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Apr 15, 2003  •  Post A Comment

CNN Shuffles Programs

Paula Zahn is trading the dawn patrol for a 7 p.m.-to-9 p.m. weekday slot on CNN. That programming move is expected to take place Monday. It will set off a series of programming changes that include the downsizing of two of CNN’s long-running signature shows: “Crossfire,” which will run 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and “Inside Politics,” which will run 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. as “Judy Woodruff’s Inside Politics.”

“American Evening With Paula Zahn” will originate from the New York street-side studio built in the Time-Life Building for “American Morning With Paula Zahn” last year.

Ms. Woodruff also will anchor the 3 p.m.-to-4 p.m. hour preceding “Politics.” Both shows will be executive produced by Paul Steinhauser, who recently took the helm of “Politics.”

“Crossfire’s” on-air team, including former Democratic operative James Carville and conservative commentator Tucker Carlson, is expected to remain intact, as is the off-air team led by executive producer Sam Feist.

“We value their role across the network and intend to use them even more as we approach next year’s presidential elections,” said CNN/U.S. Executive VP Teya Ryan in an internal memo Tuesday evening.

Ms. Ryan said it is unclear who might replace Ms. Zahn as Bill Hemmer’s co-anchor on “American Morning,” which will continue to be executive produced by Wil Surratt.

“Paula and her colleagues on ‘American Morning’ have done a remarkable job building that brand,” said Ms. Ryan.

“American Evening” will have Ms. Zahn going head-to-head with two of the signature shows-“Fox Report With Shepard Smith” and “The O’Reilly Factor”-on CNN rival Fox News Channel, which Ms. Zahn left in a cloud of acrimony and litigation in 2001 after CNN approached her.

With Ms. Zahn sitting in (while continuing to work a couple of hours in the morning), viewership for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. was up 174 percent (to an average 2.772 million viewers) from March 30 through April 11compared with the year through the start of the war.

That’s a long way from the 4.937 million Fox averaged with Mr. Smith’s and Mr. O’Reilly’s shows the same two weeks, but it’s nearly double the 1.477 million MSNBC averaged in that block for the same two weeks.

“American Morning” also runs a distant second to “Fox & Friends”, but “Morning” leads “Friends” in 18 to 34 viewers and is, said CNN, the fast-growing morning news program on cable, up 101 percent in total viewers just since January.

Omen Files Suit Against Universal: The Roswell incident is creating a new fuss. Omen Fiction has filed a lawsuit against Universal Television Networks over Sci-Fi Channel’s November airing of The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence. The lawsuit alleges that Universal took ideas from the plaintiff’s series Truth Hunter in which the proposed pilot episode would feature interviews with scientists and new research to pin down the truth behind the 1940s crash. In the lawsuit filed April 14th with the Superior Court of California, Omen Fiction is suing Universal for breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment after representatives of the company pitched the series to Universal executives in January 2002.

‘Platinum’ Debut Shines for UPN: About 3.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the debut of Platinum last night on UPN. The midseason drama centering on the hip-hop music industry scored a 1.5 rating and 4 share in adults 18 to 49 and a 1.7/5 in the network’s target demo of 18- to 34-year-olds, according to Nielsen Media Research national numbers. Its numbers were on par with the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time period’s season-to-date average. It also did well with its audience retention from lead-in One on One. Platinum held 100 percent of the 18 to 49 audience and 95 percent of total viewers, and increased audience by 12 percent in adults 18 to 34. In adults 18 to 34, Platinum beat The WB’s repeat of Everwood and ABC’s repeat of The Practice. Platinum premieres in its regular time slot tonight from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tennis Channel Ready to Launch: The Tennis Channel, the 24-hour cable network devoted to racquet sports, will launch officially on May 15 following a 19-day sneak preview that begins April 26. The channel also announced that it has secured additional financing from a new investment group that includes Apollo Partners, DND Capital Partners LLC, Bain Capital Ventures, Columbia Capital, JP Morgan Partners, Waterview Advisors and EdsLink LLC. Terms were not disclosed.

The channel’s initial rollout will be on Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and National Cable Television Cooperative. The company projects more than 3 million subscribers at or near launch and at least 10 million within a year. The channel’s official launch will showcase live coverage of the ATP Tour’s Tennis Masters Series Hamburg championship from Germany May 15-18, with the championship final telecast live on May 18.

New Name for TNN: As part of a new branding strategy to draw more males viewers, TNN network president Albie Hecht announced in a conference call to reporters that TNN, The National Network, will be renamed Spike TV. The name change will take effect on-air Monday, June 16, and the network’s new logo will be unveiled at the MTV Networks upfront presentation in New York City Tuesday, May 6.

“Today the first network for men has a name and it’s Spike TV,” Mr. Hecht said. “Spike TV captures the attributes and essence of what we want the first network for men to be. It’s unapologetically male; it’s active; it’s smart and contemporary, with a personality that’s aggressive and irreverent. It’s a name we feel our audience will get and make a connection with. I like Spike! This is a first major step in our journey to super-serving men in a way no one has done before.”

Mr. Hecht also announced the network’s first slate of male-skewing programming, which includes partnerships with Men’s Health magazine and CBS MarketWatch as well as a schedule of new series and specials geared to appeal to the wide range of men’s entertainment interests.

Americans OK Ads During Wartime: A 60 percent majority of American television viewers agrees that advertising during wartime is a “normal part of TV.” In fact, the war in Iraq has resulted in “little delay or postponement” of the vast majority (89 percent) of consumers’ planned purchases.

Those are the top-line findings of a new study by Frank Magid Associates, commissioned by the Television Bureau of Advertising.

The online study of 413 adults also found that approximately half of the viewers surveyed feel that the level of war coverage on national and local broadcasts and on cable TV is “just about right” and that 45 percent of those surveyed are “more accustomed” or “somewhat more accustomed” to living in a turbulent world, with 62 percent describing themselves as “very interested” in war news and 73 percent saying that television is the medium they most depend on for news of the war.

Trio, Universal Unveils New Logo: Trio, Universal Television Group’s emerging digital cable network, has unveiled a new tagline and logo and will rebrand under the “Pop, Culture, TV” rubric in June, the same month that will also focus on Uncensored Comedy.

Uncensored Comedy is Trio’s latest month-long programming tentpole ploy, and it will feature three original specials. They are Uncensored Comedy: That’s Not Funny!, Sick Humor and Outlaw Comic: The Censoring of Bill Hicks. Also on the June Trio schedule are the rarely seen 1963 Lenny Bruce Performance Film and Amos ‘n’ Andy: Anatomy of a Controversy, a 1986 one-hour documentary, among other themed programs.

“Our goal is not to shock people but to make them think as they are being entertained,” said Lauren Zalaznick, the network’s president, who announced the projects today in Manhattan.

In July, the network offers a country-music-themed week, which will include Lost Highway: The History of American Country, a four-part documentary as well as I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, the 90-minute music documentary about the Chicago-based country rock band Wilco.

The network also will repurpose two country-themed offerings
from USA Network, its sister UTG cable network. They are Willie Nelson: Live and Kickin’, the tribute concert celebrating Mr. Nelson’s 70th birthday, and the nine-episode Nashville Star, a country-tinged take on American Idol.

In September, the network will turn last December’s brilliant but cancelled theme-month into a weeknight prime-time strip, each week airing five episodes of a cancelled but critically acclaimed series.