News Articles

Fast Track

10/27/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Think You Need Liposuction? Ask 'Nip/Tuck' Fans

Not sure whether you should get that brow lift? You can solicit the
advice of Nip/Tuck
fans.

In an effort to keep the hit plastic-surgery show's viewers engaged,
FX has launched some offbeat features on its
Website, including an area where users can upload pictures and let fellow
viewers weigh in on whether they should go under the knife. A
"social-podcasting" section allows fans to simulate "talking" to the show's
actors and creators.

With distinctively irreverent Nip/Tuck in its
fourth season, FX beefed up its site to keep savvy fans engaged with both the
program and each other. "It's essential to provide people with more-meaningful
experiences," says FX Executive VP of Marketing Stephanie
Gibbons
. "We feel like if we don't keep moving forward, we're going
to lose them."

Through eight new episodes, the show is up 3% over last year in total
viewers to an average 3.98 million, and 5% in the 18-49 demo to 2.84
million.

To participate in the social-podcasting feature, viewers enter
personal information online, including a phone number, and then receive a call
designed to appear to be from the Nip/Tuck doctors. Caller
ID displays an area code in Miami, where Nip/Tuck is set,
and the name "McNamara/Troy," its fictional plastic-surgery practice. FX
compiles fan questions, includes the actors' responses, and offers the result
as a podcast on FXnetworks.com and iTunes.
Another podcast lets viewers sound off on the show.

Since the podcasts' launch on Sept. 29, FX has received 180,000 fan
requests for weekly show updates and 2,000 requests for the podcasts on iTunes.
Traffic to the show's site is "healthier" than last year, with 5 million page
views over the past month, says Gibbons.

Another feature, "Skin Deep," invites viewers to upload their pictures
and let other visitors vote on whether they should get plastic surgery. FX has
so far received 2,100 photos to the section, which it is labeling a "social
consultation."

"Miami Mashup" lets fans use technology from Google maps and Web
company Ning to chart and discuss hot spots
visited on the show.

FX is planning more social-interaction features for its upcoming
originals. The Website for new celebrity-magazine–set program
Dirt, for example, will likely offer social videocasting,
where fans can submit video questions to be answered by the actors.

Says Gibbons. "We keep getting closer and closer to the physical
nature of community fancasts."—Anne Becker

Fox Stations To Strip 'L&O: CI'

NBC Universal Domestic Television
Distribution
has sold off-net episodes of Dick Wolf's
Law & Order: Criminal
Intent
to the Fox-owned
stations as a Monday-Friday strip for next fall.

The straight 50-50 barter deal for the procedural crime drama, in its
sixth season on NBC, marks the first time in years that a major off-net hour
has been offered to stations for weekday runs.

NBCU is shopping the show to other station groups after preparing for
months to take it into the market. Fox has acquired it for its New York, Los
Angeles, Chicago and other major-market outlets under a multiyear
agreement.

In the late 1980s and early '90s, shows like Magnum, P.I.; Quincy; and 21 Jump Street were staples of
weekday broadcast syndication. But since then, big off-net dramas like
CI have been sold as strips to basic cable networks and to
stations for straight barter on weekends (The
WB
netlet briefly aired off-net ER episodes earlier this year in
its 3-5 p.m. weekday block before returning to comedies).

As with top off-net sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends, CI
may wind up airing in the same broadcast and cable time periods in some mid-
and small-level markets. It will continue running on NBCU's
USA and Bravo
networks next fall.

USA strips the show at 7 p.m. weekdays, where it averages a 1.4
household rating and 1.3 million viewers. Bravo gets the weekend run, airing it
after 6 p.m. on Sundays with an average 0.7 rating.

The newly shared cable-broadcast window, encompassing one run per day,
could help ease the financial burden on USA, which had paid most of the
combined license fee of nearly $2 million per episode since CI began its
off-net run last fall.—Jim Benson

Fox, Nielsen Resolve Ratings Row

Nielsen and Fox have resolved their long-standing dispute over TV
ratings.

The two have signed an eight-year agreement under which Nielsen will
provide ratings for the Fox Broadcasting Co. and 35 Fox TV stations—including
local-people-meter ratings to Fox TV stations in markets that have the meters.
Recipients also include Fox News Channel,
FX, Speed,
National Geographic Channel,
Fox Soccer Channel, Fox
Sports Net
, Fox Sports en
Español
, DirecTV,
Twentieth Television and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

Nielsen has agreed to spend $50 million to improve the response rates,
particularly for younger demos and minorities. Fox had been highly critical of
Nielsen's new Local People Meters, which it has said undercounts minorities to
the detriment of Fox stations in major markets.—John M.
Higgins

NBC Shakes Up Programming

In a major shake-up of its programming lineup, NBC is returning to an 8-10 p.m. comedy block on
Thursdays and pulling its short-lived Wednesday-night sitcom
Twenty Good Years off the
schedule. There is no firm date set for its return.

Nine episodes of the older-skewing comedy starring
Jeffrey Tambor and John
Lithgow
have been shot. NBC intends to complete all 13, indicating
the network may bring it back at some point later this season.

Under the revamp, NBC will keep My
Name is Earl
and The
Office
from 8-9 p.m. Thursday. Starting Nov. 30, it will
return utility hitter Scrubs at 9, followed by
30 Rock, which moves from
8 p.m. Wednesdays to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays leading into ER.

The third weekly edition of Deal or No
Deal
, which over five Thursday night airings this season
at 9 had averaged a distant third-place 3.3 rating/8 share in adults 18-49,
will be benched. But with all of the holes in NBC's schedule, it is a safe bet
that it won't be gone for long.

The change will follow a "super-sized" Thursday night of comedy two
weeks earlier on Nov. 16, with 40-minute episodes of Earl,
The Office and 30 Rock.

On Nov. 15, Medium will return to the
Wednesday-night schedule with an extended 9-11 p.m. episode. The
Biggest Loser
will kick off the night at 8. In subsequent weeks,
specials will air at 8, Loser at 9 (except for its
expanded 8-10 finale in December) and Medium at 10.

The moves come after NBC had trouble getting its Wednesday-night
comedy block rolling with the two freshmen sitcoms, which faced off against
stiff competition from ABC's Dancing With the
Stars
and CBS' Jericho.

In their two October airings, 30 Rock has been
averaging a 2.6/8 and Twenty Good Years a 2.3/6. But from
week one to two, 30 Rock dropped 21% from a 2.9 to 2.3
rating, while Twenty Good Years, which at 8:30 retained
88% of its 30 Rock lead-in audience, fell a like amount,
from a 2.5 to 2.0.

By returning to a comedy night on Thursdays, NBC will try to build on
momentum created in the first hour by Earl (scoring in the
high 3s) and The Office (low 4s).
Deal had been hurting at 9 against two of TV top-ranked
series, ABC's Grey's
Anatomy
and CBS' CSI.

Scrubs, which previously appeared in double runs
at 9-10 Tuesdays, held up better than NBC anticipated against
Fox's American
Idol
and House. —Jim
Benson

Boo! Comcast Launches FearNet

Comcast will launch
FearNet, an on-demand horror channel, this
Halloween. A co-venture with Sony and
Lionsgate, FearNet will debut as a
video-on-demand channel free to Comcast digital customers, as well as a Website
and a mobile offering, the first of several multiplatform networks Comcast is
developing. FearNet online will offer nine free streaming movies at launch.
Extra features allow fans to chat with each other online, search a database of
movies, and buy or rent movies.—Anne Becker

B&C's Grossman Promoted in L.A.

Broadcasting & Cable's Ben Grossman has been promoted to co-chief of the Los
Angeles Bureau.

"It's a pleasure to have Ben expand his role with us," says Editor in
Chief J. Max Robins. "Since coming aboard 18
months ago; he's done a superb job, in both a reportorial and an ambassadorial
capacity and in expanding the breadth and depth of our coverage of the
Hollywood community."

Grossman will work alongside Co-Chief Jim
Benson
.

A graduate of Boston University with
an M.B.A. from UCLA's Anderson School of Management, Grossman has held
positions at TV Guide,
Fox Sports, the XFL and The Sports
Business Daily
.

September
October

News Technology Summit

DoubleTree by Hilton Baltimore--BWI Airport, Linthicum, MD