September 21, 2001 08:24 AM

Although catching “must-see TV” isn’t most Americans’ top priority right now, the networks are going forward with their fall season plans — and figuring out a way to sensitively promote their premieres, Variety reports. After deciding to delay premiere week, the six broadcast networks — Fox, CBS, ABC, WB, UPN and NBC — had to re-do their launch strategies. “Of course it’s a total mess,” one network chief said. “Everyone’s got a sob story. We’ve certainly got ours. There are no manuals on how to do this.” Another network exec added: “As if there’s not enough confusion with six networks trying to launch 30 shows, now take all the premiere dates and throw them out the window. The media people craft (promotional messages) to hit at precise times. This disrupts that timing. And we haven’t seen the end of the disruptions.” But even with new promotions in place, some networks weren’t able to run their ads because of constant news coverage of last week’s attack. And many of the promotions that were in place have now been deemed inappropriate. NBC’s “UC: Undercover,” is a big, loud show filled with explosions and death-defying feats. In light of last week’s events, the network has toned down the violence in its promos for the show. Other networks had to scrap entire lines. “It’s not just a matter of removing certain things that might be thought of as offensive now, but also moving lines,” said John Miller, co-president of the NBC Agency. “A spot for ‘The Practice’ said the show was ‘more gripping than the headlines.’ But it’s not anymore.” And since the country is almost certainly headed for war, the problem shows no signs of letting up. CBS’s George Schweitzer, executive VP of marketing and communications, said the coming weeks will likely be much like the scenario the networks faced 10 years ago during the Gulf War — only worse. “You never knew what you’d have on from one day to the next,” he said.

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