The TV Column: Lisa de Moraes reports from RealScreen Summit

WHEE! Nancy Dubuc says she's
WHEE! Nancy Dubuc says she's "incredibly excited" about the merger of Lifetime and LMN with A& E Television Networks. (History/Tess Steinkolk )

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By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On the first day of RealScreen Summit -- a sort of Reality-TV Speed Dating, in which aspiring documentary and reality-TV program makers pay to rub shoulders with program-buying execs from various TV networks -- participants took a much needed afternoon break to play Let's Schedule Pretend Prime Time.

At what was supposed to be a Q&A session called Television 2012 Town Hall -- the most boring session name in the history of trade conference meetings -- five execs from various networks were supposed to "dig out their crystal balls and offer their predictions and insights regarding the immediate future of their business."

Our eternal thanks go to moderator Phil Fairclough -- exec VP at a Los Angeles-based production house called Creative Differences -- for having the far better game-show idea. The concept: Each of the five executives schedule a prime time from shows on the schedules of the other four networks -- and one wild card show from any network.

But first, one of the panelists, Nancy Dubuc, president and general manager of History Channel (also on the conference's advisory panel), wanted to make sure we noted that someone from NBC was on the panel -- which, she said, was "something people wouldn't have thought of a a few years ago."

So true. But a few years ago, no one would have thought that the most successful show on the NBC lineup would be "The Biggest Loser." Which just goes to show you that when Jeff Zucker is running a company, anything is possible!

In true game-show fashion, Fairclough -- Phil to his friends -- began by asking each contestant a beauty-pageant-ish ice-breaker question. The answers:

Dubuc is "incredibly excited" about the merger of Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network with the A&E Television Networks -- which includes History as well as A&E, Biography and a boatload of such digital networks as Military History.

Tony DiSanto, president of programming and development at MTV, is "thrilled" with the ratings performance of "Jersey Shore" and with the fact that all the cast members -- after initially holding out and threatening to negotiate for megabucks, a la "Friends" cast -- have caved and agreed to return for a second season for an undisclosed (cough) $10-thou-per-episode-give-or-take-a-thou (cough) salary, because he "really" believes this is a cast-driven, "family drama comedy."

Frances Berwick, exec VP and general manager of Bravo media, drew herself up to her full seated height when Phil asked whether she was planning any impromptu visits to the White House.

"I'm going to take a pass on that one," she said icily. Phil, who we were liking better by the minute, was of course making reference to Bravo's nightmare Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the infamous alleged White House party crashers. Until Bravo says otherwise, we will say they are among the cast members of the new "Real Housewives of D.C."

Berwick had nothing to say on the Salahi front, except that the show is "in production."

"How's life without Conan?" Phil asked Paul Telegdy, who's in charge of alternative programming at NBC.


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