Excerpt from Broadcasting & Cable 1/21/01
Roll of the dice: Programming executives descend on Las Vegas in search of the next big hit
By Ken Kerschbaumer 1/21/2001 5:00:00 PM MT
It's time to get down to business. In the past few weeks, we've helped get your NATPE journey headed in the right direction, with information on the new syndicated product and the off-net product that may find its way into your business plans. But after weeks of announcements, planning and negotiating, the real talk starts on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center on Jan. 22.
What's new in first-run? / Diversity is the key component to this year's first-run offerings, with a little bit of everything available.
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Sliptream News 1/22/01
Tribune Entertainment Develops Mutant X
By Christian January 22, 2001 - 3:18 PM
With the success of 'Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda', as well as of shows such as 'Earth: Final Conflict' and 'BeastMaster', in recent years Tribune Entertainment has clearly become one of the leading companies in the syndicated action market. At this year's meeting of the National Association of Television Program Executives, taking place this week in Las Vegas, Tribune will be trying to use that leading position to sell a new show it's developing: 'Mutant X', a new weekly series concept developed together with Marvel Comics..
In December of last year, Mutant X executive producer Rick Ungar talked to Fandom.com's Comics Newsarama about the plot of the series, which at that time had already been in development for a few months. The series will take place in a society where the government has secretly developed genetic engineering technology, allowing people with the right connections to have their children genetically perfected at birth. Unfortunately, after a certain numbers of years the manipulated genes of the children start acting up, causing the engineered beings to mutate, and thereby exposing the secret government program. Such proof is not considered tolerable by the government, and it forms the Office Of Mutant Research, which has as its sole mission to wipe out all the mutants. The 'Mutant X' from the title are a group of genetically engineered humans who try to save fellow mutants from the governments, and recruit them for their own mission to establish peace between regular and genetically enhanced mutants.
Earlier, it was reported that the series was based on a parallel universe spin-off of 'X-Men', but according to Tribune the TV show will look and feel nothing like the 'Mutant X' comic, and there is no formal relationship between the 'X-Men' universe and this series. Presumably this formal separation was made at least in part to avoid legal conflicts with 20th Century Fox, which owns the rights to the 'X-Men' movie franchise, but undoubtedly Tribune is still hoping that the success of 'X-Men' will also lead to a higher popularity for this new mutant series.
Thanks to Tribune's experience in distributing syndication programming, initial interest for the series should be high. As was the case with Andromeda, Tribune has already been able to sell the show to a large number of television stations (including 22 of its own), and in early December the show had been cleared in 60 percent of the market. At the NATPE conference, Tribune will attempt to sell the show in even more markets, competing with five other action hours, including 'The Adventures of Jules Verne' and 'Colosseum'.
According to an article by Marc Berman at MediaWeek, Tribune is seen as one of the syndicators coming to NATPE with plenty of momentum. The article pointed to Andromeda's success, with the show averaging a 3.9 for the first half of its season, beating Xena's ratings by 17%, and becoming the highest-rated freshman first-run weekly since 'Earth: Final Conflict', also a Tribune production. "Given that we will be at the convention with three returning hours [Andromeda, Earth: Final Conflict, Beastmaster] and the upcoming Mutant X, it's fair to say we have cornered the market in action hours," concurred Tribune Entertainment president Dick Askin in the article.
'Mutant X' is being developed by Phil Segal, who as Tribune VP of scripted programming and development currently also has an overseeing role on Andromeda, so hopefully some of Andromeda's ingredients for success will also make it into 'Mutant X'. We'll keep you updated if there is more major news on the series.
© Slipstream News
SFTV's NATPE Report 1/22/01
Mutant X - From Tribune Entertainment, Fireworks Entertainment, and Marvel Entertainment
Mutant X represents the next generation of Marvel Entertainment's highly popular franchise of mutant characters, detailing the heroic exploits of a group of genetically altered humans, bound together by their extraordinary powers.
Possessing formidable talents, evil mutants represent a powerful force, seeking to destroy Mutant X. It is the mission of the Mutant X team to stay one step ahead in order to protect and save those who would be their victims.
The new generation of mutants include:
Adam Zero - Quite simply he is the smartest man in the world, the living embodiment of all human knowledge - the leader, strategist and brain trust for Mutant X. (Listed as Adam Xero on casting info)
ShadowFox - Genetically crossbred with animal DNA, ShadowFox is a fiery and feral beauty - uncannily fast, inhumanly agile and completely unpredictable.
Fuse - The master of electricity, Fuse is able to literally throw off sparks - and he loves being a superhero.
Rapport - She can create a psychic link with any other living thing, and with some effort, can manipulate the way others feel, think, and react.
Synergy - The Id, Ego and Superego become flesh with Synergy's ability to split himself into three unique aspects of the human personality.
