The fate of the new TV season was still in doubt Wednesday — except at NBC, which has decided to push back its fall premieres until Sept. 24.
The tragedy may also have an immediate impact on projects this development season. A few pitches had already been made around town about projects set in an airport; net execs said they’re a little wary about doing anything regarding air travel at this point.
For the most part, schedulers at the Big Six were taking things hour by hour, in many cases waiting to see how the aftermath of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks unfolded before making any long-term decisions about programming.
“We’re on the fence right now,” CBS topper Leslie Moonves said of his net’s view on whether to delay the season’s start. “We’re looking at all the pros and cons. I could give you 10 reasons why we should delay it and 10 reasons why we shouldn’t.”
On Wednesday, at least, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox stuck with wall-to-wall news coverage; The WB and UPN resumed primetime entertainment programming.
Frog also announced plans to launch its Friday comedy block as scheduled. The rest of the weblet’s fall sked — like rival UPN — wasn’t set to roll out until Sept. 24, eliminating the need for hard choices.
The other nets weren’t so lucky.
After talking to their chief rivals, NBC officials Wednesday announced the net’s fall premieres wouldn’t begin until Sept. 24 — even if the official start of the season isn’t delayed.
“Given the uncertainty that surrounds the national security and the mood of the country, it’s the right thing to do,” said NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker.
A partial factor in the decision: In New York, NBC is without a broadcast antenna. WNBC’s transmitter was destroyed in Tuesday’s collapse of the World Trade Center, along with all other major Gotham broadcasters, save WCBS.
Situation won’t be completely fixed by Sept. 24, but it’s expected to be better. NBC might also want the promo base afforded by its Wednesday and Thursday skeds — a platform wiped out this week by news coverage.
Other nets weren’t so certain waiting was the right thing to do.
WB debuts shows
The WB decided to go forward with its Friday premieres after affils urged it to resume entertainment programming.
“We feel very strongly that to disrupt our schedule completely further reinforces the sense of disruption in people’s lives,” said WB Entertainment prexy Jordan Levin. “We don’t want to contribute to the terrorists’ desire to create chaos.”
Frog’s aud skews much younger than the other nets, and Levin believes those viewers need an alternative to the horrific images filling the airwaves. The WB also doesn’t have its own news organization.
CBS and ABC execs, meanwhile, weren’t certain Wednesday what they would do — though a few early decisions have been made.
While CBS might still air new laffers on Monday, a sneak preview of “The Ellen Show” won’t go forward as planned next week. The hope is to launch the skein Sept. 24, particularly if the Emmys can be reskedded for Sept. 23.
Eye also seemed to be leaning toward bowing drama “Wolf Lake” on Sept. 19, even if the rest of its premieres are pushed back.
ABC originally wanted to delay the season a week, according to industry insiders. But net now seems leaning toward bowing some new shows next week, particularly if “Monday Night Football” goes forward as planned.
“We’re all trying to be responsible and do the right thing,” said ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairman Lloyd Braun. “Obviously the situation is very fluid and we’re still evaluating our options. Most importantly, we’re trying to be responsible and responsive to the needs of the public.”
Fox execs were in favor of keeping the season intact and launch on time Monday. But to a degree, moving premiere week back a week or not wouldn’t have much of an impact on the network, which isn’t scheduled to launch most of its fall sked until after the World Series, which could be delayed.
The net still plans to go ahead with a full night of debuts on Tuesday, though no final decision has been made.
Fox stuck on deck
Fox may ultimately feel the biggest impact weeks from now, should Major League Baseball opt to push its season back a week. If that becomes the case, the World Series would push Fox’s post-baseball season premieres further into November sweeps.
Nielsen Media Research, the final arbiter of the season’s official start date, was closed Wednesday. Execs at the ratings agency, however, said they expected to discuss the issue with web officials today and make a quick decision about whether to delay the start of the season.
“We look for a consensus,” a Nielsen spokesman said. “It depends on what our customers want.”
Syndies on schedule
Meanwhile, the handful of new firstrun strips set to debut in national syndication Monday are expected to launch as scheduled.
In addition, production on most series resumed Wednesday, though a few shows remained dark. “Friends,” for example, called off this week’s taping in part because star David Schwimmer was unable to fly back from the Toronto Film Festival.
(Paula Bernstein in New York and Melissa Grego in Hollywood contributed to this report. )