With Jim Benson, John Eggerton and Michael
Now that News Corp. is looking to
revive its dismally rated all-telenovela netlet, MyNetworkTV (MNT), with an injection of low-cost reality
and game shows (B&C, Dec. 15), the company may let
Fox 21 get in on the act.
A production arm of 20th Century Fox
Television, Fox 21 is the low-cost scripted and reality shop behind
The WB's Beauty and the
Geek. It was left out of the MNT mix when
News Corp. made syndication wing
Twentieth Television the exclusive supplier of
MNT programming. (Twentieth already owned several telenovela-inspired script
formats it had been prepping for the syndication market.)
But Fox 21 has resurfaced in the weeks since News Corp. decided to
resurrect its abandoned contingency plan to develop low-cost alternatives to
MNT's stripped telenovelas.
Those with knowledge of talks at MNT say that Fox 21, along with
Twentieth and independent producers, could form the backbone of a new MNT
Bringing in Fox 21 allows MNT to stick to its low-cost, in-house
program model—a must if it wants to preserve the generous ad-time split
(nine minutes of local, five minutes of national) that initially attracted
affiliates. If major outside network and first-run suppliers were to
contribute, they would likely demand higher license fees or 52-week commitments
to help recoup their program investments. And that's something the struggling
netlet can't afford.
Back when he was senior VP of corporate communications for
NBC Universal (NBCU), Kevin Sullivan's favorite show was NBC's
The West Wing. Now that
he works for the real deal, Sullivan's been looking back on the playbook of his
former NBCU colleague, Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol.
Sullivan, who left NBCU in April 2005 to be assistant secretary of
state for communications and outreach, was named White House Communications
Director in July. He told B&C in an e-mail exchange
last month that he "learned a great deal about leadership" from NBCU Chairman
Bob Wright and others.
But he credits Ebersol with teaching him to "approach communications
with a producer's mindset—meaning lead with the good stuff, tell your
story and be concise."
But just what does being Bush's top PR man entail? While the press
secretary (another former TV guy, ex-Fox News
host Tony Snow) focuses on "the news of the
day and the White House press corps," Sullivan's team "takes a strategic,
longer-term view and develops plans around the various policy initiatives and
That means having to get up in time to be at the White House before 7
a.m. "I used to be a night owl," Sullivan says. "Now many nights I go to bed
before my kids. Of course, I appreciate my DVR more than ever."
And no, he doesn't bounce a ball against his office wall like his
fictional West Wing counterpart Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff). Says Sullivan: "The real West Wing is
quieter than the TV version."
Are Without a
Trace and CSI:
NY the TV equivalents of those knockoff Rolexes for sale
on Canal Street in Manhattan? New York City Commissioner Katherine Oliver seems to think so.
As head of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre
and Broadcasting, Oliver has used tax credits and expedited permits
to persuade TV and film producers to shoot in the Big Apple. In an interview
with B&C last month, she called out the two
CBS series for continuing to pass themselves
off as gritty Gotham dramas while shooting in Los Angeles.
"It's frustrating to see shows set in New York that are not made in
New York," Oliver says. "Something like CSI: NY spends
maybe five days a year here. You can see that it's a fake New York."
The Brooklyn-born Oliver adds that true Noo Yawk
shows, like NBC's Law &
Order franchise, have an energy that you just can't
reproduce on a backlot in Burbank.
Producers from Trace and CSI:
NY did not return calls for comment. Should they decide to spend a
little more time in New York, however, we know a guy who can get them a great
deal on a Rolex.