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Fast Track

Ad Council Switches Slogans

Drunk-driving campaign aims for fresh approach

After more than 20 years, the Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Transportation are benching for now one of advertising's most recognizable slogans: “Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk.” The new tagline: “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.”

During the holiday season, voluntary public-service announcements bearing the new tagline will premiere exclusively on local broadcast TV, as part of Project Roadblock, a continuing partnership between the Ad Council, a nonprofit advertising organization, and Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB), a local-broadcast-sales trade group. Most spots will be 25 seconds followed by a five-second tag featuring the slogan, which will dissolve into the words “Project Roadblock: Local TV Puts the Brakes on Drunk Driving.” The spots will air nationally after the holidays.

“We got a fast start right out of the gate,” said Abby Auerbach, executive VP of TVB. “We expect to easily surpass the 517-station mark of last year.”

In the New Year's 2004 campaign, the Ad Council and TVB persuaded 517 TV stations to contribute their extra inventory during the holidays for airplay of a series of Project Roadblock spots called “Innocent Victims.” Rival station groups and market competitors put aside differences to make it work. Stations in 86% of the designated market areas participated, ensuring that nearly anyone who watched TV on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day saw the spots.

Nielsen's Sigma Data system determined that the spots ran 18,207 times, yielding a five-day total of $3.4 million in donated time. A post-campaign Nielsen study found that 38% of respondents knew of the campaign and 25% percent of those had spoken to a friend or family member about it.

Advocates believe the campaign has saved thousands of lives: According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, alcohol-related traffic fatalities totaled 17,013 in 2002 versus 26,173 in 1982.

TV-industry insiders understand the double meaning in “roadblock”: a term stations use when they book advertising so that viewers cannot avoid seeing it. —Anne Becker

How Late Will CNN Go?

Will CNN stay live at 11 p.m.?

Network executives are expected to decide within two weeks whether to make its two-hour “special edition” of NewsNight a permanent feature on its schedule.

NewsNight has been a one-hour show anchored by Aaron Brown at 10 p.m. ET. It was followed by a repeat of Lou Dobbs Tonight at 11 p.m., giving it a better shot at snagging West Coast viewers who miss its original run at 6 p.m. (3 p.m. PT).

But after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast and offered a rush of compelling news, CNN kept NewsNight live for another hour and paired Brown with increasingly popular anchor Anderson Cooper. The move has so far been successful: CNN's total audience in the 11 p.m. ET slot is up 49% in total viewers and 40% in the important 25-54 demo.

Network insiders say the question is in large part a financial one: Extending NewsNight means displacing a repeat of Dobbs, CNN's most lucrative show. The rich demographics attracted by Dobbs allow CNN to charge ad rates that are much higher than normal.

Dobbs draws an audience of older, upscale men, which is particularly attractive to financial, travel and car advertisers. Ad executives say commercials during Dobbs generate $18-$19 per thousand viewers in the news demo during its 6 p.m. run. Cost per thousand (CPM) during the 11 p.m. repeat is approximately $15. That's far more than the $10 typical for other CNN dayparts.

The network's scatter business is fairly strong now, so CPMs during the extra hour of NewsNight run about $12. But if audience or the ad market shrinks, CNN could generate less out of the hour. And staff and satellite time for live news are more expensive than rerunning Dobbs.

A CNN spokeswoman says, “NewsNight is doing well, but we haven't made any decision.”

The NewsNight decision is part of CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein's short-term plan to strengthen CNN's fringe hours. Last week, Klein cancelled early-morning news show Daybreak, 5-7 a.m., filling the second of those hours by expanding American Morning, currently running 7-10 a.m. Over the summer, Klein spent much of his time developing afternoon show The Situation Room.

He believes that shoring up other dayparts will help the network battle Fox News Channel in prime time.—John M. Higgins

Fall '06 Start for 'Judge Maria Lopez'

Sony Pictures Television (SPT) has secured clearances for Judge Maria Lopez, a half-hour court show, in seven of the top 10 markets for a fall 2006 first-run start.

Although Lopez has been licensed to Tribune, Viacom and Weigel stations covering more than 35% of the U.S., it remains separate from SPT's first-run development pact with Tribune.

Citing the judge's “strong appeal to female and Hispanic viewers,” SPT Distribution President John Weiser says the show
has been cleared in New York (WPIX), Chicago (WCIU), Philadelphia (KYW/WPSG), Boston (WBZ/WSBK), San Francisco (KBHK/KPIX), Dallas (KTVT/KTXA) and Atlanta (WUPA).

