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Last updated by LOS ANGELES
October 1, 1999, 5:39:55 PM (PT)

Summer 99 Boxoffice Wrap

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Diller: USA's deals are done

NEW YORK -- USA Networks Inc. chairman and CEO Barry Diller told shareholders Thursday that the company had largely completed its phase of business-building acquisitions and said further large-scale transactions were unlikely -- but he did not rule out future deals as opportunities arose. Speaking at the company's annual meeting, Diller said USA Networks had attained critical mass during the past four years and now had to execute its business plan. "We are unlikely do a large transaction with large companies," Diller said. "It could happen, but it's not likely." In recent weeks Diller has been at the center of speculation that USA Networks was in talks with the Walt Disney Co. to merge its 13 broadcast TV stations with Disney's ABC. Full story

New Viewer's Choice menu: original shows

Pay-per-view programmer Viewer's Choice is putting tens of millions of dollars into a new original programming division to be headed by executive vp entertainment Mark Sonnenberg. Sonnenberg was head of FX until last year, when he became executive vp at Fox Channels Group and launched the Health Network this year. He will move some Viewer's Choice programmers and other staff from New York to Los Angeles. Sonnenberg will head up all entertainment, programming and research for the company soon to be renamed InDemand. He said the funding will be put toward program acquisitions and the development of original programming under the new production entity he will oversee called InDemand Entertainment. Initially, IDE will stick to traditional PPV event programming and develop its own music and concert events with big-name talent, he said. The company will also look to develop programming in the mold of wrestling events, which have been very successful on PPV. Full story

'Creek,' 'Carey' cater to young and old on Wed.

Teens flocked in droves to the season premiere of "Dawson's Creek," but it was the adults who gave ABC the key demographic win on Wednesday night. The alphabet averaged a 5.7 rating/15 share in adults 18-49, with "The Drew Carey Show" posting its best performance in the demo in 25 weeks. The comedy was up 15% over last week in 18-49 (7.6/20 vs. 6.6/17) and managed a 13% increase in total viewers (14.7 million vs. 13.0 million). ABC also nabbed time-slot wins with "Two Guys and a Girl" (5.1/15), "The Norm Show" (5.2/15) and the new "Oh Grow Up" (5.6/14). Overall, NBC was second for the night in 18-49 with a 5.2/14, followed by CBS (3.5/9), Fox (3.0/10), UPN (2.3/6) and the WB (2.2/6). "Dawson's Creek" ranked No. 1 for the night among female teens (12.2/37) and teens 12-17 (8.3/27). The drama was down 16% in teens and 38% in adults 18-34 over the same time last year, when the premiere episode aired against a baseball playoff rain delay on Fox. Full story

Sat. morning child's play for WB

The power of "Pokemon" continues to overwhelm the competition on Saturday mornings. The phenomenally popular Japanese show gave the WB its third consecutive win among kids 2-11, kids 6-11 and boys 6-11. "Pokemon" averaged a 7.6 rating/28 share among kids 2-11 in the 10 a.m. slot, ranking as the No. 1 series for the morning and nearly doubling the rating of Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants" (4.3/16), according to Nielsen Media Research. "Pokemon" also was tops among all competition in boys 2-11 (10.7/35) and boys 6-11 (14.1/44), and posted record-high ratings among kids 6-11 (10.0/36), girls 2-11 (4.4/18) and girls 6-11 (5.7/25). Overall, the WB posted a 4.2/18 among 2-11 on Saturday, ahead of Nickelodeon (3.8/16), Fox (3.2/14), ABC (2.9/13) and the Cartoon Network (1.4/6). The WB also was No. 1 among kids 6-11 (5.4/23), ahead of Nickelodeon (3.9/16), Fox (3.5/15), ABC (3.0/13) and Cartoon Network (1.2/5). The WB finished Saturday on top among boys 2-11 (5.8/23) and boys 6-11 (7.5/28). Full story

TNN trucking into original series

NEW YORK -- Venturing into original dramatic series for the first time, CBS Cable's TNN will launch "18 Wheels of Justice," a one-hour weekly action drama starring Lucky Vanous, Billy Dee Williams and G. Gordon Liddy, in January. "18 Wheels" is the first collaboration between CBS' cable and production units. It is also the first television project that Eyemark, CBS' domestic production and distribution division, has created and produced outside of syndication. "Although we're best known as a syndication company, one of Eyemark's mandates from its inception has been to develop and produce programming for other television outlets," Eyemark senior vp business and program development Robb Dalton said. Vanous ("Pacific Palisades") will play Michael Bowman, a Justice Department special agent who is forced to go underground disguised as a trucker in order to escape crime boss John Calder (Liddy), who seeks vengeance against Bowman. Williams will play Burton Hardesty, Bowman's Justice Department supervisor. Full story

Minorities push FCC on owners

WASHINGTON -- A group of minority leaders led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson was expected to urge FCC chairman Bill Kennard to keep in force limitations on the size of the audience that can be reached by a single television broadcaster. In a meeting scheduled for Thursday evening, Jackson and the coalition of black and Hispanic businessmen said they wanted to make sure, in the wake of Viacom's attempt to buy CBS for $35.9 billion, that the FCC doesn't change the regulation forbidding any one broadcaster from owning stations that reach more than 35% of the national TV audience. The audience cap has become a hot subject in Washington, as the deal would allow the combined company to reach 41% of the national audience. While Viacom and CBS executives have said they will comply with the 35% limit, they have also made it known they would like to see it increased. The other major networks and Paxson Communications have also been pushing for the cap to be raised to 50% or eliminated entirely. Full story

'Lexx' warps onto Sci-Fi net

NEW YORK -- Sci-Fi Network will add "Lexx," an original one-hour dramatic science fiction series, to its primetime lineup beginning in January. The cable network has acquired rights to 20 episodes of the series, a co-production of Salter Street Films and Germany's TiMe Film und TV Produktion. Sci-Fi also carries an option on further seasons of the series, now in production in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Berlin. "Lexx," a spinoff of the "Tales From a Parallel Universe" series of underground films, follows the nomadic existence of four fugitives who have inadvertently hijacked a space vehicle named Lexx, crafted from an enormous, genetically modified insect. The international cast includes Brian Downey ("Millennium"), Xenia Seeberg, Michael McManus and Jeffrey Hirschfield. While no time slot has been determined for "Lexx," it will likely air in primetime on Friday nights, following "Sliders" and "Farscape," said Bonnie Hammer, senior vp Sci-Fi Channel programming and USA original productions. Full story

The puck stops here for 'Mike'

Let the cancellations begin. NBC announced Thursday that it has made the first of the 1999-2000 season in yanking "The Mike O'Malley Show". The NBC Studios comedy, which aired at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, dropped 27% among adults 18-49 in the course of its two airings. The comedy finished fourth in its time slot in the key demographic Tuesday (4.0 rating/10 share). Repeats of NBC comedies, possibly "Will & Grace," will air in the time period following the conclusion of Major League Baseball playoff coverage. "Mike O'Malley is a very talented individual, and we wish him and everyone associated with the show the best," NBC entertainment president Garth Ancier said. Full story

Morrow to get more exposure under CBS deal

CBS has signed a development deal with Rob Morrow to star in a drama targeted for fall 2000. Morrow will executive produce the project with Judy Hofflund and Gavin Polone, who represent the actor with ICM's George Freeman and Brian Mann. Morrow, Hofflund and Polone are looking for writers to pen the drama. The actor, best known for his role as Dr. Joel Fleischman on the CBS drama "Northern Exposure," also is set to star in the Showtime telefilm "Goon Squad." Production starts in mid-November on the period piece about corruption in the Philadelphia police department. Morrow is writing and directing as well as co-starring in the upcoming independent feature "Touched" with Laura Linney. His other film credits include "Labor Pains," "Sam the Man," "Into My Heart," "Last Dance," "Mother" and "Quiz Show." His television credits include "Nearly Yours," the telefilms "Only Love" and "The Day Lincoln Was Shot," and "Nick & Hillary." He wrote and directed the 1993 feature "The Silent Alarm." Thom Geier in New York contributed to this report.

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