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Feb 13, 2003  •  Post A Comment

CNN-ABC News merger definitely off

AOL Time Warner announced Thursday that a merger between CNN and ABC News presented too many complications and that the high-level on-again, off-again talks that started last year are dead.

“After careful review, it was decided that although there are great merits and possibilities to a merger of ABC CNN News, the potential problems associated with the completion of such a transaction and the integration of these two distinct and great cultures was more than we want to pursue at this time,” AOL Time Warner said in a statement issued early Thursday evening.

In recent years CNN has proposed or entertained a number of ways in which it might partner with ABC and CBS. Such a merger would give CNN access to big-name talent and give the broadcast networks access to valuable resources around the world and to the 24-hour news channel neither CBS nor ABC has.

But the talks begun last year had a breathtaking scope, proposing that ABC News and CNN be spun off into a separate company that both companies would own. Both sides had suggested it would be possible to save as much as $200 million a year while attracting a combined revenue of more than $1.6 billion.

Questions about who would control the partnership-a sticking point that scared off potential partners for CNN before-again rose. But there were numerous other complications included near-universal negative reaction to such a merger from a chorus of critics, including foes of consolidation and entrepreneur Ted Turner, the CNN founder who recently resigned as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner.

AOL Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons said earlier this year that the ABC-CNN talks were on hold. The announcement Thursday did not come as much of a surprise.

“We both thought this would have been a good move for both companies, and unfortunately, the circumstances did not permit the process to move forward,” said a spokeswoman for ABC parent Disney.

Fox and ABC top the night: Fox’s “American Idol” results show and ABC’s “The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All” reunion show were last night’s two highest-rated shows among adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “American Idol” won its 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. time period with a 9 rating and 23 share in the 18 to 49 demo. It also won in total viewers with 18.8 million viewers. “Bachelorette” had a time-period winning 8.3/20 in the demo and 17.3 million viewers.

The finale of “Celebrity Mole” on ABC also did well, with a 6.0/16 in the demo and 12.3 million viewers, second only to NBC’s “Law & Order,” which had a 6.6/17 and 18.3 million viewers.

For the night, ABC edged out Fox in adults 18 to 49, with a 6.3/16 vs. 6.1/16. NBC was third with a 4.8/12 followed by CBS with a 2.7/7. In total viewers for the night, ABC won with 13.9 million, followed by NBC (13.7 million), Fox (13 million) and CBS (11 million).

American Girls’ Samantha to star in MOW: The WB is getting into the made-for-TV movie business with a movie based on the American Girls characters. The American Girls Collection, from Pleasant Co., is a brand of dolls that teach American history through the histories created for each doll. The movie, slated for 2004 will feature the character Samantha, who is a 9-year-old Victorian orphan living with her grandmother in 1904. If successful, the WB has the option to build a franchise of movies featuring other American Girls characters.

Revolution Studios, Red Om Films and Pleasant Co. will produce the movie along with Warner Bros. Television. Revolution Studios’ Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Rachel Horovitz, Red Om Films’ Deborah Schindler and independent producer Lisa Gillan will produce the movie with Academy-Award winning writer Richard LaGravenese (“The Fisher King”).

Streak continues for CBS’s ‘Early’: The growth spurt continues for “The Early Show” on CBS, which has now averaged more than 3 million viewers for four weeks in a row for the first time in four years.

Nielsen Media Research for the week of Feb. 3 to Feb. 9 showed “Early” averaging 3.03 million viewers, which gives it a month-long streak in which its total viewership is up 17 percent over the comparable weeks in 2002. The improvements seem not restricted to the days on which prime-time hit shows, such as “Star Search,” are featured. “Survivor”-type segments in the past have not tended to produce lasting or widespread ratings boosts.

“What we’re seeing now is that we’re carrying strong numbers throughout the week,” executive producer Michael Bass said.

Meanwhile, NBC’s “Today” was up 5 percent year to year, with an average of 6.34 million viewers. “Good Morning America” on ABC, which had a big week overall with its Michael Jackson extravaganza Thursday night, was up 2 percent year to year with 5.13 million viewers.

‘Meet’ pressing the advantage: Though Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on the newsmaker shows on NBC, CBS and Fox Feb. 9, it was NBC’s “Meet the Press” that assembled the biggest audience, an average of 6.045 million viewers. CBS’s “Face the Nation” finished second (3.366 million), followed by “This Week” on ABC (3.111 million) and “Fox News Sunday” (2.220 million).

‘Game Over’ and other pickups at UPN & CBS: UPN made its first comedy pickups, ordering three pilot presentations, and CBS picked up a drama presentation and a comedy pilot.

UPN picked up the video game-inspired “Game Over” from Carsey-Werner-Mandabach about an animated suburban family’s life in an unconventional universe. Executive producers are Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach, David Sacks, David Goetsch, Jason Venokur and Ross Venokur. Mr. Sacks, Mr. Goetsch, Jason Venokur and Ross Venokur are the writers.

Paramount-produced “Old School” is an ensemble comedy set in a nostalgia shop that uses flashbacks to show that a group of twentysomething friends can never escape the problems, petty jealousies and longings they encountered in high school. David Tochterman is the executive producer and Chris Parrish is the writer and supervising producer.

UPN’s third pickup is an untitled project from writer/executive producer Tim Kelleher. It looks at the lives of young parents in their mid-twenties who are torn between the single and carefree world and the married and responsible world. Tony Krantz is also executive producing the Warner Bros. comedy.

At CBS, the network ordered a drama pilot presentation of “Joan of Arcadia” from 20th Television. It is about a young girl who is a contemporary Joan of Arc as God appears to her in a different form each week. Barbara Hall is the writer and executive producer.

CBS also ordered the multicamera comedy pilot “Family Show” from Sony. The show, written by Matthew Carlson, is about parents dealing with their teenage kids having a child of their own. #