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NBC seeks to clean up suds sked

'World' or 'Sunset' to be axed

NEW YORK — NBC said it still plans to have three soaps on the air this fall — though for how much longer remains an open question.

For several months, Peacock execs have acknowledged that one of its two struggling sudsers — either the veteran “Another World” or newcomer “Sunset Beach” — is destined to get the boot sometime this summer to make way for “Passions,” a new NBC-owned soap bowing in July.

But now, sources confirmed that the web is considering a plan to eventually drop both sudsers in favor of three hours of network daytime programming made up of soaps “Days of Our Lives” and “Passions,” as well as the tentatively titled “Later Today,” the NBC News hour that will replace the syndication-bound “Leeza” this fall.

Ongoing discussions between NBC and its affils over compensation and exclusivity will determine the final shape of the web’s daytime lineup, sources said.

No final decisions have been made, however, and an NBC representative Monday flatly denied reports that the Peacock would go to a two-soap sked next season.

“In the fall, we plan to have three soaps on the air,” the rep said.

As for whether the third soap will be “World” or “Sunset Beach,” “We’ll make that decision by May 1,” the rep added.

Whichever soap gets picked up isn’t likely to get a long-term commitment from the net, however. Sources said NBC would likely give only a one- or two-year renewal to the soap.

According to Madison Avenue insiders, this is because NBC has been considering for several months the idea of a two-sudser sked, in part because of the shrinking supply of ad dollars devoted to daytime. Example: Procter & Gamble, which produces “Another World,” pulled an estimated $100 million from the daypart last year.

NBC’s affils also have a terrible record of setting up the net’s daytime shows in pattern, hampering the Peacock’s ability to promote its shows and to flow audience from one soap to the next. With two soaps, NBC might be able to get more affils to run “Days” as a lead-in to “Passions” and, eventually, clear “Later Today” at 9 a.m.

The net also figures to save an estimated $10 million in affil compensation by giving back an hour of programming to affils, though it’s unlikely that would be a determining factor in any decision to cut back.

Some NBC-owned stations in major markets also may be pressing for less network programming in daytime. The net’s soaps always have underperformed in major urban areas, and some station execs would like the chance to experiment with other kinds of original or syndie programming, sources said.

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