Net execs: Saturday night is important

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Despite speculation to the contrary, don't expect the broadcast networks to
stop programming Saturday nights, even if it is the least-viewed night of the
week.

The programming chiefs at both NBC and ABC -- Jeff Zucker and Susan Lyne,
respectively -- said Tuesday morning that they will develop aggressively for the
night once they use up rosters of theatrical films purchased by previous
regimes.

Zucker said he intends to develop scripted shows as aggressively for
Saturday as he did the past year for Sunday night, where the network is finally
(after about 15 years) starting to show some ratings growth. "We made a mistake
not being more aggressive on Saturdays," he added.

Lyne said Saturday continues to be a profitable night despite low
ratings and, therefore, the network wouldn't abandon it.

CBS Entertainment president Nancy Tellem agreed, saying she couldn't foresee
a time when CBS wouldn't program the night. And Fox's Gail Berman noted that Fox
has long had a franchise there -- America's Most Wanted and Cops -- that frequently wins the night. "The challenge is to keep it fresh for the
viewer," she added.

The executives spoke at a "Newsmaker Breakfast" in New York sponsored by
the International Radio & Television Society Foundation. The executives also
said they would continue to explore repurposing until there is conclusive
evidence that it either hurts the core business or that there is no real money
to be made doing it. So far, the jury is still out, they said.

They also said they didn't see TiVo-type machines, that let viewers zap ads,
as a threat to their business. UPN's Dawn Ostroff noted that TiVos are now in a
mere 0.25 percent of the nation's homes. "There is no threat of any sort
[from TiVo] for at least the next five years," Zucker said. "If you have good
programming," he added of viewers, "they will come."

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