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ABC nabs two sib shows

Alphabet spells Mouse channel skeins

ABC will borrow two original series from corporate sibling Disney Channel to program its Saturday morning sked for fall.

Episodes from the premiere season of the Disney Channel series “Lizzie McGuire” and “Even Stevens” will air as part of “Disney’s One Saturday Morning” on ABC beginning Sept. 15. Fresh episodes of the series will continue to air on Disney Channel.

While the repurposing no doubt will save ABC money, Jonathan Barzilay, senior VP and general manager, ABC Kids and Toon Disney, emphasized that the decision to air the two live-action series on “Disney’s One Saturday Morning” was not driven by financial concerns. Instead, the idea is to reach more of the “tween” audience, the highly coveted kid demo of 9-14 year olds.

“In a company like ours, you go where the strength is. Both ‘Lizzie’ and ‘Even’ are powerhouses with tween audiences. By showcasing them on ABC’s ‘One Saturday Morning’ lineup, we give ourselves the opportunity to broaden our audience,” said Barzilay, who added that if the experiment works, it will be repeated.

While this marks the first time ABC will adopt programming from the Disney Channel, it’s not unprecedented for a broadcast net to borrow programming from a corporate sibling. Last fall, CBS began airing a “Nick Jr.” block of preschool programming from sister net Nickelodeon.

Meanwhile, “Sabrina: The Animated Series” will exit ABC’s Saturday morning lineup after the first four weeks of the season in order to make way for “Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action,” a new animated series from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

‘Lizzie,’ ‘Even’ reupped

Separately, Disney Channel announced Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. Tour in Pasadena that it has ordered 22 new episodes of both “Lizzie McGuire” and “Even Stevens,” marking their second and third seasons, respectively. The two series, which air daily on Disney Channel, will begin production in September, and new episodes will begin airing in second-quarter 2002.

The kids cable net has also acquired all 66 episodes of the live-action syndie program “Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” from Buena Vista Television. The one-hour series will air exclusively on the Disney Channel, beginning Sept. 3.

Disney Channel plans to premiere a live-action, half-hour reality series, “Totally in Tune,” in October. The series will follow the orchestra members of Los Angeles’ Hamilton High, a magnet school for music. The net will also premiere a new, half-hour animated series “Stanley,” in September, as part of Playhouse Disney, the net’s programming block for preschoolers. The series is also slated to air in primetime on the recently announced Playhouse Disney net, skedded to launch in early 2002.

Toon Disney in mix

Two “One Saturday Morning” vets — “Disney’s Pepper Ann” and “Disney’s Doug” — will segue to Toon Disney, Disney’s 24-hour animation net, this fall. “Rupert,” an animated series based on a comicstrip character from London’s Daily Express newspaper, will also join Toon Disney in the fall.

Disney/Pixar’s “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command,” which previously aired as part of ABC’s “One Saturday Morning” will now air exclusively on UPN, where it will continue to be stripped six days a week as part of the weblet’s block of Disney-branded kid programming.

Disney Channel is available in 72 million homes, and Toon Disney is available in over 23 million homes.

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