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Feb 6, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 4:45 a.m. (PT); last updated at 2:20 p.m.

NBC wins key demo in tight Tuesday night race

After a one-week hiatus due to President Bush’s State of the Union address last week, the most heated time period battle this season was renewed on Tuesday night. Although Fox’s highly-acclaimed “24” has seen some growth in recent weeks, it was held in check by 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) competitors like NBC’s “Frasier” and “Scrubs,” ABC’s “NYPD Blue” and The WB’s “Smallville” — all of which posted substantial growth from two weeks ago.

NBC’s “Frasier” and “Scrubs” tandem won the 9 p.m. hour with respective 8.3 rating/20 share and 6.1/14 scores among the key adults 18 to 49 demographic, according to final Nielsen Media Research national data. “Frasier” improved 26 percent from when it last aired two weeks ago (6.6/15) while a “super-sized” lengthening of “Scrubs” (ending at 10:07 p.m.) moved up 9 percent over the same half-month span (5.6/13).

A similar February sweeps return to an original episode of ABC’s “NYPD Blue” (5.0/11) had it second in the hour among adults 18 to 49, improving 39 percent from its repeat airing two weeks ago. What it spelled was a third-place finish for Fox’s real-time “24” drama (4.5/10), which inched down 2 percent from its last airing two week ago (4.6/11). However, on a positive note, “24’s” household score (6.0/9) marked 7 percent growth from its last outing (5.6/8).

Also on the minus side among adults 18 to 49 were CBS’s “The Guardian” (3.3/8), down 5 percent from its score two weeks ago, and UPN’s “Roswell,” down 7 percent. However, on a broader basis, the freshman “Guardian” won the hour in households (8.4/12) and was second in total viewers (12.5 million) for the 9 p.m. hour.

NBC’s “Dateline” (4.7/12) scored an unexpected victory in adults 18 to 49 over CBS’s “Judging Amy” (4.3/11) and ABC’s “Philly” (4.1/11) to give the Peacock Network the 10 p.m. hour and the night in the demo. NBC’s 5.4/13 in adults 18 to 49 marked a 20 percent jump over two weeks ago. Fox, getting a winning 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. score out of double runs of “That ’70s Show” (5.6/14) for the hour, finished second on the night (5.1/12) with 4 percent improvement. ABC, thanks to “Philly’s” 46 percent jump from two weeks ago, had the network up 20 percent on the night (4.1/10) in the key demo.

CBS finished the night down 5 percent in adults 18 to 49 (3.9/10) and households (9.8/15) from its scores in both categories two weeks ago. Although The WB’s “Gilmore Girls” was nosed out by UPN’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in adults 18 to 49 (2.6/7 vs. 2.5/6), the 24 percent lead-out spurt from “Smallville” (3.1/7) had the Frog Network’s 2.8/7 score up 22 percent from two weeks ago and flat versus last week. A flat week-to-week score from “Roswell” (1.4/3) had UPN similarly holding even with last week’s 2.0/5 score in adults 18 to 49.

Oxygen cuts 5 percent of staff: Oxygen, the cable network founded by Geraldine Laybourne, has cut 24 job, representing approximately 5 percent of its staff. Employees cut were with “Pure Oxygen,” the cable network’s signature 90-minute series that has been cut to one hour, according to a spokesman. At its 90-minute length, “Pure Oxygen” was telecast four days per week; now it airs five days per week.

Last October, Oxygen, which targets women and numbers Oprah Winfrey among its backers, cut approximately 80 Internet-related jobs. No additional cuts are expected, the spokesman said.

Rebranded Speed Channel to emphasize live racing: Ending months of speculation on the future direction of the channel formerly known as Speedvision, the cable network and senior Fox Sports executives laid out relaunch plans for Speed Channel’s debut next Monday, accenting a heavy rotation of live racing events and Wednesday prime time replays of 36 of the NASCAR/Winston Cup Series race events this season.

As part of multiplatform licensing deals for NASCAR over six networks — Fox, Fox Sports Network, FX, Speed Channel, NBC and TNT — the repurposing of the sport’s typically highly rated racing events is expected to be a critical factor in Speed Channel’s prime time lineup, said Jim Liberatore, president of Speed Channel. In fact, Mr. Liberatore suggested that NASCAR’s estimated base of 75 million fans will enjoy watching the replayed events, complete with some additional behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with pit crew members, the pit chief and drivers during and after they’ve competed over the ovals.

