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Fast Track

7/21/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

'Kimmel' Goes Prime

ABC plans September special

ABC is planning a Jimmy Kimmel Live primetime special in September and may take the late-night program on the road during November sweeps as it tries to boost the audience for the growing show.

“I love the show,” says ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson. “But we have to get the word out some more and find different ways to do so. It's been a little bit invisible.”

The move suggests a renewed commitment by ABC to back the show, which the network hopes will help it establish a true late-night franchise in advance of a shakeup in 2009, when Conan O'Brien's is scheduled to replace Jay Leno on NBC's Tonight Show.

The primetime special is tentatively slotted for Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 10 p.m. ET. The original plan was that it would follow a Dancing With the Stars results show at 8 and the season finale of music reality show The One at 9. But with The One off to a sluggish start (it debuted with a minuscule 1.1 rating/3 share in the 18-49 demo), those plans could change.

“We want to find a good spot,” McPherson says. “If we are going to do a primetime special, I don't want to throw it away. So wherever it goes, it's going to get a good lead-in.”

Kimmel is on an upswing in the ratings. The 2005-06 season saw a 17% jump in its adult 18-49 numbers and a 6% bump in overall audience. The show also recently added Late Show With David Letterman alum Jill Leiderman as executive producer.

“It was kind of an underground show, and as with any new show, it takes a while to get up to speed,” McPherson says. “We went through a couple of showrunners, but I really like the team we have in place.”

ABC is also considering sending the show on the road during sweeps, a tactic it used when Kimmel aired live from Detroit the week leading up to this year's Super Bowl.

ABC's entertainment side covets the 11:35 slot currently held by Nightline. The news program just had its best May sweep since 2004 but is not a compatible lead-in to Kimmel.

“The Nightline lead-in is a tough thing to deal with,” McPherson admits.

Repurposed Rookies

NBC fall premieres will run on cable siblings

In an effort to maximize its reach, NBC is expected to blitz its cable siblings with five of its six new shows this fall.

According to NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf, exact plans have not been finalized, but the broadcast network expects to repurpose the premieres of five shows on its sister cable networks at least once the week they premiere.

Highly touted Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip could run on multiple cable networks, with the most likely destinations Bravo and USA. Mystical drama Heroes is a natural fit for Sci Fi Channel, while USA is a probable destination for Kidnapped, Friday Night Lights and the 60-minute premiere of comedy 20 Good Years, which shrinks to 30 minutes after its first episode.

Metcalf says that, due to the difficulty of programming 30-minute comedies on those cable networks, NBC may not run comedy 30 Rock on cable.

The move continues NBC's strategy of pushing its pilots through as many channels as possible, including on the network Website as well as through recently signed deals with YouTube and Netflix.

One place the network is not expected to air pilots is iVillage, the women-targeted Web portal owned by NBC Universal. NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly says the portal will be used only for promotional purposes for the entertainment side, although he does envision possibly using the site to air video or other elements when female-driven drama Medium returns to the schedule at midseason.

Cable's Harsh Review

There was plenty of cheerleading at the annual Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) Summit last week, but cable marketing executives faced a harsh assessment of their work by top advertising executive June Blocklin, vice chairman of Young & Rubicam Brands.

At the general session July 19, she said operators are so defensive over competition from telephone and satellite TV that they risk destroying their image in consumers' minds.

Blocklin showed the crowd a montage of operators' advertising, which was generally shrill, including shouting about price discounts and bundles but very few other messages.

“You've got to get beyond 'Here's three or four services at this low, low price,'” she said. “That is a journey that ends in a very bad place. Thinking about the customer, thinking about what would make it more useful. Just small steps, that's a great, great thing.”

She pointed to Apple and Nike as examples of companies in largely commodity businesses that make a connection that cable operators miss.

All told, the CTAM Summit attracted 3,020 attendees, down from 3,401 last year in Philadelphia but up from the 2,780 in 2004, when the conference was also in Boston.—John M. Higgins

L.A. County Sheriffs To Get Reality Shows

After watching its Los Angeles Police Department colleagues grab the spotlight, it's now the county sheriff's turn.

Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a measure permitting a pair of reality shows to proceed, ending a policy forbidding TV cameras from following deputies. That was different from the LAPD, whose badge has been immortalized on TV with shows dating back to the 1950s and Dragnet.

