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Aug 7, 2002  •  Post A Comment

NBC, DreamWorks formalize partnership

NBC and DreamWorks Television have formally agreed to enter into a two-year prime-time series development partnership. In a deal announced by NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker and DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Television — run by co-heads Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank — will work with Mr. Zucker to develop new comedy, drama and reality series for NBC.

As part of NBC’s new studio “pod” production system, the Peacock Network will have first-look rights on all future series properties developed by DreamWorks and will provide financing for the programs in return for a majority ownership stake. After NBC exercises its first-look option and potentially passes on a certain project, DreamWorks Television will have the ability to pitch and produce the series for other broadcast networks.

NBC also retains the back-end syndication rights to any shows (through NBC Enterprises) that DreamWorks produces through the partnership.

The studio pod system at NBC, which recently included Mr. Zucker’s signing of Gavin Polone’s independent Pariah production company, is intended to “streamline the development process … allowing the network to expand the scope and diversity of sources of new programming,” NBC’s statement said. As with Pariah, the DreamWorks Television executive team will report to Mr. Zucker.

DreamWorks, the longtime producer of the former ABC sitcom “Spin City,” is set to co-produce NBC’s cop drama “Boomtown” (with NBC Studios) and Fox’s “Oliver Beene” comedy (with 20th Century Fox Television) for premiere in this fall’s prime-time lineup. Currently, DreamWorks also co-produces The WB sitcom “Off Centre” (with Warner Bros. Television) and has plans to unspool “Steven Spielberg Presents Taken,” a 20-hour miniseries debuting on Sci-Fi Channel in December. Another long-form miniseries project, “Arthur” (working title), is being developed by executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tony To for HBO.

DreamWorks’ existing development deals include writer-producer-actor Denis Leary in addition to writer-producers Rod Lurie (in partnership with Touchstone Television) and Peter Mehlman.

“DreamWorks has distinguished itself as one of the premier producers of quality television,” Mr. Zucker said in the prepared statement. “The brand that Jeffrey Katzenberg and his team have created aligns nicely with NBC’s smart, sophisticated brand. We’re confident that many hit TV shows will come as a result of this alliance.”

“We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to be in business with Jeff Zucker, Karey Burke [NBC’s executive VP of current programming] and the rest of the NBC team,” Mr. Katzenberg said. “We have a longstanding relationship with Ted Harbert [president of NBC Studios], and our recent work together on ‘Boomtown’ opened the door for this larger collaboration, and we can’t wait to get started.”

DreamWorks SKG was formed in October 1994 by its three principal partners — Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Katzenberg and David Geffen — as a single company to produce live-action motion pictures, animated feature films, network and cable television programming, home video entertainment, records, books, toys and consumer products.

Nickelodeon takes over Noggin: Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop have signed an agreement in which Nickelodeon has acquired its partner Sesame Workshop’s 50 percent interest in Noggin, the cable- and satellite-delivered channel founded in 1998 that targets preschoolers and tweens.

Noggin will be operated and managed by Nickelodeon and will be overseen by Herb Scannell, president, Nickelodeon, TV Land and The New TNN. The channel currently reaches approximately 25 million households.

In addition, Nickelodeon has entered into a multiyear agreement for the development of new original series for Noggin with Sesame Workshop and will continue to feature programming from the Sesame library, including “Sesame Street,” for three more years.

‘Idol’ powers Fox to win in demo: Fox’s “American Idol” continues to dominate the summer landscape, powering Fox to a Tuesday win in the adults 18 to 49 demo by a 53 percent margin over second-place NBC (4.6 rating/14 share vs. 3.0/9), according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data.

The talent-search show swept the major household and demographic categories, holding close to even with last week’s best-ever scores. Airing in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) frame, “Idol” drew top-ranked scores in adults 18 to 49 (6.1/17), adults 18 to 34 (7.0/20), households (6.9/12) and total viewers (11.9 million).

Although “Idol” dominated the 9 p.m. hour, ABC’s series finale of “The Mole 2: The Next Betrayal” came in with a personal-best 3.9/10 among adults 18 to 34, giving ABC its best demo scores in the time slot since an episode of “NYPD Blue” aired Nov. 6, 2001. “Mole 2” tallied second-ranked scores in adults 18 to 49 (3.4/10) and total viewers (7.1 million). “Mole 2’s” relatively strong closing gave ABC a third-ranked score in adults 18 to 49 (2.6/8) for the night.

“Idol” and “Mole 2,” true to form, improved 97 percent and 42 percent, respectively, over their lead-in programming. NBC’s original episodes of “Spy TV” (2.6/10) and “The Rerun Show” (2.9/9) won the 8 p.m. hour in adults 18 to 49, holding even with week-ago time period averages.

CBS stayed with its all-repeat drama lineup — “JAG” (1.6/5), “The Guardian” (1.4/4) and “Judging Amy” (2.2/6) — turning in a fourth-ranked score in adults 18 to 49 (1.8/5), but came in third in households (5.2/9) and total viewers (7.0 million).

MRCGroup to do NBC testing in Vegas: The MRCGroup Research Institute, a Las Vegas-based market research and opinion-polling company serving the entertainment industry, has formed strategic alliances with NBC and Nielsen Entertainment. The centerpiece of the deal has NBC becoming an anchor tenant in MRCGroup’s new research and testing facilities under construction in the the Venetian Resort/Casino, where 45,000 visitors pass through daily. Nielsen ReelResearch’s software will provide the backbone of the research operation.

NBC’s new in-casino presence mirrors what CBS and its Viacom parent company have inserted as an audience focus testing facility and retail store outlet in the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas for the past two years. Through MRCGroup’s and CBS’s initiatives, Las Vegas is said to be eclipsing Los Angeles as the test market of choice for the entertainment industry given the wide swath of tourists from around the U.S. who come to play in America’s gambling capital.

Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s president of research and media development, said the network’s decision to entrust the MRCGroup with the testing of a large portion of its new shows and promos was the result of significant testing and trial runs by the two entities.

“From our initial discussion through the strict and precise development process, the MRCGroup consistently proved to NBC that the high quality of our methodologies and deliverables could be provided more quickly and economically,” Jim Medick, CEO of MRCGroup Research Institute, said in a prepared statement.

Advertisers’ buys are up: Thirteen advertisers turned over a combined $818 million in domestic accounts in July, more than double June’s $387 million media-billings shift, according to MediaAnalysisPlus data.

The largest change was Burger King’s consolidation of media buying at Interpublic Group’s Media First International. That change added $200 million in Burger King billings to Media First.

There were also two $100 million-plus shifts in July. The U.S. Postal Service mailed its $130 million account to Campbell-Ewald and the California Lottery placed its $125 million media-buying bet with Foote, Cone & Belding.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications