Sanitized South Park
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/25/2004 8:00:00 PM
Stations are confident that Comedy Central's irreverent cartoon South Park will be clean—but still outrageous enough to attract young men in late night. The show is cleared in 85% of the country, guaranteeing it a fall 2005 launch.
To ensure that it meets broadcast standards, the syndicators plan to compile a content-review board that includes execs from station groups that clear it. Mort Marcus' Debmar Studios, Ira Bernstein's Mercury Entertainment and Tribune Entertainment are jointly distributing.
"I am confident that everything will be done, and the episodes will be acceptable to air," says Tom Spitz, director of program operations at Viacom-owned KBHK San Francisco.
"It's definitely an edgy show, but, for late night, we're fine with it," says Craig Allison, station manager for Scripps Howard's KHSB and KMCI Kansas City, Mo. South Park will air on independent KMCI. "As a company, we are very sensitive to the current climate," says Allison. "But we are monitoring things closely."
While the show's more offensive language is easy to clean up thanks to animation, the crazy situations the South Park kids get into presents a tougher challenge. Some 15-25 episodes include too much questionable content to edit for a broadcast run.
But it's those twists that make South Park such a draw for tough-to-reach 18- to 34-year-old males. According to Steve Mulderrig, a Tribune Entertainment exec, South Park outperforms even the broadcast networks among young men in its Wednesday 10 p.m. time slot.
Many of the stations on the show's clearance list are independents or smaller UPN affiliates whose off-net lineups contain shows, such as That '70s Show and The Simpsons, that attract young men.
Tribune Entertainment is handling ad sales for South Park, which is being sold for cash plus 90 seconds of local barter time. It is cleared in 48 of the top 50 markets on stations from the Viacom, Tribune, Weigel, Belo, Scripps Howard, Cox, Clear Channel, Raycom, Sinclair and Meredith broadcast groups.
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