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Broadcast networks again asserted their leverage over studios leading up to this year's fall schedule announcements, pushing for ownership stakes, extended license fees and other concessions at the eleventh hour in exchange for guaranteed time slots.

"The days have long since passed when a network president calls to just congratulate you on a pickup," said Twentieth Century Fox Television President Sandy Grushow. "Now it's, what are they getting in return for it? That's the nature of the business."

In last week's most visible example, ABC requested 10% ownership and additional episodic runs of Warner Bros. Television's "The Norm Show," Twentieth's new comedy "Then Came You" and the Greenblatt/Janollari comedy "Oh Grow Up." At stake: the plum Wednesday night 9:30 p.m. (ET) time slot after "The Drew Carey Show," now occupied by "Norm."

Twentieth and Warner Bros. balked at the request. "Norm" ended up at 8:30 p.m., while "Then Came You" landed on Thursday. Ultimately, "Oh Grow Up" got the post-"Drew" time slot, and sources believe producers Greenblatt/Janollari agreed to ABC's request for a financial stake.


Warner Bros. retaliated by threatening to pull the new series "Popular," produced by ABC corporate sibling Touchstone, off the WB's fall schedule, executives said.

"Popular" managed to stay on the WB's lineup, but the network decided to wait before picking up the Touchstone series "Brutally Normal" and "Eli's Theory," which were believed to be a lock for midseason.

Three major networks scheduled teen dramas to steal some of WB's thunder; just two new series (both on UPN) featured black leads; and the comedy genre appeared destined for the intensive care unit.

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