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May 14, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Fox picture getting clearer

Fox is expected to announce at its upfront presentation in New York on Thursday that it will add three new dramas and one sitcom to its schedule, reflecting the network’s ongoing strength among the adults 18 to 34 demo, sources say.The network will most likely move sophomore drama “Dark Angel” from Tuesdays to Fridays at 9 p.m. (ET) coming out of “Police Videos.”

New dramas “In the Weeds” (Regency/Studios USA) and “American Soap” (Regency/20th Century Fox) are expected to get the unenviable task of going up against NBC’s long-dominant “Must-See TV” and CBS’s “Survivor,” sources say.

On Tuesday nights, the Judd Apatow-produced sitcom “Undeclared” (DreamWorks) is expected to win the coveted 8:30 p.m. time slot leading out from “That ’70s Show.” Most likely taking “Dark Angel’s” place at 9 p.m. will be “Twenty Four” (20th Century Fox/Imagine Television), which stars Kiefer Sutherland. There is no word yet on where the displaced Tuesday comedy “Titus” will air.

Among the pickups for midseason are dramas “Emma Brody” (20th Century Fox/Jersey Television) and the Diane Keaton-produced “Pasadena” (Brad Grey TV/Columbia TriStar), sources say.

Drama “Ball & Chain” (20th Century Fox) and sitcom “Greg the Bunny” (20th Century Fox) reportedly will both be reworked.

CBS picks up ‘Wolf Lake,’ ‘Community Center’: CBS has picked up two shows — drama “Wolf Lake” (Big Ticket Television/CBS Productions) and comedy “Community Center” (20th Century Fox/Acme Productions), starring Daniel Stern — for its fall schedule, sources say.

“Community Center” most likely will air on Wednesdays between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. (ET) paired with Ellen DeGeneres’ new sitcom. It is fairly likely that reality show “Race Around the World” will lead off the night at 8 p.m.

Speculation making the rounds has CBS moving its Sunday stalwart “Touched by an Angel” to either Friday or Saturday night, with new drama “The Education of Max Bickford (20th Century Fox/CBS Productions), starring Richard Dreyfuss, getting the prime Sunday slot. Rumor also has it that Monday night sitcom “Yes, Dear” will shift nights.NBC announces fall schedule: NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker is not about to let a little thing like being first get in his way. After opening upfront week with a two hour, 20 minute presentation of NBC’s fall lineup of six new shows, Mr. Zucker said that he’s not going to be boxed in with the lineup he announced Monday.

“If we see something that puts us at a competitive disadvantage we’ll change it,” Mr. Zucker said. And when might he change it? “Next week,” if he has to, Mr. Zucker said.

Not announced at Radio City Music Hall were two midseason backups, “What Are You Thinking?” (Columbia TriStar Television and NBC Studios) and “Leap of Faith” (NBC Studios).

In other news from the presentation, Woody Harrelson will be back for the first five episodes of “Will & Grace” next season, and everyone from “ER” will return for the whole season, Mr. Zucker promised. NASCAR will get a prime-time Saturday night debut when it joins NBC’s lineup July 7, and a new half-hour series titled “Behind the Movie” will follow the network’s Saturday night movie at 10:30 p.m.

Among the specials announced were a live, three-hour NBC 75th anniversary special, and if Dick Wolf can keep all three of his dramas in the prime-time lineup for the whole season, in May 2002 there will be a five hour, three-way crossover stunt.

NBC’s announced fall schedule follows:

Sunday

7 p.m. “Dateline NBC” (NBC News)

8 p.m. “Weakest Link” (BBC/NBC)

9 p.m. “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (Studios USA)

10 p.m. “UC: Undercover” (20th Century Fox, Jersey TV)

Monday

8 p.m. “Weakest Link” (BBC/NBC)

9 p.m. “Third Watch” (Warner Bros.)

10 p.m. “Crossing Jordan” (NBC Studios)

Tuesday

8 p.m. “Emeril” (NBC Studios)

8:30 p.m. “Three Sisters” (NBC Studios)

9 p.m. “Frasier” (Paramount)

9:30 p.m. “Scrubs” (NBC Studios/Touchstone)

10 p.m. “Dateline NBC”

Wednesday

8 p.m. “Ed” (Worldwide Pants/Viacom/NBC Studios)

9 p.m. “The West Wing” (Warner Bros.)

10 p.m. “Law & Order” (Studios USA)

Thursday

8 p.m. “Friends” (Warner Bros.)

8:30 p.m. “Inside Schwartz” (20th Century Fox)

9 p.m. “Will & Grace” (NBC Studios)

9:30 p.m. “Just Shoot Me” (Universal)

10 p.m. “ER” (Warner Bros.)

Friday

8 p.m. “Providence” (NBC Studios)

9 p.m. “Dateline” (NBC News)

10 p.m. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (Studios USA)

Saturday

8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. NBC Saturday Night Movie

10:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. “Behind the Movie”

‘Once and Again’ lives; ’20/20′ gets a break: ABC is primed to bounce “20/20” around the schedule next year, moving it to 10 p.m. (ET) Wednesdays in the fall to allow the romantic drama “Once and Again” another attempt to build an audience at 10 p.m. on Fridays — the time slot that has been home to the network’s signature newsmagazine and Barbara Walters, the grande dame of the high-profile interview.

“20/20” is scheduled to leave the lineup altogether from November through the end of “Monday Night Football” in January.

At a Monday morning meeting with the staff of “20/20,” Ms. Walters reportedly took a stance of being disappointed but not worried about the shuffling of the show with which she has been identified for more than two decades.

While the network is going to portray the “20/20” move as a testament to the show’s strength and Ms. Walters’ iconic status, the reaction elsewhere was that the plan shows a “demoralizing” disdain by ABC Entertainment for ABC News, whose president, David Westin, is said to have lobbied against treating the 23-year-old newsmagazine like a ping-pong ball.

A number of shows are expected to bounce around the schedule, which will be announced Tuesday.

“Philly,” the Steven Bochco drama starring Kim Delaney, is expected to air at 10 p.m. Tuesdays, the traditional home of Mr. Bochco’s “NYPD Blue,” which apparently will go head-to-head with NBC’s venerable “Law & Order” at 10 p.m. Wednesdays starting in November.

If “Blue” underperforms on Wednesday, a source said, “20/20” might be pulled off the shelf earlier than scheduled to shore up the night.

The network is expected to pit “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” against NBC’s “Weakest Link” at 8 p.m. on Mondays and to air it again at 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

The schedule expected to be announced Tuesday has “Dharma & Greg” at 8 p.m Tuesday, followed by “What About Joan,” the Jason Alexander comedy “Bob Patterson,” “Spin City” and “Philly.”

On Wednesdays, “My Wife and Kids” will air at 8 p.m., followed by the Jim Belushi comedy, “The Drew Carey Show” and “The Job.”

Thursdays will continue to start with “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

“The Mole,” the reality game show that had limited success in its first run last winter, is slotted at 8 p.m. Friday, followed at 9 p.m. by “Thieves,” a drama starring John Stamos.

Saturday continues to be a movie night.

“The Practice” is to remain at 10 p.m. Sundays but without the “Millionaire” lead-in. Instead, ABC is expected to schedule “Alias,” a drama about a coed spy from “Felicity’s” J.J. Abrams.

Not expected to return in fall are “Norm,” “Two Guys and a Girl” and “Gideon’s Crossing.”

ABC’s expected schedule at a glance:

Sunday

7 p.m. “Wonderful World of Disney”

9 p.m. “Alias” (Touchstone)

10 p.m. “The Practice” (20th Century Fox)

Monday

8 p.m. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (Buena Vista)

9 p.m. “Monday Night Football” (ABC Sports)

Tuesday

8 p.m. “Dharma & Greg” (20th Century Fox)

8:30 p.m. “What About Joan” (Columbia TriStar/Gracie Films)

9 p.m. “Bob Patterson” (20th Century Fox/Touchstone/Angel Ark Productions)

9:30 p.m. “Spin City” (DreamWorks)

10 p.m. “Philly” (Bochco Productions/Paramount)

Wednesday

8 p.m. “My Wife and Kids” (Touchstone)8:30 p.m. sitcom starring Jim Belushi (Touchstone/Brad Grey TV)

9 p.m. “The Drew Carey Show” (Warner Bros.)

