Tuesday, March 20, 2001
Network head says NBC needs shakeup
TV SIGNALS | News-Journal Staff Report
Jeff Zucker, who has had three months to assess the prime-time landscape since he made the leap from executive producer of NBC's "Today" show to president of NBC Television, has decided to shake up the direction of the network's programming in several areas.
Discussing his short- and long-term strategy, he said he would shut down the "NBC Sunday Night Movie" as a regular part of the schedule, ending an institution that has filled two hours on Sunday night for 20 years. He also said he intended to reinvent programming for Saturday night and find a new form that costs far less than traditional comedies or dramas.
Zucker said that NBC had performed so poorly on the weekends that, "We're closed for business on Saturday and Sunday nights." His comments raised obvious questions about the fate of NBC's ailing experiment with the World Wrestling Federation, the XFL football league, which occupies three crucial months on Saturday night for NBC.
Zucker said he would attempt to steer the network's programming strategy away from an emphasis on sweeps months -- November, February and May -- and that he would add at least two hours a week of reality programming to NBC, the only network that has none at the moment.
He said he was putting great stock in "The Weakest Link," a game show imported from England in which the host frequently humiliates the contestants. A champion of the program, he pointed to it as his first attempt to find a breakthrough for NBC in the reality area. It goes on the air April 16.
Zucker acknowledged, "We have been way behind on reality." He said he has put a number of reality projects into production. "The tough part is finding a fresh idea."
Along with reality, Zucker said he intended to emphasize comedy, once NBC's biggest asset, which has slumped badly in recent years. Zucker said he was aiming for as many as 10 comedies next season, which would mean a significant expansion. The comedy problem is especially pressing because Zucker is facing the loss, after next season, of the network's top comedy, "Friends."
MTV, VH1 limit Madonna
Once again, a Madonna video has run afoul of MTV censors -- this time, because of violence, not sexual content.
MTV and sister station VH1 will only air the pop superstar's new video once. "What It Feels Like for a Girl" will be shown tonight at 11:30, on both stations, after a news segment about it.
"MTV and VH1 feel that the Madonna video is newsworthy and can be seen with proper context," a network representative speaking on condition of anonymity said.
She refused to detail what made the video inappropriate for multiple viewings.
Liz Rosenberg, Madonna's spokeswoman, said she believed the networks could change their mind.
"We would like VH1 and MTV to make a very strong commitment to playing this video," Rosenberg told The Associated Press.
The networks said the decision was final.
The video, directed by Madonna's husband, Guy Ritchie, is about an angry woman who goes on a crime spree. Rosenberg described the main character as a woman acting out a fantasy.
In 1990, MTV refused to air "Justify My Love" because of its sexual content. And in 1992 it decided to show "Erotica" only in the wee hours of the morning.
Rosenberg said if MTV and VH1 don't agree to replay the video, Madonna would seek to have it aired elsewhere. She said AOL has already agreed to make it available on the Internet.
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