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Dec 13, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Posted Thursday, Dec. 13, at 10:30 a.m. (PT); last updated at 3:15 p.m.

NBC to advertise hard liquor during late-night

Viewers tuning into “Saturday Night Live” this weekend will see the first in a series of precedent-setting hard-liquor ads that will be run nationally by NBC, the first broadcast network to accept such ads.

Although hundreds of individual stations have run distilled spirits ads since 1996, when Seagram broke the hard-liquor ban with an ad for Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, the “SNL” ad breaks a ban on hard-liquor advertising at the network level.

The first ad will be a “Smirnoff ad that talks about drinking and driving responsibly,” said Randy Falco, NBC Network Television president, and it will air under a detailed series of advertising guidelines for distilled-spirits alcohol products agreed upon by NBC and Guinness/UDV, the vodka distiller’s corporate parent, whose other hard-liquor brands include Tanqueray gin and Johnnie Walker and J&B scotch.

For the first month, the designated driver and other hard-liquor-branded PSAs will air only in late-night, during “SNL” and “The Tonight Show.” “Thereafter, we really have to put it together with the Guinness folks,” Mr. Falco said. The detailed guidelines, however, clearly foresee moves from late-night to post-9 p.m. prime time, and from PSAs to ads promoting particular products.

The NBC guidelines foresee ads for “spirits” that are as potent as 100 proof, or 50 percent alcohol. A potent incentive for other networks to join NBC in breaking the hard-liquor ban is the $350 million that one network executive estimated the major distilled-spirits purveyors spend annually on advertising. Currently, none of those dollars come into network coffers. Fox Broadcasting, which industry insider peg as the most logical candidate to join NBC at the distilled-spirits-advertising table, does “not currently accept any alcohol ads” at either the network level or at its owned-and-operated stations a Fox spokeswoman said. “There are no plans to change the policy at this time.”

Guinness was represented in the NBC distilled-spirits deal by MediaCom. “I would trust [the other networks] would follow NBC’s lead,” said Jon Mandel, MediaCom’s co-managing director and chief negotiating officer. “We’re running right now on local stations in virtually the entire country,” he said of distilled-spirits advertising. “We’re running in several thousand radio stations, we’re running in virtually every cable system.” Of the NBC guidelines, he said, “We’re doing something very responsible. The rules that we made for ourselves are appropriate, responsible advertising.”

Among the guidelines’ other provisions are that distilled-spirits ads will appear only in network programming whose “audience demographics are a minimum of 85 percent adult aged 21 and older,” that “models, actors and others who appear in the advertising must be a minimum 30 years of age” and that no “active professional athlete, any prominent amateur athlete, or any entertainment figure or role model who appeals primarily to persons below the legal drinking age” will appear in an ad.

A distilled-spirits advertiser also will agree to “devote (1) a minimum of four months of 100-percent paid, branded social responsibility messages prior to commencing product advertising and after that time period has elapsed, (2) a minimum of 20 percent of its advertising time to the airing of paid, branded social responsibility messages on themes such as, but not limited to, designated drivers, drinking moderation, impaired driving and alcohol-related health consequences.”

Station groups plan meetings at TVB conference: Six major broadcast station groups have committed to holding management meetings in tandem with the Television Bureau of Advertising’s 2002 Marketing Conference, to be held in New York City in March, in conjunction with the New York Auto Show.

The past 10 TVB conferences have been held in conjunction with the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention, which will take place in Las Vegas.

Approximately 500 executives are expected to attend the TVB conference. “The New York venue is not only attracting more television executives, it will also allow us to attract advertiser and agency participants who might not have been able to justify a trip to Las Vegas,” said TVB President Chris Rohrs.Polone’s Pariah settles with Columbia TriStar: Since announcing its intentions to exit network series development last October, Sony’s Columbia TriStar Television has settled out of its talent deal with producer Gavin Polone’s Pariah Productions. Details of the settlement were not disclosed, but Mr. Polone confirmed his company is free to take its half-dozen or so development projects to explore potential new co-production deals with the networks and other studios.

“We came to a very fair settlement, even though it was somewhat sad to see the relationship end [with Columbia TriStar],” said Mr. Polone, who is best known in Hollywood for executive producing the acclaimed series “Gilmore Girls” for The WB and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for HBO. “I’m going to be able to take all of my other shows elsewhere, but a lot of stuff still has to be figured out.”

Mr. Polone’s current development slate at Pariah includes a revival of the comedy “Family Affair” for The WB; a cast-contingent, untitled drama in development at CBS with film writer David Koepp; an untitled Fox drama about a female sheriff in the Old West, with executive producer Michelle Ashford; “AD,” an ABC drama about a college athletic director; an untitled ABC drama about Miami cops with John Romano; an untitled NBC comedy about a ghostwriter for a supermodel-actress with Maya Forbes and Alex Borstein; and a untitled drama for NBC about a single woman who gets to see what her life would like if she was married, with Jon Turteltaub.

ATAS votes Chabin out: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has ousted Jim Chabin as the paid, full-time president of the Emmy Awards organization. The decision not to renew Mr. Chabin’s contract came after a vote by ATAS’s executive committee Wednesday night. It also came as result of a similar no-confidence vote from ATAS Chairman and CEO Bryce Zabel, who came into his elected position earlier this year and is said by sources to have had differences with Mr. Chabin over his future role in the organization.

Mr. Chabin, who previously served as chairman of Promax (a national promotion and marketing association) before joining ATAS in 1999, had reportedly wanted to take a more visible front-man role in ATAS, but that has historically been the role of the elected chairman.

Mr. Chabin’s departure comes at a pivotal time for ATAS as it looks to re-embark on talks to merge with its East Coast equivalent, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which has been without a paid head since John Cannon died earlier this year.

NBC’s Begor to take GE Card Services post: NBC and parent company GE are exchanging executives on Jan. 14. Mark Begor, who has been executive vice president and chief financial officer at NBC since April 1998, is set to become chief operating officer of GE Card Services. Mark Vachon, who has been vice president of GE Investor Communications since April 1998, will succeed Mr. Begor as executive vice president and CFO at NBC.

Vote on broadband bill delayed: A House floor vote on the controversial Tauzin-Dingell broadband bill has been delayed until March 2002 because several members have concerns about the legislation and want more time to study its impact on the marketplace, a source said. Retiring House Majority Leader Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, had tentatively scheduled a Dec. 14 vote on the bill, but he scuttled those plans at the last minute. The measure removes regulatory restrictions on the Baby Bells so they can compete more vigorously in the high-speed Internet access business against cable broadband providers. Critics say the bill is a giveaway to the Bells, who face little competition in the local phone service arena.