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Aug 2, 2001  •  Post A Comment

UPN unveils fall season premiere schedule

UPN announced staggered premiere dates for its 2001-02 prime-time schedule beginning Thursday, Aug. 16, with a first-ever live episode of “WWF Smackdown!” (8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET) and continuing through the Tuesday, Oct. 2 and Oct. 9 launches of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Roswell,” respectively.

Featuring a new graphic look and studio set, UPN will be airing 52 weeks of original episodes of “WWF Smackdown!” which suffered some minor ratings erosion this season against CBS’s “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and NBC’s comedies.

The October start dates for WB defectors “Buffy” and “Roswell,” which will air in the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. hours on UPN’s Tuesday lineup, came a bit earlier than expected. A spokeswoman for UPN said the “Buffy” and “Roswell” debuts on the network come a week earlier than expected because they were able to get the production schedule “speeded up” by series producers Joss Whedon and 20th Century Fox Television.

“Buffy” will kick off on UPN with a two-hour series opener, but it is being kept closely under wraps how Sarah Michele Gellar’s title character will return to the show after being killed off in the season-ending episode on The WB last May.

With the “Star Trek” prequel, “Enterprise,” also getting a special two-hour season premiere on Wednesday, Sept. 10 (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.), the UPN rep said that the network would be providing an “outstanding promotional platform” to better hype “Buffy” and “Roswell’s” network debuts during the first two weeks of October.

UPN won the rights last May to “Buffy” for a netlet record of $2.3 million per episode in a bidding war in which The WB Network went to a maximum $1.6 million per-episode offer. There was no word from WB officials on when it will announce its fall debut dates, including the 8 p.m. Tuesday season opener of “The Gilmore Girls,” which could conceivably try to get a few weeks jump on “Buffy” in the latter’s old time period. A spokesman for The WB said the Frog Network will be announcing its premiere dates within the next week or two.

Here’s the roll-out pattern for UPN’s fall 2001 prime-time lineup:

Thursday, Aug. 16

8 p.m., “WWF Smackdown!”

Monday, Sept. 3

8 p.m., “The Hughleys”

8:30 p.m., “One on One”

Monday, Sept. 10

9 p.m., “The Parkers”

9:30 p.m., “Girlfriends”

Friday, Sept. 21

8 p.m. to 10 p.m., “UPN Movie Friday”

Wednesday, Sept. 26

8 p.m. to 10 p.m., “Enterprise” (two-hour series premiere)Tuesday, Oct. 2

8 p.m. to 10 p.m., “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (two-hour UPN premiere)

Wednesday, Oct. 3

9 p.m., “Special Unit 2”

Tuesday, Oct. 9

9 p.m. to 10 p.m., “Roswell”

Disney to follow lackluster third quarter with more cost cuts: Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner and other Disney officials made a case for owning more content than distribution in tough times, despite the company’s recently announced plans to acquire Fox Family Channel for $5 billion.

Weak ratings and advertising and difficult comparisons to a robust 2000 took a big toll in the fiscal third quarter on the ABC-owned stations, the ABC TV Network and the entire media group, which includes cable channels such as ESPN. Broadcast earnings declined 42 percent to $244 million on a 12 percent decline in revenues to $1.3 billion. Even the company’s cable networks’ operating income declined 6 percent to $226 million on a 7 percent increase in revenues to $814 million in the period. Fiscal third-quarter operating income for Disney’s media networks decreased 29 percent to $470 million on a 6 percent decline in revenues to $2 billion.

However, President Bob Iger said the company believes it can maintain its TV networks’ 40 percent margins, relying heavily on accelerated cost cuts and improved ratings. Disney officials vowed to push beyond $700 million and $800 million in cost savings expected in its current fiscal year, already above an originally targeted $500 million cost savings.

Mr. Eisner flatly declined to comment on speculation that Disney plans to sign a confidentiality agreement to discuss its interest in acquiring AT&T Broadband or that it may team with Microsoft to acquire a stake in the cable systems before they are spun off publicly.

Overall, Disney reported a 3 percent decline in net income to $479 million, excluding restructuring and other charges, with diluted earnings per share remaining flat at 23 cents per share. Pro forma operating income for the quarter declined 7 percent to $1.1 billion in flat revenues of about $6 billion. The company is maintaining its fiscal fourth-quarter guidance.

