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Feb 20, 2004  •  Post A Comment

NBC Buys a ‘Contender’

NBC knocked out the competition to buy the rights to “The Contender,” the latest project to come from reality guru Mark Burnett.

“The Contender,” produced by DreamWorks Television and Mark Burnett Productions, will follow a nationwide search for the next real-life Rocky. Mr. Burnett, DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg and actor Sylvester Stallone — who played Rocky in numerous feature films — will executive produce the show. The three principals also plan to launch their own boxing federation.

NBC bought 16 hour-long episodes and paid between $1.5 million and $2 million an episode, sources said, making it more expensive than the average $1.2 million license fee for a first-year drama.

Rigas Trial Set to Begin: Jury selection begins on Monday in New York in the trial of former Adelphia Communications Corp. executives John Rigas and his two sons. The Rigases are accused, along with former Adelphia executive Michael Mulcahey, of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars by illegally taking money out of the cable company, defrauding investors and misleading government regulators. All have pleaded not guilty.

The primary issue will be a loan that the Rigas family made to itself that was guaranteed by Adelphia. The government also alleges that under the Rigas family Adelphia inflated its subscriber base and exaggerated the amount of its cable network that had been upgraded.

In a pre-trial argument Thursday, U.S. Attorney Christopher Clark said he will present documents and electronic displays. U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand, who is presiding over the case, denied a motion by Michael Rigas’ attorney, Andrew Levander, that would have admitted results of a 2002 lie-detector test.

Jury selection is expected to take about a week. The judge has said he hopes opening arguments will commence around March 1.

ATAS Changes Reality Emmy Rules: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has changed the rules for awarding Emmy Awards to reality television programs and has made several other changes in the nomination procedures for prime-time programs.

Reality/competition programming will now fall under the competitive category of Outstanding Reality/Competition Program, which will have only one winner. Previously, reality programming fell under a Special Class programming category, which meant that one, more than one or no program could win the award. It also led to reality shows such “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor” being lumped into the same category as specials such as the AFI Awards show and Bob Hope specials. The Outstanding Reality/Competition Program category will include all game shows and any program that awards a prize or is a contest or competition.

Other procedural changes include letting the 12,000 academy members who nominate shows cast up to 10 votes per category, instead of the current five vote maximum. The top five vote-getters in each category will get nominated.

The academy also increased to six from three the minimum number of episodes required for submission in the comedy and drama series categories. Once nominations are revealed, the number of episodes submitted for the final round of judging to determine the winners is now six episodes, instead of the eight episodes previously required.

Academy Chairman and CEO Dick Askin said the changes were made to make the awards more representative of today’s television landscape.

MTV Sued Over Dance Show: A performance artist is suing MTV for breach of contract and fraud over a dance show hosted by Britney Spears and *NSYNC choreographer Wade Robson.

According to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, John Laraio (aka “Mobius 8”) had a contract with the network, Mr. Robson and producer Paul Buccieri to create a competitive dance show. After Mr. Laraio, Mr. Robson and Mr. Buccieri jointly produced a pilot, the “Wade Robson Project” was picked up as a series and premiered last fall. But Mr. Laraio claims he was “cut out of the deal entirely.”

“It appears to be a pretty clear case,” said Mr. Laraio’s attorney, Glen L. Kulik. “Laraio brought Wade Robson to this project, together they produced a pilot … and the next thing we know MTV is producing “The Wade Robson Project,” and, from what we can tell, it’s the same show.”

MTV would not comment on the accusations.

NBC Wins Adults Demo: NBC won last night in adults 18 to 49, while CBS won total viewers. NBC’s “Friends” won the 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. hour in adults 18 to 49 with a 10.9/29 and in total viewers with 24.2 million, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. However, “Will & Grace” wasn’t strong enough to hold that audience from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The second half of CBS’s “Surivivor” won the half-hour in adults 18 to 49 with a 9.3/23 to “Will & Grace’s” 9.0/22 and in total viewers, with 24.4 million to “Will & Grace’s” 19.4 million.

“CSI” dominated the 9 p.m. hour with 30.7 million total viewers – that’s the second week in a row that “CSI” has drawn more than 30 million viewers. It also scored a first-place 10.7/25 in adults 18 to 49. NBC’s “The Apprentice” came in second with a 10.0/23 and a healthy 20 million viewers.

At 10 p.m., “ER” won the time slot in the demo with an 11.1/28 and in total viewers with 22.9 million. CBS’s “Without a Trace” was nipping on “ER’s” heels in total viewers with 20.1 million, but still faces a huge gap in adults 18 to 49, scoring a 6.4/16.

For the night, NBC won adults 18 to 49 with a 10.4/25, followed by CBS (8.6/21), ABC (2.8/7), Fox (1.6/4), UPN (2.0/5) and The WB (1.1/3). In total viewers, CBS won the night with 24.5 million, followed by NBC (21.6 million), ABC (7.3 million), UPN (5.2 million), Fox (4 million) and The WB (3 million).