Just weeks after it was touted to advertisers in New York, NBC's 9/11 miniseries has been scrapped -- the apparent victim of a game of chicken with ABC and the hit NBC took in the recent upfront market, when advertisers commit dollars to spots on upcoming shows.
In October, NBC rushed to plant its flag in the 9/11 Commission Report, announcing with almost no additional details that it would produce a "limited series" to dramatize events leading up to and including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "as delineated in the best-selling document."
Because the report is in the public domain, NBC could not secure exclusive rights to a TV project based on the findings. Hence last fall's announcement. It's a time-honored tradition in the TV industry to make an announcement to ward off competing projects. (Back then, NBC knew that Graham Yost would write and executive-produce the series; Yost penned several episodes of HBO's 10-part miniseries "Band of Brothers" and 12-part miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon." Soon after, Imagine's Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were attached to the project, which the trades said would be eight hours long. )
Undeterred by NBC's dibs, ABC continued to quietly plow ahead on its own 9/11 miniseries; also based on the commission's report, the project has yet to be formally announced.
The ABC project will be executive-produced by Marc Platt, of "Legally Blonde" fame.
Both battling miniseries were chasing high-profile, high-cost talent, though no one had been signed. Harvey Keitel's name popped up in a Variety report yesterday when NBC threw in the towel.
News of the NBC project's demise comes days after news reports that the network stood to take in about $1 billion less in the upfront market than it did last year. NBC, which in the 2004-05 TV season fell from first place to fourth among the 18-to-49-year-olds advertisers pay a premium to reach, took a hit at the upfront market while other networks gained ground, such as Fox, which finished first in the demographic group for the first time in its history, and ABC, which made tremendous ratings inroads with freshman series including "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost."
Deja vu all over again: President Bush, faced with newly released, terrible poll numbers, just like in April, decided to make a prime-time made-for-TV appearance, just like in April. This time, the White House says, he's celebrating the one-year anniversary of Iraqi sovereignty.
And, just like in April, the broadcast networks wondered what was the news value as they tallied up the cost in lost ad revenue. Except ABC, which, just like in April, said right away it would carry the speech live because it had the least to lose. (It had planned to air sitcom reruns last night at 8.)
And, just like in April, the other networks held out until the afternoon of, and NBC caved first; CBS and Fox followed suit. (Fox initially told its stations it would provide an optional feed from Fox News.)
The networks hesitated because they will lose all that ad revenue at 8 p.m. and many viewers won't come back at the end of the speech.