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Jun 7, 2001  •  Post A Comment

PBS moves ‘Masterpiece Theatre’

Sundays won’t be quite as British next fall on PBS, which is moving “Masterpiece Theatre” out of its home of more than three decades to make room for “American Masters” (airing weekly October through December) and “American Experience” (returning in January).

Starting the first week of October, the two “American” series will air at 9 p.m. (ET) Sunday, while “Masterpiece” will air at 9 p.m. Monday, a time slot in which the showcase for British imports fared “slightly better” in a seven-market “pilot schedule project” last October that was aimed at creating a more “viewer-friendly” schedule, PBS said in its announcement.

The most extensive revamping of the PBS prime-time schedule in 25 years also includes 20 hour-long installments of “Antiques Roadshow UK,” airing at 8 p.m. Thursday, while the American “Roadshow” will continue to air at 8 p.m. Monday.

Also moving: “Nova,” which will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday instead of 9 p.m., and “Frontline,” which will switch from Tuesday to 9 p.m. Thursday.

In addition to the British “Roadshow,” the new continuing series include “Life 360,” a co-production of Oregon Public Broadcasting and ABC News’ “Nightline” that will be hosted by “Nightline’s” Michel Martin and will use documentaries, performances and personal narratives to tell each of the 13 weekly “real stories.”

PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell said the changes “exemplify our strategy of keeping the best and reinventing the rest.”

Studios USA puts late-night strip in development: Chalk up another development project for the fall 2002 syndicated season. Studios USA is considering bringing a late-night strip starring “Temptation Island” host Mark L. Walberg and former “The X Show” regular Mark DeCarlo in line to assume hosting duties of the potential talk show.

NBC affils disagree on Olympics programming plan: A poll of NBC affiliates in the Western time zone indicates that 80 percent wish to delay key Winter Olympics programming so it can play to the largest possible audience in prime time rather than carry it live. However, NBC Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol, who will be programming prime time with East Coast viewers in mind, would prefer to carry it live.

Jack Sander, head of NBC’s affiliate advisory board and executive vice president of media operations for Belo, said the results of the affiliate poll were presented to NBC in mid-May, when the advisory board met with network executives, including Mr. Ebersol, who was “very open and candid about the complexities of that decision.”

“I think that issue will be resolved sooner rather than later, but we’ve been saying that for a few weeks,” Mr. Sander said during one of his occasional conference calls with reporters.

A spokesman said NBC Sports is studying the situation closely and will be working with the affiliates on it.

On other subjects, Mr. Sander said:

— The affiliates have not and will not ask NBC to rejoin the National Association of Broadcasters, from which the network, like CBS and Fox, resigned because they are at odds on key issues. While the NBC affiliate board would like to see each of the networks revisit the subject, “That’s really not our issue,” Mr. Sander said.

— A new contract with the NBC News Channel, in which the affiliates are 50-50 partners, is effectively wrapped up. Changes in the contract largely addressed issues related to technology and distribution, Mr. Sander said.

An NBC News spokeswoman said the network already is receiving signed contracts back from the stations and the process is expected to be wrapped up within a few weeks.

Game 1 of NBA finals scores ratings high: With 39 million people seeing at least a portion of Wednesday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the championship opener — in which the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-101 in overtime — is going into the record books as the most-watched Finals opener in three years.

The two-hour, 45-minute broadcast on NBC averaged a 12.4 national rating/23 share. According to Nielsen Media Research data, the game earned an 11.0 rating in men 18 to 49 and an 11.6 in men 25 to 54, year-to-year increases of 34 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Metered-market viewership peaked in Philadelphia (41.0/60) and Los Angeles (32.9/51).

WHSL to become UPN affiliate: Michael Roberts, chairman of the diversified Roberts Cos., confirmed Thursday that WHSL-TV, the full-power St. Louis station launched in 1989 by him and his brother Steven as an affiliate of the Home Shopping Network, will become an affiliate of UPN in March 2003.

The affiliate switch will give UPN a primary affiliate in each of the top 50 markets. Currently UPN’s “WWF Smackdown!” and “Star Trek: Voyager” are shown out of pattern on KPLR-TV, the WB station owned by Acme Communications, in which the Roberts Cos. is a major stockholder.

Univision will continue to have the 45 percent nonvoting stake in the fully automated WHSL-TV it has had since acquiring USA Broadcasting. “We felt that it was in our best interests to diversify our station,” Mr. Roberts said.

The St. Louis-based Roberts Cos. had been talking to UPN since its earliest days and very nearly struck an affiliate deal several years ago.

