Ready to Rumble
Who knew Mark Burnett and Jeffrey Katzenberg would become the new
champions of California boxing regulation? The TV titans' attack on Fox's clone
of their boxing reality show, The Contender,
signals the rising tensions of reality show business. Either get it on the air
or watch your idea get snatched away. "If you have a good idea, you better
quietly put it in production and get it on the air as soon as possible," says
Sandy Grushow, former chairman of Fox Entertainment Group and now president of
Phase Two Productions at Twentieth Century Fox Television. "There's only one
track in the reality television game, and that's the fast track."
Last week, reality hotshot Burnett and DreamWorks CEO Katzenberg,
producers of NBC's upcoming show, sued Fox and Endemol over their rival
project, The Next Great Champ. They didn't
sue Fox for swiping Burnett's idea, as NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker
has charged in recent weeks. Instead, by producing Champ"on a rushed and frenzied basis," they contend
that Fox and Endemol staged boxing matches without proper licenses.
Their request for an immediate injunction to block Fox from airing
Champfailed, but they get another shot Sept.
8, two days before the show is scheduled to air. Other network execs are
worried about the broader picture for reality.
"There's no copyright on ideas," says one network president. For
years, a hit on one network would spawn imitators the next season. But cloning
dramas or sitcoms takes months. Reality shows can go from idea to production in
weeks, so the loser of a bidding war can rush an imitator on air before the
winner can. "I can tweak someone else's format and get around legal problems
for practically anything," says a cable network chief.
Welcome to the new reality.
If E! Entertainment Television wants to be the authority on celebrity
news and gossip, retooling its low-rated news show is a good first step.
There's talk that E! News Live co-host
Alisha Davis may be relieved of anchor duties and assigned to more field
reporting. Her partner John Burke should remain in place. It's a long shot, but
there's some buzz former E! personality Steve Kmetko could reemerge. An E! rep
dismissed the Kmetko talk, saying, "We have confidence in the reporting team."
E! already overhauled the show last year, scaling back to a half hour and
bringing in Davis and Burke. It hasn't helped the ratings. Recent August
telecasts have drawn about 200,000 viewers, half of E!'s prime time
Until Pat O'Brien's contract is up with NBC and
Access Hollywood, Paramount can't use him to
promote its new access show, The Insider. So
Paramount and ad agency Colby International came up with a novel promo that
lets viewers know he's coming, yet doesn't use O'Brien to promote anything. And
it even tweaks NBC. Set to a hip-hop beat, the jingle goes: "The Insider's got the host with the most. Think hat.
Think cat. Think cool. Think cat. Think PhAT. If you wanna guess his name, we
can't stoP thAT." Get it? The promo shipped last week for stations to start
using on Aug. 23.