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Columbia TriStar Launches TV Gem

Columbia TriStar Television Distribution last week launched
a daily, hour-long syndicated block of vintage TV series, called Screen Gems Network,
which it hopes will eventually evolve into a digital-multiplex service for TV stations.

Sony Corp.'s CTTD debuted its one-hour block -- which
includes retro reruns of I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched --on 170
stations reaching 83 percent of the country, according to a CTTD spokesman.Most of
the stations are airing the block between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., he added.

CTTD's approach to the block sounds very similar to
what TV Land has been doing with vintage sitcoms in terms of packaging the shows with
special graphics and interstitials and even running the commercials that originally aired
with the programs.

But Diane Robina, TV Land's senior vice president of
programming and associate general manager, maintained that her network packages its
vintage shows in a "very unique and contemporary way" that isn't easily

"And we have 24 hours to do it," she added.
"It's hard to create that environment in one or two hours."

Screen Gems is relying on CTTD's library of classic
sitcoms, which includes shows such as The Partridge Family, The Monkees and Gidget.

"For the past 10 years, we have seen classic
television shifting to cable," CTTD president Barry Thurston said in a prepared
statement. "Screen Gems Network represents a clear opportunity for local stations to
develop similar franchises."

CTTD plans to increase its block to two hours in its second
year, "and we can continue to grow the block as appropriate," just as TV
stations are migrating to digital broadcasting and multiplexing their local signals,
according to a statement by the company. "We're starting slowly," a CTTD
spokesman said.

While Screen Gems is for broadcast stations, he added, CTTD
and Sony have a 24-hour cable soap-opera channel in the works, SoapCity. Sony also owns
Game Show Network, and it has a stake in Telemundo.