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Jan 14, 2004  •  Post A Comment

‘Top Model’ Struts for UPN

“America’s Next Top Model” returned to UPN with a bang last night. It scored a 2.2 Nielsen Media Research rating and 6 share in adults 18 to 49 and 4.9 million viewers-the second-largest audience ever for UPN in the Tuesday 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time slot. It also pulled a 2.6/8 in the network’s target demo of adults 18 to 34.

Compared with the debut of the first edition May 20, 2003, last night’s episode was up 27 percent among adults 18 to 49, up 30 percent among adults 18 to 34 and up 66 percent in total viewers. UPN also scored its best ratings in the time period in viewers 12 to 34 in 11/2 years and it ranked first in the time period among women 18 to 34.

WGA Contract Issues: DVD Proceeds, Health Care: Writers Guild of America members have approved a pattern of demands that sets the stage for the 2004 contract negotiations.

Key areas of contention include health care costs, the formula for determining proceeds from home video and DVD sales, and firming up guild status for writers working in genres such as animation and reality. About 96 percent of WGA members approved the demands.

“The pattern of demands is comprehensive, presenting issues that are not new but are fundamental to artists who provide content to the studios and networks,” said Charles Holland, president of the Writers Guild of America west. “Together we can put the industry right and create lasting labor peace.”

Sci Fi Gets ‘Andromeda’: Tribune has found a cable outlet for weekly syndicated series “Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda.”

The Sci Fi Channel and Tribune Entertainment Co. have entered into a program license agreement for the popular weekly action hour starring Kevin Sorbo. In addition to presenting the fifth and final season of “Andromeda” next fall as an original series in tandem with it syndicated run, the cable outlet will have the television rights to the series’ first four seasons.

The agreement includes cable rights to 110 episodes of “Andromeda” through the first four seasons as well as the upcoming season, along with 66 episodes of the weekly action hour ” BeastMaster.” The fourth season of “Andromeda” will become available to Sci Fi beginning in March 2004, when Sci Fi starts sharing original episodes with syndication. New original episodes of the fifth season begin airing this fall on the channel and will air in syndication a week to 10 days after their Sci Fi premiere.

Powell Wants to Increase Broadcast Indecency Fines: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell on Wednesday said he is asking Congress to beef up “by at least tenfold” the fines for broadcast indecency. As it stands, the maximum monetary fine for indecency is set by statute at $27,500, and Mr. Powell said that was not enough to discourage what he sees as the increasingly “abhorrent and irresponsible” use of off-color material on radio and TV. “Some of these fines are peanuts,” said Mr. Powell at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington. “They’re just a cost of doing business to a lot of producers, and that has to change.”

Sources said Mr. Powell is also promoting an initiative to overturn a controversial agency staff decision finding that U2 star Bono’s use of the word “f-ing” during a NBC broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards last year had not run afoul of the agency’s existing indecency prohibitions. “It’s irresponsible of our programmers to continue to try to push the envelope of a reasonable set of policies that try to legitimately balance the interests of the First Amendment with the need to protect our kids,” Mr. Powell said.

In the immediate wake of the chairman’s comments, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., vowed to introduce legislation to “substantially increase” indecency fines. “It is well past the time that we clean up our airwaves,” said Mr. Upton, who has also scheduled House telecommunications subcommittee hearings on indecency enforcement for Jan. 28. “Stiffer fines should get the attention of broadcasters nationwide.” The congressman also praised Mr. Powell for reportedly trying to overturn the Bono decision. “As a father of two young children, I especially find the use of the F-word and other obscenities on broadcast television wholly unacceptable,” Rep. Upton said.

Trump Criticizes Moonves at TCA: NBC executives didn’t take any shots at CBS this morning during their portion of the Television Critics Association press tour, but mogul Donald Trump did.

Mr. Trump, who executive produces and stars in NBC’s newest reality show from Mark Burnett, “The Apprentice,” called CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves “the most highly overrated person in television.”

“If Les Moonves was a contestant on this show, he would have been fired by the third episode, and unlike most people I like Les Moonves,” he told a room full of reporters.

Mr. Burnett, who also produces CBS’s hit show “Survivor,” sat next to Mr. Trump on stage, with his head in his hands. Asked whether he would like to comment on Mr. Trump’s opinion, he declined, saying, “Don’t make me dumb enough to be fired in the next episode.”

Several networks were interested in “The Apprentice,” but NBC bought it on the spot right after hearing the pitch, Mr. Burnett said. “I wasn’t allowed to leave the building,” he said. Mr. Burnett said he could not remember whether he pitched the show to Mr. Moonves and CBS first. To which Mr. Trump tweaked him, saying, “He probably does remember.”

Mr. Moonves declined to comment on Mr. Trump’s assertion, but a CBS spokesman said, “Donald’s always good for a chuckle.””The Apprentice” debuted to stellar ratings last week in a 90-minute episode Thursday night starting at 8:30 p.m. This week, the second episode of the show will air Thursday at 8:30 p.m. After the panel, Jeff Zucker, president of the entertainment, news and cable at NBC, said NBC would not schedule “The Apprentice” in direct competition with Mr. Burnett’s “Survivor: All Stars,” which occupies the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Thursday time slot on CBS.

