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With Jim Benson, Ben Grossman and John Eggerton

'Kidnapped' May Get Its Ransom in the End

NBC may have pulled the plug on Kidnapped, but Sony Pictures Television (SPT), which produced the new drama, looks to be left in the black.

While closed-ended shows have to reach 75-100 episodes to recoup their investment in syndication, the serialized Kidnapped may have already done it in 13—and looks poised to profit.

SPT declines to comment, but according to our math, the studio has already recovered the estimated $40 million it spent producing the show, thanks to network license fees (traditionally half of production costs) and vigorous international sales.

The network may yet burn off the remainder of the 13 episodes, but Flash! hears that the studio is planning a Kidnapped DVD boxed set for fall 2007.

Industry analysts say producers need to sell 20,000-40,000 units (depending on marketing costs) to break even on DVDs. Buying at $19.95 a pop, just 1% of Kidnapped's 4 million viewers at the time of its demise would have to spring for the DVD for the studio to come out even further ahead.

But that doesn't mean the same plan will work for the other costly new serials that have failed to hook viewers this season—including SPT's now-defunct Runaway on The CW.

Yawn 2.0

The Writers Guild of America, west President Patric Verrone isn't worried about NBC's recently announced plans to devote the 8 p.m. hour to unscripted programming. He just isn't buying it.

“I genuinely don't believe it,” he says. “They are going to find it's not going to work. So we don't have any formal response.”

The WGA has been clamoring to get union contracts for writers on “reality” shows, most recently staging a large rally in Los Angeles last month in support of 12 striking writers on The CW's America's Next Top Model.

And with networks looking to copy the low-risk, high-reward success of shows like ABC's Dancing With the Stars and Bravo's Project Runway, the issue is all the more urgent.

But “NBCU 2.0” hasn't raised any red flags at the WGA, in part because NBC executives have since acknowledged that scripted shows would still lead off certain nights.

“I don't know what NBC is doing,” Verrone says. “I think they have some really good shows, some quality programming, and all of a sudden, they are writing off an hour a night? I don't think they will do it.

“They will find that good programming fits at different times of the night, and I don't think they will find a one-size-fits-all strategy.”

Broadcasters On the Ballot

Before swiping the Democratic nomination from Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Ned Lamont owned a cable company, Lamont Digital Systems. But he isn't the only candidate with a TV past on the ballot this week.

No fewer than six broadcast vets are looking to get to Washington—or stay there. Here's a quick primer on four of them:

Republican John Raese, chairman of West Virginia Radio Corp., which owns 15 radio stations and a 56-station network, is running a quixotic campaign to unseat Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), currently the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate—and almost certain to remain so.

Italo Zanzi, VP, international broadcast sales and Latin American/U.S. Hispanic marketing for Major League Baseball, is an attractive Republican novice but a longshot to win in New York's 1st district.

After three terms, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)—founder of Northern Ag Network, which serves 31 radio and TV stations in Montana and Wyoming—hangs in the balance, trailing slightly in the polls.

But victory is at hand for former radio talk-show host Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who is a contender for leadership in the House (and has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate).

That's good news for the cause of free speech: Pence is pushing a federal shield law to protect journalists from being forced to burn confidential sources.