Networks Announce New Lineups At TV Critics Association Press Tour
The press tour differs from upfront presentations, because the networks provide more specific information about the shows, such as the exact starting dates and times. NBC says it will launch its season Sept. 23 with a 90-minute version of Fear Factor, followed by a 90-minute episode of Crossing Jordan. The next night it will premiere two new comedies, In-Laws and Hidden Hills and run the first episode of Frasier.
At the event, NBC also indicated this will be the last season for its hit show, Friends.
ABC touted its happy hour of comedy programs starring John Ritter's 8 Simple Rules. The network is also bringing back The Bachelor, a highly rated dating show, while adding The Bachelorette, a midseason sequel. The network is trying to rebound from a weak year in which prime time ratings slipped by more than 20%. It sold $1.5 billion upfront, the same as last year, which is $700 million less than two seasons ago, when Millionaire reigned supreme. It will be helped this year by acquiring the rights to NBA basketball from NBC and broadcasting the Super Bowl in January, which will be a launch pad for a new late night show with Jimmy Kimmel.
CBS president Les Moonves plugged the network dramas, saying Thursday night's duo of CSI and Without a Trace will present a strong challenge to NBC's ER. He also thinks CSI: Miami will challenge NBC's Crossing Jordan on Mondays.
Moonves said the season will start on Sept. 23 and CBS will re-air the 9/11 documentary on Sept. 9, two days before the anniversary.
Besides plugging the lineup, Moonves discussed product placement, which is growing in popularity with the prevalence of TiVo and ReplayTV technologies that let viewers skip commercials. But Moonves said product placement doesn't work on all kinds of shows. While it's popular on reality shows like Survivor, where contestants wear brand name products and consume popular beverages, it doesn't work on scripted shows like CSI, which doesn't lend itself to product placement. Moonves said he had 20 meetings to discuss product placement with advertisers last season, compared with only three meetings the season before.
Meanwhile, NBC entertainment president Jeff Zucker downplayed the threat of digital video recorders and said product placement wasn't important to NBC. The biggest threat is from increasing cable viewership, which will require networks to run fresh content in the summer, instead of reruns. He said within four years there will be a 52 week original programming cycle, including scripted content during the summer. It had been reported he would announce specific new NBC shows for summer 2003 yesterday, but he didn't do it, according to a network spokesman.
Before the two-day network press tour, which concluded yesterday, cable networks held their own five day press tour. Among the special programs announced were In Memoriam: September 11, 2001 on HBO and Inside the Pentagon, a National Geographic Channel special on the Pentagon in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Lifetime announced a special movie, We Were the Mulvaneys, Court TV announced a new crime series, Power, Privilege and Justice and Showtime announced Street Time, a drama series about the Federal Parole System. CNN announced the continuation of NewsNight with Aaron Brown and American Morning with Paula Zahn.