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Dec 17, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Tuesday, Dec. 17

Sci-Fi’s ‘Taken’ earns record ratings

Sci-Fi Channel’s big bet on “Taken,” the 10-night, 20-hour Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries, has paid off handsomely, with record ratings for the cable network (a 4.1 average 9 p.m.-to -11 p.m. household rating during the run).

“Taken” was a high-profile opportunity for Sci-Fi to rebrand itself with new spots and taglines, calling itself the “If Network” and the “Channel of Imagination,” and to tout its upcoming first-quarter series and minis and to introduce itself to legions of new viewers.

Barry Diller, chairman, Universal Television Group, gave approbation to Bonnie Hammer, the channel’s president, and her management team. They “pulled this one off,” he said. “In the endless number of [programming] options, to get [‘Taken’] to be jumped up and seen is fantastic.”

On the strength of the miniseries, Sci-Fi also could boast that it had taken the No. 1 spot in basic cable for two weeks in a row; another first for the network. The network drew “more female viewers during this period than Lifetime,” said Michael Jackson, chairman, Universal Television Group.

“Taken” brought 41 new advertisers to Sci-Fi, said Ms. Hammer. The mini’s ad sales inventory was sold out at a “significant” premium, she added.

Though Mr. Diller said he would not favor a sequel, Ms. Hammer would not rule out it or a possible weekly series spinoff. More likely, though, she said, would be new high-profile projects, up to one per quarter.

The network is also going to parent company Universal’s vaults for new programming, Ms. Hammer reiterated.

A new version of “Quantum Leap,” beginning as a back-door pilot and possibly becoming a series with a female Leaper, should be on Sci-Fi’s schedule as early as first quarter 2004, she said. “We want to modernize it; we want to make it fun,” she said of the time-travel series that starred Scott Bakula (“Enterprise”). “It’s a neat franchise.”

“There will be other things,” she said, including new versions of “Battlestar Galactica” and “Tremors,” because “we want to positively exploit the library.”

“Taken” is likely to be repeated in 2003, and a DVD of the miniseries is on the way, Ms. Hammer said.

UPN orders episodes of ‘Platinum’: UPN has ordered six episodes of midseason drama “Platinum” in a deal that includes replays on sister cable network MTV. “Platinum” is a family drama following two brothers who own a rap and hip-hop record company, Platinum Records, they built from the ground up. The series has yet to begin production, so it most likely won’t air on UPN until March or April. MTV will rebroadcast each episode eight to 10 days after its original broadcast on UPN. The producers plan to have established and up-and-coming rap and hip-hop acts perform on the show and create music videos that can then be run on MTV to promote the series.

“Platinum” is produced by American Zoetrope Television and The Greenblatt Janollari Studio in association with CBS Productions. John Ridley (“Three Kings”) and Sofia Coppola (“The Virgin Suicides”) co-created the series.

MGM restructures domestic sales operations: MGM Worldwide Television Distribution Group has reorganized its U.S. sales operations due to their increased production and distribution activities.

As part of the restructuring, MGM has hired Paul Danylik to serve as senior VP, national sales for the division. Joe Patrick will relocate to Los Angeles from MGM’s United Kingdom office to serve as VP, basic and pay cable sales. The announcement was made today by Jim Packer, executive VP, television sales, North America, to whom both executives report. In addition, Michael Chinery has been named VP, East Coast sales, reporting to Mr. Danylik.

Mr. Danylik comes to MGM from Paramount Pictures Domestic Television, where he spent the past three years serving as Western division manager.

Mr. Patrick began his tenure at MGM in 1993 as director of contract services, managing MGM’s day-to-day television business throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa, before transitioning to a sales capacity, serving as executive director, European television. He later advanced to VP European television.

Mr. Chinery joins MGM from Carsey-Werner Distribution, where he spent the past seven years serving as VP, sales manager, Eastern region.

‘NBC Nightly News’ wins the week: “NBC Nightly News” was the most-watched flagship newscast the week of Dec. 9-13, when it notched its 19th win in 21 weeks with anaverage of 10.903 million viewers. That gave “Nightly” a 4 percent advantage over “ABC World News Tonight,” which averaged 10.518 million viewers for the week. Season-to-date “Nightly” is leading “World News” by 425,000 viewers, up from the 166,000-viewer margin the NBC newscast had during the same period in 2001. “CBS Evening News” averaged 8.4 million viewers for the week.

Youths see record number of beer ads: Underage youths saw more advertisements for beer in 2001 than they did for juice, gum, chips sneakers or jeans, according to a report released today by Georgetown University’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. The study also found that youths were routinely exposed to alcohol ads on WB, UPN, Comedy Central, BET and VH-1.

The study said that $811.2 million was spent on TV advertising for alcoholic beverages during 2001, with youths exposed to two ads for beer and ale to every three that adults saw. In addition, according to the study, 24.5 percent of the ads placed were more likely to be seen by youths than adults.

Lifetime green lights ‘Returning Lily’: Lifetime Television has given the green light to “Returning Lily,” an original movie about the effect of a sudden death of a family friend.

“Lily” will star Virginia Madsen (“American Dreams”) and Lainie Kazan (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”).

Condon moves up at HBO: Sarah Condon has been promoted to senior VP, original programming, HBO from VP of original programming. Ms Condon, who is responsible for the development and production of HBO series, late night and specials, oversees “Sex and the City,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Mind of the Married Man.” She will report to Carolyn Strauss, executive VP, original programming.