Fast Track


'Scrubs’ a Near Lock for Next Fall

Creator says it could go to ABC

NBC Thursday-night comedy Scrubs will be back for a seventh season on either NBC or ABC, according to creator Bill Lawrence.

With the Touchstone Television-produced show now in syndication, Lawrence says, should NBC pass on bringing the show back, it will find a home at Touchstone’s corporate cousin, ABC. “Since every produced episode makes a ton of money for Touchstone,” Lawrence says, “they told us not to write a finale for this year.”

The show has a strong chance of returning to NBC next year, he adds. “We’ve essentially been told that NBC is really happy with how we are doing. I would say it’s better than a coin flip we are back on NBC.”

Airing at 9 p.m. between The Office and rookie 30 Rock, Scrubs is averaging a solid 3.5 rating/9 share in the adult 18-49 demo as part of a Thursday-night comedy block that is cherished by NBC President Kevin Reilly. At a median age of 36.1, it is the network’s youngest-skewing primetime series.

“NBC isn’t the same juggernaut anymore,” Lawrence says, “but it still feels cool to be on Thursdays.”

But he understands that there is less financial motivation for NBC to keep the Touchstone-produced show on the network. “The show is a dinosaur, on one network and completely owned by another,” he acknowledges.

And Touchstone continues to show faith in the show. The studio greenlighted a Jan. 18 musical episode at double the cost of a typical installment.

Lawrence also says that the show would not continue without star Zach Braff, but he “feels pretty good” that Braff is on board for a seventh and final season.

PTC Takes Aim At Primetime Violence

ABC, which the Parents Television Council said last week was the network that had shown the biggest increase in primetime violence since 1998, stands by its programming choices.

“We have not yet reviewed the report,” said the network in a statement. “But we are confident that our extensive standards review of all of our programming insures acceptable content for our diverse viewing audiences.”

There was plenty of violence to go around, according to PTC’s study titled Dying To Entertain. It was a content analysis—not a contextual one—of violence in the first two weeks of key sweeps for the 2002-03 through 2005-06 seasons.

PTC said in a press conference that the 2005-06 season was the most violent since its previous study, in 1998, with a 75% increase in the number of violent instances.

In the 2006 season, NBC had the most violent incidences per hour at 6.79, up 83.5% from the previous season. ABC had 3.8, but that was up 155%, said PTC, from 2004-05.

The WB had the greatest frequency of violence during the 8-9 p.m. “family hour,” CBS had the most violence at 9-10 p.m. (when CSI airs), and ABC the most at 10-11 p.m., according to the PTC.

The definition of violence did not take into account whether the context celebrated or censured it. Melissa Caldwell, senior director of programs for PTC, says she could not remember a single “redeeming instance” among the more than 1,100 hours of programming reviewed.—John Eggerton

TV Scores With Beckham Deal

David Beckham’s decision to join Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy represents an immediate win for the league’s television partners with preexisting deals.

Major League Soccer last year announced a new series of deals with ESPN/ABC, Fox Soccer Channel, Univision and HDNet worth upwards of a combined $15 million annually.

And those partners are now rewarded with the chance to show games featuring arguably the most popular athlete in the world.

ESPN VP of Programming Scott Gugliemino says, with Beckham sure to increase sampling of the games because of his “iconic stature,” the ESPN networks will feature the Galaxy often in Thursday-night coverage on ESPN2. He says ESPN will also explore additional programming opportunities featuring Beckham.

And with three years left on a current deal to show Galaxy games locally, regional sports network FSN West also has begun exploring additional ways to cash in on the signing, according to FSN West chief Scott Simpson. —Ben Grossman

Bunim-Murray Plans 'Laugh Off’

A new first-run comedy/game strip from prolific reality producer Bunim/Murray Productions (BMP) and distributor October Moon Television has come at the 11th hour for this week’s NATPE convention.

Laugh Off, featuring unknown comedians competing for the chance to gain national exposure, resulted from major-market station groups “telling us that they are very concerned about the lack of A-level sitcoms coming off the networks,” says October Moon President Chuck Larsen.

With 4-8 p.m. the most profitable daypart for stations and none of the majors stepping up with new first-run sitcoms for fall, BMP (The Real World, Road Rules) wanted to offer a show that can run adjacent to comedies and game shows, according to Larsen.

The cash-plus-barter series would mark the return of BMP to syndication. It previously produced the NBC Universal first-run strip Starting Over, which ended its three-season run last year.

On Laugh Off, two contestants face off in three comedy rounds. The studio audience chooses the winner, with the champion returning for up to five days. In sweeps months, there will be Grand Champion matches, and stations will have the marketing opportunity to have local competitions.

The pilot episode is hosted by Jimmy Pardo, who has appeared on Becker, The Naked Truth, The Surreal Life, Late Friday and That ’70s Show. —Jim Benson

Dorgan, Snowe Introduce Net-Neutrality Bill

Senate Commerce Committee members Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) wasted no time putting the network-neutrality issue back on the legislative calendar.

On Jan. 9, the first day of the new Congress, the pair re-introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which would prevent broadband providers from “discriminating against Internet content, applications or services, and require them to offer stand-alone broadband service not bundled with video or voice.”

Snowe, in introducing the legislation, said there had been a turning point in the network-neutrality fight and pointed to the FCC’s “imposition of net-neutrality conditions” on the AT&T/Bell South merger as one of the new signs of the times. They introduced the bill in the previous Congress as an amendment to a larger video-franchise–reform bill. The vote to add it to the bill was an 11-11 tie, so the amendment did not pass.

Co-sponsors of the bill’s latest incarnation include John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).—John Eggerton

Media Ad Revenue To Inch Up in ’07

Ad revenue for media companies will be up only 2.6% in 2007. Syndication and cable TV are expected to increase their share of the ad pie slightly, and network and spot TV are predicted to lose some share.

That’s according to an annual prediction by market research company TNS Media Intelligence.

That 2.6% figure is less than the 3.8% increase expected when the 2006 numbers come out. That would make it the smallest ad-revenue boost since 2001.

TNS predicts that more money will shift from the top 100 marketers as smaller brands with smaller budgets get a piece of a fragmenting market.

Syndicated-TV ad revenue is expected to be up 6.6% this year and to increase its share from 2.8% to 2.9% of total ad revenue. That 6.6% is the best percentage rise behind Internet display advertising’s 13.4% boost. Internet’s share of the total revenue pie is predicted to rise from 6.5% to 7.2%.

Cable ad revenues are expected to be up 4.7% over 2006, its share to increase from 11.7% to 11.9%.

Network-TV revenues are expected to be up only 0.6%; its share will likely drop from 15.5% to 15.2%, but it will continue to lead the TV category.

Spot-TV revenues are forecast to slip 0.9% from 2006 and will certainly be affected by the absence of the Olympic games and political dollars.

Ad revenues for all Spanish-language media—both print and broadcast—are predicted to be up 5.4% and to increase their share slightly from 3.2% to 3.3% of the ad pie.

The second half of the year is expected to see the largest gain, 3.2%, after a sluggish first half at 2.1%.—John Eggerton

Dolans Raise Bid For Cablevision

It’s final offer, they say

The board of Cablevision Systems Corp. is considering a sweetened $8.9 billion offer from the controlling shareholders, the Dolan family, to take the company private.

The offer, $30 per share, is 11% over the previous offer of $27 per share for the cable operator. The Dolans, who called the bid their final offer, had been widely expected to raise the bid as the value of cable stocks has risen in recent months. The family controls about 74% of the shareholder vote through a special class of shares.

Cablevision said Friday that a special board committee plans to review the new proposal and declined to comment further on the offer.


Jon Turteltaub’s name was spelled incorrectly in Fifth Estater (1/1, p. 22).

ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham is a Headline Media Management client (1/8, Fifth Estater, p. 56), but Michael Glantz does not represent him.

Bill Cella is now vice chairman of DraftFCB, a unit of the Interpublic Group, appointed in October. In “Syndication: The Value Proposition” (1/8, p. 28), he was identified by his former title.