Billboard, Telemundo team up: Billboard, the international trade magazine of the music industry, and Spanish-language television network Telemundo have entered into a multiyear extension for the production and broadcast of the “Billboard Latin Music Awards” show on the Telemundo Network. The annual event honors the year’s biggest Latin music stars. Winners are chosen based on their performance on Billboard’s Hot Latin Tracks and Top Latin Albums charts, which reflect radio airplay and sales success.

‘Gilmore Girls,’ ‘Malcolm’ win Family TV Awards: “The 3rd Annual Family Television Awards,” to be held today in Los Angeles, issued its list of winners for promoting so-called “family values” in TV programming.

“Gilmore Girls,” The WB Network’s critically received freshman drama, which received script funding from the advertiser-led Family Friendly Programming Forum, was awarded best new series honors. Lauren Graham, who plays single mother Lorelai Gilmore, shared best actress honors with Jane Kaczmarek, who plays the mom in Fox’s comedy hit “Malcolm in the Middle.”

The best drama award went to NBC’s “The West Wing,” best comedy to “Malcolm in the Middle” and best reality/alternative program to CBS’s “Survivor.” Tom Cavanagh, star of NBC’s well-received “Ed” dramedy, took home best actor honors.

The Family Television Awards is an initiative of the Family Friendly Programming Forum, a group of 48 major national advertisers that was formed to encourage the creation of more family-friendly prime-time programming.

College football goes high-def: Thanks to Samsung and Sears, CBS Sports will offer an HDTV ticket to a full season of college football broadcasts this fall. The HDTV gridiron season kicks off with the Tennessee-Florida game Sept. 15 and will be boosted with Sears’ in-store promotions, in which shoppers will be able to compare high-definition and regular-format broadcasts of the same games side by side on Samsung television sets.

ATV Forum elects Microsoft’s Mitchell as chairman: The Advanced Television Forum, an interactive-television industry consortium devoted to helping market participants create Internetlike enhancements to television programs, has elected Microsoft TV executive Paul Mitchell as chairman.

The group, which is affiliated with the more formal interactive-television specifications and licensing organization ATVEF (Advanced Television Enhancement Forum), focuses its efforts on devising strategies for authoring interactive television content in HTML-based codes instead of in Microsoft rival Sun Microsystems’ proprietary Java language.

Zane headed to ‘Boston’: Billy Zane, who starred in the movies “Titanic” and “The Phantom,” has been signed to gueststar in three episodes of Fox’s “Boston Public,” beginning with its second-season premiere Monday, Oct. 22 (8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET). Mr. Zane will play Michael Baskin, the on-again, off-again boyfriend of new teacher Ronnie Cooke (“Star Trek: Voyager’s” Jeri Ryan). “Boston Public,” produced by 20th Century Fox Television, is created and executive-produced by David E. Kelley.

Glucksman joins ABC Entertainment: Feature film production executive Julie Glucksman has been hired as vice president of comedy development at ABC Entertainment. As announced by Stu Bloomberg and Lloyd Braun, co-chairmen of ABC Entertainment Group, Ms. Glucksman is now responsible for the development and oversight of all prime-time comedy series for ABC.

Ms. Glucksman joins ABC from director Betty Thomas and Jenno Topping’s Tall Trees Productions,
where she has been a producer since 1999. During that time, Ms. Glucksman was a producer on several film, television and Internet projects, most recently working on the ABC drama pilot “Silicon Follies,” which was not picked up for the network’s fall 2001 schedule.

Graham promoted at Fox: Fox Broadcasting Co. has promoted Kristen Guertin Graham, formerly director of talent relations, to vice president of talent relations for the network. In her new position, Ms. Graham plans and executes Fox talent involvement in various network activities, facilitates cross-promotion with sporting events and works with Fox affiliates to fulfill talent requests. Ms. Graham reports to Missy Halperin, senior vice president of talent relations and special projects.

Feldman developing series for Studios USA: Jon Harmon Feldman, a veteran writer/producer of The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” and ABC’s former “The Wonder Years” series, has signed with Studios USA Television to develop comedy and drama series for the Barry Diller-owned studio. Mr. Feldman was brought to Studios USA through the Studios USA-based production company formed by Danielle Stokdyk and Jennifer Gwartz.

This past pilot season, Mr. Feldman wrote the 20th Century Fox Television drama “An American Town,” which is currently under consideration at NBC. His feature film credits include writing and directing the 1997 feature “Lovelife” and writing “Serial Dater.” Mr. Feldman is also attached to direct the independent film “Long Island” from his own script. He is represented by the Endeavor Agency and attorney Neil Meyer of Stone, Meyer and Genow.#

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications