LIN, TRIBUNE LOOK TO FOX FOR PRIMETIME FIX
The telenovela—the staple of Hispanic television—may be the answer for the scores of independent television stations that will be created this fall when UPN and The WB merge this fall.
Gary Chapman, president of LIN Television, one of the many station groups looking for programming to fill primetime on stations in the wake of Tuesday’s merger announcement, said that he is ready to go with Twentieth Television’s planned English-language telenovela Desire. “I like it,” he told reporters at a NATPE panel in Las Vegas. “Almost every nation of the world uses this program genre except America.”
Telenovelas with themes of romance and adventure are series that run every day for a limited time. Twentieth’s Desire, for instance, runs 13 weeks. Each of the 65 episodes is an hour. Once one telenovela ends, another takes its place. Twentieth had three installments of Desire set to go in syndication starting this summer.
According to Chapman, Twentieth pulled the telenovela from syndication as soon as it heard the merger news because it wants to reevaluate its marketing and distribution plans for it. The reason, Chapman guesses, is that Twentieth sees the telenovela as replacement programming for the Fox station groups, which is losing UPN programming in several major markets. With a common corporate parent, Twentieth and Fox would be working closely together.
“The question is would they want to approach this through syndication or would they want to put a whole package around it and make a run as a network,” he said. Either way, he said, the affected LIN stations would like to be a part of it.
Also keeping an eye on Twentieth and Fox is Tribune Broadcasting, which is losing network programming (The WB) in three markets—Philadelphia, Atlanta and Seattle. Fox is trying to figure out what to do, said John Vitanovec, executive vice president, Tribune Broadcasting, “My guess is that they will bring something to the marketplace and we will all have a chance to react to it.”
Providing reassurance at the NATPE panel for all the soon-to-be independents was Deborah McDermott, president of Young Broadcasting, which operates an independent in San Francisco. Stations have plenty of options, she said. They can air sports, news, original programming or strip syndicated shows like Dr. Phil or Sex and the City, she said. “You can survive and be very successful.”