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Jan 12, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Saturday, Jan. 12, at 3 p.m. (PT); last updated at 4:45 p.m.

Buena Vista cancels ‘Iyanla’

Buena Vista Television announced Monday that it has canceled Iyanla Vanzant’s freshman syndicated talker “Iyanla.” The show launched in August, and has been ratings-challenged in the wake of Sept. 11, averaging a 0.5 average rating in adults 18 to 49 over the last six months, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“I am thankful to Buena Vista for the experience and opportunity they provided as well as their investment of energy and time they put into the show,” said Ms. Vanzant in a statement. “I have not ruled out television. This show was a development phase that has taught me what works and what doesn’t work in this industry to create a provocative show.”

Ms. Vanzant said she will return to teaching for the time being, focusing on lectures and classes related to “personal growth and healing.”

Fox’s ‘The Chamber’ wins key demo in debut: Despite facing a lawsuit from ABC’s soon-to-premiere “The Chair,” Fox’s pre-emptive entry of extreme game show concept “The Chamber” had a promising preview bow Sunday night in the key adults 18 to 49 and adults 18 to 34 demographics. Getting a premiere shot in “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm in the Middle’s” normally top-rated 8 p.m. (ET) Sunday hour, “The Chamber” posted a winning 4.7 rating/11 share in adults 18 to 49 and 5.3/15 in adults 18 to 34, according to Nielsen Media Research’s preliminary fast national data.

“The Chamber’s” first airing beat NBC’s competing, third-ranked “Weakest Link” by a 140 percent margin in adults 18 to 34 (5.3/15 vs. 2.2/7) and by 46 percent in adults 18 to 49 (4.7/11 vs. 3.2/7). “The Chamber,” which gets another Sunday preview Jan. 20 before settling into its regular 8 p.m. (ET) Friday slot on Jan. 25, also beat the second hour of ABC'”George of the Jungle” repeat movie in adults 18 to 49 (4.5/11) and adults 18 to 34 (3.3/9).

One other positive early indicator was “The Chamber’s” 11 percent half-hour build in adults 18 to 49 (4.5/11 vs. 5.0/11) and 14 percent build in adults 18 to 34 (4.9/14 vs. 5.6/15). Still, compared with “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm’s” previous weekly averages in adults 18 to 49 and 18 to 34, “Chamber” was off 18 percent and 20 percent, respectively, from the week-ago scores. Overall, “The Chamber,” tallied a fourth-ranked 5.7/9 household average and 9.9 million total viewers.

However, CBS gained an unusual win in adults 18 to 49 for the night (4.8/12) on the strength of “The People’s Choice Awards” (9 p.m. to 11 p.m.) posting top-ranked scores in adults 18 to 49 (5.6/13), adults 18 to 34 (4.2/11), households (10.2/16) and total viewers (15.2 million). Fox came in second for the night in adults 18 to 49 (4.6/11), followed by ABC (4.3//10) and NBC (3.2/8).

Cable loses subs to satellite: Cable’s share of the nation’s multichannel TV subscribers slipped to 78 percent last June, down from 80 percent the year before — with most of the loss attributable to direct broadcast satellite service. At least that was one of the key findings in a Federal Communications Commission report on competition that was released Monday in Washington.

The report also said the total number of TV subscribers was up to 88.3 million households in June, up 4.6 percent from 84.4 million subscribers the year before. Over the same time period, cable’s subscriber base rose 1.9 percent, from 67.7 million to 69 million, while DBS’s base grew at almost 21/2 times that rate, from 13 million to 16 million subscribers. Also over that same period, according to the FCC, cable’s rates rose 4.24 percent, while the consumer price index went up 3.25 percent. But the FCC said cable beefed up its capital expenditures to $15.5 billion in 2000, up 46 percent from the $10.6 billion spent in 1999.

Cass named GM of Belo’s Phoenix station: Belo’s Senior VP of the TV Group Skip Cass was made general manager Monday at Belo-owned independent KTVK-TV, Phoenix. He retains his Belo corporate title and will also run the Belo-owned WB affiliate in that market, KASW-TV.

WB’s ‘Jamie Kennedy’ draws viewers: The WB’s premiere of “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” turned in 66 percent week-to-week improvement for its 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday time slot. “JKX” drew a 3.6 rating/5 share household average in Nielsen Media Research’s metered markets, signaling two-thirds rating improvement over an original episode of “Nikki” (3 share average) the previous Sunday (Jan. 6). The “Candid Camera”-like trick comedy also improved a healthy 38 percent over its “Steve Harvey Show” lead-in (3.6/5). An encore 9:30-to-10 p.m. airing of “JKX” scored a 2.6/4, 33 percent better in share than the previous week’s “Off Centre” episode (3 share).

