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Fox Shifts Focus to Dismal Saturday Lineup

July 28, 1988|DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writer

Last May, Fox Broadcasting announced that the network would add a new night of programming to its schedule next spring. This week, however, company president Jamie Kellner said those plans are on hold until Fox manages to solve its programming woes on Saturday night.

Kellner, speaking to national TV critics as part of the television industry's annual summer press tour in Los Angeles, said this week that the plans to expand Fox's prime-time schedule beyond the weekend were contingent on improving the ratings of its Saturday schedule.

"The announcement has always been that Fox would first consolidate Saturdays before programming another night," Kellner said. The company had announced in May that it would begin programming a movie block on Mondays.

"We lose money when we have a night of failing programming," he said. "It wouldn't make any sense to launch another night when we haven't fixed that night."

Kellner was joined at the press conference by Fox Entertainment President Garth Ancier and Kevin Wendle, executive vice president of Fox Entertainment. Also present was Barry Diller, president of the parent Fox Inc.

Kellner and Ancier were blunt in calling Fox's Saturday night lineup, which includes the game show "Family Double Dare" and "The Dirty Dozen," a failure.

Indeed, Fox's relationship with affiliated stations in Minneapolis, Portland and Tampa was recently terminated because they were preempting the low-rated Saturday lineup.

"We made a decision that we would not offer affiliation to stations that wanted to take our successful programs but not help grow our new ones," Kellner said Tuesday.

He cited the addition of three stations to the Fox family--the Pappas Telecasting stations KMPH-TV of Fresno-Visalia, KPTM-TV of Omaha and WHNS-TV of Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville, S.C.--as evidence that Fox is still an attractive commodity.

Fox plans to introduce a completely new lineup of Saturday shows in the fall, including "Beyond Tomorrow," a reality show premiering this week about future trends. It has already been a hit on Australian television for four years. Also planned is "The Reporters," in which stories uncovered by a group of reporters are re-created in a "mini-movie style."

In addition, Kellner said, Fox has two backup series in development: "Cops," which will track the work of five police officers from the Broward County, Fla., Sheriff's Department with mini-cams and other state-of-the-art video equipment, and "King of the Mountain," an outdoor game show.

Ancier called the new shows "strike programming," because none of them require the services of members of the Writers Guild of America, now in the 21st week of a strike.

He added, however, that Fox opted to develop reality shows rather than more comedies and dramas in order to avoid direct competition with the networks--particularly NBC's strong Saturday comedy lineup.

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