Ohlmeyer retiring from ‘MNF’
Don Ohlmeyer notified ABC Sports on Sunday night that he has decided not to produce “Monday Night Football” next season.
Mr. Ohlmeyer, a fabled sports producer who for much of the ’90s ran NBC’s entertainment division, was brought in to retool “MNF” last season and made the most waves with his decision to put comedian Dennis Miller in the booth with Al Michaels and Dan Fouts.
“Without question, he brought the buzz back to Monday night and made it special again. I owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for that,” ABC Sports President Howard Katz said.
“I had a terrific time this year producing ‘MNF,'” Mr. Ohlmeyer said, “but I just could not continue to put myself through the stressful traveling that goes with the job.”
An ABC Sports spokesman said there is no strict timetable on naming Mr. Ohlmeyer’s successor. “We’re going to make sure we get it right,” he said. The spokesman, who said Mr. Ohlmeyer’s decision did not come as a surprise, added that all the on-air talent on the “MNF” team will be returning next season.
A&E orders more ‘100 Centre Street’: A&E has renewed Sidney Lumet’s original dramatic series “100 Centre Street,” placing an order for 18 new episodes. The series’ second season will premiere this fall. A&E has also greenlighted the development of a one-hour limited dramatic series from Mr. Lumet titled “May It Please the Court.” The series will draw on landmark Supreme Court decisions made during the past 60 years.
Launched Jan.15 and serving as A&E’s first original dramatic series, “Centre Street” has averaged a 2.2 rating for its Monday 9 p.m. (ET) time slot.
Pair slated to replace Friendly at King World: King World Productions has tapped a duo of executives for its programming department following the departure of Andy Friendly last week. Steven Nalevansky has been appointed senior vice president of programming and development, and Vanessa Coffey is the new vice president of development.
Mr. Nalevansky will oversee all development for King World, with a mandate to continue to build on its existing first-run slate as well as develop for all dayparts and mediums. In addition, he will oversee programming on King World’s “Hollywood Squares” and “Inside Edition.” Ms. Coffey will collaborate with Mr. Nalevansky to identify new material and nurture projects through the various stages of development.
Most recently, Mr. Nalevansky was a founding partner of Montecito Valley Productions, where-under an exclusive relationship with Twentieth Television-he spearheaded development on the talk-show pilots “The Real Deal” and “Live and Learn.” Before that, he served as senior vice president of programming and production at King World, where he oversaw production and programming on various series including “The Roseanne Show.”
Ms. Coffey recently served as executive producer with Film Garden Productions for two reality show pilots, “Intervention” for USA Network and “Women in Blue” for TLC. Coffey also spent nearly a decade at Nickelodeon as executive producer and vice president of animation, where she developed and executive produced “Rugrats,” “Doug” and “The Ren & Stimpy Show.”
Gaspin exits VH1 for NBC: VH1 Executive Vice President of Programming Jeff Gaspin is leaving to join NBC as an executive vice president. Mr. Gaspin has been hired by his former boss and now NBC President of Entertainment Jeff Zucker and will oversee development of nonfiction and special programming, an NBC source said. Mr. Gaspin worked with Mr. Zucker at NBC in the mid-’90s. During his five-year tenure at VH1, Mr. Gaspin helped launch such original music-themed nonfiction series as “Storytellers.”
The move is seen as a sign Mr. Zucker is looking to quickly ignite development of alternative reality programming at NBC, which was once seen as reluctant to do so.
The hiring of Mr. Gaspin, who also invented “Pop Up Videos” and helped transform VH1’s previous music-only image to that of a full-service infotainment network during his five-year tenure, is expected to help the Peacock Network ramp up development and production of reality programming. However, his insertion could make it more of a challenge for NBC News programming such as “Dateline NBC’s” quartet of weekly airings to maintain its presence on NBC’s prime-time schedule.
Among the leading candidates to fill the VH1 programming slot, sources say, is Lauren Zalaznick, who has served as senior vice president o original programming and development since March 1999.
A VH1 spokesperson said a replacement for Mr. Gaspin will likely be named within the next few weeks.
Reynolds giving up CFO post at Viacom: The search is on at Viacom for a new chief financial officer. Fred Reynolds, who has been instrumental in taking CBS from a Westinghouse-owned to a Viacom-owned media powerhouse, said in an internal memo Monday he will step down from that role so he can continue to reside in Southern California. For several years, he has been commuting weekly to the East Coast. Mr. Reynolds will assist Viacom in the search for a new CFO and then will assume a new position, not yet announced, reporting directly to Viacom President Mel Karmazin.
XFL ratings in free fall: Preliminary national Nielsen data for the XFL on its fifth Saturday on NBC showed a continuing ratings decline. Saturday’s game averaged 3.6 million viewers and a 1.5 rating/5 share in adults 18 to 49 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), compared with 4.25 million viewers and a 1.7/5 in adults 18 to 49 in the fast nationals for the previous Saturday.
When the final nationals came in for Week 4, the game averaged 3.9 million viewers, the lowest of any prime-time show on the Big 4 networks-and a 1.6/5 in adults 18 to 49-which ranked it below CBS’s “Diagnosis Murder.”
Data from Nielsen’s 49 metered markets showed Sunday night’s game on UPN averaged a 1.8/3, down 5 percent from overnights for Sunday, Feb. 25.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the XFL confirmed a weekend report in The New York Times that the league, in which World Wrestling Federation Entertainment and NBC are partners, is considering signing teen-agers who have graduated from high school but cannot qualify academically for college.
