New York — TV Land will bolster its primetime slate with three off-network series, new installments of its original documentary series and various programming stunts this spring and fall.
TV Land executive vice president Larry Jones said that The Love Boat, slated for Mondays at 8 p.m., would set sail June 11, following a weeklong stunt. In November, Taxi
will drive onto the schedule after a 48-hour marathon, while The Rockford Files
will open in January. Jones would not discuss TV Land's acquisition budget.
At a network press briefing held here last week, which preceded its April 25 upfront presentation to the advertising community and came nearly two weeks before its fifth anniversary, MTV Networks executives called attention to TV Land's strong distribution growth.
MTV Networks CEO Tom Freston called the service, which just topped the 60.2 million-subscriber mark, up 33 percent from a year ago, "a major growth engine" for MTV Networks. The service was seen in only 5 million homes when it debuted in April 1996.
Inside TV Land, the network's original primetime series produced by Gay Rosenthal Productions, will take an hour-long look at Get Smart
on Aug. 1 — with all four previous installments to be bundled during an"Inside TV Land
Inside TV Land: The Pitch
this fall will look back at how various hit series were initially pitched to the TV networks, Jones added, while a three-part series hailing African Americans on TV, is planned for February.
"We're looking to do more original programming going forward," he said. "[It's more] an issue of coming up with the right idea, not an issue of budget." Later, he added that he would also consider original movies, as long as they are about TV programs.
TV Land also will unveil specials and stunts during the season ahead. Frank, Dean and Sammy: An Evening with the Rat Pack,
a concert that ran in spring 1998 in its first showing in decades, will be repeated during the network's fifth- anniversary celebration, May 12-13. The pilots for Petticoat Junction, Hogan's Heroes
and Gunsmoke, as well as the Ed Sullivan Show
featuring the Beatles also will air on those dates.
On May 16 from 8 to 11 p.m., the network will showcase "TV Land Ties the Knot," featuring weddings on such sitcoms as Rhoda, Mayberry RFD
and Get Smart. The network also will link with TV Guide
to salute the "20 Greatest Weddings of All Time," which will hit newsstands a week earlier.
The very first episode of I Love Lucy
will air on Oct. 15 at 9 p.m., marking the 50th anniversary of the sitcom's CBS premiere. That will be followed by a week of other early Lucy
Although TV Land began by "selling off the equity of Nick at Nite," the spinoff and its parent now will forge separate identities, promised Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon, TV Land and TNN: The National Network.
The Nick at Nite primetime block soon will be positioned as "all sitcoms all the time" — with emphasis on such off-net fare from the '70s and early '80s as Cheers
and Family Ties.
Meanwhile, TV Land will be promoted as "everything television." Genres will encompass not only sitcoms, but also westerns and other dramas, with James Garner's Rockford Files
detective series the latest example.
Scannell stressed that these branding efforts are not sparked by any viewer confusion about the two networks, as there is only 27-percent duplication among the viewers of both.
When reminded that many advertisers tend to shy away from the 50-plus demographic, Jones said, "25 to 54 will always be our concentration." Although it is still early in the process, Jones said he is bullish about TV Land's topping last year's ad-sales upfront results.
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