NBC, A&E share ‘Watch’ spec

Special interviews emergency workers about Sept. 11

NEW YORK — The TV industry’s efforts at honoring the heroes who rescued victims of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center has produced an unusual sharing by NBC and A&E of the two-hour “Third Watch” special primetime salute that aired Oct. 15.

Under a hastily put-together deal engineered by John Wells, one of the executive producers of “Third Watch,” and producer-distributor Warner Bros. TV, the “Third Watch” episode is set for a repeat primetime cablecast on A&E Oct. 26 at 9 p.m.

NBC’s Oct. 15 run of “Third Watch” at 8 p.m. performed slightly below par (averaging 9.71 million households), at least in part because it was up against such powerful competition as the CBS Monday comedy block led by “Everybody Loves Raymond,” the Athletics-Yankees baseball playoff game on Fox and the first hour of “Monday Night Football” on ABC.

A&E became the logical cable outlet for an instant repeat of the two-hour spec because the cabler has purchased the rights to “Third Watch” reruns for a hefty $700,000 an episode. A&E will be able to program the repeats at least five times a week beginning next fall.

Critical favor

Wells and Warner Bros. persuaded NBC to agree to the offbeat rerun strategy because the episode earned critical recognition for abandoning fiction in favor of interviews with the emergency workers, whose emotional recounting of the events of Sept. 11 struck a chord with viewers.

It also didn’t hurt that NBC is a 25% owner of A&E.

A&E will do wraparounds of the Oct. 26 repeat, entitled “In Their Own Words,” with actor Bobby Cannavale as host. Cannavale performed on “Third Watch” for its first two seasons before leaving to take a role in the A&E original series “100 Centre Street.”

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