Par appears to be softening ‘Hard’

Paramount appears to be following the path of other syndicators that have been moving to tone down their tabloid shows.

When “Hard Copy” appears for a new season in September, TV station programming rep sources say it will be more “ad-friendly.”

Although Par denies it, reps insist the studio is responding to pressure from broadcasters who are having trouble selling “Copy” in their local markets.

“They want to get rid of all strippers and hookers and make it more positive, more advertiser- and viewer-friendly,” a rep says. “They’re concerned about the heat they’re taking over it.”

Par is seeking an exec producer to replace Peter Brennan, who has left the show, reportedly to pursue a programming deal at Fox.

But Frank Kelly, president of creative affairs and firstrun programming for Paramount, downplays the notion that “Copy” is changing the program simply to please advertisers.

Par tries to add new elements to the program every year to help it effectively compete, Kelly said. “This is a very competitive genre,” he said. “We need to stay smart.”

Kelly took issue with the widely used “ad-friendly” term, noting that what appeals to one major advertiser may not please another.

But he acknowledged that advertisers are an important constituency that Par must take into consideration.

He doesn’t want to give the image that “toning down” implies the studio is about to put out another “P.M. Magazine.”

The goal is to add to the mix of features on “Copy,” finding additional segs (such as this past season’s “Caught on Tape” feature) that catch on with the viewers.

Kelly acknowledged that if the show should have “less of one kind of story and more of another,” then advertisers might find the program more inviting.

“Copy” has always evoked strong pro and con reactions, and Kelly said nothing has changed on that front.

Par’s public position concerning “Copy” contrasts sharply with that of Twentieth TV’s “A Current Affair.” The syndicator of that show is concerned about its reputation in the ad community and is quick to admit that it has taken steps to cut back on the sleaze element.

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