“I would like to think that fans will love seeing and hearing the interaction between the pit crew members and racers, which they may have not been able to see on the original telecasts,” Mr. Liberatore said. “We really think NASCAR can be one of the tentpoles of what we see as a very strong prime-time schedule.”

In addition to the nonexclusive deal with NASCAR, the Speed Channel will have the exclusive cable rights to carry Formula One, CART, World Rally Racing, Trans Am and SCCA racing — much of that being showcased in daytime and prime time on weekends.

“Most of Speedvision’s previous schedule had been sports magazines, but when there were live events, the rating ratings numbered really popped,” said Mr. Liberatore. He added that since News Corp.’s Fox Cable Networks division took over ownership of Speedvision last July, the live NASCAR events on Fox Broadcasting Co., FX and Fox Sports Network made it an “imperative” to accent other live racing circuits to Speed Channel’s programming menu.

Mr. Liberatore, who estimated that Speedvision currently counts 46 million cable households, hopes the greater emphasis on live sports events and a wide variety of NASCAR-branded programming will eventually push the channel to 62 million U.S. cable households.

With NASCAR serving as a cornerstone sport, Richy Glassberg, senior VP of advertising sales for Speed Channel, said all four of Fox-owned channels have sold 10 major advertisers on overall multiplatform advertising deals. Claiming that advertising sales have “grown substantially,” Mr. Glassberg estimated that another 14 or so advertisers have similarly expressed interest in buying multiplatform packages by the time NASCAR kicks into full gear this spring.

“We feel that with the strength of Fox, Fox Sports Network, FX and Speed Channel, we can touch the consumers everywhere they want to touch NASCAR with live or replayed event races,” Mr. Glassberg said.

David Hill, chairman of Fox Sports Television, said that additional replays of NASCAR events on Speed Channel will not overexpose the sport, because he suggested there are continued signs of growth.

“We always had butterflies, but looking at the extensions of NASCAR on FX, Turner [TNT] and NBC, we never saw any dropoff [in ratings], and it made us realize the true power of the sport,” he said. “I think we are looking at just the tip of the iceberg. All indications are that we have a tiger by the tail with this.”

In other scheduling announcements:

— “Inside Winston Cup” returns on Mondays at 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), and again will be hosted by Allen Bestwick, featuring NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers Michael Waltrip, Ken Schrader and Johnny Benson. The program gives fans in-depth access to series drivers and insider analysis of what’s going on in the pits and on the track.

— “Trackside,” one of Speed Channel’s new, original programs, will air on Fridays and Saturdays, bringing live reports from the track where NASCAR is competing during that week.

— “Racing Across America” is another new program designed to highlight NASCAR’s weekly racing programs around the country. The network is targeting 39 events and will include programs from the Busch North Series, Featherlite Modified Series, Featherlite Southwest Series, Goody’s Dash Series, Hills Bros All Pro Series, RE/MAX Challenge Series and the NASCAR Winston West Series.

— New blocks of NASCAR programming will be anchored by “Totally NASCAR,” which will air Monday through Friday at 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. (ET). “NASCAR Victory Lane” and “NASCAR Tech” also will remain, along with Speed Channel favorites like “Legends of Motorsport,” “Stock
Car Legends” and the weekly racing news program, “Speed News.”

Donohue promoted at A&E: Diane Donohue has been promoted to senior VP, advertising sales, Eastern region, A&E Television Networks. Ms. Donohue, a 20 year industry veteran, was formerly VP, Eastern region, advertising sales, A&E. She has spent the past decade in ad sales at the cable network. Ms. Donohue also will oversee Biography Magazine sales, interactive media sales and sales marketing. She will report to Whitney Goit II, executive VP.

CBS unveils latest ‘Survivor’ contestants: Utilizing what has become trademark synergy, CBS on Wednesday announced the 16 castaways of “Survivor: Marquesas” on the network’s “Early Show.” The contestants for the fourth edition of “Survivor,” set to debut Feb. 28 for an anticipated 13-week run in its regular 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) Thursday time slot, are divided into the Maraamu and Rotu tribes.

The castaways who participated in the shoot last fall on the South Pacific island of Nuku Hiva, one of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, are:

Maraamu Tribe: Gina Crews, 28, a nature guide, from Gainesville, Fla.; Hunter Ellis, 33, a Federal Express pilot, from La Jolla, Calif.; Peter Harkey, 45, a bowling alley and wine shop owner, from Millis, Mass.; Patricia Jackson, 49, a truck assembler, from Lugoff, S.C.; Sara Jones, 24, an accounts manager, from Newport Beach, Calif.; Rob Mariano, 26, a construction worker, from Canton, Mass.; Sean Rector, 30, a teacher, from Los Angeles; and Vecepia “Vee” Towery, 36, an office manager, from Hayward, Calif.

Rotu Tribe: Gabriel Cade, 23, a bartender, from Los Angeles; John Carroll, a registered nurse, from Omaha, Neb.; Robert DeCanio, a limousine driver, from Queens, N.Y.; Neleh Dennis, 21, a student, from Layton, Utah; Paschal English, 57, a judge, from Thomaston, Ga.; Tammy Leitner, 29, a crime reporter, from Mesa, Ariz.; Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien, 47, a real estate agent, from Burlington, Vt.; and Joe Zanidakis, 35, a fishing boat captain, from Monhegan Island, Maine.

WB and AOL Music team up on WB Radio: In a bold stab at synergy with parent company AOL Time Warner, The WB Television Network and AOL Music announced the launch of The WB Radio, an Internet music station on Radio@AOL and Spinner.com. Featuring “the soundtrack of The WB, 24/7,” the station will play an eclectic mix of popular music that has appeared in programs on The WB Network, from familiar theme songs to breaking new artists.

Programming will also include interviews with and music choices from stars of The WB, profiles of artists and other features. The WB Radio targets the network’s core young audience of young women and teens. For many of the prime-time series airing on The WB, such as “Dawson’s Creek,” “Charmed” and “Angel,” major music acts — including those with recordings on Warner Bros. Records and other labels — have been prominently featured in on-air promotions at the end of episodes.

The WB Radio will be broadcast in streaming audio over the Internet, accessible to Web music fans from TheWB.com and Spinner.com and to AOL members on Radio@AOL.

“The WB has established a reputation for innovative use of music in programming and for exposing new songs and artists,” said Nancie S. Martin, The WB’s senior vice president of new media, in a prepared statement. “Our online audience has consistently asked for more and more music from our shows, so we’re excited about having The WB Radio on Spinner and Radio@AOL to meet this demand.”

Brokaw will deliver TVB keynote address: “NBC Nightly News” anchorman Tom Brokaw will deliver the keynote speech at the Television Bureau of Advertising’s 2002 marketing conference, set for March 26 in New York City.

For the past 10 years, the annual TVB conference has been held in Las Vegas in tandem with the annual National Association of Broadcasters’ convention. For the first time this year, the TVB conference will be held instead in conjunction with the New York Auto Show.

Wright to executive produce ‘BET Nightly News’: Will Wright has been named executive producer for “BET Nightly News” in an announcement made Wednesday by Nina Henderson Moore, BET senior VP for news, public affairs and programming acquisitions; and John Frazee, senior VP, news services, CBS News. Mr. Wright’s appointment is effective immediately. “BET Nightly News” is the flagship weekday evening news program of the BET Network anchored by Jacque Reid. Beginning Feb. 25, the program — including its studio, primary newsroom and staff — will be headquartered in the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.

‘Sex’ heats up DGA nominations: Three episodes of HBO’s “Sex and the City” are among the nominees for top honors this year at the 54th annual Directors Guild of America awards. The individual episodes were directed by Allen Coulter, Michael Engler and Michael Patrick King.

Joining them in the outstanding comedy category are Todd Holland for Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” and James Burrows, whose 18 nominations during his career make him the most nominated director in the DGA’s history, for an episode of NBC’s “Will & Grace.”

The pilot episode of HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” directed by series creator Alan Ball, is among the DGA nominees for outstanding drama. Other nominees include the pilot episode of Fox’s “24,” directed by Steven Hopkins; an episode of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” directed by Steve Buscemi; an episode of NBC’s “The West Wing,” directed by Paris Barclay; and another “West Wing” episode, directed by Thomas Schlamme.

Contending in the musical variety category are CBS’s “The Late Show With David Letterman,” directed by Jerry Foley; CBS’s “The Kennedy Honors 2001,” directed by Louis J. Horvitz; CBS’s “The 55th Annual Tony Awards,” directed by Glenn Weiss; Fox’s “Barbra Streisand: Timeless,” directed by Ms. Streisand and Don Mischer; and “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” directed by Joel Gallen and Beth McCarthy-Miller, the post-Sept. 11 benefit that was telecast by multiple networks.

Winners will be announced March 9.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications