ABC STARS TO RIDE DISNEY ADVENTURE.
The Walt Disney Co., plagued with soft theme park attendance, needs some extra exposure for the upcoming fall line-up of its struggling ABC television network.
So the entertainment conglomerate is trying some corporate synergy by sending the stars of its new prime-time shows to Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim for a two-day fanfest this month to try and boost both divisions which contributed to Disney's poor third-quarter earnings - announced this week - and grim fourth-quarter outlook.
``ABC Primetime Preview Weekend' on Aug. 24 and 25 will feature the likes of Dylan McDermott (``The Practice''), Drew Carey and ``NYPD Blue'' star Dennis Franz. Cast members from the network's new fall shows will also be on hand.
ABC is unveiling seven new shows in the fall in an effort to stop a ratings free-fall that has lasted all season. In the most recent prime-time ratings released this week, ABC could claim just one program in the top 20.
``Disney has a number of assets that can help to promote their other assets,'' said analyst David Joyce of Guzman and Associates in Miami. ``One of the ways they can do that is by making the actors from the upcoming season more available at the parks. There's also the possibility that it can drive a bit of incremental attendance at the park.''
Disney is on an aggressive campaign to maximize the synergy between its struggling ABC network and various Disney properties. At a meeting in June, Disney Chairman Michael D. Eisner asked top executives from every Disney division to brainstorm ways to boost the ratings of ABC.
Among the ideas was having parades at the theme parks featuring the ABC stars and even having Disney-produced films dressed with references to ABC programs.
The fanfest will feature many of the stars from the network's crop of new shows. Some, like John Ritter and Katey Sagal (``8 Simple Rules'') are familiar for their respective previous hit shows, ``Three's Company'' and ``Married ... With Children.'' Others such as Bonnie Hunt (``Life With Bonnie'') and George Lopez are established personalities but are not household names.
Cast members from the new shows ``Less Than Perfect'' and ``That Was Then'' will also participate. Popular ice skater Michelle Kwan will also appear as part of her affiliation with ABC Sports as will ``Monday Night Football'' announcers Al Michaels and Melissa Stark.
``What better way to excite viewers and the public and inform the media about our new season than to allow them unparalleled access to the stars and talent from our new and returning series,'' said ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne. ``These two days are going to be a lot of fun and should generate tremendous buzz for ABC.''
In addition to McDermott, Franz and Carey, ``Life With Jim'' stars Jim Belushi, Courtney Thorne-Smith and Kimberly Williams will make appearances as will panelists from ``Whose Line Is It Anyway?''
Events during the two-day event include a Q&A showcase, a daily parade of stars, sneak previews of new show pilots, stand-up comedy from Lopez, live music from Belushi and his band and two live performances of ``Whose Line Is It Anyway?''
This corporate synergy was used in April with ABC soap stars which included ``All My Children'' star Susan Lucci and fellow cast members the first weekend then stars from ``One Life to Live'' and ``General Hospital'' on subsequent weekends.
``As a company, we embrace every opportunity to get behind our partners and showcase their quality products,'' said Cynthia Harris, president of Disneyland Resort.
(1 -- color) McDERMOTT
(2 -- color) SAGAL
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|Title Annotation:||Review; Business|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 3, 2002|
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