Court drills FCC on justification for duopoly rules: A federal appeals court panel in Washington Monday expressed skepticism about the Federal Communications Commission’s justification for agency duopoly rules that which bar broadcasters from owning more than one TV station in many markets. At least that was the analysis from representatives on both sides of the issue after the court heard the oral arguments in Sinclair Broadcast Group’s lawsuit against the regulations this morning.

“They (the judges) did seem to be a little tougher on the FCC,” said Mark Hyman, Sinclair vice president of corporate relations. Even Andrew Schwartzman, president of rule supporter Media Access Project, was speculating that the court would send the regulations back to the FCC for a better explanation. “These things are always extremely hard to call,” Mr. Schwartzman added.

A final decision by the court is expected by late summer.

CBS, UPN to join forces on ad sales: CBS Television President and CEO Leslie Moonves said he will act as CEO of UPN and hire a president of entertainment for the network. Dean Valentine, the UPN president who left the network last Friday, will not be replaced.

Speaking at UPN’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Mr. Moonves said CBS and UPN will keep separate development teams, but that the two teams will be communicating with each other. He said there could be limited crossover, with a show developed for one network ending up on the other. But because of the two different demographic targets of the networks, he doesn’t expect that to happen much.

However, the two networks will work together on the ad sales side. “There’s an opportunity for ad rates going up [on UPN],” Mr. Moonves said. “It’s much easier to sell UPN when you have the NFL to sell with it.”

While Mel Karamazin, president and chief operating officer of Viacom, parent company of UPN and CBS, said he wants UPN to be profitable, Mr. Moonves said, “There is no direct timetable for profitability.”

Mr. Moonves also said as of now there is no plan to change the name or headquarters of UPN. As for UPN’s World Wrestling Federation broadcasts, Mr. Moonves said the WWF “absolutely works on UPN” and serves a need for the network.

Univision launches TeleFutura: Univision Communications has launched a new 24-hour Spanish-language network called TeleFutura which will attempt to counterprogram traditional Spanish-language broadcast networks. “The launch of TeleFutura marks a significant advancement in television today and represents our company’s latest answer to the U.S. Hispanic community’s tremendous demand for diverse Spanish-language entertainment,” said A. Jerrold Perenchio, chairman and chief executive officer of Univision Communications.

Miami-based TeleFutura will broadcast via 42 stations (23 owned and operated stations and 19 affiliates) across 27 markets nationwide, reaching approximately 70 percent of Hispanic homes.

Lyne pledges to win at ABC: In her first public appearance since taking over as president of ABC Entertainment Jan. 7, Susan Lyne told TV critics Sunday that she is intent on making ABC again a “talent magnet” for Hollywood’s top creative talent. Ms. Lyne, who had previously overseen ABC’s telefilms and miniseries department, pledged to bring ABC back to prominence by creating series that carry an “event-like” aura common with the many top-ra
ted movies and minis she brought to the network over the last three years.

“I think that most of you know that that I like to win,” Ms. Lyne said in her address to the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif. “But I also to want to try to raise the bar, at least most of the time. We need to chase the projects that make noise. We can do that by breaking formats and conventions. There are a lot of challenges, obviously, but it’s all about good shows. It will take only a few shows to turn the network around.”

Indeed that appears to be center of attention for Lloyd Braun, chairman of ABC Television Entertainment Group, who acknowledged disappointment in ABC’s third-ranked season-to-date adults 18 to 49 ratings — tied with CBS at a 3.9 rating this season. Other than announcing that ABC was renewing “Alias,” “My Wife & Kids,” and “According to Jim” for next season, Mr. Braun also conceded ABC lacks any dominant evening (other than a modest lead it holds on Sundays) to springboard the rest of the schedule.

“Actually, we don’t have the Sequoias that the other networks have,” Mr. Braun said. “We think we have some seedlings for some future Sequoias, but we still don’t have any Sequoias right now. Much of what Susan and I have discussed and what we have discussed Bob [Iger, president of The Walt Disney Co.], Steve [Bornstein] and Alex [Wallau] is to establish a dominant night for ABC and then build on that night. One of the things we’re looking to do is to put as many assets together to accomplish that.”

To do so, Ms. Lyne suggested that she will be turning to some of her literary contacts that she has used to create such hit telefilms as “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” “Anne Frank” and “South Pacific.” Just before her ascension, ABC made a 13-episode development commitment to the Stephen King-inspired drama series, “The Kingdom,” in addition to Ms. Lyne working with him on this season’s miniseries project, “Red Rose.”

