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Cynopsis: 10th Anniversary Special Edition: “1998”


Greetings! It’s Monday, May 14, 2007 and this is your second Cynopsis Special Edition, taking a look back at the Year 1998.

Here’s a brief recap of events in 1998 some of which continue to affect how we do business today, are of particular note in the day, and a few bits from Cynopsis that were just … well, curious. You’ll notice information regarding cable networks have found its way into the daily editions in 1998.

1998 marked the last episode of Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show and Tom Snyder, and the start of The Sopranos, Will & Grace, Everybody Loves Raymond, That ’70s Show and Charmed.  It was the year of Monica Lewinsky, networks asking affiliates to give back, and the year NBC lost football. The networks began to recognize the power of the internet, a handful of syndicated series launched are still running today.  It was the year of Who wants to buy Court TV? and Who will pick up the cable rights to Home Improvement?  Hearts-Argyle buys Pulitzer, AT&T buys TCI, and Viacom says it’s officially not interested in buying CBS.

Dorothy Letterman went to Nagano, Sesame Street went to China, Don King unfortunately went to Mexico City, Rupert didn’t go to New Delhi, and TV Azteca came to the US. Brit Hume moved to Fox, Katie Couric doesn’t move anywhere, and Roone Arledge wasn’t sure.

And that’s just a quick sample of what went  on in 1998.  Settle in, here’s more …


Pilot orders this year included West Wing and Providence, Felicity, Futurama, Becker, The Man Show, Family Guy

Seinfeld has its last show on May 14 – ads will sell for $2 million per :30. To commemorate the finale, TV Land will put up a still slate “Gone Fishing” during the hour Seinfeld airs, explaining airing “nothing” is most fitting for a show about “nothing”. TV Guide will publish a set of special issues dedicated to Seinfeld with the characters’ likenesses drawn by Al Hirschfeld. The finale draws a 41.3/58 HH Rtg in overnight metered markets.

Dan Rather is skipping his turn at hosting Olympics and choosing to remain at the anchor desk in the event more comes of the President Clinton / Monica Lewinsky scandal

May 1998 marks George Clooney‘s last season finale on ER

CBS is planning a shared revenue plan with its affiliates to help offset the cost of NFL Football. CBS will be looking for the affiliates to pay cash to the tune of 8%-10% of its annual NFL bill, from all affiliates, whether they have an AFC team in their market or not. The proposed plan doesn’t go over too well; here’s a few comments:

  • “This hick from Omaha, Howard Kennedy [CBS Affiliate Board Chairman] who gets blown away by sitting down to lunch at ’21’ with CBS executives, said that the affiliates would help CBS shoulder some of the costs of the NFL rights.” — Vincent Young, Chairman of Young Broadcasting
  • “Based on the enthusiasm of the Affiliate Board Chairman, the network may well have gotten an impression that is not accurate – we DO NOT support the statement made by the Affiliate Board that we are ready to help.” — Alan Bell, President/Freedom Broadcasting

asked its affiliate body to give back a total of 35 units in GMA, Daytime Soaps and Saturday Mornings, to help the network offset the costs of Monday Night Football. The Affiliates said no.

BBC America sets March 29 as its official US launch date.

ESPN televises a “no ground rules” interview with OJ Simpson. A recent article in Esquire magazine quotes Simpson to say, “Let’s say I committed this crime. Even if I did do this, it would have been because I loved her very much, right?”

CBS is reportedly considering a Saturday late night show with Howard Stern in the host seat, to compete with SNL. The show will also be offered in syndication.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has introduced legislation that would allow satellite carriers to retransmit local TV signals to households within the same local market.

The FCC rules cable network FX must make its programming available to Echostar within 45 days and that FX’s once valid exclusive contracts no longer justify its refusal to sell to Echostar.

TNT picks up the cable rights to ER and will air it weeknights at 7p. No big deal there, but where there is a big deal is the network’s plan to triple run the show on Thursdays – 7p, 8p and 9p. Concern rises over the show being over exposed and a result of that would be less viewers tuning into the NBC broadcast on Thursdays at 10p. TNT eventually backs off on the triple run plan.

AMC will launch the Nostalgia Channel, offered initially on the internet, and then later on cable digital tiers.

UPN will expand to five nights in October, adding Thursday and Friday nights.

NBC launches Videoseeker, its first web-based video site offering clips of current NBC shows and celebrity interviews from Access Hollywood.

E! announces a spin-off cable network – The Style Channel, presented as a traditional analog channel, and scheduled to launch on October 1.

Nickelodeon will also offer three new digital cable networks – Noggin, targeting Kids 2-11; Nickelodeon’s Games & Sports (aka GAS) and Nick Too will launch in January 1999.

Tom Snyder says he’ll end his nightly talker either this December or next May.

Fall Schedules – here are the new shows announced at the Network Upfront presentations that became successful (that is, lasted more than 1 season)
NBC:    Will & Grace
CBS:    King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond; mid-season series Becker
ABC:    The Hughleys, Sports Night, America’s Funniest Home Videos
WB:     Felicity, Dawson’s Creek, Charmed
UPN:    Love Boat: Next Wave
FOX:    That ’70s Show

Scripps’ DIY Network announces plans to launch in early 1999, with both original content and repurposed content from HGTV and Food Network.

The Larry Sanders Show signs off

Network Upfront Tally as reported by the networks: NBC $2.15 billion, up only marginally from last year; CBS $1.2 billion, down marginally from last year; ABC $1.6 billion, flat year to year; Fox $1.1 billion up 8-9% year to year; WB $303 million up from $150 million in 1997; UPN $200 million up from $140 million last year.

Dean Valentine, CEO/UPN: “I’d be lying to you if I said UPN hasn’t stumbled in its youth, changed course several times and not always defined itself to you. We’ve made our share of mistakes … UPN is fiscally healthy, financially strong and in it for the long haul.” Can you define “long”?

The Wiggles come to America, airing on Fox Family Channel twice daily.

TNT says it will set up a programming development division for original series, for the first time breaking away from movies only. Two new series in development already include Witchblade and The Crusade.

“HBO will launch a new weekly series on January 10, 1999 called The Sopranos about a modern day mob boss.”

Saturday Morning kids programming finds Nickelodeon leading over the broadcast networks in the K2-11 and K6-11 demos by 5+ share points.


Syndicated shows tried a new schedule – summer launches, with The Magic Hour, Judge Mills Lane, Howie Mandel, Forgive & Forget.

Other shows launching this year: VIP, Judge Joe Brown, Love Connection/Change of Heart, Acapulco Heat, Malibu CA, The Crow, Hollywood Squares, Donny & Marie. Also, Whoopi will be seated in the Center Square; and rumors circling about a new 9am talker from NBC and King World. And Gordon Elliott will host the remake of Let’s make a Deal, that is hoping for a fall 1998 debut.

Potentially new syndicated series in the talks include a talker with Jackie Collins, Queen Latifah, Martin Short, MTV VJ Karen “Duff” Duffy, skater Scott Hamilton, Joan Lunden, Men are from Mars Women are from Venus, Truth or Dare, The Richard Simmons Show, National Enquirer, Judge Mathis.

All American Television is no more … company now known as Pearson Television, and headed by former Multimedia head, Bob Turner.


NBC picks up the TV rights to Titanic for a cool $30 million. Later 20th Century Fox considers filing suit against Paramount Pictures for selling this film too cheaply

Fox and CBS will make a run for NBC’s ER. NBC has been paying $2 million per episode, and Warner Bros. is looking to up the ante. NBC’s exclusive negotiation period is during the month of February. I guess we know how this turns out.

As CBS signs an 8 year deal for football’s AFC games, NBC for the first time in 30 years is without a football franchise of its own. ABC holds onto MNF after bidding $4.5 billion; ESPN keeps Sunday night package.

Making up for its loss of a NFL franchise, NBC teams with Time Warner/Turner to develop their own 10-12 team football league. Players would come from the Canadian football league, a few NFL stars and veterans, and training camp rejects. One or two games a week would air on TNT, with an NBC doubleheader scheduled for Sundays. Again, I guess we know how that turned out.

Lifetime picks up the exclusive cable rights to Party of Five for a 2 year deal, airing weekdays. Broadcasters will be offered the weekend runs.

Chancellor Media buys Petry/Blair rep firm. The deal puts Petry, Blair, Katz adn Seltel, not to mention Fox TV Sales, all under one roof, tho they will continue to operate independently.

Tom Rogers of NBC is leading a group of executives into looking buying a controlling interest in Court TV. The cable network now in 31 million homes. Current price tag: $350 million. Current owners – NBC, Liberty and Time Warner. A couple months later, Discovery says it would like to buy Court TV, but Ted Turner vetoed the sale of Time Warner’s 1/3 ownership because reportedly Discovery wanted to gut the channel and use its 33 million subscriber base to launch more Discovery channels. A month later, news came Time Warner and Liberty will buy out NBC’s 1/3 ownership.

USA Network picks up the off net cable rights to Home Improvement for a reported $75 million for a five year, non-exclusive deal, or approx $375,000 per ep. … a couple of days later it was announced this deal had fallen thru and TBS picked up the show.

