Thursday, August 12, 1999

Advertisers dial in for family TV

P&G, 10 others part of plan

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's world-famous soap maker — and 10 other top advertisers — Wednesday announced a new plan to clean up television.

        Procter & Gamble and other companies will fund script development for eight family-friendly prime-time pilots for the WB network.

        “We're trying to help cause more 7th Heavens to happen,” said Robert L. Wehling, P&Gs global marketing officer, referring to the WB drama about a minister's family. It is WB's highest-rated series.

        “We're just helping be a catalyst to produce scripts,” said Mr. Wehling, co-chairman of the Forum for Family Friendly Programming that made the WB deal. Joining P&G are AT&T, General Mo tors, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Sears, Wendy's International, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, Ameritech and Warner-Lambert.

        WB will use the investment, estimated at less than $1 million by the Wall Street Journal, to develop scripts for series that “a multigenerational group in a household would enjoy watching together, ...” Mr. Wehling said. The comedies and dramas would be for the 2000-2001 TV season.

        “We want to encourage re sponsible entertainment, and the programming that is available between the hours of 8 and 10 p.m. is not as family-friendly as we would like it to be,” said Kaki Hinton, advertising director for Warner-Lambert, the drug and consumer products maker.

        WB executives have not guaranteed that any of the eight scripts would make the network's airwaves.

        Eight pilot scripts would in crease WB's development pool by about 33 percent, said Brad Turrell, WB executive vice president for network communications.

        The agreement grew out of Mr. Wehling's meeting last spring with WB Chief Executive Jamie Kellner. When Mr. Wehling expressed an interest in seeing more shows like 7th Heaven, the WB executive invited him to ante up money for development. Johnson & Johnson quickly endorsed the idea.

        “We have some brands — like Band-Aids and Johnson's baby prod ucts — that need family-friendly programming,” said John McKeegan, Johnson & Johnson spokesman.

        The WB deal is the second initiative of the Forum for Family Friendly Programming. It will honor wholesome TV shows airing 8-10 p.m. with the Family Program Awards Sept. 9 in Beverly Hills.

        The 11 companies will not have an ownership stake if any of the scripts make it to the air. They also won't have control over script content.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.

        Through the years, P&G has spent millions to shape television programming between commercials. It has produced soap operas (Guiding Light, As the World Turns), miniseries (Jesus of Nazareth), prime-time shows (Northern Exposure) and specials (People's Choice Awards).

        In 1995, P&G Gamble pulled its advertising from the Jerry Springer, Sally Jessy Raphael, Geraldo Rivera and Montel Wil liams talk shows.

        Through partnerships with Paramount and Columbia TriStar studios, P&G owns a piece of several prime-time shows, including King of Queens, Becker, Dilbert, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,and three new fall shows. P&G originally owned part of Dawson's Creek but withdrew from the show because of its explicit sexual dialogue.


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