HBO announced last week it has ordered a de facto seventh season of “The Sopranos.” The sixth season, which is being shot for a 2006 debut, will include 12 episodes. HBO has ordered eight additional episodes to be televised in 2007. “We are obviously delighted that we will be able to extend the ‘Sopranos’ series beyond its slated 12 episodes,” said Chris Albrecht, chairman and CEO of HBO. “When something is as remarkable as ‘The Sopranos,’ our audience would like to see it continue as long as possible, so we are thrilled that [creator] David Chase felt there are more stories to be told.”
Reality Producers Sue ABC, Cowell
Two reality producers filed a lawsuit in federal court last week accusing ABC and “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell of stealing their show concept for the upcoming ABC series “Million Dollar Idea.” The lawsuit was filed by Jean Golden and Todd Walker, the creators and hosts of a syndicated show also called “Million Dollar Idea.” Ms. Golden and Mr. Walker allege in their suit ABC and Mr. Cowell stole “Million Dollar Idea’s” title and “each and every major concept relating to the show.” The lawsuit calls for immediate injunctive relief and unspecified damages. The suit “is a direct response to ABC’s July 13, 2005, announcement of a new show of the same name, ‘created’ by Cowell and ‘packaged’ by [talent agency] CAA,” according to a press release issued by Ms. Golden and Mr. Walker. They argue in their suit that they developed the show starting in 2001 and first broadcast “Million Dollar Idea” on KSTC-TV, Minneapolis, in 2003. The pair registered for both copyright and trademark for the name and premise of “Million Dollar Idea,” and state they have sold the show into syndication on 125 stations. The suit alleges Mr. Walker pitched “Million Dollar Idea” to Andrea Wong, ABC’s executive VP for alternative programming, specials and late-night, in early 2004 and to CAA. In a written statement ABC said, “We have not even been served with the complaint in this matter, so we have no comment.”
First-Run Syndie Hours Buck Trend, Post Gains
While most of the top syndicated strips were down or flat for the week ended July 31 due to the annual summer slowdown, the top first-run weekly hours saw gains. Perennial magazine category leader Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight Weekend” scored a 2.8 national household rating for the week, according to Nielsen Media Research, up 12 percent over the previous week and even with the same week last year. The weekend edition of NBC Universal’s “Access Hollywood” grew 20 percent over both the previous week and last year to a 1.8, while MGM’s “Stargate: SG-1” grew 6 percent for the week to a 1.7 rating, a 15 percent decline over last year.
Nielsen to Launch Product Placement Study
Nielsen Media Research said last week it is launching a study to determine which factors in product placement contribute to effective marketing results. Participating in the study are CBS, UPN, Discovery, Magna Global, Mediacom, OMD, PHD, Sprint, The Weather Channel and Zenith Optimedia. Nielsen has been tracking the physical characteristics of product placement, such as size and duration, since the beginning of the 2003-2004 season, the company said.
CBS Sets New Promo Plans
CBS announced last week that it will launch an ad-supported quarterly magazine about the network’s entertainment, news and sports realms as well as its sister parks operations. The network also is working with Williams-Sonoma to promote its new prime-time schedule. The magazine, titled Watch!, will be published by the CBS Communications Group in conjunction with custom publisher McMurry. The publication will be distributed free at tapings of CBS shows, at Paramount Parks and through CBS affiliates. It is to launch with circulation of 400,000, according to the network’s announcement. Jeremy Murphy, director of editorial services for the CBS Communications Group, will be editor of the magazine. Advertising sales, editorial support, design, production and distribution will be handled by McMurry. The Williams-Sonoma deal involves a sneak-peek DVD featuring previews of new CBS shows that will be distributed in Williams-Sonoma stores and packages.