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TV Notes: TV advertising campaigns changed after shuttle disaster

Friday, February 07, 2003

Television networks and advertisers quickly yanked material from the air to avoid appearing insensitive after Saturday's disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia.

They included a commercial for the Hewlett-Packard Co. bragging about its ability to get astronauts home safely, and a 1998 Bruce Willis movie that depicts a space shuttle being destroyed by an asteroid.

The HP ad depicts astronauts dressed for flight and included the line "HP computers and servers help NASA in making sure our astronauts come home safely."

The computer company tried to get all of the ads pulled from the air immediately after the accident, but one was missed and ran inadvertently Sunday during CNN's coverage of the accident, said Rebeca Robboy, HP spokeswoman, on Monday.

The FX cable network took its Saturday night airing of Willis' movie "Armageddon" off the schedule. It was replaced by another movie, "Aliens."

"In light of the tragedy, we felt it would be inappropriate to run the movie," FX spokesman John Solberg said.

An Albany, N.Y.-area Fox affiliate received complaints from viewers on Saturday when it aired a rerun of "The Simpsons." One scene of the cartoon included Bart Simpson building a rocket and firing it, and it falls to the ground, burning down a church.

WXXA-TV pulled the episode in mid-stream and replaced it with another rerun of "The Simpsons," said Jeff Whitson, the station's general manager.

"It wasn't as if we got hundreds [of complaint calls], but it was enough for us to pay attention to the episode," Whitson said. "We had no way of knowing. The episode title ['Lisa of Little Faith'] didn't give us any indication."

Meanwhile, the Hardee's restaurant chain picked the wrong weekend to launch a new campaign for its "Big Chicken" sandwich.

The company's ad showed a NASA rocket taking off, with a voiceover saying, "We know that the astronauts were not chicken. Stop by Hardee's and get your 'Big Chicken' sandwich."

Hardee's tried to have the ad pulled from the select Midwest and Southeast markets where it was going to run over the weekend, but failed at some stations and the ad ran, said Larry Brayman, company spokesman.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

At the very least, ABC's Peter Jennings might want to quietly file away Saturday's television ratings for the next time he negotiates a contract.

Preliminary Nielsen Media Research estimates for broadcast network coverage of the space shuttle disaster showed NBC News with a surprisingly wide advantage over its rivals, particularly ABC.

Between 9:30 a.m. and noon on Saturday, NBC was watched by 8.7 million viewers, CBS by 5.2 million, ABC by 3.5 million and Fox by 2.2 million, Nielsen said.

Jennings, who was two hours away from New York City when the news broke, appeared in the ABC News studio shortly after noon. The viewership gap immediately narrowed; NBC had 7.6 million between noon and 2 p.m., and ABC was up to 4.6 million. CBS had 6 million.

The difference earlier was notable, given that viewers generally turn to special news coverage on the networks at about the same proportions as the evening news. In that measure, NBC is usually on top, with ABC a close second.

ABC's audience before Jennings arrived was smaller than CNN's, according to Nielsen. CNN had 3.9 million viewers between the news breaking and noon, and Fox News Channel had 2.8 million.

ABC News' Bill Blakemore anchored the early coverage. While NBC and CBS have regularly scheduled Saturday morning newscasts, ABC doesn't. Due to satellite problems, ABC also was slower than its rivals in showing video of the shuttle accident.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

He's been a professional wrestler, talk-radio host and Minnesota governor. Next up for Jesse Ventura: his own cable show.

Ventura announced Wednesday on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" that he'll soon begin hosting a nightly program on MSNBC.

"I'm going to educate 'em, entertain 'em and tell people the truth," Ventura said.

Ventura said he didn't know what day the show will begin airing or who his first guest will be. He said he'll be on five nights per week and will probably start within a month.

Ventura did not seek a second term last year and left office in January.

(Patrick Howe, Associated Press)

Channel 11's Sunday morning newscast will expand by an hour Jan. 16, beginning at 7 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. The additional hour replaces an infomercial and a paid religious program, which will leave the schedule. (Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)-->

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