The Week That Was
Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/13/2002 7:00:00 PM
AT DEADLINE: VIACOM LUSTS FOR DISCOVERY
Sumner Redstone is the latest mogul to take a run at acquiring Discovery Networks. At Salomon Smith Barney's media investor conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., last week, the Viacom chairman acknowledged that he reached out to Liberty Media Corp. Chairman John Malone, who controls 49% of the cable programmer, to try to cut a deal. Malone, speaking later, said, "They were all over us on Discovery. They were talking about prices that would be shockers." Analysts value Discovery at $13 billion. But Malone said he's not ready to sell; he also turned down NBC last summer.
AT DEADLINE: UPN's VALENTINE OUT
Viacom late Friday ousted UPN President Dean Valentine, whose job became redundant when CBS President and CEO Les Moonves got hold of newly acquired UPN, too. Valentine's breach-of-contract suit still looms. He claims Viacom owes him $22 million.
THE PEOPLE MEETER
The WB's head of research Jack Wakshlag is adding Turner Broadcasting System's cable nets to his watch. He fills the research void left when Bob Sieber retired last month. …USA Network tapped Rick Holzman as VP of research and planning. Most recently a TV consultant, he spent 10 years in research for MTV Networks. ...
LIVE FROM THE PRESS TOUR
NBC renewed three of its new shows for next season—Scrubs, Crossing Jordan and Law & Order: Criminal Intent —and scheduled new midseason shows to debut after the Winter Olympics, including a live weekday comedy series from the producers and set of Saturday Night Live.
Those were some of the headlines from the television critics' press tour in Pasadena last week. NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa and NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker also defended the network's decision to allow liquor ads. Sassa told critics, "We felt the timing was right now." Later in the week, CBS President and CEO Les Moonves said his network will stay away from booze: "I don't want to rule it out for the future for ever and ever, but, at this point in time, we don't think it's the right thing to do." (Fox also came out against liquor commercials last week.)
Back to NBC, as for rumors that several big networks are contemplating selling off their low-rated Saturday-night prime time hours, à la NBC's recent deal with Discovery for Saturday mornings, Sassa said bluntly, "It won't be us." He and Zucker disclosed that they are exploring a variety of options for the night, though. Insiders say one possibility might be airing action series like syndicated series V.I.P. and possibly some internally produced lower-budget fare.
Waiting in the wings at NBC is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the third Seinfeld alum to get her own sitcom, will debut in Watching Ellie Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT. Leap of Faith, a new comedy from Sex and the City Emmy-winning writer Jenny Bicks, will get the plumb post-Friends spot on NBC's Thursday-night schedule, debuting Feb. 28 at 8:30 p.m. And network executives say New York Live With Colin Quinn, the new series from Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, will debut after the Olympics, too. No firm date has been set, though.
NBC execs said sports, news and other NBC divisions will share resources with newly acquired Telemundo. The network is developing an English version of former Telemundo telenovelaBetty La Fea possibly for the fall.
Moonves also hinted that some NCAA March Madness basketball games may pop up on the new UPN weblet.
Fox says it won't spend any co-op money on local cable, radio and print ads during the February sweeps, saving as much as $15 million. Fox Chairman Sandy Grushow says he doesn't want to waste the money for a sweeps period that will "likely be thrown out" by advertisers because NBC's Winter Olympics coverage will warp the results.
Fox is also close to making a deal to sell off its Saturday-morning kids block. Grushow wouldn't say to whom but said, "I suspect that NBC may have some misgivings about the deal they made when they learn about ours."
Let's figure us out
Concerned about the future of TV broadcasting, an ad hoc group led by Fox's Peter Chernin and Emmis's Jeff Smulyan has commissioned an economic study of business. Group also includes ABC, CBS, NBC, Post-Newsweek, Hearst-Argyle, Belo, Cox and Tribune.
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