NATPE '95: TALK, TALK AND MORE TALK

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LAS VEGAS-The National Association of Television Programming Executives conference has expanded well beyond its traditional U.S. TV syndication roots.

Much of the action at NATPE '95 held last week in Las Vegas was about cable, new media and international programming. And the setting also served as a hub for three of the Big 4 broadcast networks' winter affiliate meetings: CBS, Fox and NBC.

While a few new syndicated TV hits may emerge from the conference, this year's crop of first-run offerings was a mostly derivative lot of talk shows, reality programs and action-adventure series. One of the most touted new series introduced at the conference, "Baywatch Nights," is a spin-off of All American Television's highly successful "Baywatch" series.

One of the few surprises announced at NATPE was Buena Vista Television's "Danny," hosted by former "Partridge Family" star Danny Bonaduce, was one of the 20-plus new talk shows introduced at the conference.

Among the major issues debated during the conference was the potential phaseout of the Federal Communications Commission's prime-time access rule, which prohibits stations from airing network-supplied programming from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), Monday through Saturday. While most syndicators favor retaining the rule, which frees valuable time periods for syndicated shows, Walt Disney Television & Telecommunications Chairman Rich Frank advocated its repeal.

A panel discussion featuring top programmers of the "seven" broadcast networks-ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, WB and UPN-indicated a potential war breaking out over the control of hit shows produced by studios that also own TV networks.

Responding to reports that Viacom may pull its successful "Melrose Place" series off Fox in favor of Viacom-majority-owned United Paramount Network, NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield predicted such a move would kill a studio's chances of supplying future series to an outside network. Mr. Littlefield and CBS Entertainment President Peter Tortorici said they are negotiating contracts for the 1995-96 season that include provisions to prevent such moves.

Also at NATPE:

Warner Bros. announced it will launch WBTV-The Warner Channel in April or May, an advertising-supported Latin American satellite and cable TV network carrying a mix of Warner Bros. and other programming in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Sony Pictures Entertainment announced plans to launch an unnamed ad-supported Latin American channel in several months featuring subtitled versions of popular U.S. prime-time series.

Turner Broadcasting Sales picked up barter sales for New Line Television shows, including "Court TV: Inside America's Courts," "SportsLife," "Back to Bedrock" and "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast."

Sony's Game Show Network named Independent Television Network as its exclusive national sales representative.

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