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Oct 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 9

ABC dramas on chopping block

Although feeling somewhat revitalized by strong openings for its freshman comedies, ABC is said by Hollywood sources to be undertaking a major revamping of its schedule. Topping the list are the alleged cancellations of new dramas “Push, Nevada” and “That Was Then.” Additionally, word from sources is that long-in-the-tooth comedies “The Drew Carey Show” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” are being shuttled from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) Monday into the 9 p.m. Friday hour — in place of “That Was Then.”

For the first two weeks of this season, “Drew” and “Whose Line” barely averaged a 2.2 rating/6 share among adults 18 to 49 (leading into “Monday Night Football”), off 15 percent from what the previously banished “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” averaged in the year-ago time slot. Worse yet, the “Drew”/”Whose” hour is averaging just 5.5 million viewers in the 8 p.m. Monday slot, off a hefty 45 percent from the 10 million head count for “Millionaire” in the slot.

Because “Millionaire” tends to skew older and more male, some talent agency sources say ABC is considering bringing back the Regis Philbin-hosted game show to prop up the lead-in hour to “Monday Night Football.”

ABC officials had talked of bringing back “Millionaire” only for special, limited sweeps runs, and some talent agency sources suggested ABC may still only look at the former ratings juggernaut as a temporary filler until “Monday Night Football” ends its run in late December. ABC is also said to be cool to doing a network run of “Millionaire” while the syndicated version (hosted by Meredith Vieira) is still finding its legs. A spokeswoman for ABC would say only that a full announcement covering all of ABC’s scheduling moves will be made Thursday morning.

Perhaps of more immediate concern is how ABC is going to extricate itself from treasure contest-based “Push, Nevada,” which features a $1 million cash grand prize. ABC officials were not reachable for comment on how the network is going to resolve what conceivably will be a severely truncated run of the show to fulfill the contest rules set forth with the initial 12-episode order. Contest rules on ABC’s Web site include clauses that allow producers to offer the final clue over the Internet if necessary.

For the first two weeks of this season in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. Thursday time slot, the Ben Affleck- and Sean Bailey-conceived “Push” has been averaging a mere 1.4/3 score in adults 18 to 49-off a whopping 50 percent from what “Millionaire” did in the year-ago span. There is not yet solid word on what ABC is looking to do to plug the potential Thursday vacancy.

ABC is said to be considering moving the freshman drama “MDs” from the 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. Wednesday slot, which dipped to a 2.9/8 average in adults 18 to 49-off a hair from CBS’s competing medical drama “Presidio Med” (3.0/8). Whether moving “MDs” to 9 p.m. Thursday or Friday would help the show is a matter of considerable speculation among talent agency sources. “MDs” has been averaging a 3.2/9 in adults 18 to 49 over its first two weeks, off 27 percent from what “20/20 Wednesday” did in the year-ago span (4.4/11).

Meanwhile, UPN is said by sources to have a found a bright spot in reportedly extending a full season’s order to the new CBS-produced sitcom “Half & Half.” Despite a somewhat muted audience reaction to 9 p.m. freshman dramas “Haunted” and “Twilight Zone” on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, “Half & Half’s” 1.8/4 in adults 18 to 49 is holding close to even with what “Girlfriends” (1.9/4) averaged in the year-ago 9:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. Monday time slot.

Gemstar management shake-up: Gemstar-TV Guide International’s CEO, Dr. Henry Yuen, and its chief financial officer, Elsie Leung, have resigned.

Jeff Shell, a former News Corp. cable sports executive, will become CEO. And Paul Haggerty, currently a News Corp. financial executive, becomes acting CFO. News Corp. owns 42 percent of the Pasadena-based Gemstar, which has been the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of its accounting practices. A management shake-up at the company has been expected for months. Gemstar is best known for its interactive program guide, its VCR Plus system and its eBook.

Dr. Yuen will receive approximately $22 million and Ms. Leung approximately $7 million as termination payments under their existing contracts.

Dr. Yuen will continue as chairman of the board in a non-executive capacity and, under a new five-year employment agreement, will lead a business unit formed to pursue international business development opportunities. Dr. Yuen also has agreed to assign to Gemstar all intellectual property relating to the Gemstar’s business that he has developed and develops in the future in his new role. In addition, he has granted Gemstar the right of first refusal to certain future inventions related to interactive television and interactive programming guides for a period of time, according to a company statement.