Sheriff Lee Baca sought approval after getting separate pitches for the recruit series The Academy from Scott Sternberg Prods. and for The Assignment, about sheriffs' life at work, from 44 Blue Prods.

Sternberg, a veteran producer whose credits range from AMC's Sunday Morning Shootout to a 1998 remake of The Gong Show, was surprised to learn about the other program. He says, “It's good. We can be supportive of one another, which will allow us to make the shows look better and tell the story.”

The financially strapped sheriff's department will collect 5% of the license fees and 10% of total profits from the series, which this week will be shopped to broadcast and cable networks.

The most successful series in the genre, Cops, is estimated to have grossed in the neighborhood of $500 million, including syndication and DVD revenue, over its 17-season run. Its network license fees are approaching $650,000 per episode.—Jim Benson

'GMA' To Name Jim Murphy Senior EP

As ABC News' Good Morning America takes on NBC's Katie Couric-less Today in the network–morning-news war, the news division is expected to name Jim Murphy, former executive producer of the CBS Evening News, as senior executive producer of GMA, according to sources inside ABC News. ABC will also likely hire an executive producer to work under Murphy.

ABC has been looking to fill the GMA job since executive producer Ben Sherwood revealed in June that he will leave the show to return home to Los Angeles.

Most recently, Murphy was executive producer for CBS Evening News With Dan Rather, a position he had held for six years. His departure in November came after Rather left the show and as new CBS News President Sean McManus was making several changes in his executive ranks. Former 60 Minutes producer Ron Hartman is now executive producer for Evening News, which will be anchored by Couric beginning in September. Murphy is a veteran of mornings, having previously worked on CBS' morning show. ABC News declined to comment.—Allison Romano

Cable Stokes Summer Ratings

With no breakout hits on broadcast this summer, cable networks have proved again that they can steal the spotlight in the hot months with returning and new original series alike. Below is a report card on some of the summer's cable series.

Hits

The Closer: In its second season, the TNT series continues to soar. Through six episodes, it has averaged 6.33 million total viewers, ranking as ad-supported cable's top original scripted series this year. It's solid in adults 25-54 with 2.63 million. The network's freshman drama Saved is also posting good numbers: 3.43 million total viewers over six episodes (1.67 million in 25-54).

Monk and Psych:USA packs a one-two punch on Friday nights with its quirky dramas. In its fifth season, Monk has averaged 4.99 million viewers over two episodes and is strong in adults 25-54, with 2.23 million. Newcomer Psych averaged 5.52 million total viewers and has done well with adults 18-49, with 2.25 million, and 25-54, with 2.6 million.

Eureka:Sci Fi's two-hour premiere of the show was the network's highest-rated series telecast ever, with 4.05 million total viewers.

Project Runway: In its third season, Bravo's designer-focused reality series is strong, averaging 2.58 million total viewers. Episode two on July 19 was the most-viewed cable program of the day in adults 18-49, with 1.8 million viewers.

Kyle XY: Over four episodes, ABC Family's original sci-fi series has averaged 1.97 million total viewers, its highest-rated original series ever. It's averaged 368,000 viewers in its target demo, viewers 12-17, second only in the time period to sister network Disney Channel.

The Hills:MTV's Laguna Beach spinoff has proved that viewers can't get enough of pretty SoCal teens and blurred boundaries between scripted and reality. Since its debut, it has averaged 2.4 million total viewers, a huge 2 million of them concentrated in MTV's 12-34 sweet spot.

Misses

Brotherhood:Showtime's drama premiered July 9 to 694,000 total viewers. Then, exploiting corporate synergy, CBS aired the episode to 3.4 million viewers. Despite the cross-promotion, the second episode's premiere on Showtime got only 158,000 total viewers.

Lucky Louie:HBO's risk on a multicamera scripted comedy hasn't yielded great returns. Through six episodes, it has averaged just 1.41 million total viewers, failing to hold on to most of its Entourage lead-in.

Blade:Spike's first scripted action drama premiered June 28 to a decent 2.5 million viewers but lost more than half of them by the fourth episode, which averaged 1.07 million. It also fell off by about half in Spike's target demos to 428,000 men 18-34 and 781,000 men 18-49.

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