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NBC's 'Pride' Appears to Be Endangered

November 03, 2004|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

NBC is muzzling "Father of the Pride."

With the show's ratings in a tailspin, NBC said Tuesday that it would shelve -- at least through the November sweeps -- the pricey DreamWorks Animation SKG comedy about a family of lions in Siegfried & Roy's Las Vegas act.

NBC said "Pride" would return in December, but pulling a show during sweeps usually foreshadows cancellation because the crucial ratings period helps set TV station ad rates.

"Whenever a network lacks confidence in a show's performance, they sweep it under the rug during sweeps," said Shari Anne Brill, programming director for the ad-buying firm Carat USA.

Indeed, NBC executives privately predicted "Pride" would be put to sleep after its six remaining episodes.

The end of "Pride" would be another disappointment for the network, which has been relegated to third place after years as a ratings juggernaut.

The first TV show to tap DreamWorks' computer animation wizardry, "Pride" was one of this fall's most heavily promoted and expensive shows, which General Electric Co.-owned NBC said cost $1.6 million per half-hour episode.

It started strong in late August but has since lost 48% of its 18- to 49-year-old audience, the group that advertisers pay the most to reach. Last week, against Game 3 of the World Series, the show attracted just 6.6 million viewers, fourth in its 9 p.m. Tuesday time slot.

The show's uncertain future also damps the euphoria surrounding DreamWorks Animation's Wall Street debut.

For DreamWorks, NBC's move is more likely to wound egos than the studio's balance sheet. The network had picked up most of the tab for the show, the brainchild of Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks. The studio's cornerstone business remains feature films such as its "Shrek" blockbusters. DreamWorks declined to comment.

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