Inside Moves

More mouse for Minkoff?

Although a script for a planned sequel to “Stuart Little” is not yet complete, Columbia Pictures is trying to nail down Rob Minkoff to reprise his directing duties.

The problem is that the success of “Stuart,” the first live-action film for longtime Disney animated film director Minkoff (“The Lion King”), has resulted in the helmer being courted by a number of different studios for various projects.

Sources said that within the next month Sony may decide to settle for at least hanging on to Minkoff as a producer or executive producer on the next “Stuart Little” movie and perhaps future installments of what is being laid out as a franchise series.

–Scott Hettrick

CBS ready to go to the mat for TNN

It was one of the weirdest news briefings of the month. CBS in New York and its owned cable network TNN gathered reporters at Gotham’s Black Rock to tout the wonders of Arena Football, a scaled-down but jazzed-up indoor-stadium imitation of the National Football League.

But what none of the officials of TNN or Arena could talk about publicly was the intense negotiations going on behind the scenes between Viacom/CBS and Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation that could transform TNN from an also-ran in the ratings to one of the Nielsen elite.

If these negotiations bear fruit for Viacom/CBS, McMahon could end up yanking the high-rated weekly WWF wrestling events off USA and funneling them to TNN, along with as many as two weekend afternoon games of the WWF’s new football league, the XFL. NBC has given its imprimatur to the XFL by becoming a half-owner of the new league and scheduling weekly primetime Saturday games, starting in February when the XFL says it will open for business.

TNN’s officials also had to soft-pedal the bragging rights that will come from being able to cross-promote Arena Football on such Viacom-owned cable networks as MTV, VH1 and Nick at Nite. Until the merger between Viacom and CBS becomes final, all of the cross-pollination strategies are going on behind the curtain: The last thing the parties want to do is make it appear they regard regulatory approval of the merger as a fait accompli.

But TNN has already begun pulling away from its roots as a country music-oriented network and moving toward general entertainment. TNN produces the original action hour “18 Wheels of Justice,” and schedules such off-network series as “The Mag-nificent Seven” and “Dead Man’s Gun.”

As TNN prexy David Hall put it at the news briefing, “You won’t hear us referring any more to what the initials TNN stand for.” TNN policy has banned those three words — the Nashville Network — from the vocabulary of all employees of TNN and its parent CBS.

— John Dempsey

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