Pax picking up after Peacock

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NEW YORK — Paxson Communications is drawing up a blueprint that will allow its Pax TV, the family-oriented broadcast network, to piggyback on NBC and grab the first rerun of an original NBC movie in the same week as its network premiere.

In a presentation to reporters and analysts at the PaineWebber media conference here on Monday, Jeff Sagansky, president and CEO of Paxson Communications, said that ever since NBC engineered a $415 million equity investment in Paxson earlier this fall, the two companies have discussed ways in which NBC can bolster Pax TV’s presence in the marketplace.

“We’re now co-developing primetime programming with NBC so that a brand-new Pax TV series could premiere on NBC during the summer-rerun months before it starts on Pax in the fall,” says Sagansky. That strategy would give NBC, which reaches 99% of U.S. households, an original show during a summer of wall-to-wall repeats. The NBC run would create awareness among viewers, Sagansky says, helping the show’s chances at scoring better ratings when it gets to Pax, which clears only about 76% of U.S. households.

On NBC premieres, Sagansky says “it doesn’t make any sense for NBC to use up to 500 gross ratings points on its network to promote a movie or special, and then run it only once.” Pax TV could get a big Nielsen rating if it scheduled the same movie a day or two later, while the promotion is still fresh in viewers’ minds. He cites the model of a cable network like TNT, which plays a firstrun movie five or six times in the month in which it premieres in order to take advantage of the publicity the network generates.

There won’t be any specific titles announced in this joint-programming scenario until the first quarter of 2000, Sagansky says. But locally, Pax plans to timeshift early-evening local news programs on the NBC-owned TV stations in Washington D.C., and Providence, R.I., so that the newscasts run on the Paxson-owned stations the next morning.

If this timeshift works, the plan is to duplicate it for local news in the nine other markets where both NBC and Pax TV own television stations, Sagansky says.

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