After the panel session with Mr. Braun, Ms. Lyne disclosed that she has already greenlit three script projects with Neil Meron and Craig Zadin, the prolific producing team behind “Judy Garland” and “Three Stooges.” Ms. Lyne said she would also be interested in hearing series pitches from Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, which produced ABC’s Emmy Award-winning telefilm “Tuesdays With Morrie.”

A major part of the decline has been tracked to parent Walt Disney Co.’s top executives (including Chairman/CEO Michael Eisner and President Bob Iger) reportedly dictating major programming decisions at ABC. Concern over that centralized decision process reached new proportions when ABC scheduled “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” to air over four evenings least season — where it failed to springboard any new hit scripted series leading out of it and accelerated ABC’s young adult demographic erosion.

Nevertheless, Mr. Braun sought to clarify comments dating back to the end of the November sweeps, when he suggested that “Millionaire” would be reduced to one airing or possibly none next season. In fact, he stressed he is still holding discussions with “Millionaire” producers and host Regis Philbin to “explore” the show’s ongoing role in prime time and broadcast syndication this year and beyond.

Still, the continued speculation in Hollywood — even following Stu Bloomberg’s abrupt resignation as programming chief last week — is over whether Ms. Lyne will be given more autonomy, given recent published comments that Mr. Iger, who was formerly ABC’s head of entertainment programming, will look to take an active hand in shaping the network’s series decisions.

During and after her appearance at the question-and-answer session, Ms. Lyne reiterated that she would “appreciate” and freely solicit any input from Mr. Iger.

“Bob has been very honest in wanting to support this and that we’re on track,” Ms. Lyne said. “This is about being much more aware about we’re going. I have never, never ever picked things in a vacuum. I feel I will have plenty of autonomy to do my job. I have known Bob for a long time and plan to have many more conversations with him. He is very useful to me.

“It is great to engage someone who has been involved with the company to invest in our strategy and our focus going forward,” she also during the Q&A session. “I will tell you there was not a job I had anywhere where I was not trying to bring the company along with me on what I was doing.”

Miller joins Walters on ’20/20′: After going solo for more than two years, “20/20” anchor Barbara Walters will have a new co-anchor in John Miller, who will be joining the ABC News magazine when it returns to its 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. (ET) Friday time slot on Jan. 18. Mr. Miller, who joined ABC News in October 1997 as a correspondent, is best known in journalism circles for his exclusive interview and feature on suspected terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden — a bone-chilling acount of his vocal threats of attacks on America soil made almost three years before the horrific Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

“John Miller is one of our most enterprising and respected journalists,” said ABC News President David Westin, who formalized Mr. Miller’s “20/20” announcement at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., on Sunday. “I am confident that he and Barbara will make a terrific team.”

Mr. Miller, 43, fills the co-anchor slot vacated by Hugh Downs, who joined Ms. Walters on “20/20” in 1984. Since Mr. Downs retired from the broadcast in September 1999, Ms. Walters has been anchoring “20/20” alone. This season had been particularly challenging for Ms. Walters, who was publicly incensed over ABC’s somewhat controversial move of the high-rated news magazine to the 10 p.m. Wednesday hour to start this fall.

“For most of my professional life, I have enjoyed having a partner, most recently my great friend Hugh Downs,” Ms. Walters said. “Now I am delighted to have a new partner in John. John will bring his own experiences and interests to ’20/20,’ and we can share both the pleasures and responsibilities of the program.”

Since October 1997, Mr. Miller had served as correspondent for ABC’s law and justice reporting unit, where he made contributing reports to “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings,” “20/20” and “Good Morning America.”

In other announcements, Ms. Walter will be doing another pre-Academy Awards, celebrity interview special in March for the network. Also, ABC News’ “Nightline” plans to revisit a five-part investigative series on the war in Congo, which had its second part pre-empted after the events of Sept. 11. This time around, “Nightline” will air the five-part Congo series in its entirety for the week of Jan. 21 to 25, 11:35 p.m. to 12:05 a.m. (ET).

Theatrical green light for Disney Channel’s ‘Lizzie’: The latest kids show to get the big-screen treatment is “Lizzie McGuire,” the Disney Channel comic series popular with tweens, which also airs in ABC’s One Saturday Morning block. “Lizzie” will be made into a feature film by Walt Disney Pictures.

The film, set to shoot this summer for a spring 2003 release, will star 14-year-old Hilary Duff, who also has the title role in the series about the foibles and predicaments of a girl in the seventh grade. The film will be written by Terri Minsky, a creator/writer of “The Geena Davis Show” and a consultant on “Sex and the City,” who also created “Lizzie”, and will be produced by Stan Rogow, who executive produces the series with Susan Jansen.

The film deal was scheduled to be announced at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, now under way in Pasadena, by Rich Ross, the Disney Channel’s general manager and executive VP.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications