“The Crusaders” has brought a Peacock flock into the fold.With Buena Vista Television locking up a deal last week with the six NBC O&Os to license its new hourlong, weekly investigative advocacy series, the Disney syndie subsid has handed “The Crusaders” a firm production commitment for 35 episodes this fall. But the agreement, which brings the program’s clearances to 98 markets covering 80% of the country, may lead to the departure of the show’s primary anchor, Pat Harvey. Harvey’s role on the series could conflict with her anchor duties on KCAL-TV, the Disney-owned indie in Los Angeles that has a sizable commitment to news. Although Harvey’s fate has not been decided, it’s doubtful KCAL would want to have one of its most identifiable personalities appearing on a rival station. The company’s own indie lost out on “The Crusaders” because BVTV is trying to position it as an access magazine strip, possibly as early as fall 1994. With news-oriented series playing best on network affiliates, Disney’s stand-alone L.A. station never really had much of a chance. Neither did the powerful Chris-Craft/United TV group of indies, which also made a serious run for “The Crusaders.” In the end, BVTV couldn’t resist the plume of the Peacock. “We wanted to place it on network affiliates,” BVTV prez Bob Jacquemin said. “It’s designed to be a prime access strip, and it just makes sense to work diligently toward that end.” Indies and Fox affils account for only about 15% of the clearances, with the Fox stations mostly looking at weekend plays coming out of the weblet’s Saturday night reality sked. With the NBC O&O pact, BVTV has wrapped up 47 of the top 50 markets, including all of the top 30. Roughly 40% of the clearances are in access or prime time, with about a dozen network affils so far committing to pre-empt network fare. Additional affils with flexible contracts could opt to play “The Crusaders” in prime — a move likely to go over like a brick with network affiliate relations departments. Most of the other major markets involved in the deal have agreed to double-run the series, often in a mixture of early and late fringe slots adjacent to local newscasts. Despite the range of time periods for the series, Jacquemin is confident there are enough access and prime time berths for the expensive, all-barter show to profit. “The Crusaders” is expected to cost a minimum of $ 400,000 per week, which means it will need to attract premium rates in the pending syndie upfront market. Jacquemin captured a wide range of time periods for “The Crusaders” on the NBC stations, including a prime access berth on WNBC-TV in New York. In L.A., KNBC-TV will play the show at 4 p.m. Saturdays leading into news and Sunday at midnight coming out of “The George Michael Sports Machine.” Should “The Crusaders” become a strip, BVTV could have difficulty securing access berths on the NBC O&Os. KNBC, for instance, is enjoying a fair amount of success with “Entertainment Tonight” and “Hard Copy” from 7-8 p.m. Neither look like they will go away soon.
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