By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/11/2004 8:00:00 PM
Speed is king at Litton Entertainment's Hot Topics, a news show made for the videogame generation. It zips through the day's 25 top stories at a lightening pace. Think of it as a flash in the news pan.
"It's a thrill ride," says Litton President and CEO Dave Morgan. "It starts off with the big stories of the day. And by the end, it's flying."
The show's intent is not to report the news in depth but to give viewers a quick-hit look at the headlines of the day.
Litton has cleared the show, hosted by Kimberly Kennedy, in more than 55% of the country, according to Executive Vice President Tim Voit. On many stations, it's replacing Litton's Ask Rita. The late-night comedic take on an "advice show," with host Rita Rudner, never scored in the ratings. Hot Topics does have some daytime slots in key markets, including Viacom's KUTV Salt Lake and Meredith's WHNS Greenville, S.C.
Litton is hoping to sell Ask Rita to a cable network, The show occasionally has comedians like Steve Martin, Sinbad, and Jerry Seinfeld sitting around the table with Rudner. If the show migrates to cable, it could live a little more on the wild side.
Stations have been informed that Ask Rita is going away at the end of May. They have been given the option to replace it with Hot Topics.
The show that suggests news-is-very-perishable has been airing for a year and a half on Cox-owned WSB Atlanta, where it replaced King World's Inside Edition at 11:35 p.m. In that slot, Hot Topics has been averaging a 6.4 household rating, beating NBC's Saturday Night Live.
It's sold on an all-barter basis with 31/2 minutes of national ad time and 31/2 minutes of local ad time per half-hour show. Litton is looking for advertisers as full-fledged sponsors, but Morgan says 70% of his ad time is sold for next season.
The show's speed appeals to a generation of viewers turned off by traditional newscasts, Voit says, adding, "There are a lot of advertisers who want to be a part of a newsmagazine with daily stories targeted at a younger audience."
Indeed, with 25 topics per half-hour, 30-second commercials must seem like documentaries to the Hot Topics audience.
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