John McEnroe to Host CNBC Talk Show: CNBC has hired outspoken tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe to preside over a prime-time, headline-driven ensemble talk show that will join the lineup sometime this spring. His agent, Gary Swain, will be co-executive producer of the hour, which will originate from CNBC headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

“John and the ensemble’s non-traditional approach to the news will be entertaining, unusual and the topic of conversation the next day,” said CNBC President and General Manager Pamela Thomas-Graham in announcing the show.

“We’ve designed it to be both serious and fun, to be able to jump on news or cover ongoing topics, and still have many surprises and create havoc when necessary,” Mr. McEnroe said.

It appears likely the McEnroe show will be telecast at 10 weeknights as the lead-out from “Dennis Miller,” which debuts Monday, Jan. 26. CNBC has been rethinking its lineup changes and seems likely to move “The News on CNBC” to 8 p.m. and shift “Cover to Cover,” an hour of repackaged NBC News content hosted by CNBC’s Liz Claman, to 10 o’clock as a place holder.

Friends, Frasier Finales Plans Set: NBC also announced plans for the finales of two long-running hit sitcoms, “Friends” and “Frasier.” “Friends” will end its run Thursday, May 6. A one-hour retrospective will air at 9 p.m. (ET), followed by an hour-long finale. The same night, the “Friends” cast will appear on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” filmed on the Central Perk set.

Leading up to the finale, from March 4 to April 8, NBC will air six episodes that viewers have chosen as their all-time favorites and that will include never-before-seen footage. During February sweeps, Danny DeVito will guest star Feb. 5 as a stripper at Phoebe’s bachelor party and on Feb. 12, Phoebe will get married.

“Frasier” will end its run a week after the “Friends” finale, May 13. A one-hour retrospective will air at 9 p.m. (ET) before an hour-long finale.

In other NBC news:

Adam, the runner up and fan favorite from the first “Average Joe,” will search for love again in “Average Joe: Adam Returns,” which will air in the Monday 10 p.m. time slot aft
er “Average Joe: Hawaii” finishes its run.

NBC picked up daytime soap “Passions” for a sixth season. That will take the show through 2004-05.

The animated CGI half-hour “Father of the Pride,” about a family of white lions working in the Las Vegas show Sigfried and Roy is still going forward despite the recent real-life lion attack on Roy. A few adjustments were made to the show after the attack, Mr. Zucker said.

The season finale of “Ed” will air on Friday, Feb. 6, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., and feature the wedding of Ed and Carol.

“Crossing Jordan,” starring Jill Hennessy, will return to the schedule to begin its third season in March. It will air Sundays at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Jerry O’Connell joins the cast full time, and Jennifer Finnigan has signed on as a regular cast member.

NBC will counter program the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 with a “Queer Eye For the Straight Guy” marathon from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Midseason sitcom “Come to Papa” will premiere in March. The press tour session for the show was canceled because the pilot wasn’t ready in time to show to critics, Mr. Zucker said.

This summer, NBC will bring back reality shows “For Love or Money” and “Last Comic Standing.” Bravo’s “Queer Eye From the Straight Guy” will also get a summer run on the network. New reality show “Next Action Star” is slated to join the lineup in the summer.

NBC Plans to Launch Season Early With Big Olympics Promo Push: NBC plans to take advantage of the huge promotional platform provided by the Summer Olympics by launching the majority of its fall schedule in the two weeks immediately following the Olympics, which end Aug. 29 Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Entertainment, news and cable, said today at the Television Critics Association press tour in Hollywood.

“We are not going to let the calendar dictate when the season starts,” Mr. Zucker said. “We would be silly to wait three weeks after the Olympics and lose that promo base.”

The early launches will include new and returning shows. Executive producers of current shows have been apprised of the plan so they can adjust next season’s production schedules forward by two or three weeks. NBC won’t have to decide on pickups for new shows any earlier than May, as usual, Mr. Zucker said, but new shows will start production immediately after being picked up instead of waiting a few weeks.

The Aug. 29 end of the Summer Olympics in Athens means some of NBC’s shows will launch the same week as the Republican National Convention, which takes place the week after the Olympics. NBC will cover the convention, Mr. Zucker said, as the NBC fall schedule rolls out during the weeks of Aug. 30 and Sept. 6. But Sunday night shows will launch during the traditional broadcast premiere week because of previous commitments NBC has for those nights.

The early rollout means many shows may end in early May. “We’re not going to stretch all the way to May [sweeps],” Mr. Zucker said. Instead, NBC could start launching some of its summer programming in May during the sweeps. Mr. Zucker said that doesn’t concern him because the business is moving toward a 52-week schedule, which will eventually make the sweeps obsolete, especially as new ratings technology takes hold.