Sony will pair Lopez with its other half-hour court show, Judge Hatchett, providing cost-efficiencies already enjoyed by Paramount (Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown), Twentieth Television (Divorce Court, Judge Alex) and Warner Bros. (The People's Court, Judge Mathis).

Lopez will be the eighth court series in syndication, fueling a genre that is well on its way to overtaking talk as the most popular daytime format. Court has earned a 50% survival rate over the past decade, versus just 25% for other categories. It remains popular among the studios because it costs around $400,000 per week to produce and distribute, compared with more-expensive categories like magazine shows, which can run as high as $1 million a week.

With the exception of the top-rated Judge Judy, all the court shows are now presided over by African-American or Hispanic judges, who have struck a chord with the daytime audience.

Seeking to take advantage of the fast-rising Latin population in the U.S., several other judge shows are in development at various studios for next fall, all believed to feature judges of Hispanic origin.

Cuban-born Lopez, the first female Hispanic judge appointed to the Massachusetts Superior Court, is, like other TV judges, considered to be outspoken, strict, compassionate and controversial. In one of her sentencing decisions, she required that a men's locker room at Boston's Logan Airport to be turned over to a female state trooper for an hour a day until equal facilities were built.—Jim Benson

Time Warner Takes NBC U Content

NBC Universal inked a multifaceted carriage agreement with Time Warner. The cable company renewed its carriage of USA Network and will carry high-definition network Universal HD; young Latino-targeted network mun2; Telemundo Puerto Rico; and video-on-demand content from NBC's cable networks.

Also, programs from NBC and its cable networks will be enabled with Time Warner's new “Start Over” feature when it launches later this year. The service allows Time Warner customers to restart shows already in progress.

Under the deal, NBC programming carried on-demand by Time Warner will include content from NBC News (Nightly News and Meet the Press) and cable shows (MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews and The Abrams Report and CNBC's Mad Money and Closing Bell With Maria Bartiromo.

NBC Universal already has deals in place with Time Warner for cable networks Sci Fi, CNBC, MSNBC and Bravo.—A.B.

New Boss for ABC's Westin and Shaw

In an organizational shakeup at ABC, Alex Wallau, president of Network Operations & Administration, saw his domain decrease. Two of his biggest reports, ABC News President David Westin and ABC Sales and Marketing President Mike Shaw, will now be reporting to Anne Sweeney.

Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, replaced Wallau as TV-group head in April 2004. She oversees all of Disney's worldwide TV assets, with the exception of ESPN and the television stations.

Wallau will retain control of ABC's affiliate relations, technical operations, and engineering, continuing to report to Sweeney.—J.B.

Judy Girard Tops HGTV

Judy Girard is packing up her shopping bags and moving into the home-and-garden space. After helping remake Scripps' retail network Shop at Home, she will become president of the company's premier network, HGTV. Girard succeeds Burton Jablin, who earlier this year was promoted to executive VP of programming and content for all of Scripps Networks.

Girard was president of Scripps' Food Network when the company tapped her in January 2004 to head Shop at Home. Scripps acquired the the home-shopping network for $285 million in 2003 and has focused on making it and its Web site competitive with already established channels QVC and HSN.

She starts Nov. 14. Scripps will likely name Girard's successor in the next two weeks.—A.B.

Harry Sloan Heads MGM

Harry E. Sloan has been named chairman/CEO of the newly reconfigured MGM.

He oversaw the $2.6 billion sale last month of SBS Broadcasting, the European media company he founded in 1990 and most recently served as executive chairman.

Sloan, 55, who also helped build Lions Gate Entertainment and New World Entertainment through his investments and serves as a member of MGM's board of directors, will invest in the slimmed-down studio and become part of the ownership group.

That group comprises four private-equity firms and two media companies: Providence Equity Partners (29%), Texas Pacific Group (21%), Sony (20%), Comcast (20%), DLJ Merchant Banking Partners (7%) and Quadrangle Group (3%).—J.B.

Kids-Research Bill Proposed

On the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Children's Television Act, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and several colleagues introduced a bill to fund children's media research by the Center for Disease Control.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and several others have already introduced a similar bill in the Senate. They call for research on the impact on kids of “all forms of electronic media,” including TV, movies, DVDs, videogames, cellphones and the Internet.

Peggy Charren, former head of Action for Children's Television, who was a driving force behind the act, believes that, rather than a study, there needs to be more-meaningful programs for preteens and young teenagers. “We really haven't needed a study for the past 15 years,” she tells B&C. “We already know that kids watch a lot of TV and there isn't enough choice.”—John Eggerton