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Oct 9, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Columbia TriStar pulls NATPE floor plans

Adding on to the half-dozen or more syndicators to pull out of the upcoming NATPE convention, Columbia TriStar is the latest of the major studios to scrap its plans to take booth space on the exhibition floor for the Jan. 21-24, 2002 event in Las Vegas. Further signaling potentially dark days for the future of the annual programming convention, Steve Mosko, who is president of Columbia TriStar Television Distribution, served as chairman of the 2001 NATPE convention.

Once a stoutly supportive member of the National Association of Television Program Executives, CTTD representatives for Mr. Mosko only alluded to his prepared comments on the “unique circumstances” of the currently sagging U.S. economy playing a major factor in the studio’s departure from the convention floor.

“We believe that NATPE is important to the unity and growth of our industry,” said Mr. Mosko, who passed the chairmanship of the 2002 NATPE convention to Jon Mandel, the head of national ad buying for New York agency giant Mediacom. “The unique circumstances of this year, however, now force us to make a hard decision based on hard reality. We remain supportive of NATPE and its purpose and will work with the organization as it defines itself for the future.”

Defining its future, as strongly suggested by syndicators over the last several years, has had NATPE consistently being confronted with the prospect of significantly downsizing the convention — potentially considering Los Angeles as a permanent site that would be more economical for the major distributors. Representatives for NATPE President Bruce Johansen said the programming organization had no comment on Columbia TriStar’s defection from the convention floor.

Just last week, Twentieth Television and Studios USA pulled out of NATPE 2002, joining Warner Bros., Paramount, Buena Vista Television (Disney), Universal and Carsey-Werner-Mandabach as the major distributors pulling up stakes on exhibition booths. The only remaining major distributors left on the floor are Tribune Entertainment Co., MGM and Fremantle Media.

CTTD would only elaborate further that it is “currently evaluating its alternatives” regarding following the lead of the other major distributors in deciding to take off-site hotel suite space in the Venetian to court NATPE attendees.

Bruce Johansen, president and CEO of NATPE, issued a statement which alluded to some structural changes in store for the convention but did not elaborate on the likely changes in the physical layout of the convention floor.

“NATPE 2002 will clearly be a different looking conference,” he said. “However, we are thrilled to have continued strong international and ad executive support. We are in constant dialogue with those domestic distributors who have opted to maintain hospitality suites off the exhibition floor about supporting NATPE in other ways and are encouraged by their willingness to do so. No one has indicated they are not supportive of the NATPE conference which is very heartening. I view NATPE’s role now as one of facilitator so that all attendees, be they buyer or seller, will enjoy a positive and productive experience. “

Bush condemns leaks: President George W. Bush scolded lawmakers Tuesday afternoon for leaking classified data to the media about the administration’s anti-terrorism campaign. During a White House press briefing, the president said: “I want Congress to hear loud and clear — it is unacceptable behavior to leak classified information when we have troops at risk.” He’ll repeat the message Wednesday morning when he has breakfast with members of Congress.

The president is upset, he said, because leaks occurred just before the government committed troops to Afghanistan and neighboring countries. The administration has decided to limit its classified briefings on Capitol Hill to the top House and Senate leaders and the chairmen and ranking members of the Intelligence committees — only eight lawmakers. Meanwhile, the president discussed what has already become self-evident to journalists and television viewers: that the campaign against terrorism involves little dramatic TV footage.

Noting that there was a “fascination” with the wars in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo because people could watch events unfolding on TV, he said, “This is a different type of war. There will be conventional components to the conflict, but much of what takes place will never make it onto the TV screens.”

‘Monday Night Football’ puts ABC in first place in key demo: Breaking a two-week pattern of erosion, ABC’s “Monday Night Football” gave the Alphabet Network important wins in the adults 18 to 49 demographic and total viewers Monday night. The WB, as well, continued to see its Monday drama duo of “7th Heaven” and “Angel” reach personal-bests in its core young female and male demos.

“Monday Night Football,” featuring a 35-0 blowout by the undefeated St. Louis Rams over the Detroit Lions, turned in an 11.1 rating/18 share household average — holding about even with the previous week’s game (11.2/18), according to Nielsen Media Research final national data. “MNF” also held even week to week in adults 18 to 49 (6.7/17 both weeks) and was up 2 percent in total viewers (16.4 million vs. 16.1 million).