Hearst-Argyle will pay $1.15 billion for the television and radio stations owned by Pulitzer Broadcasting.

AT&T buys TCI Cable Systems for approximately $43 billion, marking the biggest buy out in media history, and one of the largest takeovers in any industry.

On August 9, 1998, Viacom officially says it is not interested in acquiring CBS.

etc …

Mr. Blackwell’s Top 10 Worst Dressed Women:

1. The Spice Girls “Despite all the spice, they have no taste”

2: Ellen DeGeneres “Throw those baggie fashion bombs back in the closet”

3. Madonna “Yesterday’s Evita is today’s Velveeta”

4. Pamela Anderson “looks like a Martian Venus in search of a shell”

5. Jennifer Tilly “el Nino in heels”

6. Sigourney Weaver “resembles a shrink wrapped mummy in a peep show review”

7. Emma Thompson “is wearing The Remains of Yesterday

8. Alicia Silverstone “wears a collection of retro rubbish from toes to nose”

9. Francis Fisher “her flowered fiascos are so loud they could cause an international panic

10. Marilyn Mason “looks like Alice Cooper doing Rosemary’s Baby

David Letterman’s mother Dorothy is the Late Night Show’s official Olympics correspondent in Nagano

Important statistic – 21% of all US Adults use the internet, up by 33% over last year.

Fox schedules Breaking the Ice: The Women of ’94 Revisited – interviews with Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding – the special delivered a 9.8/15 HH rtg, 6.5/16 A18-40.

Nielsen announces it has developed a system for measuring TV viewing on computers using technology that allows the user to watch television on the PC while also surfing the internet. The system will measure how long programs are watched, what internet sites are accessed while viewing, and how much screen space is devoted to TV viewing. Exactly how this information will be incorporated into the traditional ratings data (or if and when), remains to be determined.

Statistical Research Inc.’s SMART project based in Philadelphia and hoping to compete with Nielsen, has gained four new sponsors – BVT, Colgate Palmolive, Saatchi & Saatchi and Televest. These are added to “all four major networks” as well as a variety of advertisers and agencies.

“In that ever-elusive quest to bet he first with a story, Michael Poulsen, a TV cameraman in Copenhagen, was the first on the scene to film the newly-beheaded statue inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid. Unfortunately, Poulsen is also the guy who did the beheading. He could go to prison for up to three years; or had he not been caught, he could’ve been promoted.”

“The first Zoned ads are expected to show up later this month in several top markets. TCI Cable and Kraft Foods are teaming up to delivery targeted advertising to neighborhoods utilizing TCI’s digital ad insertion equipment. While digital ad insertion is not new, this alliance marks the first time a national advertiser of Kraft’s size has focused on local cable markets.

Sesame Street has launched in China

Robin Givens most recent marriage to a Yugoslavian tennis coach lasted less than 24 hours. She told the groom that because he taught tennis he didn’t know how to make enough money to maintain her lifestyle.”

Roger Ebert trademarked his right thumb.

CBS and Dan Rather were busy rehearsing their news coverage in the event of a war with Iraq, with full graphics, etc., For approximately 20 minutes of that dress rehearsal, the feed went out via satellite to affiliate stations. CBS logged a ‘handful’ of calls from confused affiliates.”

Murphy Brown wraps her series up with a finale episode where she beats her cancer, and gets a wedding proposal.

General Hospital has decided that what was once called the “Seduction of Laura” was actually a case of date rape. Here we are 16 years later, and on an episode that aired in March, Lucky, the child created by so-called seduction, is told how he was conceived.

Don King was mugged at gunpoint in Mexico City. He was quoted to say after the incident, “Had they down I was Dong King, I’m confident they never would’ve stopped me.”

TV Azteca has joined with an unnamed US partner to purchase local TV stations in the US located in Hispanic markets. The ultimate goal is to build a third Spanish-language network to compete with Univision and Telemundo.

President Clinton is scheduled to appear before Ken Starr’s Grand Jury on Monday, August 14, 1998. That evening he addressed the nation and an estimated 67.3 million tuned in, the largest television audience to date since the verdict in the OJ Simpson trial, which drew 51 million in 1995.

The Simpsons actors won’t say another word until their weekly paycheck gets a sizable increase – going from $35k per ep up to $100k.

“Chad’s World” is billed as the first episodic TV program produced exclusively for the internet, and launching in May 1998. Created as a traditional 30m drama, 22 minutes of content and 8 minutes of commercials, the show is from exec prod Marc Collins-Rector who says he only needs 50,000 web viewers to break even. “Unfortunately, none of the news stories about Chad’s World listed the web site address.”