The debut of Mutant X follows in the footsteps of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda as the next hit action hour from the successful partnership of Fireworks Entertainment and Tribune Entertainment. Working together with Marvel Entertainment, this series will feature stunning effects, intriguing storylines, and compelling performances that will generate wide audience appeal.
Excerpt from Variety 1/22/01
Freshman class outshines old yakkers: 'Ananda,' 'Iyanla' others could be moving in
By JOHN DEMPSEY
Ruth Lee Leaycraft , VP and director of programming for Katz's Continental Sales division, says the landscape looks fairly bleak for sitcom reruns in 2003 and 2004.
The only one with potential for 2003 is Columbia TriStar's "King of Queens," says Leahcraft. Similarly, she says, only Twentieth TV's "Malcolm in the Middle" looks like a player for 2004.
At least six action-hours are on the drawing boards for 2001-02, but Greg Conklin, a director of programming, chooses just one of them: Tribune Entertainment's "Mutant X."
Conklin cites Tribune's solid track record with such ongoing series as "Earth: Final Conflict" and "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda."
Excerpts from Broadcasting & Cable 1/29/01
NATPE dicey, but some score: While the Las Vegas show produced few winners, Caroline and Ananda can celebrate
By Susanne Ault 1/28/2001 5:00:00 PM MT
With several spoilers thrown at NATPE 2001, including a slipping economy and the Chris-Craft station group's apparent freeze on buying new products, it's a wonder syndicators got anything done last week.
Similarly, Buena Vista's Iyanla had legs prior to the convention, having already been befriended by several ABC O&O's, but it boosted its clearances from 60% to 70%. Others enjoying a comparatively upbeat week-because they nabbed station group deals pre-NATPE-were Talk or Walk (68%, Tribune stations), Mutant X (76%, Tribune) and The Other Half (more than 60%, NBC, Gannett and Hearst-Argyle).
Action hours felt the Chris-Craft chill. "The general perception is that they can renew, but they can't add anything, which has frozen the marketplace," said Tribune chief Dick Askin, who has several top action hours to sell.
No 2001 action hour, with the exception of Tribune Entertainment's Mutant-X (76%, 98 markets cleared) has officially announced big station clearances. New Line's executive vice president of syndication, David Spiegelman claimed 65% clearance on Hard Knox but declined to give specifics. Lions Gate TV's chief Kevin Beggs expects Tracker, starring Highlander's Adrian Paul, to be a "go," but didn't comment further. Also, no definites are attached to Pearson's Lean Angle, with Antonio Sabato Jr. and Colosseum, headlined by Andrew Dice Clay.
© Broadcasting & Cable
Excerpt from Broadcasting & Cable 4/30/01
The syndication strike breaker: If new shows fall victim to work stoppages, reruns could get a break with ad buyers
By Susanne Ault and Joe Schlosser 4/29/2001 6:00:00 PM MT
Is syndication the strike-proof, economy-proof buy for fall 2001? That's how top Hollywood syndicators are positioning themselves heading into the upfronts, which could break on the syndication side as early as this week.
While most TV executives are predicting a tough advertising market, with the double whammy of a poor economy and the threat of strikes in Hollywood, syndicators are looking to use the unusual set of circumstances to their advantage.
"We are forecasting that the business will be up," says Allison Bodenmann, the president of the Syndicated Network Television Association, which represents nine of the top syndication studios to advertisers. "Even with the sluggish economy, it makes a lot of sense for an advertiser to say, 'Okay, what's the best way to spend my money?' Syndication is the best value. It's the efficient buy relative to other alternatives."
In terms of potential crippling strikes by the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild, syndicators say they have the answer to those worries, as well.
"Our programming is strike-proof," says Bo Argentino, executive vice president of advertiser sales, Columbia TriStar Television. "If you start with the off-net sitcoms, they are repeat programming, and they are all in the can, and, of course, Columbia has a number of those for next year, as do a lot of our competitors. The first-run product is produced and finished for next year or will be finished in time for an entire season of production, and then court shows, talk shows and game shows are not affected by the strike."
Tribune Entertainment's Clark Morehouse says, "Nothing we have is affected by any potential WGA or SAG strikes, and we have made a big issue of that. It's going to be a tough year; no one would deny that. But if there is any competitive advantage for us, we are not struggling to find a B schedule to our A game. We have one offering for the fall, and it's our best foot forward."
In terms of new action-hours, a number of shows have backed out since NATPE, but still on course for the fall are Mutant-X, Tracker and The Adventures of Jules Verne. Studio executives say, because of the threat of strikes, the majority of new and returning action series have pushed up production schedules and most will have plenty of episodes ready for the fall-strike or no strike.
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