9:30 p.m. “The Job” (Touchstone/DreamWorks)

10 p.m. “NYPD Blue” starting in November (20th Century Fox/Bochco Productions)

Thursday

8 p.m. “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (Warner Bros.)

8:30 p.m. “Whose Line Is It Anywa
y?” (Warner Bros.)

9 p.m. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (Buena Vista)

10 p.m. “PrimeTime Thursday (ABC News)

Friday

8 p.m. “The Mole” (Stone Stanley)

9 p.m. “Thieves” (Warner Bros.)

10 p.m. “Once and Again” (Touchstone)

Saturday

8 p.m. Movie

Big 4 reply to NASA charges: In a letter Monday to the Federal Communications Commission, the Big 4 networks respond to the latest round of charges by the major affiliate organizations that the networks routinely engage in abuses aimed at curbing affiliate authority over programming.

CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox insist that accusations leveled by the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance in its original March petition to the FCC are a “confusing mixture of unsubstantiated factual allegations.” And they say a May 2 letter from NASA to the agency that provides further clarification of the affiliates’ concerns “is a post facto attempt to shore up the petition’s manifest flaws by recasting it in a new light.”

The networks insist the FCC should dismiss NASA’s complaints outright, but if it doesn’t, it should consider them as part of a pending network-affiliate rulemaking. NASA is not seeking fines or enforcement action against the networks but does want the FCC to clarify its rule regarding network-affiliate relations.

WB keeps ‘Angel,’ adds 8 new series: The WB will add one drama, five comedies and two reality series to its fall schedule, which will be announced Monday in New York. The WB will move “Gilmore Girls” into the 8 p.m. (ET) Tuesday time slot vacated by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” leading into “Angel,” which will stay put at The WB. The WB’s expected schedule follows:

Sunday

7 p.m. “Lost in the USA” (Bunim Murray Productions/ATG) — an alternative reality show also prepared for the slot is “No Boundaries,” produced by Lions Gate Television, ConnQuest Productions and Ford Motor Co.

8 p.m. “The Steve Harvey Show” (Universal)

8:30 p.m. “Men, Women & Dogs” (Paramount)

9 p.m. “Nikki” (Warner Bros.)

9:30 p.m. “Off Centre” (Warner Bros./DreamWorks SKG)

Monday

8 p.m. “7th Heaven” (Spelling Television)

9 p.m. “Angel” (20th Century Fox Television)

Tuesday

8 p.m. “Gilmore Girls” (Warner Bros.)

9 p.m. “Smallville” (Warner Bros./Tollin-Robbins)

Wednesday

8 p.m. “Dawson’s Creek” (Columbia TriStar)

9 p.m. “Felicity” (Imagine Television/Touchstone) — “Glory Days” (Warner Bros./Miramax) will air eight episodes in this slot in the winter.

Thursday

8 p.m. “Popstars 2” (Stone Stanley)

8:30 p.m. “Elimidate Deluxe” (Telepictures Productions)

9 p.m. “Charmed” (Spelling Television)

Friday

8 p.m. “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (Viacom)

8:30 p.m. “Maybe I’m Adopted” (Warner Bros./Touchstone)

9 p.m. “Deep in the Heart” (20th Century Fox, Acme Productions)

9:30 p.m. “Raising Dad” (Paramount)

Studios USA’s “The Misadventures of Fiona Plum” is slated as a midseason replacement. WB officials declined to confirm if “Roswell” has been canceled. A spokesman for The WB said the show could still be in consideration for midseason.

The Family Friendly Programming Forum, a consortium of about 40 advertisers, funded script development for “Raising Dad,” starring Bob Saget. The Forum also funded the script for “Murphy’s Dozen,” which The WB is seriously considering for midseason.

Telemundo unveils fall schedule: Telemundo will announced today a fall lineup heavy on comedic telenovelas and reality at its upfront presentation in New York. New shows included:

— “Uga Uga,” a Brazilian telenovela about a boy, raised in the jungle by Indians, who returns to civilization as a young man who inherits a fortune.

— “Protagonistas,” a cross between “Big Brother” and “Popstars,” follows 16 aspiring actors who are locked in a television studio for six weeks, with the two winners of acting “challenges” getting on-air roles in an actual upcoming Telemundo telenovela.

— “Solterita y a la Orden” (“Single and Available”), a one-hour telenovela dramedy Telemundo is describing as its “Ally McBeal.”

— “Pedro el Escamosa” (a colloquialism that translates as “Pedro the Slimy” or “Pedro the Slippery”), another comedic telenovela from Colombia, described as the male version of “Betty.”– “Buscando a Rita” (“Searching for Rita”), an original animated series Telemundo likened to “The Simpsons.”

The network has also added a slate of dubbed Disney family films to its weekend theatrical mix of Hollywood action-adventures and Latin American classics. Other news from Telemundo: Its network news program, “Noticiero Telemundo,” is going to seven days, adding twice-daily weekend newscasts for the first time.

Fox projects NBC will win sweeps: Through Sunday and the first 18 days of the May sweeps (April 26-May 23), NBC’s top-ranked 5.1 rating/14 share holds in the key adults 18 to 49 demographic holds a 21 percent margin over Fox’s current 4.2/12 average, according to Nielsen Media Research. In fact, Fox researchers think NBC will hold on to that nine-tenths of rating point margin in the key demo to win its biggest sweeps margin since May 1999.

For NBC, a win of May would mark its third consecutive sweeps win in adults 18 to 49 and its eighth hat trick since the since the 1982-83 season. But NBC’s current 5.1/14 average marks a 7 percent decline from the May 2000 sweeps average of 5.5/16 — while Fox is up 2 percent from a 4.1/12.

Fox researchers also believe that CBS will remain deadlocked in a third-place tie at 4.0/11 when the sweeps end this month. Most notably, CBS is projected to post an 18 percent jump in adults 18 to 49 from the year-ago May sweeps period (3.4/10) while ABC will sink 28 percent from its May 2000 5.5/16 average, which last had the network in a tie for first with NBC last year.

For the end of the traditional 2000-01 season, which ends May 23, NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa projected during NBC’s upfront schedule conference call that NBC will win the season in adults 18 to 49 by six-tenths of a rating point margin over either Fox or ABC.

Murdoch vs. McCain, Round 2: In an interview Monday night on CNBC, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch responds to Sen. John McCain’s charge last week that the media mogul’s attempt to acquire DirecTV could result in “a consolidation of power the likes of which this country has not seen since William Randolph Hearst.”

The lawmaker, who heads a Senate panel that regulates the television industry, made his remarks to the Financial Times newspaper. Monday night on CNBC’s “Business Center,” which runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), Mr. Murdoch says he told Sen. McCain, “This is ridiculous. I can’t even believe you said this, because look at AOL Time Warner — we’re a fraction of the size of that. And indeed, look at CBS-Viacom.”According to a partial transcript, Mr. Murdoch tells CNBC reporter Steve Frank: “There’s absolutely no regulation against what we’re doing. We’re minnows. If we get DirecTV, which we haven’t got, we’ll still be a minnow compared to AOL Time Warner.”

Mr. Murdoch also discusses his rivalry with CNN founder Ted Turner, whom he pities for selling his cable and sports empire to Time Warner, which was acquired by AOL. “It’s very hard to sell out and keep control. It doesn’t matter what people tell you,” he said of Mr. Turner, who has the title of vice chairman and senior advisor at AOL Time Warner. “On the other hand, when you read interviews with him and you can see his frustrations, you can’t help but feel rather sorry for him.”

NBC News making news: NBC News is expected to make speculation come true Wednesday with the announcement that Jonathan Wald will become executive producer of “Today” and Steve Capus will succeed him as executive producer of “NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw.”

The question then becomes: Who will succeed Mr. Capus as executive producer of “The News With Brian Williams” on MSNBC? The names being bandied about include Larry Moscow, who has been No. 2 on the hour-long newscast; Bret Marcus from CNBC; Mark Lukasiewicz, who left ABC News to produce long-form news specials for NBC News and MSNBC; and Marc Rosenwasser from “Dateline NBC.”

Talks are continuing about who will take
over “Dateline NBC” now that its executive producer, Neal Shapiro, has been named president of NBC News. NBC News executive David Corvo remains the leading candidate.

Cable & Wireless to purchase Digital: The U.K.’s Cable & Wireless Plc. is buying California’s Digital Island, the companies announced Monday. The $340 million all-cash transaction includes Cable & Wireless taking on about $49 million of Digital Island’s net debt. At last count, the U.S. Internet services provider had about 850 employees. Once the acquisition is completed, Digital Island will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Cable & Wireless, though it is still headquartered in San Francisco and led by its existing management team.

The acquisition, Cable & Wireless Chief Executive Graham Wallace said, will accelerate the implementation of the Cable & Wireless global IP and data strategy, dramatically improving and increasing the number of services it offers and strengthening its data center presence in the United States.

Nick’s picks: The new season will see three ’80s sitcom blockbusters joining Nick at Nite’s programming schedule. “Cheers,” “Family Ties” and “The Cosby Show” are the retro newcomers Nick planned to announce at its New York upfront presentation tonight. “Cosby” debuts in March 2002; the other two will premiere on the network with weeklong marathons in September.

Study: Customer loyalty programs succeed: Customer loyalty programs work, with the highest-end cable and satellite customers the ones most likely to use coupons, discount cards, reward points and other similar incentives, according to the most recent data from the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s Pulse research series.

Overall, 68 percent of the 1,015 randomly surveyed cable customers participate in some kind of loyalty program. One in four loyalty program participants report that they are more loyal to the company offering such programs.

CTAM found that loyalty program participants are more likely to be: premium cable customers (34 percent vs. 26 percent); digital cable customers (16 percent vs. 6 percent); PC owners (60 percent vs. 42 percent); online subscribers (49 percent vs. 28 percent); in households with children under 18 (42 percent vs. 31 percent); and with higher household incomes ($50K vs. $32K, on average).

History International plans four docu series: History International, the History Channel’s global-perspective and foreign-language sibling, will be debuting four new documentary series this year, two of which will be premiering on History International’s weekly programming block on the History Channel.

The new docs are “Time Team,” a series about archaeological digs across Europe (for July); “Disaster,” a series that examines such world disasters as the Chernobyl meltdown (also for July); “From the Files of Interpol: The World’s Most Wanted,” a series that explores true crime stories; and “Arctic Tomb,” about a tragic 1845 British expedition to the Arctic. The latter two will debut in the second half of the year as part of the History International preview on the History Channel.

History International’s preview showcase begins Aug. 12 on the History Channel with “The Great Empire: Rome.”

RealNetworks puts coin in RealArcade: RealNetworks on Monday unveiled an all-in-one free games service called RealArcade that claims to provide consumers with everything they need online to find, acquire, manage, download and play PC games. The service launches Monday with more than 120 games from more than 40 top developers and publishers as a beta release at www.realarcade.com.

Sony launches interactive program: Sony Electronics officially launched a content developer program for interactive TV applications and services on Sony’s interactive digital cable platform. Targeted at Web developers, content providers, studios, network/cable operators and new media companies, it offers a comprehensive resource of tools to speed development as well as a designated Web site: www.sony.com/digitaltvdeveloper.

Last January, Sony and Cablevision Systems Corp. demonstrated the next-generation interactive digital cable system that the two companies jointly developed. Both will provide support to developers who wish to create new applications and services on Cablevision’s distribution system in the New York metropolitan area. Forty-six companies are developing content for the platform, including the Public Broadcast Service, Intellocity, Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, Commerce.TV and RespondTV.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications