3 Networks Turn Down 'Sex and the City'
1 hour, 28 minutes ago
By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer
NEW YORK - Three of the four biggest broadcast networks said they have no interest in airing a sanitized version of HBO's Emmy Award-winning comedy "Sex and the City."
The fourth network, CBS, would not comment on the possibility Monday.
Published reports, first in Variety on Friday, said HBO had approached executives at ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox about airing an edited "Sex and the City" as a prime-time series, starting this fall.
Although it's rare for a cable series to find a home on broadcast networks, ABC had some success last year by picking up reruns of the USA Network series "Monk."
"Sex and the City" would present special problems for the broadcast networks, given its often-explicit story lines about four single women in New York City.
But since each episode would have to be cut from the 30-minute version that runs on commercial-free HBO to about 22 minutes to accommodate ads, racier scenes could be cut. Series producers, anticipating the show's potential sale to the more restrictive networks at some point, also have recorded alternate versions of explicit scenes, said an executive familiar with the proposals who spoke on condition of anonymity.
HBO has long talked about selling "Sex" reruns to others. But this is the first time the major broadcast networks have been mentioned as a possibility.
NBC rejected the overture for several reasons, spokeswoman Rebecca Marks said.
"It would have to make fiscal sense for us," she said. "Secondly, we feel confident about our own (series) development. Lastly, we don't have any needs at this current time."
ABC also passed on the proposal, spokesman Kevin Brockman said. So did Fox, said a network executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.
There was some concern among broadcasters about HBO's asking price, said by Variety to be around $3 million per episode. As a division of the financially ailing AOL Time Warner, HBO is likely under pressure to increase revenue.
Some in the industry also wonder about the taste for "Sex" reruns, especially at a time when repeats generally do poorly in the ratings. "Sex and the City" is rerun repeatedly on HBO.
However, HBO is available in only about a third of the nation's homes with television sets, meaning there's a large potential audience that hasn't seen the show.
HBO has said it will run 12 additional original episodes of the series this summer, then eight more starting in January 2004. After that, the series will conclude.
A successful sale of a sanitized "Sex" raises the possibility of HBO doing the same for "The Sopranos," although nothing appears to be imminent.