The wounds that have yet to heal between ABC, certain affiliates and advertisers over “NYPD Blue” may be reopened with the network’s decision to air an episode of “Roseanne” in which the title character kisses a woman in a gay bar.
ABC affils and network executives are meeting this week in Washington, D.C., where the “Roseanne” episode and the continuing debate over “NYPD Blue” will be topics of discussion.
“I want to get a look at it first before I decide whether to air it, but it does not excite me,” said Clyde Payne, VP-general manager, WBKO, Bowling Green, Ky.
Payne, a former affiliate board chairman, is one of roughly 40 ABC affiliates that do not carry “NYPD Blue.””I don’t know when Hollywood types will take the hint and clean up a little bit. The stations take the brunt of the criticism,” Payne said.
Advertisers, who get nervous at the slightest hint of controversy, may also pull out of the “Roseanne” episode, which is scheduled to air March 1 — the last Tuesday of the February sweeps.
“We will screen it and make a decision then,” Betsy Frank of Saatchi & Saatchi said. “The publicity is not helping them.” That’s only with advertisers, Frank noted, anticipating a huge turnout by viewers.
Worth the price
“We have some advertisers who won’t go near it, but plenty who will say there is a price that it is worth,” said Grey Advertising senior VP Jon Mandel.
Rev. Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Assn., which has waged an ongoing campaign against “NYPD Blue,” said, “Lesbians kissing will cost them in ad revenue.”
Thirty-second spots for “Roseanne” usually average about $ 250,000. Even if some advertisers run scared from the episode, ABC should have little trouble selling the show in the scatter market — though the pricetag might be lower.
“Whenever an advertiser pulls out, we always fill it, usually to a movie studio,” an ABC spokesman said. The show, he noted, will run with an advisory, although the wording has not been determined.
Arnolds stand firm
In response to the network’s plan to include an advisory, “Roseanne” exec producer Tom Arnold said in a statement that the show will be delivered to the network as shot. “No editing will be done,” Arnold said.
NBC recently was hurt by advertiser resistance to its made-for-TV movie “Witness to the Execution.” After the show aired, media buyers felt NBC should take some of the heat for advertiser concern because of the web’s controversial promotion spots.
“There was nothing wrong with ‘Witness.’ It was a parody and anyone with a brain could figure that out. The way it was positioned from a PR standpoint was the worst thing about it,” said Saatchi & Saatchi’s Frank.
NBC’s ad sales efforts have been better for tonight’s “Jackson Family Honors” special, which the network says sold out — although apparently at reduced rates — despite the controversy surrounding Michael Jackson.