Lots of television insiders and outsiders (including your local television editor) expect ABC to beat CBS in the ratings wars next season.
Not so, say the folks at CBS.(Did you expect them to say anything else?)
CBS numbers guru David Poltrack, the network's executive vice president of research and planning, told the affiliates last week that at the end of the 1994-95 season, CBS will again be in the winner's circle.
He projected CBS will average a 13.3 rating to ABC's 12.5, NBC's 10.8 and Fox's 7.3.
"I am confident that when the dust settles at the end of next season," he said, "CBS will be an even stronger No. 1 in prime time. This continued primetime success, when combined with our dominance in daytime and late night, will make CBS the place to be in 1995 for programmers, for advertisers and for affiliates."
Now, this is just the sort of self-serving stuff the network types dish out to their affiliates. (And which they'll reheat and dish out to critics on the annual Press Tour next month.)
But, on the other hand, it should be pointed out that Poltrack has been right to within a tenth of a point on all of his predictions for the past three seasons.
BATTLING BACK: At those affiliates meetings, the top execs at CBS sounded confident - some said arrogant - about the challenges posed by the impending loss of both the NFL and eight affiliates to Fox.
"You'll find that there's a renewed vigor and spirit and a desire to fight this thing out and win," CBS chairman and major stockholder Laurence Tisch told the press. "If anything, this has given us a very healthy shot in the arm."
Although he's been criticized for not making the deal that Fox made, investing in the company that owns those stations, Tisch insisted he wasn't going to jump into any deals despite the fact that CBS has somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars in the bank.
He also said that the network will announce new affiliates in the eight cities in question in the next two or three weeks.
FILLING SUNDAY AFTERNOONS: Speaking of CBS fighting back against Fox, the Big Eye has finally announced how it will fill the void left when FBC swiped the NFL.
In addition to some sports programming - mostly tennis, golf and figure skating - CBS is going to air original movies from Hallmark Entertainment and a series of TV flicks under the banner "Harlequin Sunday Matinee Romance."
None of this is a big surprise. CBS lost the male audience when it lost football, so it's going to make a play for the female audience.
"A new and competitive day part has been born on Sunday afternoons," said new CBS Entertainment President Peter Tortorici in a statement. "There is a huge, underserved audience out there, including women and families, and we intend to serve them with programming comparable to prime time - in star power, creative talent, production values and budgets."
The network, having drawn monster ratings with the 1994 Winter Olympics, is also creating the "CBS Sports Figure Skating Challenge" - a banner under which you can expect to see lots of figure skating.
CBS SPORTSTER: CBS Sports, which isn't quite out of business yet, has signed a high-profile reporter.
Dan Jansen, who won a gold medal (finally - thank goodness) in speedskating at Lillehammer Olympics earlier this year, will "play a major role" at the 1998 Games and will report on other sports programming for "Eye on Sports."
SUMMER SERIES: NBC will begin airing a "comedic investigative magazine" titled "TV Nation" on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. beginning July 19.
From filmmaker Michael Moore ("Roger & Me"), the network promises this will be a show full of "cheeky irreverence."
"This is a revolutionary, funny and entertaining TV show," Moore said in a statement. "It's a radical departure from the dozen or so magazine shows currently on the air. For starters, we don't have the credentials or the wardrobe of most TV correspondents.
"Our project poses the question, `What if the rest of us had a TV show?"'
Among those who've signed on with Moore are Merrill Markoe (David Letterman's former head writer - and girlfriend), MTV veejay Karen Duffy and comedian Jonathan Katz.
Whether this works or not, there's nothing on television that's in more need of lampooning than the prime-time news magazines.
THEY'LL BE BACK: The Prime Time Entertainment Network has renewed both "Babylon 5" and "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues" as well as adding a third series for next season.
"Pointman," and action hour starring Jack Scalia, debuted as a two-hour movie earlier this year. It will show up as an hourlong series in January, when "Kung Fu" returns for its third season.
The second season of "Babylon 5" will begin in November.
Although "Time Trax" has not yet been officially renewed, it's also expected to return.
PTEN's programming airs locally on KJZZ-Ch. 14.
CHANGING CHANNELS: Well, we've been waiting for more than a year to hear the folks at NBC tell us when they're going to schedule George Wendt's new sitcom.
Apparently, they're not.
Variety has reported that the "Cheers" veteran is still going to do the show "Family Mechanics," inspired by National Public Radio's "Car Talk" show - but for CBS, not NBC.