“If it went forward, I would say it’s something that would happen in early fall,” said an XFL spokesman, who added that it would offer some young men the option to play football for $45,000 a season instead of mowing lawns for $5 an hour.
Ratings win still out there for Fox: Fox muscled its way to a typical Sunday evening win in adults 18 to 49, but it did so with some slight week-to-week declines because of the series premiere of “The Lone Gunmen” in “The X-Files'” normally robust 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. (ET) time slot. Still, Fox’s 6.5 rating/15 share in adults 18 to 49 gave it a 20 percent winning margin over ABC (5.4/13) in the key demo, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.
“The Lone Gunmen,” a spinoff from “The X-Files,” won the 10 p.m. slot with a 6.5/14 average in adults 18 to 49, but that was a 29 percent decline from what “X-Files” averaged in the time period the previous week (9.2/19) with David Duchovny appearing in the episode. Fox researchers said “Lone Gunmen’s” series bow was close to par with “non-Duchovny” episodes of “X-Files,” which now regularly co-stars Robert Patrick and Gillian Anderson.
“Gunmen” held 79 percent audience retention in adults 18 to 49 out of Fox’s top-ranked 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. comedies “The Simpsons” (8.8/21) and “Malcolm in the Middle” (7.8/17); the two sitcoms combined to average 8.3/19 for the hour. “Lone Gunmen” beat the first hour of ABC’s telefilm “Amy & Isabelle” by a19 percent margin in adults 18 to 34 (6.8/16 vs. 5.7/13) en route to averaging 13.0 million total viewers last night.
However, “Amy & Isabelle” won the 9 p.m.-to-11 p.m. period with a 13.4/20 average in households (19.4 million total viewers) over NBC’s Part 1 of “The Women of Camelot-Jackie, Ethel and Joan,” which posted an 8.2/12 in households (10.8 million viewers). CBS’s presentation of the movie “Eraser” drew a third-ranked 7.6/11 in households.
Morningstar senior VP at The WB: B
ill Morningstar has been promoted to senior vice president of media sales for The WB Network, filling the post left vacant by Jed Petrick’s recent promotion to the network’s president and chief operating officer. Mr. Morningstar, who will be reporting to Mr. Petrick, will now manage the network’s sales staff out of New York, including overseeing sales in Los Angeles and Chicago.
Mr. Morningstar, who previously held the title of vice president of Eastern region sales, will continue to work with advertising agencies, media buying services and their clients. He is responsible for all network advertising revenues for Kids’ WB! and The WB’s prime time, the latter of which surpassed $500 million in gross revenue for the second consecutive season in 2000-01. For the past three seasons, The WB claims to have achieved the greatest cost-per-thousand (CPM) increases in the television industry.
“Bill was my first hire when I joined The WB, and he has continually proven to be a valuable asset,” Mr. Petrick said. “He has a great understanding of The WB’s strategy and its importance to advertisers. I have been consistently impressed by the respect and trust he has earned from our clients and know that Bill’s transition into this position will be seamless.”
Before joining The WB in 1994, Mr. Morningstar was a vice president in the network group at Grey Advertising.
Skupin gives ‘Early Show’ hot ratings: Bad news for “Survivor: The Australian Outback” contestant Michael Skupin proved to be good ratings news for “The Early Show.” The program racked up its biggest overnight ratings for a Friday with Mr. Skupin’s appearance the morning after the prime-time audience saw him evacuated from the “Outback” campsite when he fell into the campfire and suffered second-degree burns. The overnight Nielsen ratings from 48 metered markets gave the CBS morning show a 3.3/11, up significantly from its recent 2.4 and 2.5 Friday overnights.
Sun shines on Canal Plus Technologies: Sun Microsystems has bought a stake in Canal Plus Technologies-estimated at $20 million-and will work with the company to push Java technology-based open standards for interactive digital television and the rapid deployment of Java technology in advanced digital set-top boxes. Canal Plus will also license Sun’s PersonalJava platform for its MediaHighway middleware and port its cable headend infrastructure products to Sun’s Solaris Operating Environment and Sun Cluster 3.0 software to support applications like t-commerce and real-time interactive gaming. Earlier Canal Plus investors include Sony, Thomson multimedia/RCA and Sogecable.
WABC writers win award: Two news writers at WABC-TV, New York, were given a Writers Guild Award yesterday at the 53rd Annual Writers Guild Awards, given out simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles. Glenn Stinfast and Darcy Bonfils won for their work on “Hurricane: Eyewitness to a Storm.”
“It’s a pretty big deal for us,” WABC News Director Dan Forman said. “Very rarely does a local station win a national award like that.”
In other news, during storm coverage Sunday WABC went from a lead-in 1.7 Nielsen Media Research rating to a 10.1 rating for the 6 p.m. news. That newscast usually gets between a 3 and a 4 rating.
NASCAR ratings still strong: For the third consecutive week, Fox Sports’ NASCAR telecasts ranked as the highest-rated sports event of the weekend. The Las Vegas 400 averaged a 6.1/13 in the 49-market overnights. That’s up 49 percent from what the Winston Cup event did in the overnights a year ago, when it was carried on ABC.#
The Game Show Network has signed a deal with interactive digital software company ACTV, which will produce interactive game show versions of GSN shows “Mall Masters” and “$100,000 Pyramid” for the Microsoft WebTV Plus interactive TV platform.#
WHO IS NEWS
Alan Perris to senior vice president of programming, Odyssey Network, Los Angeles, from senior vice president of programming, Warner Bros. Television.#