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TV Industry Stories (1)



BURBANK-In what is being billed as a TV first, a broadcast network, NBC, is producing a program for The Disney Channel, a national cable service. "It's simple, really," says Gene Walsh, VP/media planning for NBC Productions, who is responsible for the new show. "We're a supplier of shows, so we supply:' 

The product is nothing out of the ordinary. A sitcom called Good Morning Miss Bliss, it features Walt Disney contract player Hayley Mills and chronicles the adventures of, in Executive Producer Peter Engel's words, "the last of the great teachers:' Although the pilot was well received by NBC's executives and the public-it won its time period against a James Bond movie and a miniseries when it aired on July 11, 1987 -the net- 

work, top-heavy with successful skeins and/or previous commitments, passed. "I think it was a little too soft, too family oriented for them;' opines Engel. But those were virtues to the folks at TDC, which was looking for a network-quality, first-run series. 

After 13 episodes are produced at the NBC studios in Burbank, the series will originate from the Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. (see related story in this section). 

An NBC spokesman reports that the show starts on the West Coast so that production heads at both NBC and Disney have easy access to Miss Bliss as its concept is being developed. In addition, a larger pool of technical and creative talent to draw from in Burbank is expected to help the show "get into a groove;' before it is moved to the new facility. 

The four-camera, videotape series is being posted in Orlando at the new Disney-MGM postproduction facility installed by the Post Group, in addition to the California facilites. The writing staff will be headquartered in both locations. 

The deal gives Disney 80 episodes to run over two years, with NBC then having the option to pick up the series for network broadcast. After that, Buena Vista, Disney's syndication arm, could syndicate. Observes Engel: "Disney gets shows with more production values than cable normally has, and NBC gets 80 episodes of a show already paid for in another venue. It's a new distribution pattern - horizontal rather than vertical. 

"There is no real difference in doing it for Disney rather than NBC;' Engel continues. "Maybe there are not as many people involved in the approvals process, and budgets are not as high, but since we have 80 episodes we can amortize a lot. We can make firmer deals and offer more employment. And we may be able to make dollars go farther in Florida. But no one will be able to see the difference in quality between this show and the network pilot."



• SEATTLE -Call it a costs=aving measure. Or call it an innovation. But don't call it a "minibureau."

"We don't really have a name for what we do;' says Scott LaPlante, the news operation manager at Seattle NBC-affiliate KING-TV. "I'm sort of a liaison for NBC News. I work for KING, but when NBC needs something done, I get it for them:' 

LaPlante's role is the latest wrinkle in network news operations-the network news bureau that isn't a bureau. It all started in December 1987 when, according to an NBC spokesman, the network acknowledged a few facts: "The Northwest is an important area to cover. KING has an outstanding news organization. Why not take advantage of that?" 

Instead of spending the money to open up a full-fledged bureau, NBC contacted KING News Director Don Varyu and asked him if he had someone who could lineproduce stories in Seattle and the outlying areas, as well as keep an eye out for material that might be of national interest. Varyu tapped LaPlante, who supervises photography and editing at the station and also coordinates satellite feeds of Northwestern news footage to NBC affiliates nationwide. 

"Scott works for us but takes time out for NBC projects;' says Varyu. "It's a real juggling act and he does it well."

According to LaPlante, who supplies story ideas, sound bites and even segments (via satellite)for the Today show and News at Sunrise, the arrangement benefits both network and affiliate: "They may come to me and say: 'We're doing a segment on the environment. Can you give us anything?' On the other hand, I may be doing 'a story for KING that is of national interest, like the one I suggested on the Portland Symphony conductor, James DePreist ... he's a real Renaissance man:' 

Although KING acquired no new ENG equipment (LaPlante did get a computer hook-up. with NBC News so he could keep track of what stories are on tap), there are other benefits. "The network was interested in covering Mary Decker when she ran in Eugene, Ore., because she would be in the Olympics,"' says LaPlante. "I went down there as line producer and covered it for them. NBC picked up the tab, but KINGbenefited because we got material out of it, as well:' 

LaPlante works with NBC correspondents and technicians, but has also used local crews for fast-breaking news. "If something big happens in Alaska, I'm three or four hours ahead of L.A. where the networks have full bureaus:' 

The savings to NBC are hard to calculate, but they can only be large, since complete news bureaus usually employ a minimum of 25 people. "Cost is certainly a factor;' notes an NBC spokesman. Is it a trend? Not if you ask CBS and ABC. Says a CBS spokesman: "If we felt we needed a bureau in Seattle, we'd set one up:' Adds Elise Adde, director of news information at ABC News: "We have no plans for minibureaus. We are perfectly happy with the bureaus we have." 


wrap. september 1988