Fast Track - Broadcasting & Cable

Fast Track

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Big Revenues

Network advertising revenues for ABC, CBS, and NBC were up almost 11% to $2.94 billion for the first quarter of 2004, says the accounting firm Ernst & Young and released by the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association. All dayparts were up compared with the first quarter 2003 except for network evening newscasts, which were essentially flat from a year ago at $129 million. Prime time was up 11% to $1.52 billion, while morning news shows were the biggest gainers, collectively posting a 21% gain to $202 million. Sports was up 9% to $692 million, and daytime was up 7% to $217 million. Late night rose 14% to $167 million.

Thanks a Billion

ABC has signed on for this year's installment of Pepsi's "Play for a Billion" sweepstakes, taking over from The WB. The Disney-owned network will cross-promote the contest on its air, as will Pepsi in its products, with a guaranteed $1 million winner given a shot to turn that into $1 billion on national TV (Sept. 12, at 8 p.m.).

Viewers of ABC's sitcoms will be given a different buzzword to look for and use to register for the contest at www.abc.com.

The WB, which partnered with Pepsi last year, looked for big numbers from the show. They kept looking. Last year's show, aired on Sept. 14, managed only a 2.7 rating/4 share in households, failing even to be among The WB's top two shows of the week on a network that gets fairly small numbers to start with. Pepsi offered it to The WB again this year, but the network took a pass.

Insurance companies underwriting the Pepsi/WB gamble last year were concerned about using a human to pick the winning number, so The WB used a chimp, Mr. Moneybags. No word yet on his return.

Hewitt on Hewitt

Don Hewitt (above), 56-year CBS News veteran and executive producer of 60 Minutes since it began in 1968, is a great talker and he does just that on CBS special Tell Me a Story: The Man Who Made 60 Minutes, airing May 18 at 9 p.m. On the show, he'll be quizzed by 60 Minutes correspondents. (By the way, the low points of the Tisch-era 60 Minutes aren't part of the show.) Hewitt steps down as the show's executive producer after this season; Jeff Fager, from 60 Minutes II, will take the reins.

People Mover

Former NBC Enterprises President Ed Wilson was named president of the Fox Television Network. He will report to Tony Vinciquerra, president and CEO of the Fox Networks Group. Wilson will be responsible for supervising affiliate relations, advertising sales, legal, broadcast standards and all Fox Entertainment Group integrated marketing operations for the network. …

Betsy McGowen is taking over the top job at Kids' WB!, replacing John Hardman. McGowen's new title is senior vice president/general manager of the network. In her new position, McGowen will work with Co-CEO Jordan Levin on programming, while remaining in charge of marketing efforts for the network. ...

CBS reality guru Ghen Maynard was named executive vice president of prime time development for NBC. He will oversee all NBC's scripted development. It was one of the first moves by Kevin Reilly after he got his new title as NBC's president of entertainment, also last week. (He had been president of prime time programing.)

At CBS, Maynard is credited with developing Survivor and ushering in the current reality television craze. He also developed and oversaw Big Brother, Amazing Race, Cupid, Star Search, and UPN's America's Next Top Model. …

John Redmann will executive-produce Buena Vista's The Tony Danza Show, coming off his duties on Buena Vista's canceled The Wayne Brady Show. Redmann has also worked on The Rosie O'Donnell Show and Leeza.

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