Skates great for syndies

Webs taking 'Tales' for a spin

Figure skating, which burst into prominence as fodder for primetime network specials after Tonya Harding’s assault on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994, is making its presence felt for the first time in TV syndication.

Fifty-four TV stations have signed for a series of six “Fairy Tales on Ice” events syndicated by Target Vision, the distribution company founded and run by Phil Oldham, a syndie veteran who also serves as a consultant to Sandy Frank Entertainment, the Partner Stations Group and Pappas Broadcasting.

The first special, “Peggy Fleming’s Nutcracker on Ice,” is available between now and Dec. 31 in one-hour or two-hour form. Among the TV stations on board are WWOR New York, KCOP Los Angeles, WCIU Chicago, KYW Philadelphia, KBHK San Francisco, WCVB Boston, KXTX Dallas and WJLA Washington.

Target Vision keeps seven minutes within the hour for national sale, and the stations get seven minutes to sell locally. Oldham says that if the station agrees to take the two-hour version, it will pocket all 14 minutes of the second hour. Oldham’s generosity is strategic: The station will give a better time period and more promotion to the two-hour edition, so the ratings will probably be better, generating more advertising revenues for Target Vision’s seven minutes.

The second special features Kerrigan in “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” available between Feb. 20 and March 31, 2000. The third, “Cinderella,” will run between April 1 and June 30, and the dates of the fourth, “Sleeping Beauty,” with the St. Petersburg Ice Ballet, are July 1 to Aug. 30.

Dorothy Hamill stars in a “George Gershwin Tribute” from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, and the “Superstars on Ice” hour is available from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30.

A repeat of “Peggy Fleming’s Nutcracker on Ice” rounds out the “Fairy Tales” package, Dec. 1 to Dec. 31, 2000.

In 1998, the Big Four broadcast networks scheduled 22 primetime figure-skating specials and 18 weekend-daytime events, compared with a total of only 31 in 1997 (and a mere one telecast in 1990), according to a survey compiled by TN Media.

Cable has also embraced figure skating, increasing the number of specials from 42 in 1997 to 65 in 1998. ESPN and ESPN2 scheduled 47 of the 65 last year, with USA doing eight and TBS putting on six of them.