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TV Note: Conan O'Brien deal latest in rerun trend

Monday, March 25, 2002

Conan O'Brien fans won't need to lose sleep or remember to program video recorders with Comedy Central's announcement that it will rerun his NBC show the next night beginning in September.

It's the latest example of repurposing, television's hottest trend. For more and more programs, viewers no longer have to wait six months -- or in vain -- for another opportunity to see an episode on the air.

ABC recently said it would air next-day reruns of the daytime talk show "The View" on the A&E cable network. It also allows reruns of "Once and Again" on Lifetime and of "The Job" on Comedy Central. Two other shows -- "According to Jim" and "Alias" -- are shown on the affiliated ABC Family network.

Fox's serial drama "24" is aired twice a week on cable's FX and, until recently, a second time on the broadcast network.

CBS is showing reruns of its reality show "The Amazing Race" on its corporate cousin UPN network two nights after the Wednesday first run.

The need to attract attention, save money and respond to new technology are fueling repurposing.

With the cost of producing and licensing TV series escalating, networks need to find other ways to make money off their programs, he said. The recent advertising slump has made that even more urgent.

Even though digital video recorders like Tivo have yet to take off in the marketplace, the freedom they offer viewers to build their own schedules is something that scares many network executives.

Take this quiz: Say a series airs once a week on a broadcast network and is seen by 10 million people. A similar series gets 8 million viewers on a broadcaster and 4 million more on cable reruns. Which is better?

The answer might seem obvious -- 12 million beats 10 million every time. But some networks and producers are concerned that repurposing will lower the audience for a show's first run, and that's the one they sell commercials for.

"It took a long time to convince ABC that it would not hurt 'The View,' " said Allen Sabinson, senior vice president of programming at A&E, who sealed that network's repurposing deal.

It's also why CBS, for example, has moved slowly, with only one repurposing deal. NBC has also been cautious; it agreed to deals for O'Brien's show and Carson Daly's even later talk show because of their unusual hours. The only other repurposing deals it has -- for "Law & Order: SVU" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" on USA -- were basically done "at gunpoint" in a deal with the producer, said Scott Sassa, NBC West Coast president.

A&E's research showed that three out of four people who are watching television at 7 p.m., when "The View" reruns will be shown, are not watching TV at 11 a.m., when the original airs, he said.

That's the big argument in favor of repurposing: It will expose programs to people who might not normally watch them, building their audiences long-term.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

Rukeyser is out immediately

Maryland Public Television is firing the longtime host of its popular investment program immediately, saying Louis Rukeyser used the show to discuss a contract dispute and promote his new program.

Robert J. Shuman, MPT's president and CEO, said last night that "Wall $treet With Louis Rukeyser" aired for the last time Friday. Alternate shows will be used until the station launches its new "Wall $treet Week with Fortune" next fall, he said.

"We were surprised and saddened that he chose to use the show as a medium to air contract disputes and promote his new show," Shuman said. "The purpose of the show is anything but that. The qualities of this show aren't attached to one single person."

Rukeyser's contract with MPT ends June 30. Shuman declined to discuss details of the contract.

Rukeyser, who gives a commentary at the opening of each show, started Friday's program by criticizing MPT for the new show's format. He also thanked viewers for their "amazing outpouring of support" after the station announced last week that he would no longer be the show's host.

Rukeyser told the audience that the "woods are full of smart television executives who are wonderfully excited at the prospect of producing the new Louis Rukeyser program." He asked viewers to write to their local public television stations and demand that they air his new show.

MPT, which normally retransmits the latest "Wall $treet With Louis Rukeyser" on Sundays, didn't do so this weekend because of Rukeyser's comments, Shuman said. The station also didn't post its usual transcript of Rukeyser's latest opening statement on its Web site.

"All I can tell you is that many, many viewers are telling me how angry they are not to be able to find this commentary," Rukeyser said.

Rukeyser, the show's host for all of its 32 years, said last week that he was leaving the program as it was being revamped by MPT. The station entered a partnership with Fortune magazine to produce a new version of the show.

Rukeyser, 69, was offered a senior commentator role on the new program but declined, saying he didn't want to have anything further to do with MPT.

(Associated Press)

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