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NBC Opts for ‘Saturday Today’ - Not Cartoons - in 1992

December 6, 1991 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ NBC will junk its Saturday morning cartoon-show lineup next summer in favor of a news show called ″Saturday Today″ and live-action programs aimed at children and teen-agers.

The shakeup is timed to coincide with the network’s coverage of the Summer Olympics. ″Saturday Today″ debuts on Aug. 1, airing from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. EST and 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the Central and Pacific time zones, NBC said.

″We believe that ‘Saturday Today’ provides an attractive alternative to viewers who are interested in news and information as they begin their weekends,″ NBC President Robert Wright told the network’s Affiliate Board, which gathered Thursday in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for its annual meeting.

There was no immediate word on any on-air talent or producers named to the show, which will be overseen by Karen Curry, newly appointed executive producer of the network’s morning news programs.

Six animated shows will be dropped from the Saturday morning lineup, but may reappear elsewhere on the schedule, including two now airing in the 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Eastern slot, ″Space Cats″ and ″Wish Kid.″

NBC said ″Saturday Today″ will be followed by a one-hour edition of the teen-oriented, live-action sitcom ″Saved By the Bell,″ which is in its third season and is the top-rated Saturday morning show among teens.

Following that, NBC is developing a new, half-hour live-action show aimed at both teen-age and pre-teen viewers.

It will be followed by a new show developed ″expressly for the 9- to 16- year-old audience, which will satisfy the affiliates’ license requirements as outlined in the new Children’s Television Act,″ NBC said.

NBC was ″very pleased by the positive response we’ve received from our affiliates to the new plan,″ said Michael Gartner, president of NBC News.

Confirmation of the long-rumored demise of NBC’s animated children’s shows and the emergence of ″Saturday Today″ was welcomed by one advertising executive.

″I would not look at it as throwing in the towel. I think it’s a smart move,″ said David Marans, vice president for audience research at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.

NBC, No. 1 in Saturday programming a few years ago, runs a distant third - sometimes fourth - these days, but bad programming (which drew the first ″don’t watch″ from the Action for Children’s Television lobby) wasn’t entirely to blame.

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Overall, TV usage by children is significantly lower these days. High VCR usage, video games and access to cable TV - the leading supplier of children’s programming - have led to a decline in Saturday morning viewing by children.

″With the kids’ usage coming down, there’s a very ripe viewership for adult programming in those hours,″ Marans said.