Saturday morning deal

Dec 10, 2001  •  Post A Comment

NBC’s deal to lease out its Saturday morning time slots to Discovery Networks U.S. for a $6 million annual license fee has the other soon-to-be departing children’s broadcaster, Fox Kids Network, ratcheting up its price in the bidding process for its weekend block.
NBC and Discovery entered into a three-year program deal to begin airing Discovery Kids cable TV series and other original series in NBC’s Saturday morning block in fall 2002. NBC officials said it also provides Discovery with on-air promotional spots to air in several key dayparts, including prime time.
Sources said executives from Fox Broadcasting Co. and its parent News Corp. had been watching the outcome of the NBC-Discovery deal in hopes that it would drive up prices. One source close to the bidding process said Fox has gone back to the bidders and requested “resubmitted” bids for the second time.
“We gave them a first offer [on Nov. 30 deadline], and they [Fox] came back and asked, `Is there any other incentive that we can offer?”’ the bidding source said. “There are second bids in [as of Dec. 7], but I have not heard anything from them about a timetable for the process to close.”
Sources say Fox is seeking more than $10 million annually from the bidders, who are said to be Viacom’s Nickelodeon, 4Kids Entertainment (licensor of Kids WB’s “Pokemon”), Nelvana Communications (producer of Fox Kids’ “MedaBots”), DIC Enterprises (“Inspector Gadget”) and possibly Warner Bros. Animation.
“Fox believes that its Saturday lineup has higher relative value, because they are not tied to providing educational programming like NBC is to their affiliates,” said one kids animation source who requested anonymity. “If you can put any other type of [entertainment-based program] on Saturday, you are talking about scoring higher ratings and recouping more ad revenue.”
A spokesman for Fox said the network had no comment on the status of the bidding process. Sources at the network said Peter Chernin, chairman and CEO of Fox Entertainment Group and president and CEO of News Corp., was reviewing the bids as of late Friday.
Marjorie Kaplan, senior VP of children’s programming for Discovery, said shows that could be repurposed on NBC include “Outward Bound,” “Sail Away” and “Real Kids, Real Adventures.” The NBC block will target the 6- to 11- and 9- to 14-year-old demos.
Discovery Networks President Johnathan Rodgers said the NBC block, which will benefit from cable promotion on Discovery’s 11 digital cable networks, will also allow Discovery Kids’ ad sales to be packaged or sold a la carte between its broadcast and cable platforms.