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Oct 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 30

ABC hopes to build on gains

In an unusual pre-November sweeps conference call today, ABC’s programming heads Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne sought to emphasize the network is looking to capitalize on gains made on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings as part of a methodical approach toward the rest of its prime-time schedule this season.

Picking on his preseason mantra of “stopping the bleeding” at the Disney-owned network, Mr. Braun, chairman of ABC Entertainment Television Group, claimed the network is ranked either first or second in the key adults 18 to 49 demo on six of the seven nights of prime time for the first five weeks of this season-with Thursday being the notable exception.

“If you look at our strengths on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, it has given us terrific flow to build each evening,” added Ms. Lyne, president of ABC Entertainment. “That kind of momentum will allow us to build other nights of the week.” She hinted later that some additional “scheduling gaps” will have to be addressed on Thursday and Friday evenings.

Now that Tuesday and Wednesday nights have been “framed” with the successful launches of frosh sitcoms “8 Simples Rules” and “Life With Bonnie,” both Mr. Braun and Ms. Lyne told reporters that ABC will heighten the emphasis on the launch of other new comedies for midseason. Nevertheless, they declined to specifically identify whether the Daniel Stern-led “Regular Joe” (from Touchstone Television and Wass-Stein Productions) and the Michael Jacobs-created “Lost At Home” (Touchstone, NBC Studios) are being considered for 8 p.m.-hour time slots on Monday or Friday nights.

Madonna breathes life into Oxygen spots: Making a rare advertising appearance, pop star Madonna will be featured in a new campaign for the women’s cable channel Oxygen starting next week, according to Advertising Age. The new campaign, which features a new station logo, is called “Oh! Oxygen!” and was created by Dale Pon Advertising, New York.

Other celebrities promoting the network will include Carrie Fisher, Candice Bergen, Alan Cumming, Ana Gasteyer, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Isaac Mizrahi. The spots will focus on original programming such as “Oprah After the Show” and “The Isaac Mizrahi Show.”

The ad campaign will run for four weeks on Oxygen and on national cable networks, local cable systems and more than 60 major broadcast television stations. The 4-year-old cable network has 44 million subscribers.

Fox’s ’24’ sprints out of the gate: As the clock started ticking on the second season of Fox’s “24,” the Kiefer Sutherland-led drama turned in its best-ever ratings in adults 18 to 49, powering Fox to a win in the key demo Tuesday night.

Coming off winning adults 18 to 49 scores from a double-run dose of “That ’70s Show,” which posted a 5.9 rating/16 share for the 8 p.m. (ET) hour, “24” improved 10 percent to a 6.5/16 score in the closing 9 p.m. frame, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research national data.

“24” started ticking with similarly winning numbers in adults 18 to 34 (6.6/17), men 25 to 54 (7.3/16) and total viewers (13.5 million). Set one year after the events of the first season, the new chapter focuses on a terrorist threat to trigger a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Voted best series in both of Electronic Media’s Critics Polls last season, “24” came in a competitive second to CBS’s “The Guardian” in households last night (8.0/12 vs. 9.1/14).

Compared with its year-ago premiere (on Nov. 6, 2001), “24’s” latest bow is up 20 percent in adults 18 to 49 (vs. 4.4/13), 18 percent in adults 18 to 34 (vs. 5.6/15) and 21 percent in adults 25 to 54 (6.8/15 vs. 5.6/12). Even more notable is “24’s” 55 percent increase in adults 18 to 49 (vs. 4.2/10) and 74 percent in adults 18 to 34 (vs. 3.8/10) compared with its average for all of last season.

For the night, Fox reclaimed the evening from ABC in adults 18 to 49 (6.2/16 vs. 5.0/13). ABC got strong second-place adults 18 to 49 scores from 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. sitcoms “8 Simple Rules” (5.0/14) and “According to Jim” (5.3/14), while “Life With Bonnie” (4.3/10) and “Less Than Perfect” (3.9/9) were in third place during the 9 p.m. hour. “NYPD Blue’s” rebounding 5.9/15 score handed ABC a 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. win in the adults 18 to 49 demo.

NBC seemed to suffer the worst Tuesday night. The Peacock’s 8 p.m.-hour sitcoms “Just Shoot Me” and “In-Laws” each clocked in with last-place 2.7/7 scores in adults 18 to 49, while “Frasier’s” 4.9/12 was off 24 percent from Fox’s first half-hour of “24” (6.5/16). NBC’s 9:30 p.m. freshman comedy “Hidden Hills” (4.1/10) also came in second in adults 18 to 49, but scored 86 percent retention of “Frasier’s” adults 18 to 49 score.

NBC and CBS tied at 3.5/9 averages in adults 18 to 49 for the night, but CBS won the night in households (10.1/16) and total viewers (14.4 million).

Sci Fi Channel signs two-picture deal with Campbell: Sci Fi Channel has signed a two-picture film deal with actor Bruce Campbell, lantern-jawed sci-fi/horror picture cult star of “Army of Darkness” and “Evil Dead,” among others. Mr. Campbell will star in two of the network’s upcoming original Saturday night male-oriented action movies. They are “The Man with the Screaming Brain,” characterized as a passion project for the actor, who also will write, direct and produce the movie; and “Earwigs,” a mind-control story inspired by the tiny burrowing creatures in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Production is set to begin on the first of the two films in April 2003.

NBC completes ‘Other Half’ order: NBC Enterprises has picked up sophomore strip “The Other Half” for the remainder of the season. The first-run daily talk series hosted by Dick Clark, Danny Bonaduce, Mario Lopez and Dorian Gregory received some key period upgrades in a show of support from key stations, including KNBC-TV, Los Angeles, shifting the series from noon to 3 p.m. The series most recently earned a 0.7 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.

No reality for VH1’s ‘Liza & David’: There will be no “Liza & David” reality show on VH1 after all.

MTV’s ratings-challenged older-demo sibling has bailed out of the heavily hyped but troubled project that was to go inside the world of singer/actress Liza Minnelli and her new husband, impresario David Gest, whom network sources blame for the fiasco.

The show was to have taped “parties” that Ms. Minnelli and Mr. Gest would throw for their glamorous and famous friends, but, “We just didn’t have the access,” a network spokesman said. One party episode of the series, which was to have debuted on Dec. 8, has been shot, and that shoot was so troubled that it led VH1 to cancel the project outright.

“Liza & David” was canceled in a letter the network’s lawyers sent to Mr. Gest’s lawyers, claiming Mr. Gest had repeatedly breached his deal with VH1, according to an account in the New York Post’s Page Six that the network confirmed.

The network’s grievances against Mr. Gest include such items as banning Ms. Minnelli from shooting and watching dailies, not allowing the crew to set up in a timely fashion and overruling producers during the one shoot that took place, according to the Post account.