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Channel 51 Pays Big Bucks to Rerun 42 Cosby Shows

KUSI-TV(Channel 51) almost certainly set a local record recently when it plunked down more than $3 million for a 42-month package of “The Cosby Show” reruns, the adventures of Cliff Huxtable and his incredibly well-dressed brood of suburban brats.

A Godzilla in prime-time ratings for the past few years, Cosby’s entrance into the world of syndication is generating unprecedented dollar plunking and promotional blitzes throughout the country. At last count, 178 markets had purchased the reruns, with some stations reportedly paying more than $250,000 a week for the rights.

Viacom, distributors of “The Cosby Show,” only sold the show as a 42-month package, refusing to sell episodes or smaller packages. Stations also had to agree to air the episodes in order, and Viacom took the unusual step of establishing a minimum bid within each market for the package. Viacom also broke with tradition by reserving a minute of advertising time from each episode to sell to national advertisers.

“We considered (the price) to be outrageous,” XETV (Channel 6) general manager Martin Colby said. Channel 6 bid on the show, but purposely put in a bid lower than Viacom’s minimum, Colby said, adding that what KUSI paid is “absolutely” economically unsound.

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KUSI general manager William Moore said Cosby will make the shows around it--"Newhart” at 6:30 and “Night Court” at 7:30 p.m.--stronger, as well as drawing viewers unaccustommed to watching the independent station.

“With most of the programs we buy, the decision is based not just on what audience it delivers itself, but how it fits in with the other programming,” Moore said, downplaying the recent slip in “The Cosby Show’s” prime-time ratings. “Cosby can do terrific numbers and bring up the shows on both sides.”

The Huxtable clan will debut on KUSI at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3, and local viewers should prepare themselves for a nightmarish whirl of cute Cosby advertisements.

KUSI is planning a massive promotional campaign to pump up the show, including print, radio, billboards and TV advertisements, aided by promo spots and the advice of an outside consultant provided by Viacom as part of the syndication package. At the same time, KCOP-TV (Channel 13) from Los Angeles, which will be airing the same episodes daily at 6 p.m. beginning Oct. 3, also will be laying on a heavy advertising barrage featuring Cosby and the Cosby kiddies.

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Fortunately, there are no plans (yet) to syndicate the Cosby spinoff, “A Different World.”

Surely some demented ad man once said “promotions make strange bedfellows,” or something like that. Certainly it is interesting to see KGTV (Channel 10) running commercials for Disneyland’s “State Fair Games,” touting KFMB-FM (B100) as a co-sponsor. After all, KFMB is the sister station to KFMB-TV (Channel 8), Channel 10’s competition. “We have found the radio station is separate from the TV station,” said Channel 10’s Tim Dunn. However, Channel 10 tries to avoid using “KFMB” in its promo spots, preferring “B100,” but sometimes it is unavoidable. . . During its recent pledge drive, KPBS-TV (Channel 15) received its best response during a Saturday of programming which included a repeat of Simon and Garfunkel’s two-hour “Folk City Reunion Concert” in Central Park, a “Great Performances” special on Jimmy Stewart, and “The Lawrence Welk Show.” Perhaps this means the most generous KPBS supporters are accordion-playing folk music lovers who like old movies. . . The La Paloma Theater in Encinitas is rolling out “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for midnight movies on Fridays and Saturdays, which might provide competition to the midnight weekend screenings at the Ken Cinema. The Ken has exclusive rights to the cult favorite within a certain geographical area, but the La Paloma is outside the boundaries. . .

Call it the battle of the fireworks displays. KCBQ-FM (Eagle 105) is promoting a fireworks show on the bay on Sept. 9 in conjunction with the America’s Cup, the same night of KGB-FM’s (101.5) annual Sky Show at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. . . Channel 51 general manager Moore says the station is still “seriously considering” a local news show, although it still has not committed to the project. . . San Diego Magazine staffers have been wading through back issues, putting together the 40th anniversary issue due in October.

After two months on newsstands, The Source for San Diego is about to go through major changes. By the end of the month, the glossy covers will be gone, along with the budget for free-lance writers, 40 pages of copy (including the business section) and the $1.95 newsstand price, which will be dropped to $1. Automotive, restaurant and home-and-gardening sections will be added.

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San Diego Union columnist Tom Blair took a gentle shot at TV Guide on Thursday, giving the weekly a “bad-timing award” for touting Lawrence Taylor’s impact on the upcoming NFL season, even though Taylor had been suspended a few days earlier. What Blair didn’t mention was that his paper, which comes out daily, had the same problem. On Tuesday, the day after Taylor was suspended, the Union’s football preview section also touted Taylor’s role in the Giants’ upcoming season. . . Audiences for the San Diego premiere of the locally produced “Break of Dawn” have been small, but growing larger each day, according to director Isaac Artenstein. The small box is surprising, considering the plethora of major articles in the local papers and generally favorable (though unexciting) reviews. “Maybe people stayed away because they thought it would be too crowded,” Artenstein said, who is looking for a theater to screen the film in the South Bay, home of the film’s hero, Pedro Gonzalez. “Break of Dawn” is scheduled to screen at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 12 and 14.


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