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Jan 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Thursday, Jan. 10, at 10:50 a.m. (PT); last updated at 5:12 p.m.

ABC puts ‘The Chair’ ahead of Fox’s ‘The Chamber’

On the heels of filing a lawsuit against Fox’s upcoming airing of the extreme quiz show “The Chamber” (EM Online, Jan. 8), ABC is accelerating the debut of its game show “The Chair” for a series premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 15 (8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET). “Dharma & Greg” and “Spin City” will be given a broadcast hiatus for the new series’ initial run.

In looking to establish what “The Chair’s” creator claims is the original concept for the game show, ABC is running its premiere five days before Fox rolls out “The Chamber’s” preview on Sunday, Jan. 20 (9 p.m. to 10 p.m.), which will have a regular time period bow on Friday, Jan. 25 (9 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

Fox is pushing forward with finding quiz contestants to enter “The Chamber,” despite the fact that the creator of “The Chair” is suing Fox, charging that “The Chamber” is a copycat concept. Julie Christie, creator of the New Zealand-based concept “The Chair,” filed the suit last Friday against Fox in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming the network stole the concept and then brought it to Dick Clark Productions to produce. Mr. Clark’s production company is not named in the suit.

“The Chair,” which presents a rapid-fire succession of questions to chairbound contestants — who have their heart rates monitored — under extreme mental and psychological challenges, is set to be hosted by acerbic tennis great John McEnroe. The show is from Touchdown Television, a production company with offices in New Zealand, Australia and Los Angeles. Ms. Christie and Darryl McEwen (the New Zealand version of “Weakest Link,” “Treasure Island.”) and Andrew Golder (“Two-Minute Drill,” “Win Ben Stein’s Money”) are executive producers.

ABC comedy VP Gluckman steps down: Julie Glucksman is out after only five months as ABC’s vice president of comedy development, a turn of events dictated by the exit of ABC Entertainment executive Stu Bloomberg and the promotion of Susan Lyne to ABC Entertainment president.

Ms. Lyne, a former journalist who has been head of ABC movies and miniseries, has no comedy development experience. Ms. Gluckman, who had developed feature films for Betty Thomas at Tall Trees Productions before joining ABC last summer, also lacked comedy experience.

Stephanie Leifer, who has worked her way through the development ranks at ABC since 1994, will assume the top comedy job at least until the end of this season, at which point the decision will be made as to whether she gets to keep the post.

Among the shows Mr. Leifer has helped develop are “The Job,” a favorite of critics, and “According to Jim,” the Wednesday night family comedy that’s clicked with viewers.

Viacom cable nets confirm gay-targeted TV plans: Showtime and MTV have confirmed that the two Viacom-owned cable networks are “exploring a new network dedicated to programming for the gay and lesbian audience,” according to a statement. “The two companies are currently examining the potential and exploring distribution models and prospects as well as programming elements.”

The two networks had been engaged in parallel individual explorations regarding the business possibilities of a channel aimed at gay people, said Mark Greenberg, executive VP, corporate strategy and communications, Showtime. “We realized the power of both companies working together was better than working [separately] in this particular situation.”

A gay-oriented programming-block tryout for the proposed channel on an existing Showtime network is possible, but nothing that has been decided, he said, and both subscription and advertising models are still being looked at.

“We saw an audience that was underserved,” said Mr. Greenberg of the plan. The two networks have had conversations with cable operators that have been very valuable and positive, he also said. Mr. Greenberg said he was not aware of any other similar possible joint ventures among other Viacom networks.

AOL Time Warner, Unilever sign cross-platform deal: AOL Time Warner and Unilever have struck a multimillion-dollar cross-platform deal that will include television, print and online components as well as possible “targeted content” for consumer relationship marketing programs. The deal will span the United States and Europe, according to Advertising Age.

The deal covers AOL Time Warner properties such as America Online, the TBS and TNT cable networks and The WB Network as well as various Time Inc. print titles and the company’s custom publishing unit.

The two parties also have agreed to share information on emerging media technologies through a joint team to develop new media platforms and standards internationally. A spokesman for Unilever wouldn’t quantify the size of the deal, according to the Ad Age report.

CBS to start new ‘Survivor’ on Feb. 28, will spin off CSI: Several hours before CBS broadcasts its two-hour “Survivor: Africa” finale Thursday, CBS Television President and CEO Les Moonves said the fourth installment of the “Survivor” series — “Survivor: Marqueses” — will make its debut on Thursday, Feb. 28, the day after February sweeps period ends.

Mr. Moonves said he “didn’t want to burn off any original episodes” against NBC’s run of the Olympics during the February sweeps period, conceding that sweeps ratings will most likely go the Peacock in adults 18 to 49 as well as households and total viewers. Mr. Moonves also stated that CBS is looking into repurposing “Survivor” for its sister network TNN.

In addition, as previously reported (EM, June 25, 2001), CBS has finally confirmed that it will produce a spinoff of its Thursday hit “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” for the 2002-03 season. Both Mr. Moonves and Nancy Tellem, president of CBS Entertainment, said talks with series co-producer Alliance Atlantis Communications are “in the early formative stages.” No cast or formatting details have been announced. There is no word whether CBS would look to use a repurposing model similar to the one used by NBC for its “Law & Order” franchise to create a cable window for the spinoff on TNN.

Mr. Moonves also said “First Monday,” the Supreme Court drama from executive producer Don Bellisario and starring James Garner will be getting a midseason preview on Tuesday, Jan. 15. The show will then settle into its normal 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Friday slot on Jan. 18.

The only freshman show CBS has renewed so far for next season is “The Guardian” — the Eye Network is still reserving judgment on “The Agency” and “The Ellen Show.”

Malone considers future sale of Discovery Channel: Liberty Media Chairman John Malone will consider selling the Discovery Channel — but not right now — and is prepared to jump back into the domestic satellite fray with partner News Corp. if the EchoStar-DirecTV merger is nixed by regulators, as he expects.

His remarks came at a SalomonSmithBarney Media conference Wednesday. Dow Jones Newswires reports that Mr. Malone acknowledged recent overtures made by Viacom to purchase Discovery. “Boy, they were all over us on Discovery,” Mr. Malone said. “They were talking about prices that would be shockers.”

Mr. Malone said he prefers to hold on to Discovery Communications at this time.” Financially, there may be a time when it needs to be part of something bigger. We just love it too much to sell it right now.”

Mr. Malone voiced interest in partnering with Vivendi Universal on satellite and content interests abroad. Sounding sanguine about the chances of completing his long-suffering purchase of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG’s cable assets, Mr. Malone said that while he may not complete the deal, he was not seeking to renegotiate the price.

Warner Bros. promotes Teicher to executive VP, media sales: Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has restructured its media sales department, naming Michael Teicher to head its operations as executive VP, media sales.

Under the new title, Mr. Teicher will oversee all operations of the media sales department, handling national advertising time for first-run and off-network television product dis
tributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Telepictures Distribution.

In addition, Paul Montoya, has been named to the newly created position of senior VP, business development, media sales, where he will be charged with identifying and creating new advertising and incremental revenue opportunities.

Clifford Brown, who currently serves as VP, media sales, will add to his current duties serving as Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution’s representative on the AOL Time Warner Ad Council.

CNN’s ‘NewsNight’ adds Olbermann to team: The brainy and prickly Keith Olbermann is going to contribute essays to CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown.” David Bohrman, the senior executive producer of “NewsNight,” sounded unconcerned by Mr. Olbermann’s history of burning professional bridges at stops ranging from ESPN and MSNBC and most recently at Fox Sports.

“This is a is a different kind of forum. He’s going to do little essays. He’s got an interesting eye,” said Mr. Bohrman, who expects Mr,. Olbermann’s two- to three-minute pieces on a variety of topics to run a couple of times a week starting soon.

It’s a homecoming for Mr. Olbermann, who free-lanced sports reports to the then-fledgling news network in 1981. He was 22. Over the next few years, he would move up to national sports correspondent and get a taste of anchoring before moving on to Boston and Los Angeles and, in 1992, to ESPN.

Mr. Bohrman brushed off the suggestion that Mr. Olbermann seems primed now to be the first-string substitute for Mr. Brown on “NewsNight.” We have no idea who the regular sub is,” said the producer, who noted that Mr. Olbermann also just inked a deal with ABC Radio to do “Speaking of Sports” and “Speaking of Everything.”

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications