New line of family shows in Pax mix

Peacock pact has helped with net's p'gramming

It’s not easy being Pax.

With smaller budgets and weaker distribution, the family values net can’t compete with the big networks when it comes to programming, power and prestige.

Nonetheless, Pax has more going for it this year, thanks in part to its relationship with NBC. With the Peacock’s 32 percent investment in Pax, both sides continue to explore ways to repurpose programming.

“As we’ve been going along here month by month doing this program-sharing with NBC, I think they’re really all designed to achieve three objectives,” says Jeff Sagansky, president and CEO at Paxson Communications. “One is to increase the awareness of the Pax TV service in all of these markets and throughout the country; obviously, to increase the ratings; and three, to provide greater choices for our viewers.”

In recent months Pax has aired coverage of the U.S. Olympics trials and repeats of NBC movies. (Pax says those movies increased their time periods by 60 percent). Pax stations that have sealed joint sales agreements with their local NBC stations have also begun repurposing those stations’ evening and late newscasts.

“And in some markets, including New York and a few others that we’re going to be announcing soon, we’re actually going to be working with the NBC station to produce an original half-hour newscast exclusively for the Pax station,” Sagansky says.

And on the flip side, NBC has helped give mass exposure this summer to the Pax series “Mysterious Ways” by airing original episodes of the drama Monday nights.

After six runs on NBC, the show moved to Pax at the end of August. “Mysterious Ways,” which was originally developed at NBC a few years ago, stars Adrian Pasdar and Rae Dawn Chong as an anthropolgy professor and psychiatrist, respectively, who investigate unusual phenomena.

“If it isn’t the best way to get a new Pax series sampled, then I don’t know what is,” Sagansky says. “I think their promotion has been incredibly effective that I don’t think we’re going to have to explain to people what it is…I’m predicting the show is going to be a big hit for us.”

As for Pax’s overall programming strategy, family viewing is still the buzzword. The outlet will continue to air original productions at 8 p.m., followed by off-net repeats of “Touched by an Angel” at 9 p.m. and “Diagnosis Murder” at 10 p.m.

“We don’t have to be in people’s faces and have people eating rats to be cutting edge,” Sagansky says. “The audience is extremely loyal and appreciative of it, and I think we’re going to continue to grow this year because of it.”

One thing you won’t be seeing anytime soon on Pax: “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.” Pax had originally announced plans to rebroadcast the newscast starting this summer, but had to scrap those plans after NBC affils loudly protested.

“Whether Brokaw finally makes it or not, I can’t tell, but I know that we’ll be sharing a lot more programming, both news, sports and entertainment,” Sagansky says.

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