New York -- Family-friendly Pax TV will start its
conversion to more original programming this summer, replacing off-network reruns with its
own original series each weeknight at 8 p.m., officials said last week.
In addition to unveiling four new original primetime shows
as part of that new schedule, Pax TV also said it has acquired the domestic rights to Millennium
Live, a 24-hour, live, worldwide New Year's Eve event being engineered by the
producers of Live Aid.
The event is expected to reach 4 billion people -- the
largest audience in TV history -- and it will have a budget of $40 million to $50 million,
with acts from around the globe.
During Pax TV's upfront here, CEO Jeff Sagansky said
that for the 1999-2000 season, the network will begin airing five first-run series at 8
p.m. -- a different one each night -- supplanting the off-network shows that currently run
in that time slot. The new lineup will debut Aug. 23.
The new original shows include two dramas: Hope Island,
which is derived from British series Ballykissangel; and Twice in a Lifetime,from Emmy Award-winning Cagney & Lacey producer Barney Rosenzweig.
Also on the lineup are anthology series Chicken Soup for
the Soul, based on the special Pax TV created from the inspirational book of the same
title;and variety show The Star Machine,from Star Search producer
All of those series except Hope Island will air at 8
p.m. Hope Island will run at 9 p.m. Sundays.
In addition to new series Twice in a Lifetime, Chicken
Soup for the Soul and Star Machine, Pax TV has also slotted returning primetime
series Little Men and It's a Miracle for 8 p.m.
Sagansky predicted that the new shows would provide a
better lead-in for reruns of Touched by an Angel at 9 p.m. and Diagnosis Murder at
When its pending deals are closed, Pax TV, which launched
last August, will be carried by 116 TV stations, including 71 owned and operated by Paxson
Communications Corp. The network is also distributed to 15 million cable subscribers in
markets without station affiliates.
During a press conference after the upfront, Sagansky said
Pax TV was meeting its 1.0 ratings guarantee to advertisers at this point, and it would
increase that guarantee for the new season.
Pax TV plans to spend between $30 million and $35 million
to promote its programming for the coming season, he added.
Sagansky said Pax TV is meeting society's
"burning hunger for value-based entertainment."
Referring to the shootings in Littleton, Colo., and the
current microscope on the relationship between TV and violence, Sagansky added, "All
that has happened in Washington and the country has put us much more on the radar."
In describing Pax TV's plans, Sagansky said it would
take three years for the network's schedule to be all-original.
In access, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Pax TV is creating a
block of shopping-oriented programming, including several game shows, called
"Spree!" The shows that will be part of Spree! are Supermarket Sweep, Shop
'Til You Drop and Treasure in Your Attic.
When questioned by reporters, Sagansky brushed off
comparisons between his network and the two other family-oriented cable services, Fox
Family Channel and Odyssey Channel.
He said Pax TV's distribution was much greater than
that of either Fox Family or Odyssey, for one.
And Sagansky noted that Pax TV, unlike Fox Family, is not
selling a kids' or teen demographic. "The demographic we're selling is
women," he said.