On a comparable basis to last year’s fourth game (Jacksonville Jaguars at the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 25, 2000) of the “MNF” schedule, this week’s contest marked a 14 percent improvement in total viewers, 10 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 8 percent in households. The game was also helped by 8 p.m. lead-in “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” improving 11 percent week to week in adults 18 to 49 (3.0/8 vs. 2.7/8) and 2 percent in total viewers (10.9 million vs. 10.7 million).

Overall, ABC took the night in adults 18 to 49 (5.6/14), improving 6 percent week to week and beating second-place CBS (5.3/13) by the same percentage in the key demo. Although CBS was down a minimal 5 percent week to week in adults 18 to 49, the ongoing strength of 7 p.m.-to-9 p.m. sitcoms had it finishing in a dead heat in households against ABC (both at 10.2/16 averages).

CBS’s 9 p.m.-to-9:30 p.m. run of “Everybody Loves Raymond” set high marks for the night in adults 18 to 49 (7.8/18) and households (14.1/21). However, in a troubling sign for the second weekly outing of the season for “Becker,” the 9:30 p.m. sitcom’s 5.5/13 in adults 18 to 49 dropped 8 percent week to week and 29 percent from its “Raymond” lead-in.

NBC, too, has been seeing some slight adult 18 to 49 demo erosion for game show “Weakest Link,” which was down 6 percent in adults 18 to 49 (3.2/8). However, 9 p.m. lead-out “Dateline NBC’s” 4.2/10 in adults 18 to 49 improved 31 percent from its “Weakest Link” lead-in and marked 14 percent growth from its previous week’s airing. Despite improving 10 percent from its “Dateline” lead-in, the 10 p.m. run of “Crossing Jordan” dropped 13 percent week to week in adults 18 to 49 (4.6/12).

The WB’s “7th Heaven,” however, continued to grow in its third weekly 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. outing. “Heaven’s” 3.2/8 in adults 18 to 49 tied NBC’s “Weakest Link” for second in 9 p.m. hour and marked 3 percent week-to-week growth. Overall, the Aaron Spelling-created family series also scored season bests in The WB’s core persons 12 to 34 (4.4/13), teens (7.0/22) and total viewers (8.7 million).

Although “Angel’s” 2.2/5 in adults 18 to 49 dropped 31 percent of “Heaven’s” lead-in, the onetime “Buffy” companion drama equaled season-bests in persons 12 to 34 (2.9/8), women 12 to 34 (3.6/9) and female teens (4.4/14).

Meanwhile, UPN’s urban comedies — “The Hughleys” (1.6/4), “One on One” (1.8/4), “The Parkers” (1.9/4) and “Girlfriends” (2.0/5) — performed on par with typical adult 18 to 49 averages for the evening (1.8/4).

NBC sweeps second week of new TV season: Backed by strong showings from “The West Wing” and newcomer “Scrubs,” NBC swept the second week (Oct. 1 to 7) of the 2001-02 season in adults 18 to 49, households and total viewers. However, NBC, like the five other broadcast networks, experienced troubling overall viewer migration toward the c
able networks and other at-home media.

NBC won the week in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.3 rating/14 share average in prime time, although it represented 8 percent slippage from its first-week score (5.6/15) in the key demo. The Peacock Network was also off 4 percent from its year-ago week average in adults 18 to 49 (5.5/15).

Nevertheless, pointing to broader older demo gains, NBC improved 1 percent year to year in winning households (8.9/14) and moved up 3 percent in total viewers (13.1 million).

NBC had eight of the top 10 ranked series in adults 18 to 49 for the week. The Peacock was aided by “Scrubs'” special Thursday airing (8.8/21) and Tuesday, Oct. 2, 9:30 p.m. (ET) time slot debut (6.9/16) and by “West Wing’s” special terrorism-themed episode (9.8/24), which garnered a record 25.2 million viewers on Wednesday, Oct. 3.

UPN continued to the be the only network posting solid year-to-year gains in all of the key demo and viewer measures. UPN held even week to week in adults 18 to 49 (2.6/7), but the key demo score is up 37 percent vs. its year-ago average (1.9/5). The network is up 25 percent in households (3.5/5) and 33 percent in total viewers (5.7 million) compared with year-ago second-week averages.

Keying UPN’s surge was the two-hour Oct. 2 debut of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which posted a personal-best 3.8/10 in adults 18 to 49 — bettering its previous five-year track record on The WB Network. Additionally, the 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, airing of “Enterprise,” in its second weekly bow, posted a 4.6/13 in adults 18 to 49 — although it was down 27 percent from its two-hour debut on Sept. 26.

Even though it has yet to debut several of its series for the new season, The WB also had something to crow about with its adults 18 to 49 score (1.9/4), moving up 42 percent from the opening week (1.2/3) and just 11 percent down from its year-ago average (1.9/5).

The two-hour season opener of “Charmed” last Thursday posted a 2.6/7 in adults 18 to 49, 3.0/8 in adults 18 to 34 and 3.3/9 in persons 12 to 34 — all second-best-ever Thursday scores for the Frog Network. The WB also successfully planted its new Friday comedy lineup — “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (3.0/12), “Maybe It’s Me” (2.8/11), “Reba” (2.7/10) and “Raising Dad” (2.5//10) — by beating all of the networks in its core females 12 to 34 demographic. The WB also swept up in its key female and male teen demos Friday night.

For all six broadcast networks last week, though, their combined 3.6/9 average among adults 18 to 49 marked an 8 percent ratings drop vs. their year-ago average (3.9/11). Overall, households (6.2/10) and total viewers (9.2 million) were down 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively, on a year-to-year basis.

After a promising first-week outing, ABC’s Week 2 performance led all decliners in adults 18 to 49 (3.7/10), households (6.6/11) and total viewers (9.7 million), sliding 25 percent, 34 percent and 33 percent in the respective categories from last year. Meanwhile, CBS’s adults 18 to 49 (3.5/9), households (7.5/12) and total viewers (10.9 million) scores were down 10 percent, 16 percent and 14 percent, respectively. But that could change significantly with this Thursday’s season opener of “Survivor: Africa.”

Fox, which is also still holding back on some of its debuts until later this month or early November, saw its adults 18 to 49 score (3.2/9) drop 14 percent year to year. Fox’s households (4.5/7) and total viewers (6.8 million) marked 27 percent and 11 percent declines from the year-ago week.

‘Third Watch’ adding hour to Oct. 15 broadcast: NBC’s “Third Watch” will add an extra hour to its Monday, Oct. 15, special episode on terrorism to create a two-hour salute (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) to New York City’s safety personnel. The nonscripted episode is a tribute in which members of the cast, who portray a group of emergency personnel, will interact with their real-life New York City counterparts.

As previously announced, the broadcast is part of a three-episode arc on “Third Watch” that will deal with the Sept. 11 attack. The series continues with a second episode titled “September 10th” on Monday, Oct. 22 (9 p.m. to 10 p.m.), in which events unfold in the personal and professional lives of the characters that lead them up to the attack on the World Trade Center towers.

In the third segment, titled “New Beginnings” (Monday, Oct. 29), the story line resumes 10 days later and addresses the physical, mental and spiritual toll taken on the teams of firefighters, police and paramedics in the rippling wake of the events.

‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’ getting one-time special slot: NBC will be giving a special showcase for its new 9 p.m. (ET) Sunday drama “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” on Wednesday, Oct. 17 (10 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET), temporarily taking over the charter “Law & Order’s” regular time slot for one week.

NBC’s Sanders caught in Afghanistan gunfire battle: The perils of covering the hostilities inside Afghanistan got a face Tuesday when NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders and a cameraman were pinned down on a roof by gunfire of unknown origin somewhere in northern Afghanistan. What MSNBC viewers first saw at about 2:15 p.m. Eastern (and 11:15 p.m. in Afghanistan) was Mr. Sanders, bathed in the green glow of a night-vision camera, hugging the top of a roof and explaining via a cellphone that he and the cameraman (identified only as Dmitri) had hoped to “pick up any of the bombing that is taking place tonight” but were now not about to move — or even stand up — until they knew it was safe. About 20 minutes later, MSNBC returned to Mr. Sanders and two members of the Northern Alliance, who were armed with AK-47s.

“We’re standing up, and that’s a good sign,” Mr. Sanders said. “The good news is that this is over with.” What “this” was is still unknown, he said. “It’s going to be a surprise tomorrow.” Mr. Sanders explained that he and the cameraman had set out from their unidentified base of operations in the Northern Alliance territory with permission of the Alliance, heading in the direction of the front line.

“We had thought by morning we would be about three hours’ drive from the front line,” said Mr. Sanders, who added that the rough terrain had made the going slow, especially after one of their two Jeeps broke down and had to be towed by the other vehicle. The area in which the crew had its brush with gunfire and heard the sound of “an explosion” was, Mr. Sanders said, “supposed to be a friendly area.”

FCC to form DTV task force: The Federal Communications Commission this week is expected to announce the formation of a special agency task force to keep tabs on digital television’s rollout. A well-placed source said Rick Chessen, an agency attorney, is expected to be named to head the new panel, reporting directly to FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

Vogel to assume head Charter post: Charter Communications has named Carl Vogel, a 20-year veteran of the pay television business, as its new president and CEO.

The move caps a brief but turbulent period following the abrupt resignation of Jerry Kent from the top spot at Charter, the nation’s fourth largest multiple system operator. In the wake of the unexpected resignation, Charter’s stock plunged to a new 52-week low. Partly to restore Wall Street’s confidence, Paul Allen, chairman of the board of directors and the owner of a majority equity stake in Charter, announced long-term employment agreements for two senior executives, Kent Kalkwarf, executive VP and chief financial officer, and David Barford, executive VP and chief operating officer. Mr. Allen also said at the time that Charter would move quickly to find a new CEO.

Mr. Vogel comes to Charter from Liberty Media Corp., where he was a senior VP and CEO of Liberty Satellite and Technology. Before joining Liberty, he was executive VP and chief operating officer of field operations for AT&T Broadband and Internet Services.

St. Louis-based Charter reaches nearly 7 million homes across 40 states and is widely regarded as one of the technological leaders of the cable industry, with a significant investment in digital and broadban
d technology, particularly in video-on-demand and high-speed data services.

Miller, Randall sign development deal with Studios USA: Studios USA has signed a multiyear drama development deal with the writing and producing team of Nancy Miller and Gary Randall. Ms. Miller and Mr. Randall are currently executive producers of Lifetime’s top-rated drama “Any Day Now” through their production company, Paid Our Dues Productions. Ms. Miller co-created the series.

Ms. Miller’s credits include creating and executive producing the ABC drama series “Leaving L.A.” Mr. Randall, who had once served as president of Spelling Television and shepherded the development of the onetime Fox drama “Melrose Place,” ventured into independent producing with “Leaving L.A.,” the HBO telefilm “Vendetta” and the CBS made-fors “Beauty” and “A Song from the Heart.” Prior to his stint at Spelling, he was president of Orion Television from 1985-91.

Bravo joins the 60 million club: Bravo, the film and arts network that only became an advertiser-supported cable network in 1998, has reached the milestone that tends to attract the attention of national advertisers. Bravo has gained 11,884,000 viewing subscribers since October 2000, bringing its October 2001 universe to 60,756,000 viewing subscribers, a 24 percent increase on a year-to-year basis.

This week also marks a programming milestone at the network. “Inside the Actors Studio,” one of its signature series, will telecast its 100th episode, a profile of actor Gene Hackman. For the occasion, there will be a marathon of viewers’ favorite “Actors Studio” episodes. “Saturday Night Live” comedian Will Ferrell, known for his droll impersonation of “Actors Studio” host James Lipton, is also scheduled to make an appearance.

‘Martha Stewart Living’ gets slew of renewals: “Martha Stewart Living,” the daily syndicated series featuring home-crafts guru Martha Stewart, has been renewed in 60 percent of the country, including at least 13 of the CBS/Viacom-owned TV stations, for the 2002-03 season. The Emmy-award winning series is currently in its fifth season in daily syndication and airs on stations representing more than 86 percent of the country.

Renewals include CBS owned-and-operated stations WCBS-TV (New York), KCBS-TV (Los Angeles), WBBM-TV (Chicago), KYW-TV (Philadelphia), KPIX-TV (San Francisco), WBZ-TV (Boston), KTVT-TV (Dallas), WFOR-TV (Miami), KDKA-TV (Pittsburgh), WJZ-TV (Baltimore), WCCO-TV (Minneapolis), KCNC-TV (Denver) and KEYE-TV (Austin). Outside-owned stations re-upping for “Martha” include WXYZ-TV (Detroit), KHOU-TV (Houston), KING-TV (Seattle), WFTS-TV (Tampa), WEWS-TV (Cleveland), KSDK-TV (St. Louis), KOIN-TV (Portland), KUSI-TV (San Diego), KSHB-TV (Kansas City), WAVE-TV (Louisville, Ky.), WBIR-TV (Knoxville, Tenn.), and KSL-TV (Salt Lake City).

“Martha Stewart Living” debuted in September 1993 as a weekly syndicated program and became a half-hour strip in September 1997. In January 1999, “MSL” expanded to a one-hour program. The program has received seven daytime Emmy Awards. The show, which is distributed in national syndication by King World Productions is produced by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications