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May 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Brad Grey signs exclusive deal with 20th Century Fox

In a major coup, 20th Century Fox Television, the largest studio supplier of TV series to the broadcast networks for three years running, has signed an exclusive development deal with Brad Grey Television — producer of such hit series as HBO’s “The Sopranos” and NBC’s “Just Shoot Me.” Under blanket terms of the deal, Mr. Grey’s production company, which was founded as an outgrowth of his role as a talent manager with Brillstein-Grey Co., is going to develop and produce new series in tandem with 20th Century Fox Television.

There was no immediate word on final terms of the deal, which was sealed by Fox Television Entertainment Chairman Sandy Grushow and Co-Presidents of 20th Century Fox Television Gary Newman and Dana Walden. Sources close to the studio, however, say it is for three years and involves some kind of lucrative participation in the back-end sales of series for off-network syndication and cable networks. Those sales will be handled by sister Twentieth Television. 20th is also said to be funding all of BGTV’s future development and production.

The pact also gives the studio first-look rights to any new cable series originating from Brad Grey Television “where distribution is available,” which could mean Mr. Grey’s company will have the presumed inside option to sell series to the Fox-owned FX cable network.

Brad Grey Television was previously aligned with Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Columbia TriStar Television unit, which decided last October to abandon the expensive talent roster business for producer-writers when it came to series developed and produced for the broadcast networks. Sources said Mr. Grey’s deal at Sony is nearing expiration and they simply let him out of it without extracting any kind of release fee from 20th Century Fox for his services. Mr. Grey, in a prepared statement, that he is “very grateful to our friends at Sony for all the success we have enjoyed producing television shows in our partnership with Columbia over the last 11 years.”

Brad Grey TV had fiercely cultivated a reputation for being a freelance-style independent production company by entering co-production partnerships with other major Hollywood studios on “According to Jim” (with ABC’s Touchstone Television) and NBC’s “Just Shoot Me” (with Universal Television). That’s what appears to make this deal all the more valuable in luring Mr. Grey into the Fox tent over other vertically integrated studio/network combinations.

NBC renews ‘Third Watch’: Just days before its May 13 upfront presentation in New York, NBC has placed a 22-episode renewal order on 9 p.m. (ET) Monday drama, “Third Watch,” for the 2002-03 season — its fourth on the Peacock Network.

Produced by John Wells Production and Warner Bros. Television, “Third Watch” peaked at a 7.0 rating/16 share among adults 18 to 49 for its April 29 airing, which may have been a deciding factor for the early renewal order. For the season “Third Watch” has been averaging a 4.3/10 in the key demo, posting 23 percent growth vs. year-ago time period averages.

“Third Watch” earned a Peabody Award for its season-opening episode featuring interviews with real New York firefighters and paramedics on their rescue efforts on and after Sept. 11.

Adelphia to sell local cable systems: As expected, Adelphia Communications, the nation’s sixth largest multiple system operator, is putting local cable systems reaching almost 3 million of its 5.8 million subscribers on the sales block.

The Coudersport, Pa.-based company’s board of directors has authorized it to solicit bids for systems in California, Florida and other lucrative markets, primarily in the Southeast.

The “for sale” signs go up in the wake of disclosures that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company and as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s annual convention, held this year in New Orleans, comes to a close. So-called undervaluation of the cable sector’s stocks was one topic of central concern at the convention. In private, senior executives at other publicly traded companies often pointed to Adelphia’s troubles, including guaranteeing more than $2 billion in loans to its founding family, as being partly responsible for Wall Street’s diminished valuation of cable overall.

Karn set to replace Anderson as ‘Family Feud’ host: FremantleMedia Productions is beefing up its presence in the United States with a slew of new programming as well as a new face on a current series. “Home Improvement’s” Richard Karn is in deep negotiations to replace Louie Anderson as host of its “Family Feud,” which is distributed by Tribune. The series has been given a “firm go” for another season, with Karn “showing the enthusiasm and warmth needed for this series,” said FremantleMedia President of Entertainment David Lyle.

In addition, FremantleMedia is preparing a number of series for network, cable and syndicated television, including “Match Game,” “Real Life Adventure,” serial drama “Women Behind Bars” and an updated version of “Truth or Consequences.”

Bill would limit drug companies’ ad-related tax deductions: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced legislation Wednesday that would limit the tax deduction pharmaceutical companies can take for advertising. As it stands, the ad expenses are completely deductible. But under Sen. Stabenow’s legislation, pharmaceutical companies would be barred from deducting advertising and marketing costs that exceed their annual outlay for research and development.

The senator’s legislation, which has the support of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., is the latest effort by lawmakers to reduce the cost to consumers of prescription drugs. Legislation proponents argue that advertising is raising drug costs to consumers. “Americans today are being forced to subsidize prescription drug advertising both when they pay their taxes and when they pay at the counter for their prescriptions,” Sen. Stabenow said.

But the television, pharmaceutical and advertising industries are fighting the crackdown, in part on grounds that the advertising educates consumers. “It [the crackdown] is bad policy,” said Penny Farthing, counsel to the Freedom to Advertise Coalition.

Woodcock to leave KCBS: In a surprise announcement in Los Angeles, KCBS-TV General Manager David Woodcock resigned Tuesday after eight months at the station.

Just last week the Federal Communications Commission approved Viacom’s purchase of independent KCAL, giving Viacom a duopoly in the market. Don Corsini, who has been KCAL general manager for six years, will take over for Mr. Woodcock and will run the duopoly.

Viacom Station Group chief Fred Reynolds sent a memo to staffers at both Los Angeles stations in which he said, “We are confident that the combination of KCBS-TV and KCAL will be awesome, as our two stations will have tremendous resources available to not only lead the growth in the market, but provide the Los Angeles community with a wealth of news, entertainment and sports programming.” He also stated the company “will take great pains to preserve the strong local identities that both KCBS and KCAL have cultivated over the years.”

KENS-TV scores high ratings with Spurs game: CBS affiliate KENS-TV in San Antonio scored its highest ratings Tuesday night for a Spurs game this season. For Tuesday’s playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers, KENS got a 22.4 Nielsen Media Research rating and 37 share for the entire game. Toward the end of the game, at midnight, KENS reached a high of 23.0/47. The Spurs beat the Lakers 88 to 85 in second game of the Western Conference semifinals.

FTC accuses ab device makers of false advertising: The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday that three makers of electronic abdominal exercise belts routinely make false and deceptive claims about their products in 30-minute infomercials seen widely on cable. The agency is seeking permanent injunctions from federal district courts in California and Nevada against the companies — AB Energizer, AbTronic, and Fast Abs — to force them to drop the claims and “p
ay redress” to customers.

The infomercials have run on USA, TNN, Lifetime, E!, FX, Comedy Central and elsewhere. “Each of the infomercials has been among the 10 most frequently aired infomercials in weekly U.S. rankings and has aired well over a thousand times,” the FTC said. The spots feature fitness professionals touting the products as effective tools for weight loss, cellulite reduction and development of rock-hard abs — claims the FTC says are unproven. Some of the belts also have been advertised on broadcast TV, in magazines and on the Web.

World Wrestling Entertainment launching new programs: World Wrestling Entertainment will launch new programs as part of its new brand extension, with “WWE Bottom Line” and “WWE Afterburn” hitting syndication at the end of the month, replacing “Metal” and “Jakked.” On TNN, the company will bow “WWE Bottom Line” and “WWE Confidential” on Saturday, May 25.

Diageo to advertise hard liquor via ‘unwired’ TV network: Distilled spirit marketer Diageo Guinness UDV North America has put together an unwired network covering 86 percent of the country and will spend $1 billion over the next five years advertising its products. Guy Smith, executive VP, external affairs for Diageo made the announcement this afternoon in a speech at the Electronic Media/Advertising Age Upfront Summit at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York. Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff, Bailey’s, Captain Morgan’s and Crown Royal, has put together the unwired network among 200-plus TV stations, six cable networks and a number of local MSOs. Mr. Smith said the company assembled the unwired network after NBC earlier this year reversed its original position and decided not to accept hard liquor ads.

NBC acquires TV rights to Giuliani bio: NBC has acquired the made-for-TV movie rights to “Emperor of the City: The Story of America’s Mayor,” a biography of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, penned by journalist Andrew Kirtzman. The telefilm rights deal for the three-hour movie, to be titled “America’s Mayor: The Rudy Giuliani Story,” was closed by Jeff Gaspin, NBC’s executive vice president of alternative series, specials, long-form and program strategy.

The teleplay for the NBC movie is being written by Nicholas Meyer (“The Human Stain,” “The Seven Percent Solution”) for executive producers Lorenzo Minoli and Russell Kagan. Their Emmy Award-winning production company, Five Mile River Films, which will shoot the telefilm, previously produced the acclaimed CBS miniseries “Jesus” as well as “Joseph” and the movie “Nicholas’ Gift.” Mr. Minoli and Mr. Kagan, who have received a total of four Emmy nominations, also recently completed the four-hour miniseries “Julius Caesar.”

The movie is slated to be filmed in New York City with a possible fall production start.

An NBC spokesman said “America’s Mayor,” which he described as just a script order initially, has not yet begun the casting process and has not been given a target broadcast date yet. He also did not know if Mr. Giuliani has yet been approached to take on a cameo acting or creative role in the production.

Mr. Giuliani previously appeared as himself on several NBC series, including a recent episode of “Law & Order” as well as “Mad About You,” “Seinfeld” and “Cosby.” He also hosted NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in 1997.

Mr. Giuliani has not yet declared if he considering running for national office, but he has been using his political clout to help candidates in New York and California at Republican fund-raising events. Speculation is ongoing that he could make a run for the White House in 2008.

Kids’ WB reveals summer lineup: Kids’ WB is giving its summer 2002 lineup early starts on Saturday, May 25, and Monday, May 27, with the debut of “Phantom Investigators” and the broadcast premiere of “Powerpuff Girls” among the notable additions to the top-rated kids broadcast network.

The half-hour animated “Phantom Investigators” is running at 11:30 a.m. (ET) Saturdays, while “Powerpuff Girls” (a synergistic import from sister Cartoon Network on cable) will unspool at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays and 4:30 p.m. weekdays on WB affiliates.

The full summer 2002 schedule follows:

Saturday mornings (beginning May 25)

8 a.m. “Rescue Heroes: Global Response Team” (new time period)

8:30 a.m. “Static Shock”

9 a.m. “Jackie Chan Adventures”

9:30 a.m. “The Powerpuff Girls” (broadcast premiere)

10 a.m. “Pokemon: Johto League Champions”

10:30 a.m. “Yu-Gi-Oh!” (new time period)

11 a.m. “X-Men: Evolution” (new time period)

11:30 a.m. “Phantom Investigators” (broadcast premiere)

Weekday afternoons (beginning May 27)

3 p.m. “Scooby-Doo” (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays)

“Rescue Heroes: Global Response Team” (Wednesdays)

3:30 p.m. “Yu-Gi-Oh!”

4 p.m. “Pokemon”

4:30 p.m. “The Powerpuff Girls” (broadcast premiere)

Liberty to wrap OpenTV into new ITV unit: Liberty Media Corp. will acquire the 43 percent economic interest and 87 percent voting interest in OpenTV it doesn’t already own, and will wrap the interactive TV company into a newly formed subsidiary called Liberty Broadband Interactive Television. The new unit, which will focus on developing and investing in the interactive TV sector, will be headed by former Gemstar-TV Guide president Peter Boylan III, who will be president and chief executive. Liberty executives were scheduled to conduct a press conference on the stock purchase of OpenTV and Mr. Boylan’s new position Wednesday.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications