Briefly Noted

Feb 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

NBC has counter-counterprogrammed a two-hour edition of “Dateline NBC” titled “Michael Jackson Unmasked” against tonight’s ABC rerun of “Living With Michael Jackson” documentary, with which ABC scored hugely Feb. 6. NBC originally planned to air an hour version of the program but decided to expand it after ABC announced late last week its intention to repeat the documentary in the time period directly against “Dateline.”
ABC’s rerun will be preceded by another “PrimeTime Live” hour devoted to Mr. Jackson.
A videotape Mr. Jackson made during his extensive interviews with British interviewer Martin Bashir is scheduled to air on Fox Broadcasting Feb. 20. The two-hour special’s working title is “Michael Jackson, Take Two: The Interview They Wouldn’t Show You.”
The special, being packaged by Fox Entertainment, is expected to include material from an interview with Debbie Rowe, the former wife who bore Mr. Jackson’s two elder children and who came to his defense after the Bashir-Granada interview aired last week on ABC and attracted more than 25 million viewers. The Fox deal also is said to secure Mr. Jackson’s tape for use on Fox News Channel.
Disney kids blocks to depart UPN
The Walt Disney Co. will not renew its deal with UPN to provide children’s programming when its contract expires Aug. 31.
The decision reflects the poor ratings programs for younger children draw on broadcast networks and the migration of viewers to cable channels such as Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, Disney said. Disney will move its UPN shows, which include “Digimon,” “Legend of Tarzan” and “Recess,” to one of its other networks, such as Toon Disney and ABC Family.
Disney has provided UPN kids shows Monday through Friday afternoons and Sunday mornings for the past three years. UPN will return the time to its affiliates.
Savage in a sleepy slot on MSNBC
The announcement that MSNBC had signed conservative talk-radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage to host a show starting in March raised the question of whether the news network-which has cut a deal with Jesse Ventura to do a weeknight show and is talking to ABC’s Sam Donaldson about a weeknight show-is adding only white men to its lineup.
“I think everyone should wait until all of the dust settles,” said MSNBC President Erik Sorenson.
Mr. Savage’s show will originate from San Francisco Saturdays live from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (ET). Although that’s a time when cable-news audiences wither because “the world slows down,” Mr. Sorenson said. “There is potential to expand in that block.” He said the positioning was a result of a number of factors that include questions about whether Mr. Savage’s personality “might be too much” for daily exposure and the fact that he has a three-hour daily commitment to his radio show, which is heard on some 300 stations.
E!, Comcast push VOD in Philadelphia
E! Networks wants to do its share to promote video-on-demand and plans to introduce “E! Presents Comcast on Demand” in Comcast’s Philadelphia market at the end of this month. The newsmagazine-style program will highlight Comcast’s VOD offerings such as movies, premium content and library titles.
E!’s Jules Asner will host the show, which will be refreshed with new content each week and run as a window inside the electronic program guide in a 15 to 25 minute loop. “There is a lot at stake in this next wave of television-VOD. We see this as more than just producing a little barker show,” said Gavin Harvey, senior VP, marketing and brand director, E! Networks. The show will be rolled out to other Comcast VOD markets and could also be developed for other multiple system operators, he added. Comcast has an ownership stake in E!
Short takes
The CBS Evening News will telecast live from the lawn of The Lodge at Rancho Mirage, Calif., near Palm Springs, Fri., Feb. 21. … Atlanta-based Major Broadcasting Cable Network is planning to launch MBC News, a 24-7 cable news channel targeting African American viewers by the end of the year or early in 2004. It will focus on family-friendly programming that brings its viewers a positive message about urban America. … Veteran newsman Bill Kurtis is being honored with a lifetime achievement award at the upcoming 39th annual Chicago International Television Awards, which will take place March 6.