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Jan 15, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 15.

ABC using reality to get back on track

ABC will launch at least 10 new reality and comedy series before the season ends in May and at least six series over the summer, said Lloyd Braun, chairman of ABC Entertainment Television Group at the Television Critics Association press tour in Hollywood.

Several of those series will address the problems the network has had on Thursday nights, where it has fallen to No. 5 among adults 18 to 49. Mr. Braun called ABC’s Thursday performance “unacceptable” and said, “We’re committed to fixing Thursday, having a credible and competitive schedule before the end of the season.”

To that end, ABC will debut reality series “Are You Hot?: The Search for America’s Sexiest People” on Thursday, Feb. 13 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET), said ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne. After “Hot’s” six-episode run, ABC will bring back “Extreme Makeover” as a six-episode series, premiering Thursday, April 3.

Reality will also anchor ABC’s Wednesday 10 p.m. time slot for the rest of the season. “I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here!” will premiere Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., following the two-hour finale of “The Bachelorette.” It will then air live for 15 consecutive nights in various time slots. Eight days of the show will air during February sweeps. “All American Girl” will get a two-hour premiere Wednesday, March 12, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. before settling into the Wednesday 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. time slot on March 19, where it will run for 11 weeks.

The network also announced that the third installment of “The Bachelor” will premiere Wednesday, March 26 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.Despite the glut of reality shows that will be running on the network, Ms. Lyne and Mr. Braun insisted that reality programming won’t take over the schedule. Ms. Lyne said the goal is to create, launch and nurture great new scripted shows. In the meantime, reality shows can be a weapon, she said. “It’s a very nice way to heat up a cold time period,” she said. She said they are limiting reality shows to the Wednesday and the Thursday time periods announced today and that reality programming is only about one-seventh of the network’s total schedule.

Mr. Braun said that the kind of reality shows ABC tries to do are original and not shamelessly derivative of other shows or mean-spirited. They are also looking for reality franchises that can be repeated with new versions a la “Survivor” and “The Bachelor.”

Mr. Braun said the network has met its goal so far this season of stopping its ratings slide. “We needed to stem a very steep two-year ratings decline,” he said. “With the exception of the [Who Wants to Be a] ‘Millionaire’ year, we’re really talking about a seven-year ratings decline.” He said ABC’s strategy of returning to the traditional ABC family comedy is working on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

With three new sitcoms-“8 Simple Rules,” “Life With Bonnie” and “Less Than Perfect”-anchoring Tuesdays, ABC has moved from No. 4 to No. 1 in adults 18 to 49 for the night, he said. All three sitcoms are likely to be back next year, Ms. Lyne said.

“While we are far from satisfied and still have a ton of work left to do I think it’s safe to say that we have delivered on the goals that we had in the fall,” Mr. Braun said.

In other news:

Ms. Lyne said the decision to move Sunday stalwart “The Practice” to Mondays to help launch two new dramas “Veritas: The Quest” and “Miracles” was made because it felt too reckless to try to launch three new dramas on one night. (“Dragnet” will take “Practice’s” place Sundays). She said they don’t expect “The Practice” to win its 9 p.m. Monday time slot, which will put it opposite the last two episodes of Fox’s popular reality show “Joe Millionaire.”

New late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is expected to be cleared in 90 percent of the country by the time the show launches on Jan. 26, Mr. Braun said. He said that in the vast majority of those markets, the show will air live and run for the whole hour.

ABC will tape its 50th anniversary special Sunday, March 16, to air as a three-hour special some time in May.

ABC also announced a yet-to-be-scheduled special reuniting Tim Allen, Richard Karn and Debbe Dunning in a “Home Improvement” special. The special “Tim Allen Presents a User’s Guide to Home Improvement” will include clips from the show, bloopers, personal reflections and a question-and-answer session with a live audience.

Coleman Smith takes E! Networks programming post: Salaam Coleman Smith has been named VP, programming, E! Networks. Ms. Coleman Smith, who formerly served as VP of programming and acquisitions for Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite, will be responsible for scheduling, programming planning and strategy, and will be the primary acquisitions executive for both E! Entertainment Television and Style Network.

LIN promotes Blumenthal, Munson:Scott Blumenthal and Edward Munson have been promoted to regional VPs of LIN Television Corp.

Mr. Blumenthal joined LIN in 1983 as local sales manager at WISH-TV, the Indianapolis CBS affiliate, at which he was named president and general manager in 1999. He will continue to oversee LIN’s Indianapolis operations while adding responsibility for other Midwest markets and the hub that will eventually handle programming, accounting, traffic, tape-room and master-control operations for the Midwest stations.

Mr. Munson joined LIN in 1991 as general sales manager of NBC-affiliated WAVY-TV in Norfolk, Va., where he has been VP and general manager. He will oversee WAVY and Fox-affiliated WVBT-TV while adding responsibility for other East Coast markets.

LIN Television VP Paul Karpowicz named Jeff White and David Rogers the station managers of WISH and WAVY, respectively.