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POP EYE

News Isn't Good For Rock Tv Show

January 25, 1987|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

TV's "Rock & Roll Evening News" is going . . . going . . . gone.

But don't strike the set just yet.

The weekly pop music show, which featured an hour of rock news, interviews and in-studio performances, aired its final episode Saturday night (here on KNBC), ending a 20-week nationally syndicated run.

While distributor King World didn't pick up the program for another run, producer Andy Friendly says it's too early to write the obituary.

"I hope that somehow we can keep it alive," said Friendly, 34, who was the original producer of "Entertainment Tonight." "There was--and still is--strong interest from several networks in doing the show as a late-night program.

"They have other commitments right now, but we're hopeful that over the next few months, and certainly by summer, that we'll have a commitment to get the show on the air later this year. It could happen as early as April or as late as this fall."

The program, which was hosted by KCBS anchor/reporter Steve Kmetko, received a mixed reception from critics, who often found the show too slick and stodgy--at least by rock 'n' roll standards--and sorely lacking in hard-nosed reporting. However, Friendly insists that the program had "very respectable" ratings during its brief stint on the air.

Early in its run, the show had a 1.7 national Nielsen TV Index rating (each rating point corresponds to about 800,000 homes). But by November, the show was regularly getting a 3 rating, which Friendly said was "close" to the kind of numbers racked up by a hit show like "Late Night With David Letterman."

But if the numbers were so good, then why didn't King World give the show another shot?

"The biggest problem was that we had significant production costs--in the neighborhood of $125,000 per show," Friendly explained. "To make any profits with those kind of costs, we'd need to hit a 5 in the ratings.

"We thought that if we could've gotten a commitment for a second year that we'd have been able to move into more compatible time periods, where we could've gotten better lead-ins for the show. But King World saw it differently--and we were costing them money.

"My feeling was that it was basically a matter of disinterest on their part. They have a lot of big shows ("Wheel of Fortune, "Jeopardy!" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show") and I just don't think they saw us as an important program."

After King World dropped the show late last month, Friendly put together three additional shows this month (syndicated by New York-based Orbis Communications) while unsuccessfully trying to attract a new syndicator.

"We tried to get some running room," he said. "But the majority of our advertisers bailed out. We got a couple of offers to do the show at half the price, but we couldn't see doing that--we would have lost too many production values.

"Frankly, I was shocked that no one else picked it up. But the bottom line is that King World--which is a leading company--couldn't make a go of it with us, which sent a signal to the other syndicators that it would be tough going."

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