Studios USA curtails ‘Free Speech’ strip

Distrib concerned about attracting broad-based auds

Studios USA has scrapped plans to launch the syndie newsmag strip “Free Speech” this fall.

The half-hour show, produced by Gotham-based BNN, had been cleared for takeoff on 130 stations covering 85% of U.S. TV households.

But Studios USA brass had grown squeamish about its prospects for attracting a broad-based audience, and the distrib was unwilling to risk the $10 million-plus required to mount a Monday-Friday strip for a full season.

“Free Speech” was designed to feature docu-style material shot by amateur newshounds. Studios USA had become concerned about whether there would be enough worthwhile material sent in by viewers to support a daily show.

Not now

“The show in its current form, when combined with the economic models, makes it prohibitive for us to proceed,” said Steve Rosenberg, president of Studios USA Domestic TV.

BNN intends to keep the project alive, possibly as an Internet-distributed program. BNN chief Steve Rosenbaum noted that the planned “Free Speech” website would have played a big part in soliciting contributions for the TV show.

” ‘Free Speech’ was meant to be the first syndication-online convergence TV project,” Rosenbaum said. “Maybe we were 10 seconds too early, but we certainly were not a half-hour too early. It’s just a matter of bringing together the right partners and the right distribution.”

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