ABC’s Tuesday win triggers ‘Less Than Perfect’ extension: For the third consecutive week, ABC solidified its adults 18 to 49 ratings hold on Tuesdays this season with its 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. comedy lineup keying the evening and triggering a full season’s order for 9:30 p.m. (ET) sitcom “Less Than Perfect.”

The “Less Than Perfect” pickup followed nine-episode extensions on the rookie sitcoms “8 Simple Rules” and “Life With Bonnie” last week. Like the other series, “Less Than Perfect” is produced by sister Disney-owned studio Touchstone Television.

During its first two weeks on the air,”Less Than Perfect” has improved ABC’s 9:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Tuesday time period performance by 10 percent in adults 18 to 49 (4.3 rating/11 share vs. 3.9/9) over the comparable year-ago span, according to Nielsen Media Research national data. The workplace comedy, created and executive produced by Terri Minsky, has scored a 14 percent improvement in total viewers (10.0 million vs. 8.8 million) in the time slot year to year.

It also has scored 91 percent retention from lead-in “Life With Bonnie” among adults 18 to 49. Last night’s airing of “Less Than Perfect” generated ABC’s best adults 18-34 score (3.6/10) in the time slot — according to Nielsen’s preliminary fast national measure — since the Nov. 6, 2001, season premiere of “NYPD Blue.”

Meanwhile, free of Fox’s highly rated but pre-empted “That ’70s Show” to start the evening (making way for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series), ABC’s “8 Simple Rules” posted a top-ranked 5.6/16 in adults 18 to 49 for the 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. frame.”8 Simple Rules” was up 8 percent in adults 18 to 49 from its previous week’s score (5.2/15) and 64 percent from the time slot’s year-ago average (3.4/9).

At 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., “According to Jim” (5.6/16) held all of its “8 Simple Rules” lead-in, improving 9 percent week to week and 124 percent over the year-ago week’s run of “What About Joan” (2.5/6) in adults 18 to 49.

Helping ABC’s cause was NBC’s unexpected 8 p.m. Tuesday scheduling of “Just Shoot Me,” whose 2.7/8 average in adults 18 to 49 marked a 21 percent drop from what freshman sitcom “In-Laws” did a week earlier in the time slot (3.4/10). It was the lowest rating ever for “Just Shoot Me,” which has historically aired at 9 p.m. or later.

Maintaining its 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. airing, “In-Laws'” 3.4/9 score in adults 18 to 49 was up 26 percent over its “Shoot Me” lead-in, but was off 10 percent from its week-ago Tuesday score (4.0/11). “In-Laws” is still holding about even with NBC’s departed “Three Sisters” in the year-ago slot (3.5/9). CBS’s “JAG” drama held virtually even in winning total viewers (14.5 million) and households (9.8/16) for the 8 p.m. hour.

NBC’s “Frasier” improved 64 percent over its “In-Laws” lead-in to win the 9 p.m. slot in adults 18 to 49 (5.6/14), holding even with last week’s score but down 14 percent year to year. Encouraging to NBC was the third week’s run of 9:30 p.m. freshman comedy “Hidden Hills,” which had a top-ranked 4.8/12 score and retained 86 percent of its “Frasier” lead-in among adults 18 to 49.

BC’s third-week airing of “NYPD Blue” improved 20 percent on its lead-in hour to win the 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. frame in adults 18 to 49 (5.3/15). It was up 8 percent week to week and up 39 percent from the year-ago run of “Philly” (3.8/10) in the slot.

For the night, ABC’s winning 5.1/14 score in adults 18 to 49 marked 4 percent improvement week to week and a hefty 54 percent jump from the year-ago week (3.3/8). NBC came in second among adults 18 to 49 (4.2/11), down 7 percent week to week (4.5/12) and 13 percent year to year (4.8/12). CBS came in third in adults 18 to 49 (3.7/10), but won the night in total viewers (14.5 million) and households (10.0/16).

Fox’s Game 1 of the ALCS playoff between the Anaheim Angels and Minnesota Twins registered preliminary fourth-ranked scores in adults 18 to 49 (3.2/9), total viewers (8.7 million) and households (6.0/9).

Melnick promoted at 20th Century Fox: Steven Melnick, a seven-year media relations and promotion/advertising veteran for 20th Century Fox Television, has been promoted to the newly created position of senior VP of marketing for the leading Hollywood prime-time network series supplier.

Mr. Melnick, whose appointment was made by 20th Century Fox Television Presidents Dana Walden and Gary Newman, will be responsible for overseeing the marketing activities of the studios’ current roster of 19 prime-time series. He will be responsible for collaborating internally with the studio’s producers, creative executives and divisions including licensing and merchandising and home entertainment; and externally with the broadcast networks and third-party partners.

Additionally, Mr. Melnick will continue to oversee the studio’s publicity department, in which he served as VP of media relations and advertising since February 2001. He will also assume oversight of the studio’s research department, which continues to be run by Jodi Clancy, VP of research. He still reports directly to Ms. Walden and Mr. Newman.

Mr. Melnick joined 20th Century Fox Television in 1996. He has overseen marketing campaigns for such series as Fox’s critically lauded “24,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and “King of the Hill,” in addition to UPN’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Fox’s “The X-Files.”

Telemundo buys three affiliates: Telemundo has agreed to buy three of its Western affiliates, each located in a key Hispanic market. The Spanish-language network, now owned by NBC, is paying $20 million to The Apogee Companies, whose principal owner is Roy Disney, for KHRR-TV in Tucson, Ariz., and KDRX-LP in Phoenix.

Sainte 51, a California-based limited partnership that owns a handful of TV and low-power stations in California, is selling KNSO-TV in Merced/Fresno to Telemundo for $33 million. Both Apogee and Sainte 51 were represented by Kalil & Co.

The new deals would bring the number of Telemundo-owned stations to 15, including the recent purchase of Boston-area WPXB-TV from Paxson Communications.

Touchstone promotes foursome at studio: In recognition of its growing network comedy and drama slates this season, Touchstone Television has promoted four key programming executives — Alex Weinberger, Nina Howie, Jodie Platt and Josh Barry — to various director-level and higher positions at the Disney-owned studio. The appointments were announced by Stephen McPherson, president of Touchstone Television’s network series unit.

Mr. Weinberger, previously director of comedy series, has been promoted to executive director of comedy series for Touchstone. Mr. Weinberger has been overseeing current production on the ABC sitcom “My Wife and Kids” and NBC’s “Scrubs.”

Mr. Howie, previously a manager of comedy, has been upped to director of comedy, continuing oversight of ABC’s “Life With Bonnie” and “Less Than Perfect” as well as ABC’s pending midseason rollout of “Regular Joe,” starring Daniel Stern. Ms. Platt, also previously a manager, moves up to director and is responsible for ABC’s “8 Simple Rules,” “According To Jim” and the midseason project “Lost At Home.”

The three comedy executives will still be responsible for managing new comedy series development and current series, continuing to report to Julia Franz, VP of comedy series. All three of the freshman ABC comedies, “8 Simple Rules,” “Life With Bonnie” and “Less Than Perfect,” have already received full-season orders.

On the drama side, Mr. Barry, previously director of drama series, has been promoted to executive director. Mr. Barry currently oversees the midseason project “Veritas” and was instrumental in developing Touchstone’s current drama slate, including ABC’s “Alias.” He will still be responsible for managing new drama series development, as well as overseeing current series, reporting to Suzanne Patmore, VP of drama series.

WB orders full season of ‘Everwood’: The WB Network has extended a full-season, back nine-episode order to its new hit Monday drama “Everwood,” making it the first freshman drama on TV to receive a full-season’s order of 22 episodes.

With highly rated drama “7th Heaven” serving as a strong lead-in springboard, “Everwood” has come out of the starting gate with the best time period premiere in The WB’s history and has shown significant ratings growth each week since its debut on Sept. 16. After three airings, the new drama has retained 81 percent of “7th Heaven’s” audience in persons 12 to 34 and 85 percent of its teen demos. “Everwood” ranked first among all networks among female teens (5.3 rating/17 share) and second in women 12 to 34 (4.0/11) for its latest 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Monday airing.

“We’ve finally found the perfect partner for our No. 1 series ‘7th Heaven,'” WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin said in a prepared statement.

A father-and-son drama starring Treat Williams and Gregory Smith, “Everwood” was created and executive produced by Greg Berlanti on behalf of series producer Warner Bros. Television.

Fox Sports posts baseball gains: Viewership for Fox Sports’ coverage of the baseball division series posted gains for the second straight year. According to data from Nielsen Media Research, the six division games covered by Fox averaged 9.1 million viewers, up 23 percent from last year. Also up: male demos. The increases ranged from 19 percent in men 18-49 to 39 percent in male teens.

Fox News Channel brings 5.5 million viewers for Bush speech: Fox News Channel was the top choice for viewers who wanted to hear President Bush’s speech building his case against Saddam Hussein Monday night. Nielsen Media Research data shows that during the half-hour speech, Fox averaged 5.548 million viewers, followed by CNN with 2.634 million and MSNBC with 1.218 million.