TV Networks Promote Fall Schedules To Advertisers

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Broadcast networks are trying to woo advertisers to buy commercial time in a ritual known as the "upfronts." How are the networks faring, and what's on the horizon TV-wise?

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Television networks are presenting their fall schedules in New York this week. Broadcast giants like CBS and ABC hope to generate buzz for new shows and sell about $9 billion in commercial time to advertisers. Reporter Kim Masters is in New York following this TV tradition known as the upfronts. And she joins us now.

Hi, Kim.

KIM MASTERS: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So let's start with a network that's taken a thrashing over the last year, and that would be NBC. Is it poised for a comeback after the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien debacle?

MASTERS: Well, the bar is set low at this point for NBC. And what they're just trying to do is live down the debacle that they created, "The Jay Leno Show" five nights a week at 10:00. They're spending a lot of money on programs. They're hoping to convince the creative community in L.A. that if you have a decent idea for a show, it's actually worth taking it to NBC.

They have a lot of new shows, a lot, because they have a lot to fill in their schedule. They have something called "The Event." It's a thriller. You know, there's all kinds of scary stuff going on in the White House and around the world. And they're hoping to pick up refugees from "Lost" and "Heroes" and "24," all of which are gone now. So that's what NBC is pushing very hard.

And they have a comedy they're really pushing called "Outsourced," which is about an American guy sent to a call center in India. And of course, NBC, which has gotten rid of "Law and Order," to the sorrow of its remaining fans, still has another coming, "Law and Order: Los Angeles." They're calling it "LOLA." And so we'll have that on the air also.

MONTAGNE: But Kim, despite the attention on NBC, I gather you're hearing a lot of concerns about another network.

MASTERS: Yeah. To some degree NBC has masked what's going on at ABC, which is really - it has lost "Lost." And it has a lot of shows that are fading: "Desperate Housewives," "Private Practice."

And I'd just say that it projected a feeling of stress, you know, when it was presenting this to this gigantic room full of advertisers in Lincoln Center. You know, they're trying it all, and I felt that the advertisers coming out of it just were not particularly wowed by anything. So there could be some trouble there.

MONTAGNE: So where is the programming looking the strongest?

MASTERS: Well, Fox, of course, is riding really high on "Glee" and "American Idol," which faces some big challenges next year when Simon Cowell will not be sitting in the judge's chair. They have some new shows too. They have a thing called "Lone Star." It's supposed to be like updated "Dallas" starring, you know, a real cute guy who's got a wife and a girlfriend and it's all very complicated and somewhat soapy.

They have some comedies. They've got something called "Raising Hope" about this kind of loser who's trying to raise a baby. And it looked - that got a lot of laughs. So Fox is feeling good and feeling strong.

Also CBS. CBS took bold moves, cancelled a whole bunch of shows, put on a whole bunch of new shows. They've got one called, I'll say "Bleep, My Dad Says." It's actually an expletive. But they're saying bleep, so I'll say bleep. It's a show that's based on a guy who was tweeting about his father. It's got William Shatner.

And they're bringing back "Hawaii Five-0." And, yes, it will have the music and it will, you know, have some nice looking guys. And I think they have high hopes for that one on Monday night. So CBS is really aggressively trying to hold on to a top position. It's a strong network. It's trying to stay that way.

MONTAGNE: Kim, just finally. TV, Hollywood in general, very much an industry in transition with the rise of cable for television and the Internet. Overall, how do you rate the tenor of this year's upfronts about all the new programming?

MASTERS: I would say hope and fear. You know, last year was dreadful. And so they think it will be better. And the huge question is how much better. You know, it's a high stakes business. But they are definitely hoping for an improvement from last year.

MONTAGNE: Kim, thanks very much for the update on the upfronts.

MASTERS: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Kim Masters is host of THE BUSINESS on member station KCRW.

(Soundbite of theme from "Hawaii Five-0")

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