Ally McBeal makes a program (and network) crossover appearance on ABC’s The Practice, and enough Fox affiliates, led in part by Murray Green of WFLX/West Palm, are ticked off their network would want to promote ABC’s show which runs directly opposite many Fox affiliate local newscasts. Many Fox station plan to preempt Ally. At the end of the day, several local Fox newscasts were off in their ratings week to week in local overnight numbers, while ABC’s The Practice on Sunday at 10p was up by 23% over its season to date first run average, and delivering its highest rated night since its 1994 premiere.

Digital TV is apparently interfering in some markets with local hospital heart monitoring devices. According to reports, certain medical devices use TV broadcast channels that are unoccupied in their areas. As local stations begin experimenting with their digital channels, heart monitors now include commercials. Just kidding.

Drew Carey is taking exception to the new No Smoking laws in California, and to illustrate that point is holding his own “smoke in” at a Hollywood restaurant. Think he could get away with that stunt today?

Six LA local TV stations aired a live highway chase which concluded with the suspect putting a gun to his own head and committing suicide. Only two of the six station turned away before the suicide.

Grandpa Muenster, aka Al Lewis, runs for Governor of New York.

NBC considers trademarking “Must See TV”

MTV holds its first ever nationwide VJ search

Little Ricky Schroeder will replace Jimmy Smits on NYPD Blue, but “little” doesn’t work anymore.

A New Delhi, India, Judge confirmed he had issued an arrest warrant for Rupert Murdoch for failing to answer a summons related to allegations his Star TV Satellite network had broadcast obscene films.

Saved by the Bell will end production after seven seasons. The final 13 episodes will air in 1999.

Top grossing film in 1998: Armageddon at $102.6 million …. (now consider Spider-Man 3!)

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Brit Hume moves from ABC News to Fox News

Steve Rosenberg named President/Domestic Television Distribution for the newly formed USA Networks.

Robert Iger signs to remain at ABC for another 2-1/2 years

Lew Wasserman, now 84, steps down from the Seagram’s board of Directors. He had been on the Board for almost 3 years following the 80% acquisition of MCA by Seagram.

Hilary Hendler, VP/GM of WNYW retires

Marcia Clark is hired by NBC News as a legal analyst, providing commentary on legal cases for both NBC and MSNBC

Steve Mosko upped to EVP/Sales at Columbia Tristar, reporting directly to Barry Thurston

Katie Couric’s deal with NBC is up for renewal, and CBS and ABC are courting. Couric is currently being paid $2 million/year and the offer to renew came with a salary that left her saying she wasn’t happy with that and said she was prepared to walk away unless NBC “upped the ante significantly.” They finished at $6 million and she signed.

Kevin Newman will replace Charlie Gibson as anchor on Good Morning America as of May 4, 1998. In December it is announced ABC is looking for Newman’s replacement. Who are they looking at? Charlie Gibson.

Kay Kaplovitz exits USA Networks.

Tom Ehlmann named GM at Tribune’s KHTV/Houston; Roger Bare named GSM.

NBC has named Joel Cheatwood, VP/Daytime Development for its station group.

Kate Juergens ankles her post as VP/Primetime at NBC in favor of becoming SVP/Development at the WB Network.

Roone Arledge hands controls at ABC News over to David Westin. Arledge moves into a new role as SVP reporting directly to Bob Iger and at the announcement Arledge said he wasn’t entirely sure what his new job was, but he does expect to try developing new program formats.

Rumors about Jamie Tarses soon departure continue to swirl.

Tom Nunan named Programming Chief at UPN.

Billy Frank, SVP/Chris Craft-United Television Broadcast Group stepped down after 24 years.

Just two months after Charlie Gibson left GMA, weather forecaster/meteorologist Spencer Christian is leaving as well. He’s headed to KGO/San Francisco.

Pat Fili-Krushel is named President of ABC Television Network, filling the vacancy left by Preston Padden.

Michael Ovitz, formerly of CAA, formerly of Disney, formerly of shopping mall construction, has hung a new shingle – Artists Management Group.

Susan Daniels named President/Entertainment at the WB Network, replacing Garth Ancier whose contract expired.
Howard Stringer upped to Chairman/Sony Corp. of America

Fred Petrosino named SVP/Administration, Domestic Sales at Pearson Television


Sonny Bono … Fred Friendly … Lloyd Bridges … Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra … Syndicator Tom Shannon … Producer/writer Steven Wasserman … infomercial king Charles Givens … Norman Fell …

And that’s 1998.  Check here on June 11 for the 1999 Cynopsized edition …

Later — Cyn

Cynopsis Ad Sales: Mark Bohn- 203- 583-1224 / [email protected]
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