MGM ready to shop strips to basic cable

Apr 23, 2001  •  Post A Comment

After two seasons of distributing strips to stations, MGM Worldwide Television Group appears ready to bow out of broadcasting’s daily grind, at least temporarily.
The syndicator’s two Monday-Friday series, “National Enquirer Uncovered” and “Sex Wars,” will not return to stations next fall, as the company is preparing to shop both series to basic cable for the fall, according to sources. Neither series has sparked the ratings fire hoped for by stations and the syndicator, with freshman game show “Sex Wars” earning a season-to-date average rating of 0.6 and sophomore newsmagazine “Enquirer” falling 33 percent compared with its first season with a season-to-date rating of 1.2.
MGM would not confirm that “Enquirer” would leave the broadcast ranks next fall but did acknowledge that it was being considered for basic cable.
“National Enquirer Uncovered” was renewed last year by 14 Fox owned-and-operated stations to give it an instant clearance of 35 percent of the country. General managers of those stations confirm, however, that the Fox group will not re-up for a third term. Many of the Hearst-Argyle stations that also signed on for a second year similarly confirmed that the series will not return for its junior year.
“We told MGM that if they were interested in bringing either show back to talk with us, and they never did,” said the programming director of one Hearst-Argyle station. “They never did, and now we’re moving forward without them on our schedule.”
Earlier this year, “National Enquirer TV” received a facelift and was rechristened “National Enquirer Uncovered,” adding a new show-runner, new on-air talent, a new set and a new approach. The series will continue production and air episodes through the remainder of the season.
“Sex Wars” on the other hand, has already wrapped production on season one and will air episodes through the remainder of the year. Again, stations in most major markets confirm that the series was not renewed for the 2001-02 season.
Now, the studio is hoping to add to both series’ shelf lives by turning to cable. The studio has a commitment to Viacom’s Showtime, where it successfully launched “Stargate SG-1” and “The Outer Limits” before selling off-cable weekend airings to stations. Although Showtime won’t add either series to its lineup, MGM’s solid relationship with Viacom already has stirred some speculation that fellow Viacom channel TNN, now on a shopping spree to acquire new programming, would be a likely outlet.
However, MGM has also scored deals with USA’s Sci-Fi Channel to re-air “The Outer Limits,” with potential new series to be spun off, prompting some speculation that one or both of the strips could end up on USA. FX has also been mentioned as a potential home for a series.