Nobody’s playing TV games

Syndies, sports suspend action as cablers serve news

The worlds of cable, syndication and TV sports virtually shut down Tuesday in light of the terrorist acts in Gotham and Washington.

Many general entertainment cable networks threw out their regularly scheduled shows in favor of tapping into a national news feed from one of their sister networks.

But a number of cable networks — USA, A&E, Discovery, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and AMC — did not opt out of their regular schedules, on the assumption that subscribers would have many other channels on which to find news of the attacks.

At least three networks — Food, QVC and HGTV — jettisoned their schedules for a printed statement saying they would be suspending their programming in light of the tragedy.

Cable will be further affected in New York because the city was in the middle of what the industry dubs “hell week,” an annual event that draws cable industry bigwigs from all over the country. The confab culminates in the Kaitz Dinner, which was slated to take place on Thursday.

In a statement, the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. said it has canceled “all cable-industry activities” for the week, including the Kaitz Dinner.

Magazines address news

Although many firstrun syndicated programs are in the midst or on the cusp of their season premieres, the firstrun syndicated programs that remained in production Tuesday were for the most part day-and-date magazines.

NBC’s “Access Hollywood,” for example, offered a pre-planned TV preview to stations, and Telepictures’ “Extra” was in production on stories related to the attacks. Like most syndie offerings, both were preempted or delayed by many local stations in favor of news coverage.

“Extra” stepped directly into the fray when a production crew took a break from filming the destruction from a tourist boat in order to help firefighters transport victims, an “Extra” rep said.

Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” was prepping an episode Tuesday that focused on how the entertainment community was handling the news, including contributions from Jann Carl, who is in Toronto to cover the film fest there.

“Right now nothing is more important than today’s tragedy. That’s what we’re covering, how the entertainment world is stopping to grieve and grasp what’s happening,” an “ET” spokeswoman said.

With the exception of “Judge Joe Brown,” which continued to shoot as skedded Tuesday, all other Par syndie productions were dark. That included Gotham-based talker “Montel Williams.”

Paramount said that production schedules for its shows going forward were still to be determined.

Productions on hold

The TBD status generally held true for most syndicators’ productions.

Buena Vista Television, for example, suspended production of its new talker “Iyanla” Tuesday and todayand will reevaluate its sked today.

The same goes for “Live! With Regis & Kelly,” which broadcasts live at 9 a.m. ET weekdays and broke at 9:18 a.m. Tuesday in favor of coverage of the events. “Live!” and “Iyanla” will be in repeats today.

Aside from “Extra,” all other Telepictures and Warner Bros. syndie productions are dark for the time being, including Gotham-based “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “Change of Heart” and “People’s Court.”

The expectation is that many shows will not hop immediately back into production. In addition to the time it may take for staffers to cope with the events of Tuesday, fresh episodes are likely to get lost in the preemption shuffle.

Also, for many syndie shows, the involvement of studio auds is integral to the production. Securing aud participation, particularly in New York City, likely will be difficult in the coming days and weeks.

Sports takes a timeout

Meanwhile, ESPN and ESPN2 discarded their usual sports fare to carry their sister network ABC’s news coverage — not that there were many sporting events to cover.

Major League Baseball, for example, canceled its entire 15-game schedule for Tuesday.

MLB’s cancellations will affect regional-sports cable networks throughout the U.S., which will have to come up with substitute programming.

Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, held out the possibility of engineering further cancellations, although he said he has made no decision yet about the games skedded for today.The baseball games were the most visible of the sports cancellations that affected everything from wrestling to golf.

The NFL was still planning to go forward with games this Sunday; no formal decision has been made yet.

The World Wrestling Federation postponed its “Smackdown” event Tuesday from the Compaq Center in Houston that it would have taped for telecasting on UPN Thursday. The WWF has tentatively rescheduled the bouts for Thursday.

Major League Soccer postponed the four games it had scheduled for today. A U.S. Women’s Cup doubleheader at Columbus, Ohio, was postponed, and the PGA put off the Thursday opening of its World Golf Championship.

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