Cable window widens

USA gets firstrun web rights to 5 Col pix

The trend by basic cablers to blow out the traditional network broadcast window continued Monday as the USA Network announced it had acquired the exclusive web window rights to a package of five Columbia TriStar films: “The Remains of the Day,” “The Age of Innocence,” “The Fan,” “Never Talk to Strangers” and “The Professional.”

All of the films will be available to USA in 1998 except “The Fan,” which is tagged for 1999.

The announcement came Monday on the final day of the cable portion of the Television Critics Assn. tour in Pasadena, where it was also revealed that TBS had grabbed first network window for “Batman & Robin” (1999) and “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” (2000).

Other news at the TCA press tour included:

CNN chairman, prexy and CEO Tom Johnson revealed that his network remains interested in luring “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw into the CNN fold. “We continue to believe in a strong, decisive move to have a major anchor (on our news) at 8 p.m.,” Johnson said, “and we continue to eagerly explore the possibility of Tom Brokaw. I wouldn’t put odds on it occurring, but (Time Warner vice chairman) Ted (Turner) has taken this on as a personal recruiting task.

Johnson said that the network could not begin any formal talks with Brokaw until later this year, due to his contract. “But if we don’t get Tom, we’ll go after somebody else,” he said.

TNT is scheduled to begin offering a West Coast programming feed sometime during the second half of 1998.

The USA Network will partner with Hallmark Entertainment to develop the classic novel “Huckleberry Finn” into a four-hour miniseries slated to go into production in 1998. The network is already working with Hallmark on its first-ever miniseries, “Moby Dick,” currently in production in Melbourne, Australia.

Showtime has renewed the MGM Worldwide TV Group series “The Outer Limits” for a fourth season and “Poltergeist: The Legacy” for a third season despite the latter’s sluggish performance in syndication.

A&E will launch a new quarterly “Biography” spinoff series entitled “Biography Presents: Uncommon Americans” that will be co-hosted by Sen. Bill Bradley and “Biography” host Jack Perkins. It premieres Aug. 3. The series, said to center on “real stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” is being produced by Linda Ellerbee and her Lucky Duck Prods.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) plans to offer films featuring an Audio Commentary Track (ACT) similar to that available on laserdisc for several of its premieres this fall, including 1959’s “Some Like It Hot” (voiceover by star Jack Lemmon) and 1955’s “Bad Day at Black Rock” (voiceover by director Preston Sturges). Viewers will be able to access the ACT function through the SAP button on their TVs.

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