Entertainment Industry

Category: Local Television

NBC stations will use content from nonprofit news outlets

Ten NBC-owned television stations across the nation will team with nonprofit news outlets in an attempt to beef up their enterprise and analytical reporting, the network announced Monday.

NBC affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia will work with work with non-commercial outfits in those cities -- KPCC public radio, the Chicago Reporter and WHYY public radio and television, respectively -- while all of the network's owned-and-operated stations will get early access to investigative reports from the independent, nonprofit newsroom Pro Publica.

The arrangement comes as Comcast moves to fulfill its commitment to federal regulators to strengthen local, public-interest programming in the wake of its purchase of NBCUniversal earlier this year.

The partnerships also continue the trend toward content sharing throughout the media industry as operators try to trim the high costs that come with producing stories on their own. The New York Times, for example, has expanded its editions in Chicago, San Francisco and other locations via publishing partnerships with nonprofit news outlets. In Chicago, the New York Times gets local stories from the Chicago News Cooperative, while in the San Francisco area the newspaper features content from the Bay Citizen. Both of the Times partners are nonprofit, Web-based news start-ups.

In Los Angeles, Pasadena-based KPCC-FM (89.3) and KNBC-TV Channel 4 plan to use content produced by the other and, in some cases, stories that the two outlets will develop together. Details and a starting time for the joint-content programming remain to be worked out.

KPCC Chief Executive Bill Davis said the for-profit television station and his nonprofit radio outfit will  be able to expand the size of their audiences and the reach of their reporting.

"We can get to the kind of investigative and enterprise stories we wouldn’t be able to singularly," Davis said.

ProPublica, a New York-based Web operation that already shares content with many news organizations, will give NBC stations an early look at databases it develops on a range of complicated subjects. Its previous projects have, among other things, showed which doctors took payments from drug companies, rated the quality of care at dialysis centers and the performance of secondary schools.

NBC stations will be able to look at ProPublica data to focus such reports on their local communities.  "We put the reporting at their fingertips and they can do terrific local stories with it," said Richard Tofel, general manager for ProPublica. "We get a greater and wider impact, which is ultimately our mission."

The model for the new partnerships comes from San Diego, where the nonprofit news Internet site Voice of San Diego has worked with NBC Channel 7. Among several features the TV station gets is "San Diego Explained," a Wednesday night segment in which a reporter from the website delves deeper into local issues. This week, the program is being expanded to five parts to focus on the financial crisis in San Diego schools.

NBC pays $3,900 a month to Voice of San Diego. That does not entirely cover the website's costs, said Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis. But the nonprofit benefits by expanding its audience and its profile in the San Diego area, which helps its fundraising.

NBC will not pay for content it will receive from ProPublica and KPCC, though both of the non-commercial outlets said they expected to get voluntary financial donations from the television network. The payments were not a condition of the content sharing, they said.

-- James Rainey

Photo: Bill Davis, president of Southern California Public Radio, which operates KPCC. The station plans to share content with KNBC-TV Channel 4 in Los Angeles, one of four new cooperative arrangements announced by the NBC television network. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times


Nexstar files antitrust lawsuit against Granite

While local television stations compete against each other for ratings and advertising dollars, their fights don't usually end up in court.

But a battle between two broadcasters that own and operate properties in Fort Wayne, Ind., is getting particularly nasty. Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc., an Irving, Texas, broadcaster and parent of WFFT-TV in Fort Wayne, has filed an antitrust lawsuit in an Indiana federal court against Granite Broadcasting Corp., a New York company that owns WISE-TV in Fort Wayne.

Nexstar alleges that Granite has an unfair advantage in Fort Wayne and is engaging in anti-competitive behavior because besides owning NBC and MyNetwork TV affiliate WISE-TV, it also handles advertising sales for Malara Broadcasting's WPTA-TV, the ABC and CW affiliate, and starting next month will use one of WISE's digital channels to broadcast programming from the Fox network. Nexstar's WFFT had been the home of Fox in the market, but it could not come to terms on a new deal to remain affiliated with the network.

