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Primetime Double Play Suggested For Future

CBS Entertainment prexy Jeff Sagansky, suggesting ways for broadcast networks to minimize risks, pointed to the likelihood that a primetime program someday will play more than once a week, with one run on the web and another on cable.

Both runs, Sagansky told a Broadcast/Cable Financial Management conference audience last week, would be covered by the same license fee; thus the webs would be able to save money by sharing the cost of the fee with the cable service.

Appearing on a panel moderated by indie producer Fred Silverman, Sagansky said the current challenge for network programmers is to find compelling programs for less money even as broadcast television is being “nibbled to death” by cable.

More than reality

He said reality programming is not the only form of lower-cost shows and that there’s more to the future than “Rescue 911” and “Top Cops.”

Another way for networks to address the new realities of the marketplace, Sagansky said, is to go directly to a sponsor, as CBS did with Procter & Gamble on the “Northern Exposure” series.

Writer-producer Steven Bochco said his response to the need for lower-cost programs in the face of fragmented audiences is to design shows that have “controllability.”

This means shows with more interior sets and fewer exteriors, which involve having to adjust to unpredictable situations, Bochco said.

Asked by Silverman to forecast the tv environment in the remainder of the ’90s, Michael King, prexy and CEO of King World, predicted that firstrun syndication will remain largely unchanged for the next five years. He said the biggest challenge will be bringing the message, or program, to the public’s attention.

P-p-v is future

Shelley Duvall, chairwoman and CEO of Think Entertainment, predicted that a lot of programming is headed for pay-per-view.

Silverman, picking up on Sagansky’s forecast of multiple runs of primetime shows as a way of getting more mileage out of licensing fees, wondered if primetime strips are not a way of the future.

Sagansky was the only panelist who responded negatively to the concept. He said while primetime strips may or may not work, they certainly would take away from network tv’s diversity. He said such a programming move would be “a sad development for our business,” even if the economics are in its favor.

Bochco, asked if he could turn out “L.A. Law” five times a week, did not dismiss the idea. He said it is at least theoretically possible, but the biggest problems would be figuring out how to do it logistically and generating coherent scripts.

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