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Last laugh

Leno is to Carson as Rhea is to O'Donnell. Or at least that's what Warner Bros. hopes. Caroline Rhea will become a recurring guest host beginning this fall on Rosie O'Donnell Show.
As reported in
BROADCASTING & CABLE TV Fax
last Friday, Rhea will have her own program in the fall of 2002 that will fill the void left when O'Donnell departs at the end of her contract in May. Rhea was officially given the greenlight on her own project last week, ending Warner execs' long hunt for a successor to O'Donnell. Rhea's syndicated talk show (from Paramount's Big Ticket Television) never made it to air this year, but insiders say the new show will first be shopped to stations that currently run Rosie. Warner Bros. apparently wants to stop other 2002 series—like Columbia TriStar's Pyramid—
from slipping into Rosie's time slots.—S.A.

Trade factor

NBC programmers may have pulled off one of the best trades in the history of network television with reality producer Endemol Entertainment.

Last year, in the midst of developing relationship/reality series Chains of Love, NBC executives went to Endemol claiming, among other things, that the show didn't fit their brand. So NBC asked Endemol if it could exchange Chains of Love
for other commitments. Endemol brought Spy TV
and Fear Factor
(below) to the network. "It was a difficult thing because we had won Chains
in a pretty hotly contested bidding contest," says NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa. "Endemol was great, and we decided to split one of the commitments into two pieces [for Fear Factor
and Spy TV]."

NBC ended up with the summer's reality hits while UPN's version of Chains of Love
didn't exactly arrest viewers.—J.S.

The mouse that roared

Remember those threats Disney chief Michael Eisner made several years back to put ABC on cable? (He was reacting to affiliate resistance to compensation reductions and demands from Disney for financial help on the NFL and repurposing rights.) Now one top studio executive believes that is exactly what last week's deal by Disney to buy Fox Family is all about. "The ABC network that you know is going to end up in a couple years being on what is now Fox Family," says the executive. "The broadcast business is basically a mature, flat business. It's all based on ad revenues and everybody is out there clawing and scraping, and Michael Eisner and Bob Iger would love to get two revenue streams like the cable model allows. Right now, they are dealing with compensation issues, clearance issues and all of that other bullshit that goes with affiliates, which will lose in the long run." No comment from ABC at deadline.—J.S.

Satellite of liability

Even after 18 months of negotiating to buy Hughes Electronics, News Corp. executives are still finding surprises. No, not the sliding operating performance of coveted DBS unit DirecTV. News Corp. President Peter Chernin has been startled by an old, potential environmental liability dating back to Hughes' manufacturing operations in the 1960s: asbestos in satellites. Part of the delay has come over how to handle the liability, and News Corp. executives are trying to stick liability back onto Hughes parent company General Motors, a tricky maneuver when you're buying an entire company, not just its assets. Chernin had been telling associates that he expected a deal to get nailed down by the end of last week. Now he's not putting a time frame on it.—J.H.

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