“They are urban-oriented. They have programming that is attractive to the minority community,” said Mr. Roberts, whose company’s broadcast properties include KTVJ-TV in Denver, which he said faces the same “sunset” with Home Shopping Network.

Mr. Roberts said he is months away from knowing how he’ll program WHSL-TV outside UPN’s prime-time slate. But, he said, “our mix may be a little different than others,” and he isn’t ruling out the option of Home Shopping Network programming overnight or in daytime.

Other broadcasters may be “interested in ratings, we’re interested in bank deposits,” said Mr. Roberts.

“We’ll build a little hype and have some fun,” he said.

WPLG-TV age-discrimination suit ends: Former ABC affiliate WPLG-TV, Miami, anchor Steve Alvarez’s age-discrimination lawsuit ended Wednesday when a jury determined the station did not let him go because of his age in 1999. According to the Miami Herald, it took a federal court jury less than 20 minutes to decide he was not the victim of age discrimination. WPLG General Manager John Garwood and News Director Bill Pohovey testified Mr. Alvarez had been told to improve his performance or his contract would not be renewed.O’Brien to become president and GM at KXAS-TV: Tom O’Brien, president and general manager of WVIT-TV, Hartford-New Haven, Conn., has been named president and general manager of NBC-owned KXAS-TV in Dallas-Forth Worth. At WVIT Mr. O’Brien led the NBC-owned station on a four-year growth curve in the extremely competitive Hartford market. Now he will move to the even more competitive Dallas-Fort Worth market, which has long been dominated by Belo-owned ABC affiliate WFAA-TV. He will continue to report to NBC Television Stations President Jay Ireland.

Mr. O’Brien, who will arrive at KXAS on June 12, said his game plan is basically to capitalize on what has been accomplished under the administration of Stephen Doerr, who last month was named senior vice president of news, programming and creative development for the NBC Television Stations division.

“I think the team down there is strong. They’ve gained a lot of ground,” said Mr. O’Brien, who started his TV career as a vacation-relief engineering technician at WTEN-TV in Albany, N.Y., in 1980 and switched to producing and technical directing for CBS Sports and ESPN and Sports Channel/New England in the mid-’80s, before signing on as an account executive at ABC affiliate WTNH-TV in New Haven in 1986.

His first stint at WVIT-TV was as local sales manager from 1990 to 1993, when he became director of sales at Paramount station WNYT-TV in Albany, before returning to Hartford to run WVIT-TV.

Sheingold rejoins CBS: After a short sojourn as president of sales during a tumultuous year at USA Cable, Richard Sheingold has rejoined the CBS family as president of CBS Spot Sales (a position he held from mid-1997 through mid-2000) and executive vice p
resident of sales for Viacom Television Stations. In the dual roles he will oversee all sales activities, including national sales, for the 16 CBS and 19 UPN television stations.

Greg Schaefer, who has performed those duties since June 2000, will return to WCBS-TV in New York as vice president and station manager, the latter a title he earned in January 2000.

Mr. Schaefer, who will report to WCBS-TV Vice President and General Manager Tony Petitti, and Mr. Sheingold, who will be based in New York and report to Viacom Television Stations President Fred Reynolds, are veterans of Group W and CBS.

In the announcement, Mr. Reynolds said that Mr. Sheingold’s “years of experience and success with our organization make him uniquely qualified for this expanded sales role.”

Sullivan to become news director at KNXV-TV: Bob Sullivan will be the news director at ABC affiliate KNXV-TV, Phoenix, starting June 18. He replaces Bob Morford, who left to become news director at ABC affiliate WCPO-TV, Cincinnati.

Kraynak joins Viacom Plus: Lisa Kraynak has been named to the newly created position of vice president, marketing, Viacom Plus, the Viacom cross-platform marketing unit that recently did a $300 million deal with Procter & Gamble.

Ms. Kraynak joins Viacom Plus from iVillage.com, where she most recently served as vice president of strategic marketing. Ms. Kraynak, who will be responsible for the development of major integrated marketing platforms, will report to Lisa McCarthy, Viacom Plus senior vice president.

New Jersey debate to air Saturday: New Jersey ABC-owned WPVI-TV, Philadelphia, and sister station WABC-TV, New York, will air a debate between the New Jersey gubernatorial candidates that will be taped Thursday night. WPVI will air the program at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, while WABC will air it at 3 p.m. WPVI anchor Marc Howard and WABC anchor Roz Abrams will moderate the one-hour debate between candidates Bret Schundler and Bob Franks.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications