Friday, December 3, 1999

‘Baywatch’ future
rides on ‘a couple
of milestones’

Ratings are good, but a
second year is not guaranteed

Kalai Miller keeps busy

By Tim Ryan


"Baywatch Hawaii" may be No. 2 in the Nielsen ratings for weekly first-run, hour-long programs in syndication, but the show's executives will not know until late next month whether the lifeguard drama is returning to Hawaii for a second year of filming.

"We sure hope so," said Syd Vinnedge, senior executive vice president for Pearson Television, the show's owner. "But there are a couple of milestones that have to be achieved."

Vinnedge declined to say what those two conditions are, except one is "a contractual thing" that must be obtained by the end of the year, and the other will occur around the time of the National Association of Television Program Executives convention in New Orleans in late January.

"Certain things have to happen" before the fate of "Baywatch Hawaii" is determined, Vinnedge said in a telephone interview from Pearson's Santa Monica, Calif., offices.

To continue receiving cost savings from the state, the show must meet certain performance conditions based on ratings, distribution and costs. If the conditions are met, then the agreement automatically kicks in for a second year. If the show doesn't perform as specified in the agreement, owner Pearson can cancel the series.

The majority of the state's incentive package to get the show here included $1.7 million in capital improvements, plus at least $1 million from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The package was for relocation, refurbishment, construction and production upgrades. It included redoing the old "Hawaii Five-0" sound stage, offices and bungalows at the Hawaii Film Studio at Diamond Head; constructing a water tank for underwater photography and new "Baywatch Hawaii" sets at the studio; a "Lifeguard Beach" at Haleiwa Beach Park; landscape sets; a water garage and dry-dock area at Haleiwa harbor, and shipping the show's fleet of boats from California.

"Baywatch Hawaii" ratings since the show debuted in September have been in the 3.0 to 3.5 range, Vinnedge said. Pearson hoped for higher viewership. Vinnedge described the show's ratings as "on the edge."

"But ... all the hour cable shows are down in ratings," he said. "Relative to everyone else, the show is doing just fine. Basically, we're happy with it, but we need more young folk watching. We're working on that."

The debut scored the show's highest ratings, 3.5, that pushed it to No. 1 in the United States. Since then, it has dropped behind the No. 1 program "Xena" and is tied with "Hercules" for No. 2, Vinnedge said.

Pearson executives "love the Hawaii look" of the reincarnated show and the way the production is being treated here, Vinnedge said."I think the show will be coming back."

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