ABC signs King, skips reality rats


ABC is getting into the series business with Stephen King, has lined up a single sponsor for the premiere of new action series Alias - and network executives say they don't anticipate any reality shows featuring rats.

At the ongoing Television Critics Association meetings in Los Angeles, ABC executives announced plans for The Kingdom, a new series set to debut in the 2002-2003 season with horror writer King. The network has signed a 13-episode deal with King, Columbia TriStar and co-owned Touchstone for the series set around a haunted hospital built on an ancient graveyard. ABC will launch the series with a two-hour movie.

A year after Johnson & Johnson announced it would be the sole sponsor for the first episode of now cancelled Gideon's Crossing, ABC has signed Nokia as the lone sponsor for Alias's first episode. The new drama from Touchstone will air without commercials in its debut on Sunday Sept. 30.

ABC is also going to use its Monday installment of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? stunting this fall, including a season-starting batch of sports-themed episode. Starting Sept. 10, Monday night Millionaire episodes will include John Elway, Lela Ali, Serena Williams and more.

ABC has also ordered six episodes of comedy The Web, a series about a start-up network, for mid-season.

When asked by journalists about NBC's Fear Factor and other reality shows, ABC Entertainment Group Co-Chairman Stu Bloomberg says ABC reality shows will be "rat free." He also said ABC wouldn't air shows like NBC's Fear Factor or Spy TV. "It's a choice and I don't deny them their choices," Bloomberg said. "This is show business and it's a business." - Joe Schlosser