Show to blend ads and variety fare

From Associated Press

No more "... and now a message from our sponsor"?

Striking a blow against viewers who skip through TV commercials, a new variety series will blend advertising messages into its program fare, offering a seamless hour of entertainment mixed with salesmanship.

The series will air for six weeks this summer on the WB, with Michael Davies, best-known for ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," as its producer, according to a story in Friday's New York Times. Its working title is "Live From Tomorrow."

The show, which Davies described as "a contemporary, hip 'Ed Sullivan Show,' " is a response to worries among advertisers and network executives about the rising popularity of Tivo-like personal video recorders, which invite viewers to zap commercial breaks.

The plan -- a throwback to long-ago days when sponsors owned network TV and radio shows and packed them with product plugs -- will marry the show with two main sponsors, Pepsi and Nokia, and four secondary sponsors, Davies said.

The show might send an entertainer to the Nokia headquarters to take part in its internship program for a feature, Davies said, or charge a movie studio for an appearance by a star of a film the studio wants to promote.

The WB had no comment on Davies' remarks, network spokesman Paul McGuire said Friday.

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