Baywatch babes beached

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The surf's no longer up for Baywatch Hawaii.

Pearson Television has canceled the strip, one of the longest-running shows on TV. Once trumpeted as the world's most watched series, the weekly hour ran as California-based Baywatch for 10 seasons (one on NBC and the rest in syndication) and for the past two seasons in syndication as Baywatch Hawaii.

But Baywatch Hawaii's waning viewer appeal was a key reason for Pearson pulling the plug on the show. For the week ending Jan. 28 the show pulled a 1.9 household score - 41% below its numbers last year. That's the largest year-to-year decline of any major weekly hour, according to Nielsen Media Research.

"It was an extremely difficult decision not to move forward with Baywatch Hawaii for another season, but the economics associated with bringing the program back could not be justified," said Brian Harris, Pearson North America's president and CEO.

Action hours typically cost well over $1 million per episode to produce and for that reason, especially need to charge good advertising rates to off-set production costs. Also, with certain networks boosting program hours on their affiliates, ratings-ready, primetime slots for action hours are becoming less available to shows like Baywatch. That played a big part in Studios USA's cancellation of Xena, and decision to scale back its production of action hours in the future.

While dropping the bomb on Baywatch, Pearson unveiled plans for investing $150 million into a fund for developing and producing of new programming. Harris said the fund will be used on a project-by-project basis, and mentioned no programs in particular.

Pearson also finalized its fall 2001 plans. As speculated, Colosseum, starring Andrew Dice Clay, has been shelved. Sources indicated it lacked the proper international distribution, also considered helpful in off-setting production costs on action hours. Its other planned action hour Lean Angle is a `go' however. Another planned weekly, previously talked about in development but wasn't officially presented at NATPE, is Man O Man. That show has been described as a make-over series for guys, showing what women really want in their dates.

Card Sharks is considered a `firm go,' just locking up its last clearance in New York. Renewed shows are game strips Family Feud and rookie To Tell the Truth. - Susanne Ault

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