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Staying in the game

New Line can't be counted out. True, a key financing partner went bankrupt earlier in the year, threatening the third season of The Lost World. But the launch went on as planned, and the distributor is determined to play on.

"We don't ever believe in giving up," says New Line Television Executive Vice President David Spiegelman.

Indeed, the studio is in development on another action hour and a first-run strip.

Lost World
managed to attract Australia-based Over the Hill Gang to replace its previous partner, Canada-based Telescene. So Spiegelman believes that "we have no reason to stop what we're doing."

Spiegelman is trying to bring out at least one project in 2002 but notes that the post-Sept. 11 "ad market is strained right now," affecting the typically barter-only action-hour genre.

New Line is exploring additional revenue sources, including a cable window. Tribune Entertainment has looked into a dual cable/broadcast run for its shows. MGM already runs Stargate SG-1
in syndication and on Showtime, and Studios USA's Invisible Man
gets a Sci Fi Channel/syndication airing.

Also energizing New Line's efforts is the fact that ABC executives recently spoke of dropping Saturday network shows and letting stations program that night themselves.

"When we heard that, we started talking to our affiliates right away," says Spiegelman. He doesn't have a lot of clearances on ABC stations but believes that they could definitely become an opportunity.

One troubling sign for action hours: recent ratings. Tribune rookie Mutant X
debuted with a 1.9 rating/4 share in the Nielsen weighted metered markets, 21% below the year-ago numbers. And Tribune's Andromeda, one of last year's top-scoring action hours, earned a 1.7/4 in its second-season debut, 26% lower than last year.

Some have speculated that viewers want more light comedy in the wake of the Sept. 11 events. But Spiegelman says, "We expect our ratings to be strong."