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Sep 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Waters leaving CNN

CNN has announced that Lou Waters, one of the founding anchors of the 21-year-old network, is leaving to become managing editor and occasional on-camera talent for NewsProNet, which produces features for TV stations.

Mr. Waters, whose weekday showcase, “CNN Live Today,” has been supplanted by coverage of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 12 and the country’s preparations for retaliation, is expected to leave at the end of the week.

His co-anchor Natalie Allen also is expected to be leaving the all-news network.

Meanwhile, Bernard Kalb, who has co-hosted CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz, used Jim Romenesko’s Media News Web site to say the announcement on Sept. 7 that he is leaving the show on which he’s appeared for nine years “was premature.”

A CNN spokesperson said that in light of recent events, CNN had resumed discussions with Mr. Kalb and that he continues to work with the media review show. “He tells Media News that he’s staying with ‘Reliable Sources,'” said Mr. Romenesko’s posting Wednesday. “Kalb says he was still in discussions with the network when the PR department issued his resignation statement.”

Dalton joining Twentieth Television: As expected, Twentieth Television has tapped the services of Robb Dalton as president of programming and production for the company. He will now head up an extremely active development slate for the syndicator that may soon include primetime.

Mr. Dalton will oversee the development of first-run programming to be aired on the Fox Television station group and the national television marketplace. In addition, he will be responsible for current programming and production activities on all of Twentieth Television’s first-run product including the highly successful court shows “Divorce Court” and “Power of Attorney” as well as this season’s new strip “Texas Justice.”

Mr. Dalton comes to Twentieth from Fireworks Television, where he served as President since summer of 2000. At Fireworks, he spearheaded the company’s Los Angeles plans to develop, finance, produce and sell original programming to U.S. broadcast and cable networks. Prior to his tenure at Fireworks, Mr. Dalton served as Senior Vice President of CBS Enterprises, where he supervised West Coast development and production for Eyemark Entertainment, King World and CBS Enterprises.

Emmy festivities to be toned down: Low key is the approach being taken with the broadcast of “The 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards,” delayed for three weeks for an Oct. 7 broadcast on CBS (8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET).

In addition to beefed security and the adoption of more casual attire (no tuxedos), the awards show will be opened by former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, who will deliver special remarks pertaining to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who currently stars on “The Ellen Show” for CBS, will host the remainder of the Emmy Awards telecast.

“This year, the show will be different in its approach. It will not be the Emmy Awards as usual,” Emmy Awards executive producer Don Mischer said in a joint statement from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and CBS. “There will be limited music, and while awards will be given out, the awards process itself will be significantly understated. In addition, various videotape packages are being prepared to honor the heroes of the tragic events that took place September 11.”

In light of recent events and an FBI warning last week of potential terrorist threats against the Hollywood studios, the show’s producers , ATAS and CBS, have instituted other new safety measures and guidelines for the Emmy telecast:

— Security and security procedures have been significantly increased. As a result, everyone is encouraged to arrive one hour early.

— The dress for the show will be dressy business attire.

— The traditional red carpet area will be scaled back significantly, with fans and bleachers eliminated.

— A “Unity Dinner” will replace the traditional Governors’ Ball immediately following the awards. All attendees will be together in one secured location. All other Emmy parties have been canceled.

— The press tent will also have a limited amount of press and interview stops. Specifically, all of the one-on-one rooms will be eliminated; there will be one general press room for print, radio, television and online reporters in addition to a separate room for photographers.

Emmis reports stable second quarter, steady cash flow: In a conference call marked by flag-waving for the role of the broadcasting industry in time of crisis, Emmis Communications said Wednesday that while its debt will require some flexibility in the third quarter, the company has had “constructive conversations” with its lenders and there is “adequate cash flow” to service the company’s debt.

While Emmis Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan said he doesn’t want to presuppose what bankers will do, he said, “The word has gone out from the Fed to go easy on their best customers,” and he expressed confidence that bankers know Emmis as “guys [who] will do what it takes” to reduce unnecessary costs while adapting to tough times.

“Emmis has always been known as a company that performs,” Mr. Smulyan said. “This is a management that has seen tough times before. We’ll rally again. We’ll get the job done.”

In the second quarter, the company (whose broadcast interests include 23 domestic radio stations, two national radio networks and 15 television stations) reported that its radio stations outperformed their markets. Broadcast cash flow grew to $57.1 million, up 26 percent from second-quarter 2000. After-tax cash flow was $22.6 million, down 17.9 percent from second-quarter 2000, to 47 cents per share.

Chief Financial Officer Walter Berger said Emmis is still evaluating the impact of the last two weeks on the company’s radio and television operations and said “appropriate guidance” about third- and fourth-quarter outlooks will come in the “short future.”

As for Emmis’ plans to separate the TV and the radio businesses, “We remain committed to the separation as a long-term strategy,” Mr. Smulyan said in a statement issued before the conference call. During the call, Mr. Smulyan said that advertising cancellations appear to have stopped and that even in New York, where Emmis has three stations: “Significant new automobile business has been written in the last few days. Business has not stopped in New York.”

“I think there is going to be a kind of national fervor to fight back through the economy,” Mr. Smulyan said.

NBC wins Tuesday night in key demo: NBC’s debut of “Emeril” had a poor premiere outing Tuesday, as predicted by many TV critics and other industry watchers, but thanks to an hour-long “Frasier” and “Dateline NBC” closing out the evening, the Peacock Network still won the adults 18 to 49 race.

Opening the 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. (ET) frame, “Emeril” registered a bottom-ranked 3.4 rating/10 share in adults 18 to 49, 6.2/10 in households and 8.7 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data. Possibly placing itself on the early cancellation list, “Emeril” was similarly bottom-ranked among the Big 4 networks in adults 18 to 34 (2.9/9), adults 25 to 54 (4.2/13) and women 25 to 54 (5.2/13) — the last of which NBC executives felt would be a core demo for the show based on the popularity of the Food Network cooking star.

“Three Sisters,” previously a modest performer coming out of “Frasier” last season, managed only a 9 percent increase in adults 18 to 49 (3.7/9) as the 8:30 p.m. lead-out from “Emeril.”

During the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. frame, Fox’s season opener of “That ’70s Show” (5.5/16) and the series premiere of “Undeclared” (4.9/12) took first- and third-place, respectively, in adults 18 to 49. “Undeclared,” however, won in its key adults 18 to 34 (6.2/17) target demo, retaining 85 percent of its “That’s ’70s Show” (7.1/22) lead-in.

In a possible sign of patriotic fervor from viewers, CBS’s “JAG,” not typically a big young demo draw, scored a very competitive second in adults 18 to 4
9 (5.0/13) during the 8 p.m. hour. ABC’s season-opening, hour-long special episode of “Dharma & Greg” also finished in a competitive third-place in adults 18 to 49 (4.9/13), managing healthy 28 percent growth from its first to second half-hour frames (4.3/12 vs. 5.5/14).

Despite a lack of an opening-hour lead-in, NBC’s hour-long “Frasier” season opener set evening highs in adults 18 to 49 (8.2/19), households (12.8/19) and total viewers (19.1 million) for the 9 p.m. hour. “Frasier” managed 125 percent improvement over its “Emeril” and “Three Sisters” lead-ins (3.6/10) in adults 18 to 49.

Meanwhile, Michael J. Fox’s special appearance in the hour-long season-opener of ABC’s “Spin City” came in a competitive second in adults 18 to 49 (6.5/15), followed by CBS’s premiere of “The Guardian” (4.1/10) and Fox’s launch of “Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage” (3.7/9). In particular, “Love Cruise” sank about 28 percent from its 8 p.m. comedy lead-in (5.2/14). “The Guardian” came in a competitive second in households (10.4/15) to NBC’s “Frasier.”

The 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. slot told a very competitive story as well, with “Dateline NBC” (5.7/15) edging out ABC’s premiere of “Philly” (5.6/14) and CBS’s “Judging Amy” (4.6/12) among adults 18 to 49. However, “Judging Amy’s” 11.1/18 household score bested “Philly” (9.3/16) by a 19-percent margin.

Overall, NBC won the night in adults 18 to 49 (5.8/15), holding a narrow 4 percent margin over ABC’s 5.6/14 score. CBS (4.6/12) and Fox (4.4/11) also held very competitive third- and fourth-place positions. CBS, however, won in households (11.2/17), followed by NBC (9.2/14), ABC (8.6/13) and Fox (5.3/8).

The night gave CBS its best household and total-viewer performance since November 1999.

Programming execs question suitability of reality TV: Broadcast network entertainment chiefs, on the luncheon dais of the Hollywood Radio & Television Society’s Newsmakers panel session in Los Angeles on Tuesday expressed some broad concerns that viewer tastes toward reality TV could be somewhat more somber in light of the terrorist bombings two weeks ago.

In particular, Lloyd Braun, co-chairman of the ABC Television Entertainment Group, wondered if the “pettiness” and competitive “interpersonal dynamics” of reality series could be a turnoff to America’s viewers.

“I actually worry about it,” Mr. Braun told the panel’s moderator, Bill Maher, host of ABC’s “Politically Incorrect.” “I’m not sure the country is going to be as excited about these shows as they were in the past. Not that the audience isn’t going to go away. In the past weeks, they were still there.

“But to turn these shows into the kind phenomena that we have seen [in the past] could settle down,” added Mr. Braun, whose first-year reality series, “The Mole,” had been heralded by some critics for providing some escapism and competitive entertainment last season. “A lot of these [other] reality shows really appeal to the audience for their pettiness and interpersonal dynamics of people, where I think it was real interesting in capturing viewers yesterday, but I’m not sure it is going to work tomorrow. Now you really have to worry about the effect Sept. 11 had on all of us and wonder if people are going to say, ‘Please, we don’t care anymore.'”

Kelly Kahl, senior vice president of program planning and scheduling at CBS, however, suggested that such reality series as CBS’s “Survivor” and “Amazing Race” still focus on competition, which still makes them “escapist shows” that appeal to a broad base of viewers. “Certainly these are not the reality shows in the context of what is going right now, and they are really intended only as escapist entertainment,” Mr. Kahl said.

Gail Berman, president of entertainment at Fox, also made the point that network programmers will have to adjust and go with the changing tastes of the American public. “We as developers every year — in some ways — have to be on the bandwagon of where the country is going, so that they’ll still be interested in our programming,” she said. “The real question is whether or not the country is interested in escapist programming, be it in comedy, drama or reality, then being prepared to make adjustments in our [programming] development strategies.”

Coming off last summer, when NBC successfully planted three new reality series — “The Weakest Link,” “Fear Factor” and “Spy TV” — on its prime-time schedule, NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker thinks that viewer appetite is still growing and is far from being completely satiated, despite more than a dozen reality shows on the networks’ schedules for the newly started 2001-02 season.

“I’m not sure the problem is that they are too many reality shows on this fall,” Mr. Zucker said. “I’m not sure that people are not going to come back to watch reality shows. Unscripted programs, I think, will continue to flourish and survive, but I have to stop from using that last word [in a tip of the hat to CBS’s “Survivor”]. The really good reality shows will still cut through the clutter. I think it would be an overreaction to say that this is the end of reality.”

However, Mr. Zucker also suggested that viewers are in “serious need” of escapism and laughs when it comes to NBC’s “Must See TV” shows like “Friends” and “Will & Grace.”

“Judging from last week’s numbers, I do think that people are coming to us figuratively and literally with ‘Friends,’ to lose themselves and have a few laughs,” he said.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications