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Oct 31, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 31, at 8:45 a.m. (PT); last updated at 5:20 p.m.

‘Court’ to be repurposed for secondary run on Disney cable channels

For the coming midseason entry of the Sally Field-led drama, “The Court,” ABC and series producers Warner Bros. Television and John Wells Productions have reached terms allowing the Disney-owned network to repurpose the show for a secondary cable run on the soon-to-be launched ABC Family Channel or other Disney-owned cable channels.

Disney, which is in the process of closing the $5 billion acquisition of Fox Family Worldwide, has the option to place “The Court” in a second cable window (eight days after its first airing on ABC) on either ABC Family Channel, Disney Channel or Lifetime Television (which ABC jointly owns with Hearst Corp.). “The Court” is tentatively scheduled to begin its cable run in January 2002.

Both ABC and Warner Bros. officials said an agreed-upon “incremental value” has been assigned to these cable exhibitions and a “formula” has been “created to protect the off-network cable value of the series,” should it achieve a certain number of episodes.

One competing studio production chief, who requested anonymity, speculated that ABC agreed to make a “sliding scale” guarantee of $200,000 to $500,000 per episode on the off-network cable run of “The Court,” which increases, depending on the number of years and episodes produced on the show. “I would assume that if they say, ‘We are ‘protecting’ the back-end value, it would mean that Warner Bros. could accept a price from ABC that pre-determines what fair market value would be in the off-network market or take it to the highest bid from another [cable] network,” said the studio head. “That’s what could be read of most guarantees made on the back-end.”

Representatives for Warner Bros. offered no further elaboration on whether or not ABC is ultimately getting “The Court” at slightly lower broadcast license fee in a package deal with the cable run. Sources said, however, that ABC, which has been among the most aggressive of the broadcast networks in demanding longer-term licensing deals and repurposing rights, is said to have secured over six years for the initial contractual term on the Supreme Court-based series to air on ABC.

The deal comes amid a flurry of repurposing deals in recent years. AOL Time Warner’s The WB Network and TNT cable network most recently began shared plays of Viacom’s Aaron Spelling-produced drama “Charmed,” which includes back-end rights going to TNT.

Representing the precedent-setting first wave of shared broadcast-cable windows was Studios USA repurposing deals between NBC and USA Network for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Recently, Studios USA also inked an upcoming Fox/Sci-Fi Channel shared windows deal for “Battlestar Galactica,” starting fall 2002. Fox corporate siblings Fox and the FX cable network are doing shared windows for “24,” the unorthodox real-time, terrorist-themed drama from 20th Century Fox Television. ABC and corporate sister Touchstone Network have also been repurposing second runs of “Once and Again” for Lifetime.

Carsey-Werner-Mandabach hands NBC Studios production on Louis-Dreyfus comedy: Despite strong early buzz, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Co. has agreed to step back and let NBC Studios take over production on the new midseason sitcom “23:12,” starring “Seinfeld” alumna Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The tentatively titled project, previously known as “22 Minutes With Eleanor Riggs,” received a 13-episode order from the Peacock Network earlier this month based on the strength of the pilot.

C-W-M, which produced the pilot but is now moving into a creative consultant role in the series, is said by sources to have had difficulty reaching an agreement with NBC on financial terms for the pricey show as well as control of distribution for its potential off-network syndication run.

C-W-M’s pullback on the show that was created and executive produced by Ms. Louis-Dreyfus’ husband, Brad Hall, comes in a tough climate where other independent studios — such as Columbia TriStar Television and Artists Television Group, which are both folding — have found it difficult holding any leverage in series negotiations with vertically integrated network-studio conglomerates.

ReplayTV, SONICblue sued for copyright violation: Divisions of Disney, NBC and Viacom filed suit Wednesday against ReplayTV and SONICblue, which acquired ReplayTV in August, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, charging that the new Replay 4000 system violates the rights of copyright owners “in unprecedented ways.” They are asking for a preliminary injunction as well as permanent relief.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the three plaintiffs boiled their complaint down to two major issues: Replay 4000 enables users to digitally record a variety of programming and disseminate it on the Internet, and Replay 4000 enables users to automatically delete all commercials within that programming.

“In both cases,” said the statement, “the Replay 4000 deprives copyright owners of the means by which they are paid for their creative content.”

Tracy Perry, VP of public relations for SONICblue, said the company has not yet received a copy of any lawsuit. “We do not comment on rumors,” she said.

Battista leaving CNN: Bobbie Battista, who was aboard at the launch of CNN Headline News 19 years ago, is leaving the news network at which she has hosted “Talkback Live” for the last three years.

The anchor, who is very popular with viewers, is going to join her husband John Brimelow’s Atamira Productions consulting company, which works with politicians, executives and newscasters.

Sources say that after contract renegotiations had begun, Ms. Battista decided she wanted to make a career switch and is taking a buyout.

ABC’s Westin apologizes for attack-related statements: ABC News President David Westin, who recently told journalism grad students that he had no opinion on whether the Pentagon was a “legitimate target” on Sept. 11, apologized on Wednesday for his “misstatement.”

Appearing at an event held at Columbia University’s journalism school and telecast on C-SPAN, Mr. Westin was asked by a member of the audience whether he believed “the Pentagon was a legitimate military target.”

The ABC News chief said, among other things: “I don’t have an opinion on that, and it’s important I not have an opinion on that as I sit here in my capacity right now.”

That set off a howl, especially in some right-wing quarters.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Mr. Westin said, his answer was meant to “illustrate the broad academic principle that all journalists should draw a firm line between what they know and what their personal opinion might be.”

“I was wrong,” he said. “Upon reflection, I realized that my answer did not address the specifics of September 11. Under any interpretation, the attack on the Pentagon was criminal and entirely without justification. I apologize for any harm that my misstatement may have caused.”

Chao leaving USA Cable: Stephen Chao, who first rose to prominence in the late 1980s at Fox Broadcasting Co., will resign his position as president of USA Cable, a division of USA Networks, which is headed by Barry Diller.

As recently as 10 days ago, Mr. Chao denied to Electronic Media that he was leaving his USA post, saying, “Absolutely not true” when asked directly. However, industry speculation that he would be departing the company has been rife since last July, when Michael Jackson, formerly chief executive of Channel Four Television, was named as USA Entertainment Group president and CEO, a newly created position that seemed to encompass the areas of the company that reported to Mr. Chao. Mr. Jackson’s appointment becomes effective Nov. 5.

USA Network, Sci-Fi Channel and the newly formed emerging networks division, which includes Trio, Newsworld and Crime, formerly reported to Mr. Chao. They now will report directly to Mr. Jackson, as will USA’s television and film production units, Studios USA and USA Films.

Mr. Chao’s departure comes agai
nst the backdrop of widely noted comments by Vivendi Universal Chairman and CEO Jean-Marie Messier regarding possible changes in Vivendi’s relationship with USA. Vivendi Universal inherited a 43 percent ownership stake in USA when predecessor company Vivendi purchased Universal from the Seagram Co., which had transferred control of most of its TV production assets to Mr. Diller in the late 1990s. Now, according to the widely reported remarks of Mr. Messier, Vivendi Universal may want at least some of those assets back.

“Our relationship with USA Networks will move in the coming months,” the Hollywood Reporter quoted Mr. Messier as saying during a recent third-quarter-earnings conference. Later, at a New York luncheon, he said that the current relationship with USA, under which USA has domestic distribution rights to the Universal library, impedes the company. “I want to make sure we don’t leave money on the table,” and “there’s a very good basis for TV production” by the studio, Mr. Messier said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

World Series Game 3 registers top-ranked ratings: With President Bush throwing out the first ball and in attendance at New York’s Yankee Stadium Tuesday night, the third game of the World Series registered a 17.4 rating/24 share household average on Fox, moving up 14 percent from the year-ago Game 3 of the series (15.3/24). According to Nielsen Media Research metered market averages, it was the highest rated Game-3 average since the 1996 World Series (18.5/29). Fox’s three-game World Series average-to-date is a 15.1/23 in households, up 2 percent over last year’s 14.8/24 average. Fox’s household score for the evening (including the pregame show) held the top-ranking at a 16.9/25 from 8 to 11 p.m., holding a 72 percent advantage over CBS’s second-ranked 9.8/14 household average in the metered markets.

In Nielsen’s preliminary fast national returns, which tend to be less reliable when it comes to live sports broadcasts, game three of the World Series posted top-ranked scores in households (14.5/21) in households and adults 18 to 49 (7.4/18).

Leo Burnett USA defines post-Sept. 11 consumer groups: A new Leo Burnett USA “cultural compass” survey identifies and profiles four distinct consumer groups important to advertisers and their varied reactions to Sept. 11. They are:

The Close to Home group, representing 27 percent of the U.S. population, which appears to be struck by lasting, negative repercussions of Sept. 11. More than 40 percent strongly believe the attacks will cause economic depression. They’re buying only the necessities, adopting more price-sensitive strategies and are most likely to turn to familiar brands. Significantly, 40 percent of this set plan to spend less on holiday purchases.

The “Business as Usual” group, which accounts for 30 percent of the population. Terrorism appears to have little impact on this group’s attitudes. Only 3 percent plans to delay major purchases and overall the group’s consumer confidence remains unchanged.

The “Forging Ahead” group, which accounts for 33 percent of the population, is shaken but responding with optimism, determination and high degree of patriotism. Possessing strong purchasing power based on demographics, this group has the highest levels of confidence-exceeding 80 percent — in American business and the economy’s ability to rebound

The “Different Drummer” group, which represents 11 percent of the U.S. population, believes American policies and practices are partially to blame for the Sept.11 attacks. While the most economically challenged, this group’s demography renders them critical to specific brands, products and geographies, according to the survey.

WB fends off UPN in Tuesday ratings: The Tuesday battle of the weblets continues to be leaning toward The WB, with the “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” holding a 51 percent ratings advantage over UPN’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Roswell” sci-fi drama combination. The WB registered a 5.3 rating/8 share average in Nielsen Media Research’s overnight households, maintaining 60 percent share advantage over UPN (3.5/5) for their 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) rotations last night.

“Gilmore Girls” started the evening on a good note, with its 4.7/7 household score holding even with last week and beating UPN’s “Buffy” (4.4/6) by a 7 percent margin from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Still, it appears to be a win-win for both networks as “Gilmore Girls” has improved 40 percent on The WB’s year-ago time-period share average (5 share) while “Buffy” is elevating UPN’s share performance (4 share) by 50 percent.

At 9 p.m., though, the teenage man of steel had “Smallville” growing 25 percent on its lead-in hour by posting a 5.9/8 household score in WB’s closing hour. Furthermore, the freshman hit “Smallville” beat UPN’s “Roswell” (2.5/4) by hefty 136 percent margin in the 9 p.m. hour. On a year-to-year basis, “Smallville” has improved The WB’s time period performance by 80 percent in share while “Roswell” is still giving UPN a 33 percent bump over the same date last season.

ABC News to debut ‘America ’01’: “America ’01” is the new title of the weekly ABC News hour that will be dedicated to changes wrought by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The show will debut at 8 p.m. (ET) Friday, Nov. 2 with a lineup that ranges from a piece about Pentagon staffers who escaped the attack and then risked their lives to save co-workers to a story about military women who went through boot camp last summer.

The magazine had been developed under the title of “24/7,” which last year took viewers behind the scenes at a well-known hospital and which was lavished with praise from critics during its short run.

“America” is expected to remain on the lineup at least through the end of December, when “20/20” is scheduled to return to its traditional spot at 10 p.m. Fridays.

David Sloan (“20/20”) and David Doss (“PrimeTime Thursday”) will alternate executive producer duties under supervising executive producer Victor Neufeld.

CNN’s Brown show gets Nov. 5 launch date: The prime-time signature show for which CNN lured Aaron Brown away from ABC earlier this year will launch at 10 p.m. (ET) Monday, Nov. 5 on the news channel. That’s the time slot Mr. Brown has been occupying for several weeks under the temporary title of “Special Report” (which the folks at Fox News Channel note was already being used on their weeknight Brit Hume show).

Because of the mood of the country since Sept. 11, Mr. Brown’s show is likely to be less comedic than once expected. It will be a mix of “hard-hitting reporting and probing interviews,” according to CNN’s announcement Tuesday.

“This program will be a nightly conversation between Aaron and his viewers on the issues that matter most to them,” said Sid Bedingfield, executive vice president and general manager of CNN/U.S.

Adams to chair PBS board: Rex Adams, professor of business administration at Duke University, has been elected chairman of the Public Broadcast Service board of directors. He succeeds Colin G. Campbell, who had held the position since July 2000. Mr. Adams, a former dean of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, spent three decades at Mobil Corporation, a long-time sponsor of public television programming.

O’Hearn to produce CNN’s Zahn show: Katherine O’Hearn, the executive vice president for CNN business news and CNNfn who has been executive producing CNN’s morning block since Sept. 12, is going to be named senior executive producer of the still-to-be-titled morning show being developed for new hire Paula Zahn. There is no word on how Ms. O’Hearn’s duties at CNNfn (where a relaunch as CNN Money has been delayed) or on “Lou Dobbs Moneyline” (which she launched after Mr. Dobbs’ return to the news network) will be reassigned.

McNair to lead Fox Broadcasting communications dept.: Sonya McNair has been named vice president of publicity and corporate communications for Fox Broadcasting. Ms. McNair, who will report to senior vice president Joe Earley, is based in New York . She succeeds Jeff DeRome, who left Fox recently. She had spent the last year as vice president of co
mmunications for the Channel One Network and Primedia Digital Video. She worked the previous 15 years at ABC News, starting as correspondents-desk assistant in Washington and moving up through a variety of positions with “This Week With David Brinkley” before moving to the public relations team of ABC News in the Washington bureau. She moved to New York as manager of media relations for ABCNews.com. When she left ABC News, she had been serving both as press representative for “Good Morning America” and as director of media relations for the news division.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications