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May 31, 2001  •  Post A Comment

P&G makes big Viacom buy

Viacom Plus, Viacom’s cross-media sales and marketing unit, and Procter & Gamble, the Cincinnati-based worldwide consumer-products company with more than 300 brands, have reached what sources are calling a $300 million marketing-partnership deal.

It’s the largest such cross-media deal to date, encompassing a dozen Viacom television properties, from MTV to TV Land, and includes BET, CBS, UPN, King World Productions and Comedy Central among the players. Announcement of the deal comes after more than two months of complex negotiations in which Viacom President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin played a direct role and was a “major player,” according to sources.MediaVest U.S.A., P&G’s broadcast agency, helped craft the deal, which comes even as agency and network sources continue to predict a slow start to upfront. “This deal could not have existed in the upfront mentality,” said one agency source, who emphasized that while it comes at the verge of upfront negotiations, the deal should be regarded as separate from the annual advertising ritual. The deal does, however, presage the day when as much as 40 percent of all media advertising deals will have a cross-platform underpinning.

The Viacom properties in the deal are CBS Television Network, MTV, MTV2, VH1, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, CMT, BET, UPN, TV Land, Paramount Television, King World Productions and Comedy Central.

While occupying “real estate” is one important component of the deal, it’s not the only one.

P&G will have access to MTV’s research about its teen audience, for example, and will have “primary sponsor” opportunities across a wide range of Viacom media events, from big-event movies to concert tours and sweepstakes.

“The agreement gives Viacom an expanded relationship with P&G and a media investment otherwise unattainable through regular and segmented upfront selling,” Mr. Karmazin said in a statement.

Viacom Plus, founded in 1998, was formerly known as CBS Plus. The unit has made 19 deals to date.

WB picks up more shows for midseason: Reflecting its intense development of a record 17 sitcoms for next season, The WB has announced that its five fall 2001 sitcom pickups will be joined by two more midseason pickups — “Cedric the Coach” and “The (Mis)Adventures of Fiona Plum.” The two shows will join the previously announced midseason comedy “Young Person’s Guide to Becoming a Rock Star.” The WB has scheduled at least two more new comedies for its fall lineup — more than any of the Big 4 networks and more than ABC and CBS combined.

The WB has also made a pilot commitment for a potential midseason hidden video comedy show starring Jamie Kennedy (“Scream”). Under the working title “The Jamie Kennedy Show,” it will be executive-produced by Michael Davies (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”), Mike Karz (“The Wonderful World of Disney”) and Jeff Boggs (“The Tom Green Show,” “Late Show With David Letterman”).

“Breaking a comedy is important to us for many reasons,” said Susanne Daniels, co-president of entertainment at The WB. “Comedies will help us attract more male viewers, they repeat better and give us a great deal more scheduling flexibility.”

“Cedric the Coach” is a combination family and workplace comedy from Artists Television Group, which stars Cedric “The Entertainer” (“The Steve Harvey Show,” “Kings of Comedy Tour”). He plays a divorced father who happens to be the coach of the worst team in the NBA. John Bowman, Matt Wickline and Stan Lathan will serve as executive producers.

“The (Mis)Adventures of Fiona Plum,” from Studios USA, is intended to fit directly into The WB’s Friday night strategy of attracting a young, female audience. It stars Kelly Brook (“The Big Breakfast”) as a pampered witch who gets suspended from the Canterbury Academy of Witchcraft — even though her doting daddy is the chancellor. She is banished to be a nanny for a mortal family of five in the states and is limited to just three spells a day. The series, which also stars Omar Gooding (“Smart Guy”), was created by Jonathan Prince.

The two series join drama “Glory Days,” which will share the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Wednesday time period with “Felicity,” in addition to reality series “No Boundaries” and third-year sitcom “For Your Love,” which also have midseason commitments.

Bruckheimer signs exclusive deal with Warner Bros.: Ending a first-look development and production deal with Touchstone Television, “Pearl Harbor” producer Jerry Bruckheimer has inked a new, exclusive TV pact with Warner Bros. Television. Under the two-year agreement, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, which co-produces the hit freshman CBS drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” is entered into a first-look deal with Warner Bros. on any TV series developed and produced under the studio’s auspices.

The deal comes just as Mr. Bruckheimer’s first-look deal with Disney’s Touchstone Television expires today. However, grandfathered under a former deal, Bruckheimer Films and Touchstone are still set to co-produce the fall 2001 CBS reality series “The Amazing Race,” which Touchstone is financing as a passive partner. Nevertheless, the loss of Bruckheimer Films is somewhat of a blow to Touchstone, which had at one time been working as a co-production partner on “CSI” but balked on the project and let Alliance Atlantis and CBS Productions come in as production partners with Mr. Bruckheimer’s TV unit. Although Touchstone’s executive vice president of production Stephen McPherson had been passionate about “CSI’s” prospects, Disney’s executive brass apparently nixed the deal over what it thought would be limited international sales opportunities.

Ultimately, the decision to bow out meant Touchstone was cut out of “CSI’s” record $1.6 million-per-episode deal with The National Network (a Viacom property) valued at more than $160 million for the first 100 episodes delivered to the cable network.

Jonathan Littman, executive vice president of TV for Bruckheimer Films, told EM, “There is no bitterness or acrimony [against Touchstone], but it’s just more of a case where we want to grow our TV business in other directions. Touchstone is in a very specific business, but they have been completely supportive on ‘The Amazing Race’ and other development ventures in the past.”

Bruckheimer Films, widely known in Hollywood for its action films, is maintaining its exclusive motion picture production deal with sister Disney unit Touchstone Pictures. Touchstone served as producer and distributor of Mr. Bruckheimer’s “Pearl Harbor,” which scored the second-highest box office gross ever ($75.1 million) during Memorial Day weekend.

Abernathy sworn in as GOP commissioner: Kathleen Abernathy officially began her duties as a GOP commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission Thursday morning after being sworn in by FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Michael Copps, who has been confirmed by the Senate for a Democratic FCC seat, was sworn in Thursday afternoon. At deadline, it was unclear when Kevin Martin, a White House aide who has also been confirmed for a GOP seat, would be able to begin his official agency duties. Due to a paperwork glitch, his term isn’t slated to start until July 1. But an observer said the Senate is expected to clear the way for Mr. Martin to start earlier when it returns next week from its Memorial Day recess.

Paxson signs sales deal with Fox affiliate: Paxson Communications Corp. has entered into a joint sales agreement with Fox affiliate WTNZ-TV, Knoxville, Tenn. WTNZ will provide sales and marketing and will repurpose its newscast for Pax station WPXK-TV. Pax now has JSAs for 50 of its stations.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications