De La Hoya K.O. knocks HBO’s ‘Arliss’ for a loop

NEW YORK — Cable operators were less than thrilled when an early knockout engineered by Oscar De La Hoya caused the premiere episode of the second season of HBO’s satirical sitcom “Arliss” to run 35 minutes earlier than its scheduled midnight EDT-slot Saturday.

“A predictable schedule is what cable is all about,” says Bob Wilson, VP of programming for Cox Cable, a top-five multi-system cable operator. “HBO should’ve run the filler show right after the fight and gone with ‘Arliss’ at midnight.” The filler show was a rerun of Jeff Cesario’s half-hour standup-comedy act.

Lynne Buening, senior VP of programming for Falcon Cable TV, the 13th largest MSO, says, “HBO made a big mistake because it didn’t tell anybody what it was doing in advance.” Instead of scheduling an old half-hour Cesario standup, she says she would’ve double-run the “Arliss” episode so that people tuning in at midnight would see the scheduled program. Or, she adds, play a repeat “Arliss” from last season after the fight as a lead in to the midnight original.

The situation was particularly galling for cable ops, since there had been a publicity push, including TV Guide ads, listing the midnight slot.

Dave Baldwin, senior VP of program planning for HBO, acknowledged that the net might have included a line in the ads saying “Arliss” would run “immediately after the De La Hoya fight.” But he added that HBO “always planned to get right into the ‘Arliss’ show” to take advantage of the big lead-in if the fight ran short.

On the West Coast, the fight ended at about 8:20 p.m., so “Arliss” ran at 8:25 instead of its 10:30 p.m. timeslot.

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