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Fast Track

Reilly Aims To Keep '30 Rock' Rolling

Show star Tina Fey gets big nod from NBC

By Ben Grossman

Tina Fey got a prime indication late last week that NBC is expected to bring back 30 Rock for a second season: a vote of confidence from network Entertainment President Kevin Reilly.

“I literally just got off the phone with [Reilly], and he still tells me he will do everything in his power and feels strongly about it,” says Fey, the show's star and creator. “We really are lucky to be one of the handful of shows he feels personally responsible for—us and Friday Night Lights.”

Reilly's decision to bring back the well-regarded but low-rated shows would put some teeth into his stated desire to return the “quality” to NBC.

Before the decisions are finalized, 30 Rock will get a tryout at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, a half-hour earlier than its current slot.

“I think it will be very telling as to whether we really had a tough time slot or whether people just aren't interested in the show,” Fey says in her signature deadpan tone.

The serious answer—unfortunate though it may be for one of the season's best newcomers—could be both.

Despite heavy critical acclaim, 30 Rock is averaging a modest 2.7 rating/6 share this season at 9:30, although it does retain a quite respectable 81% average out of lead-in Scrubs. It is doing so in an absolutely brutal time period, against heavyweights Grey's Anatomy on ABC and CSI on CBS and, most recently, the surprising Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? out of the massive American Idol lead-in on Fox.

Although 30 Rock will still battle Grey's and CSI in its new home at 9, it will get some relief as Fifth Grader shifts to 8.

Even given the show's numbers, Fey says, network executives have not been too hands-on with the creative. Outside of encouraging her not to make 30 Rock “too snobby or too New York,” they have just let her make her show. “They haven't made us try and cast Miss USA, thankfully.”

While beauty-pageant winners are kept at bay, a slew of stars have made “appearances” in name only, and are frequently cast in a less than flattering light.

One ongoing character is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who in the world of the show is an often ridiculed ex-love interest of Jack Donaghy, the bombastic General Electric executive played by Alec Baldwin. Fey says these mentions have yet to ruffle too many feathers.

“Thankfully, we haven't had trouble yet,” she says. “I don't expect to run into Condi anytime soon, so I think I'll be okay there.”

Ratings aside, the move to a sitcom for the long-time Saturday Night Live veteran has been a big adjustment. “I miss the people and the camaraderie,” she says of SNL.

“But,” she adds, “I would much rather shoot a scene in my show about sketch-comedy writers staying up all night than actually be back staying up all night writing sketches again. That I don't miss.”

Discovery Names Digital Chief

Raiding the ranks of his former employer, Discovery President/CEO David Zaslav named senior NBC Universal executive Bruce Campbell as the company's digital media chief.

Campbell, executive VP of business development for NBC Universal since October 2005, joins Discovery as president, digital media, emerging networks and business development.

Discovery veteran Clint Stinchcomb, who has handled mobile, VOD and HD projects and was floated as a candidate to lead digital projects, remains as executive VP/general manager and adds oversight of Discovery's new “Emerging Networks” group of cable channels.

The company's digital plans have been unclear since its previous top executive in the area, Don Baer, left the company in November. Zaslav joined Discovery in November and reorganized its executive ranks in February.

Campbell has been brought on to oversee worldwide business development for Discovery, which covers acquisitions, joint ventures and new business deals, including those in the digital space. After joining NBCU as a corporate lawyer in 1997, he became VP of business development in 2000 and senior VP in 2002.—Anne Becker

TVB: Q4 Hot For Local-TV Revenue

Compared with the same period in 2005, local-television ad revenues rose 21.5% in fourth quarter 2006, to $5.7 billion, says the Television Bureau of Advertising, the trade organization that beats the drum for local broadcasters.

The biggest bump came from commercials for the fractious political season, which improved 267.6%. But other categories took big leaps forward, too, including motion pictures (27.3%), restaurants (16.5%) and real estate (15.3%).

For the year, local-TV ad sales were up 11.5% over 2005 to $18.6 billion.

TVB, using revenue estimates provided by TNS Media Intelligence, says that, for the fourth quarter, network ad revenues were $6.5 billion, down 6.1%, and syndication was just over $1 billion, down 7.7%.

For the year, network TV (including UPN, The WB and Spanish-language networks) racked up ad sales of $25.4 billion, a 2% increase, and syndicated-TV ad sales were up 0.3%, to $4.2 billion.

As usual, local TV's top 10 advertisers in the fourth quarter were mainly auto-related: Dealer associations for General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Ford were the top three. The only non-car companies on the list were AT&T and Time Warner.—P.J. Bednarski

NCTA's McSlarrow: Nothing Personal

Despite the wide chasm between their opinions in telecom policy, National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow reiterated to reporters that he will not personalize his fight with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

At a cable forum in Washington last week, McSlarrow was asked if Martin was on a crusade against his industry. McSlarrow would say no more than that the FCC chairman had “not been easy” to work with.

Martin has criticized cable rates, pushed for the à la carte cable programming that the NCTA strongly opposes, and supported instituting a ban on integrated, low-cost cable set-top boxes.

McSlarrow said he does not oppose à la carte if it is what the marketplace wants and can support. What he opposes, he said, is government-mandated à la carte by either frontal assault or proxy.

—John Eggerton

NBC Sells 'SVU' For Weekend Runs

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution has sold Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in more than 95% of the country for weekend syndication beginning this fall.

The show has been sold to stations from such groups as Fox, Tribune, Hearst-Argyle, Gannett, Scripps and Allbritton.

Among the stations are WWOR New York (Fox), KCOP Los Angeles (Fox), WPWR Chicago (Fox), WPHL Philadelphia (Tribune), WCVB Boston (Hearst), WJLA Washington (Albritton), WXYZ Detroit (Scripps), KDFW Dallas (Fox) and WXIA Atlanta (Gannett). —Ben Grossman