NBC busts a movie

Sitcom block to force sweeps preemptions

NEW YORK — NBC’s cancellation of its Monday movie may eventually pay off, but it will force preemptions of series during sweeps to accommodate the network’s miniseries.

The move to a single movie night, a strategy also being studied by CBS, marks a blow to Lindy DeKoven, NBC’s well-respected exec VP in charge of movies, miniseries and specials. DeKoven was responsible for this season’s top minis, “Asteroid” and “Pandora’s Clock,” and resisted the move.

“NBC wanted to try an 18-sitcom schedule, and the only way they could do it was by knocking out a movie,” she told Daily Variety of the plan to run four female-skewing sitcoms on Monday night. “It was an economic decision.”

“We’re not going to (develop) that many fewer movies than we were going to do anyway,” said NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer, who vowed to preempt Monday series so the network doesn’t “lose the advantage” of a Sunday-Monday combo during sweeps months. But he said NBC will produce fewer specials, instead opting for movies on other nights when needed.

Vying for Sunday slot

“We’re making more movies to protect our downside,” DeKoven said, with 25 made-fors and five minis planned for next season. Among them are “Merlin,” “House of Frankenstein,” “Atomic Train,” “Crime & Punishment” and a new adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” Theatricals due for 1997-98 include “Twister,” “Braveheart” and “Crimson Tide.” All will now vie for the single weekly movie slot on Sundays.

While Ohlmeyer said the new Monday schedule was a yearlong plan, several ad buyers and even some NBC execs expect the Peacock web to revert to movies by midseason, once “Monday Night Football” on ABC ends, making the strategy less risky than it seems.

Although DeKoven will get less airtime for her programming, she is expected to get more heavily involved in drama development. And she put a brave face on for advertisers during the presentation.

“We may not get as many at-bats next season, but my team plans to get just as many home runs,” she said.

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