EYE SURGERY: CBS KIDVID REVAMPED

CBS officially unveiled plans on Tuesday to revamp its Saturday morning kidvid slate for the 1997-98 TV season, slicing two hours of children’s programming and modifying its strategy with three hours of FCC-friendly educational/informational product geared to an older child audience (Daily Variety, Nov. 27).

Lucy Johnson, CBS senior VP of daytime and children’s programming and special projects, said that the three new hours would “build on the kind of programs we offered this year, shows like ‘Beakman’s World,’ ‘Bailey Kipper’s P.O.V.,’ ‘CBS Storybreak’ and ‘Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House’ — qualified programs kids can also enjoy watching.”

The remaining two hours on Saturdays will be turned over to CBS News for a block designed as a companion to “CBS News Sunday Morning,” but promising a quicker pace than that program, with regular segments on medicine and health, personal finance, business news and entertainment news and reviews.

The Eye web will thus drop out of the race to attract the age 2-11 crowd, a competition it had been losing with increasingly poor ratings. As of last week, it had a season-to-date ratings average of 1.6, down 45% from last season, while languishing a distant fifth behind Fox, Nickelodeon, ABC and the WB.

So, rather than continue to fight an uphill and seemingly fruitless battle, the network will now concentrate on attracting the older 6-to-11 set with shows that fulfill the FCC’s minimum requirement for “prosocial” or educational fare.

While CBS execs aren’t expected to unveil full programming plans until the kids upfront market kicks off in February, the program candidates include the aforementioned science-themed “Beakman’s World,” the Time Inc./Eyemark Entertainment series “Sports Illustrated for Kids,” and a magazine series aimed at kids and starring an animated spokesdog.

CBS Entertainment has recently formed an advisory council to guide CBS executives and producers in the kidvid arena. The Eye web has also entered into a development deal with “Sesame Street” producer Children’s Television Workshop.

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