ABC News’ New Tee Time

Feb 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

A good executive producer will move heaven and earth-and the final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, as it turns out-in the name of his newscast and anchor. And so weekend “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings” executive producer Craig Bengtson, whose newscasts are truncated or pre-empted by unpredictable sports programming almost half the Saturdays and Sundays of the year, let his fingers do the walking to someone who helped him get a half-hour of wiggle room on Sunday, Jan. 30, when Peter Jennings was to report from Baghdad on the historic democratic election in Iraq.

“It is rare that we make that kind of a request,” Mr. Bengtson said. “Sunday was one of the most important days of this war.”

Loren Matthews, senior VP for programming at ABC Sports, said his division got it. So did Chrysler and the PGA Tour, and it was agreed Sunday’s final round would start a half-hour earlier than scheduled. Mr. Matthews said he joked to PGA Tour Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer Ed Moorhouse, “I don’t know how we couldn’t have taken this into account when we did the contract in 1901.”

As it happened, a close Hope Classic finish (Justin Leonard by three strokes) delayed the start of the first “World News” feed until 6:04:50, but the 6:30 feed (which most local stations take) started on time. (“CBS Evening News,” which led with Dan Rather in Baghdad, had no sports issues that afternoon and started on time, while “NBC Nightly News,” with Brian Williams in Baghdad, had to deal with Arena Football League overrun, starting 15 minutes late and being cut in half for its Eastern/Central-time feed but running full length in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.)

“I’m glad it worked out the way it did,” said Mr. Bengtson, who tempered his display of gratitude to his partners in time shifting. “I sent a nice note.”

A Major MSNBC-Ene

Frank Radice, the East Coast advertising and promotion senior VP for The NBC Agency, whipped up a party/concert/scene in honor of MSNBC’s new weekend entertainment shows. Among those contributing to the crush on a recent Friday night: “The Sopranos'” Renaissance man Michael Imperioli; everybody’s favorite “Mr. Big,” “Sex and the City’s” Chris Noth; “Third Watch’s” most intriguing cops, Coby Bell and Josh Stewart; and “Gilligan’s Island’s” Tina Louise, who, like Sylvia Miles, certifies a New York party is a media party by her very presence.

“MSNBC at the Movies” (noon Saturdays) and “MSNBC Entertainment Hot List” (noon Sundays) debuted over the weekend. The shows’ host, Sharon Tay, and reporter, Claudia DiFolco, are (even in high high high heels such as Ms. DiFolco’s must-have Prada gladiator sandals) little bundles of enthusiasm and energy, which they’ll need to cover so much turf. “This is a big bull to ride,” said Ms. DiFolco, prompting an MSNBC executive who keeps a very low profile to caution: “Be careful with those metaphors.”

FYI: Of three musical acts, the one that made The Insider wish she were still young enough to kick out the jams was Shooter Jennings and the 357s. Mr. Jennings, son of Waylon, has been linked with Drea de Matteo and rocks to all the right influences, from what Southerners fondly and respectfully call “s***kicker bar bands” to Southern bands that became legendary because of their music, their tragedies or their marriages to one-name stars. Or all of the above.