Affils Reject Provocative NBC Series

Jan 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

NBC’s controversial new series “The Book of Daniel” was hit with announced pre-emptions by three more network affiliates for its second airing last Friday, as protests by conservative groups continued.

As a result of the additional clearances, an NBC spokeswoman said 2 percent of the national TV universe would be unable to see the show.

The protesting groups say the midseason show, featuring a Vicodin-addicted minister who has a heavy drinker of a wife, a pot-selling daughter, a gay son and a sexually active adopted Chinese son, is demeaning to Christians.

Even before the series premiered, the protests convinced five NBC affiliates, three of them owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group, to pre-empt the Jan. 6 debut of “Daniel.”

The debut, with two back-to-back episodes, did not do well in any case: It finished third in its time slots in total viewers and among 18- to 49-year-old viewers nationally.

But late last week Meredith-owned NBC affiliate WSMV-TV in Nashville announced it would not carry the rest of the series based on its own review of the first three episodes, its own view that it is not appropriate for broadcast TV, and “clearly voiced concerns” from viewers and from advertisers who said they “didn’t want to be associated with the show and said they had heard from people in Nashville who didn’t want them to be associated with the station,” said Elden Hale Sr., senior VP of Meredith Broadcasting and the general manager of the station.

Mr. Hale, who filled last week’s hour with two infomercials, said he is a veteran of many protests aimed at programming and said the feedback to the station post-debut-more than 1,000 e-mails, calls and conversations-did not have a “cut-and-paste” tone.

Mr. Hale told TelevisionWeek that the station asked Nashville residents to watch the show before they took a position. “They did their homework. They watched the show. They didn’t like it, and they let us know,” he said.

So many in Nashville watched the show that its household ratings improved on the time slot during the November 2005 sweeps by 37 percent and tied for third-highest among NBC affiliates in Nielsen Media Research’s 56 metered markets.

In El Dorado, Ark., near the Louisiana state line, Piedmont Television-owned KTVE-TV declined to carry any more episodes of “Daniel.”

In Amarillo, Texas, KAMR-TV, a Nexstar station, followed the lead of three of its sister stations and announced it would not carry the rest of the series, after NBC rejected the station’s offer to clear the show at 12:30 a.m.

Mission Broadcasting-owned low-power independent station KCPN-TV picked up the series in Amarillo and planned to run it in pattern with NBC at 8 p.m. (CT).

NBC also declined an offer to air “Daniel” at 11 p.m. on KCPN’s sister station, Fox affil KCIT-TV.

Late Thursday, KCIT/KCPN general manager Jim O’Malley e-mailed all viewers who had e-mailed KAMR with positive comments after the debut of “Daniel” to tell them where they would be able to find the series for the rest of its short midseason run.

There was no word at deadline about what KAMR planned to run in “Daniel’s” time slot.

In Little Rock, Ark., the debut of “Daniel” was picked up by WB affiliate KWBF-TV after Nexstar’s KARK-TV vetoed it. KWBF General Manager Neal Ardman said last week that he had managed to sell some of the local inventory in the NBC drama Jan. 6 and expected to sell more in the Jan. 13 broadcast.

In Terre Haute, Ind., where Nexstar’s WTWO-TV pre-empted “Daniel’s” debut, NBC moved the series to Time Warner Cable’s local-origination channel.

Also refusing to carry “Daniel” from the get-go were Nexstar’s KBTV-TV in Beaumont, Texas; Global Communications’ WGBC-TV in Meridien, Miss.; and WTVA-TV in Tupelo, Miss.

The series is produced by NBC Universal Television Studios and Sony Pictures Television.