worth of 30-second spots going into the season.

CBS hits high note with Grammys: CBS received a much-needed young-demo boost Wednesday night as its telecast of the 43rd annual Grammy Awards scored across-the-board demo wins, including a handsome 114 percent margin of victory over Fox in the key adults 18 to 49 measure.

The Grammy Awards posted a 16.9 rating/26 share average in households and a 12.6/30 in adults 18 to 49 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate returns. However, the preliminary household score is tracking about 2 percent behind CBS’s 17.3/27 average last year (Feb. 23) and about 3 percent lower in total viewers (26.8 million compared with 27.7 million). Final national numbers from Nielsen, which better take into account live event programming, could either move up or down by several percentage points.

CBS improved 1 percent among teens (13.5/41) and 8 percent among adults 18 to 34 (13.5/34) over last year’s music awards to score its best ratings in both demos since the 1993 Grammy Awards.

The young-demo pull of the Grammys cut into Fox’s hit reality series “Temptation Island,” which scored a 7.2/16 in adults 18 to 49 and marked a 22 percent decrease from its most recent airing Feb. 7 (averaging a 9.2/21 in the key demo). During the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. span, the Grammys’ 12.5/27 in adults 18 to 49 held a 74 percent advantage over “Temptation Island.”

Combined with 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. runs of “That ’70s Show” (repeat) and “Grounded for Life” flattening out 12 percent to a second-ranked 4.6/12 in adults 18 to 49 for the hour, Fox finished with a second-ranked 5.9/14 for the evening. NBC, with a repeat of “Ed” (3.2/8) ranking last in adults 18 to 49 for the opening hour, finished with a third-ranked 5.1/12 for the evening. ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was third-ranked in adults 18 to 49 for opening hour (4.1/10), as the alphabet network came in fourth for the evening in the demo (3.7/9).

CBS’s household score is tracking at a 3 percent increase over the 1999 Grammy Award telecast (16.6/26). However, since 1984, when the Grammys peaked at a 30.8/45 household score, the ratings have been nearly been cut in half for the music awards-likely because of increased channel competition from the cable television universe during the 17-year span. CBS has been rights holder to the Grammy Awards for 27 years, starting out with a 30.3/52 household average in 1974.

Discovery revamps executive suite: Discovery Communications is reorganizing its top echelon of executive officers to better manage the company’s network programming, brand development and strategic planning. Discovery’s management restructuring includes creating a Discovery Content Board to centralize management of all network program content and branding strategies under one roof.

The board, to be chaired by Discovery Communications Chairman John Hendricks, will oversee all Discovery programming and marketing budgets. Discovery is also expanding its executive committee to focus more on long-term growth, and is creating two new corporate office positions.

Discovery Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications Donald Baer will become executive vice president for strategy and development. Discovery General Counsel Mark Hollinger will become executive vice president for corporate operations and general counsel. Both will report to Discovery Communications President and CEO Judith McHale.#

BRIEFLY NOTED

Women in Cable & Telecommunications named former U.S. Ol
ympic track gold medal winner Benita Fitzgerald Mosley to the new position of president. Fox News Channel signed a distribution deal with Canal Satellite Digital to be distributed to 1 million TV homes in Spain starting March 1. ESPN re-signed Joe Morgan and Jon Miller as announcers of its “Sunday Night Baseball” through 2005.#