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Longer TCA Doesn't Please All

So much to talk about, so little time. That's a common refrain for cable
networks that haven't been able to regularly present or make any pitch in front
of the assembled pundits at the semiannual Television Critics Association
tour.

In conjunction with the TCA, the National Cable Television Association will
take a step to alleviate that situation by adding a fifth day to cable's
typically jam-packed four-day slate.

During the most recent winter tour, 29 networks made more than 50
presentations.

For the upcoming session -- which both the TCA and the NCTA insisted will
happen regardless of whether the Writers Guild of America or Screen Actors Guild
go on strike -- cable will lead the tour from July 10 through 14, followed by
the broadcast networks.

Even with the extra day, some executives at smaller networks were grumbling.
The most prevalent complaint involves the trio of 30-minute flex-time slots up
for grabs July 14.

Officials with independent networks said they would have hoped for more than
just three relatively brief slots on the extra day.

According to the proposal document, which was sent to a number of programmers
and obtained by Multichannel News, eligibility centers on channels that
aren't scheduled to present on both the January and July 2001 tours and that
have at least 10 million subscribers.

Some network executives are miffed about the 'flex-time' presentation
process, which they believe works at cross-purposes with the proposal.

Other complaints concerned the half-hour window in general and the
possibility of sessions running concurrently on cable's fifth day, thereby
forcing two networks to vie against each other for critical attention.

TCA officials could not be reached for comment.