NET LOSSES: The network/cable war rages on: For the week of June 30, cable’s share of the total TV audience surpassed CBS, NBC, and ABC for the first time. But the nets are crying foul — pointing out that cablers have ignored numbers from Fox, UPN, and The WB in their rush to declare victory. Besides, the nets say, it’s rerun time, so who cares?
Don’t tell that to USA Networks founder and chair Kay Koplovitz, who’s shelling out $175 million a year on original prime-time programming — the most of any basic-cable net. The investment appears to be paying off: Ratings for its ”Sunday Night Heat” block (which includes La Femme Nikita, Silk Stalkings, and the biker cops-meet-Baywatch action hour, Pacific Blue) are up 30 percent compared with a year ago, as are its original movies.
Still, the Big Three aren’t taking the cable threat too seriously. CBS Entertainment prez Leslie Moonves recently told reporters, ”[USA’s] not going to be able to continue original programming like it’s been doing for much longer.” If the spending spree persists, he warned, neither of USA’s parents (Viacom Inc. and Seagram are battling for custody of USA and its sister net, Sci-Fi Channel) will want their freewheeling child.
Koplovitz told EW Moonves should can it ”until CBS is as profitable as USA.” Last year, according to industry analysts Paul Kagan Associates, USA took in almost $600 million in ad revenue and subscriber fees while spending $300 million on programming. It posted profits in the $155 million range, dwarfing the $25 million CBS Entertainment contributed to CBS Inc.’s overall $350 million ’96 take. How’s that for a poke in the Eye?
AND SO ON… Jason Bateman (Chicago Sons) has landed the plum role of Bob Newhart’s son in the CBS sitcom George & Leo. Bateman, who replaces pilot star Patrick Breen, met with Newhart and nabbed the part July 16 at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena during Press Tour, TV’s semiannual dog and pony show…. Word is that Singled Out, the matchmaking show that made Jenny McCarthy a star, may be stood up by MTV come renewal time. Ratings dropped when McCarthy was replaced by fellow Playboy poser Carmen Electra Feb. 7. Possible substitute? MTV has a series of Mike Myers-as-Austin Powers specials in the works.