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Mar 1, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Friday, March 1, at 11:55 a.m. (PT); last updated at 2:20 p.m.

Letterman, ABC in talks

ABC is negotiating with David Letterman, whose contract with CBS for his “Late Show” ends in August, and has apparently decided that no matter what the outcome of the talks, “Nightline” and “Politically Incorrect” should be replaced at 11:35 p.m. and 12:05 a.m., respectively, according to published reports.

ABC and CBS refused to comment on the negotiations . A statement from a spokesman for Mr. Letterman said: “We are currently in negotiations with the CBS Television Network. It would be inappropriate at this time to discuss any inquiries we may have received from other networks.”

EchoStar-DirecTV hearing set for March 6: The Senate antitrust subcommittee, headed by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., announced plans for a March 6 hearing on the planned EchoStar-DirecTV merger featuring testimony from EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen and DirecTV CEO Eddy Hartenstein. Also slated to testify are Gene Kimmelman, co-director of the watchdog Consumers Union; Robert Pitofsky, former Federal Trade Commission Chairman and Jay Nixon, Missouri’s attorney general. The panel plans to hold an April 10 hearing on the AT&T-Comcast deal, but witnesses have yet to be announced.

‘Friends’ scores, but ‘Leap of Faith’ drops 25 percent of lead-in: Joey expressed his love to Rachel on a typically top-rated “Friends” Thursday night, but it was too bad not much of that love could be spread to NBC’s lead-out “Leap of Faith.” Meanwhile, CBS’s “Survivor: Marquesas” found it a bit tougher sledding going against NBC’s Olympics-fed lineup, but the Eye’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigator” continued to reach new highs in the demos and total viewers.

On par with “Friends'” ratings renaissance this season, the newly renewed sitcom (through the 2002-03 season) set evening-highs Thursday in adults 18 to 49 (13.2 rating/33 share), adults 18 to 34 (14.3/38) and households (17.4/27), according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research data.

Coming off the huge lead-in boost and two weeks worth of Olympics-driven promotion heading into its premiere, 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) lead-out “Leap of Faith” won the frame in adults 18 to 49 (9.9/24) but dropped 25 percent of its “Friends” lead-in. The midseason sitcom, executive produced by former “Sex and the City” producer Jenny Bicks, also dropped 19 percent in households (14.0/21) and 24 percent in total viewers (20.8 million) from “Friends.”

Perhaps facing the unenviable position of more than a half-dozen sitcoms in trying to hold “Friends'” lofty lead-in ratings, “Faith’s” opening numbers were also off 13 percent from what previous 8:30 p.m. Thursday sitcom “Inside Schwartz” premiered to in adults 18 to 49 (11.4/29) on Sept. 27, 2001. NBC researchers, nevertheless, contended that “Leap of Faith’s” debut achieved the highest 18 to 49 score for a new midseason launch since Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle” debuted to an 11.7 rating on Jan. 9, 2000. The network also claimed it is NBC’s highest-rated midseason premiere in nearly five years, since “Fired Up” launched with a 13.8 rating on April 10, 1997.

However, much of “Faith’s” drop-off could also be traced to CBS’s premiere run of “Survivor: Marquesas,” which moved up 16 percent among adults 18 to 49 from its 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. half-hour frames (8.3/21 vs. 9.6/23). Still, “Marquesas'” second-ranked 8.9/22 in the key demo for the 8 p.m. hour was off 14 percent from what “Survivor: Africa” debuted at adults 18 to 49 (10.4/23) on Oct. 11, 2001. Possibly indicating ongoing erosion for the “Survivor” franchise, the fourth incarnation is also off 25 percent from “Survivor: The Australian Outback’s” (11.9/28) premiere on Feb. 2, 2001. Overall, “Survivor: Marquesas” posted a 13.1/20 in households and 28.7 million total viewers.

The still-potent numbers for “Survivor 4” allowed 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. lead-out drama hit “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” to set an evening highs and personal bests in households (17.2/26) and total viewers (28.7 million) for the frame. Improving 18 percent on “Survivor’s” lead-in, “CSI” also reached a personal best in adults 18 to 49 (10.5/24). NBC’s comedy duo of “Will & Grace” (9.4/22) and “Just Shoot Me” (8.3/19) came second for the hour in adults 18 to 49 (8.9/21).

NBC’s “ER” took the 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. frame in adults 18 to 49 (12.0/31), households (16.3/27) and total viewers (24.9 million). Although greatly outdistanced, CBS’s freshman, “The Agency,” reached season-highs in adults 18 to 49 (4.6/12), households (8.4/14) and total viewers (12.5 million).

For the night, NBC held only a 2 percent advantage over CBS in total viewers (21.9 million vs. 21.4 million). NBC’s cushion over CBS was 12 percent in households (14.5/22 vs. 12.9/20) and 35 percent in adults 18 to 49 (10.8/26 vs. 8.0/19).

ABC, which ran double-runs of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (2.0/5) and originals of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (2.4/6) and “PrimeTime” (2.9/7), came in a distant third for the night in adults18 to 49 (2.4/6). Fox, which threw in the towel with double-run repeats of “Family Guy” (2.2/5) and reruns of “King of the Hill” (2.3/6) and “Futurama” (1.9/4), came in fourth in adults 18 to 49 (2.1/5).

CBS’s ‘Wolf Lake’ comes to UPN: UPN, as previously expected, has confirmed that it will be airing the five episodes of the former CBS drama “Wolf Lake” beginning April 3 in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Wednesday time slot. The announcement comes on the heels of UPN agreeing to take the Viacom-owned sister network’s “The Amazing Race” for a second, delayed broadcast window on Friday nights.

In what is becoming a growing sense of synergy with CBS, which is now overseeing UPN’s operations, the younger sibling network will broadcast the original pilot and four previously unaired episodes of “Wolf Lake.”

“As we look for ways to improve UPN’s schedule even further, we are fortunate to be able to take advantage of our partnership with CBS to assist us in our efforts,” UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff said in a prepared statement. “After watching several episodes of this edgy, suspenseful drama, we realized that the series would be ideal for the UPN audience.”

“Wolf Lake” originally premiered on CBS on Sept. 24, 2001, averaging 6.56 million viewers in its former 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. Wednesday time slot.

Set in the Pacific Northwest town of Wolf Lake, the supernatural drama — starring Lou Diamond Phillips — deals with town folk who shape-shift from humans into wolves. “Wolf Lake” is a production of Viacom-owned Big Ticket Television, in association with CBS Productions. Alex Gansa and Rick Kellard are the executive producers.

Reportedly, if the ratings prove positive for UPN, the original cast could be reassembled for a revived first run next season. A UPN spokesman did not have knowledge of the plan.

Wiley to receive NAB’s distinguished service award: The National Association of Broadcasters has named former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Dick Wiley to receive NAB’s distinguished service award for the year. The award will be presented April 8 during NAB’s convention in Las Vegas.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications