- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Beefing up sales

While the programming department at TV Land, Viacom’s network focused on 40-somethings, is busy rolling out a summer schedule of feel-good series, its sales department has been negotiating a range of sponsors to match.

Jeff Lucas, executive vice president of sales at MTV Networks Entertainment Group, tells Broadcastingcable.com that the network has signed up a slew of sponsors, including Verizon, Wal-Mart, Weight Watchers, Johnson & Johnson and Mars, as in candy. Among the summer lineup are shows from creative powerhouses such as Mark Burnett and Embassy Row’s Michael Davies.

Once a landscape of classic reruns, TV Land is trying to build its identity through new programming. Rather than identifying itself simply with baby boomers, the channel is homing in on the 40-something audience, which it says is a growing target for marketers of products ranging from insurance to movies.

“The big myth is that when you’re in your 40s, you are brand-loyal. You’re buying for children and for parents,” says Mr. Lucas, who also heads sales for Viacom’s Comedy Central and the music channel CMT.

TV Land did not hold an official upfront event but opted to make smaller presentations to ad agencies. While those have gone well, advertisers are pushing hard to have partners detail what ad spending will yield in terms of business results.

“More than any upfront I’ve seen, every advertiser is looking at this from a value perspective. They’re saying, ‘I have to show the results and benefits to my boss. Every dollar has to be justified,’” Mr. Lucas says.

First up this month, TV Land is airing the second cycle of its modeling competition, “She’s Got the Look,” which features models between 35 and 72 years of age. The winner will receive a modeling contract, a Self magazine cover spread and a cash prize. Johnson & Johnson is back again, promoting the cosmetics brand RoC, while Mars is new. Mars is using the series to market its fluffy chocolate bar, 3 Musketeers, and it shot an ad with the models from the series bouncing on a trampoline. “Look” returns June 11 at 9 p.m. and runs for nine weeks.

Other upcoming shows include “Make My Day,” which features a prank involving everyday people being greeted by their celebrity heroes. The show debuts in mid-August, with Verizon, Wal-Mart and Weight Watchers already on board.

Also, fresh from her “Celebrity Apprentice” win, Joan Rivers moves over to TV Land as host of “How’d You Get So Rich?” The series, which also counts Verizon as a sponsor, is as simple as the title sounds. Miss Rivers, for instance, accosts people driving nice cars and asks how they got their fortune.

‘Dance’ beats bee

ABC’s broadcast of the Scripps National Spelling Bee failed to give the network a first-place finish Thursday, Broadcastingcable.com reports. In fact, the annual event placed third for the night, unable to top Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and the CBS reruns of “NCIS,” “CSI” and “Without a Trace.”

“So You Think You Can Dance” led the network to a prime-time win for the second straight night on Thursday. According to B&C, the show’s viewership rose slightly from Wednesday night. Final ratings data is expected by Tuesday.

‘Gump’ star joins ‘24’

Mykelti Williamson, known best for his role as Bubba in the 1994 Oscar-winning film “Forrest Gump,” has added his name to the roster of new stars joining the cast of Fox’s “24,” the Hollywood Reporter says.

Mr. Williamson will play Brian Hastings, the MBA-type head of CTU New York who has a razor-sharp intellect, on the series’ upcoming eighth season. Production began last week in New York.

He joins fellow new cast members Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Westfeldt, John Boyd and Chris Diamantopoulos.

Mr. Williamson recently co-starred in the Sundance hit “Black Dynamite.” His TV series credits include NBC’s “Boomtown” and CBS’ “CSI: NY.”

Mark Burnett sued

“Pirate Master” was an idea plundered by Mark Burnett, claims a lawsuit filed Friday against the creator of “Survivor,” says Zap2it.com, citing a report from TMZ.

According to the complaint, James Papa insists that he copyrighted the idea for a pirate-themed reality show in 2003, four years before Mr. Burnett produced the show for CBS.

Mr. Papa is seeking $2 million in damages to fill his treasure chest, the lawsuit states.

“Pirate Master” set sail in May 2007 and pitted 16 wannabe pirates against one another on a ship. Once on board, they battled for supremacy as captain, participated in nautical challenges, backstabbed their shipmates, risked mutiny and searched for gold coins.

Golf keeps Haney

Golf Channel is renewing the celebrity swing-coaching series “The Haney Project” for a second season of eight episodes beginning in March, Variety reports.

The series’ initial season represented the top-rated launch of an original series in the cable channel’s history. It drew buzz for popular NBA Hall of Famer and TNT commentator Charles Barkley’s humorous but sincere efforts to improve his infamously ugly golf game under the tutelage of Tiger Woods’ swing coach, Hank Haney.

Golf Channel plans to tie the announcement of its second-season celebrity student to its preview coverage of the U.S. Open, running June 18 through 21. The student selection process is still in progress.

“We’re trying to go entertainer,” Tom Stathakes, the Golf Channel’s senior vice president of programming, production and operations told Variety.

“People like Larry David, Ray Romano. … We’ve had a lot of athletes that have asked to do it. Barkley was tremendous — lightning in a bottle — but I think we’re going to try to delve into a different area.”

Combined with “The Golf Fix” and “Big Break,” “Haney” has helped Golf Channel double its Monday-night prime-time ratings since the end of February. “Haney” also accounts for 75 percent of all entertainment video views at GolfChannel.com, Variety said.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports.

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