By owning or handling advertising sales for affiliates of three major networks as well as CW, Granite has an unfair advantage and is using its leverage to squeeze advertisers and to harm Nexstar, the suit said. The suit also said that Granite has been trying to poach employees from Nexstar and has been bad-mouthing WFFT, which will operate as an independent station starting next month.

Nextstar said that Granite controls about 45% of all broadcast television ad revenues. Throw the Fox station into the mix and Granite will have the ability to "foreclose competition through its contracts for five of the six exclusive national network affiliations" in town. 

The end result, according to Nexstar, is that advertisers will be forced to pay inflated rates for commercials and Indiana consumers will have to shell out more for goods and services.

Nexstar asked the court to rule that Granite give up control of ad sales for at least one of the network affiliates and that it not try to hire any more of its employees.

Granite Chairman Peter Markham declined to comment on the suit.

Nextsar got support for its suit from an unusual source: the American Cable Assn., a lobbying outfit for small cable operators that is also concerned about consolidation among local broadcasters because of fears that one company controlling multiple outlets will drive up rates that distributors pay to carry their channels.

“Cable companies have documented for the FCC that they pay from 21% to 161% more for retransmission consent when they are required to negotiate with a single entity representing two network affiliated stations in the same market," ACA President Matthew Polka said. "When two stations in a market are involved, it’s real bad; but when it’s three, it’s outrageous."

This month, Nexstar announced that it was considering a possible sale of the company. It owns and operates 63 stations in mostly small and mid-size markets.

-- Joe Flint


Cable television gaining in advertising revenue, but not political dollars

Boasting popular sporting events and original entertainment shows, cable programmers long ago surpassed the broadcast networks in viewers.

Now they are beginning to close the advertising-revenue divide.

"For the first time, the cable upfront take will be greater than the broadcast upfront," Bill Koenigsberg, chief executive of Horizon Media, said this week at the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. convention in Chicago. 

This year, many top cable channels, including Time Warner's Turner networks, have been able to raise their ad rates by more than 10% in the so-called upfront market, the period when advertisers place their orders for the bulk of the commercial time for the upcoming TV season.

Of course, it is slightly unfair to compare the ad revenue of scores of cable channels with that of the five major broadcast networks, but cable being poised to take in more ad revenue is nevertheless a symbolic moment for the industry.

Broadcast networks still fetch a premium for their 30-second spots because most of their programs are watched by much larger audiences than those for most cable shows. 

With cable, however, advertisers can focus more on select audiences. For example, home-improvement stores buy time on home and garden shows, while movie studios can zero in on the younger audiences drawn by MTV or ABC Family.  

Demand for national cable TV advertising is up about 8% compared with last year, Tim Spengler, president of Initiative North America, said at the convention. Cars, banks and other financial services, national retail stores, pharmaceutical firms, technology companies and Hollywood movie studios have been among the strongest advertising categories, he said.

"We are also seeing more spent on online video," Koenigsberg said.

However, he cautioned that the strong upfront market doesn't necessarily mean that economy is bouncing back. "I don't think the barometer of this upfront is a predictor for the future," he said. “The jury's still out on whether or not the money is going to continue to flow in."

Advertisers were encouraged to buy time during this spring's upfront market, because those who sat on the sidelines last year were punished. Prices for commercials spiked by 30% or more later in the year. So this year, advertisers placed their orders early.

One area where cable is not making gains is political advertising. Cable networks hoping for a bigger slice of the 2012 campaign-spending pie might be disappointed, particularly when it comes to the presidential race, warned to two top political advisors -- David Axelrod, senior advisor to President Obama, and Ed Gillespie, former counsel to President George W. Bush.

Cable news networks CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC will attract plenty of political dollars -- but presidential candidates most likely will continue to steer the bulk of their dollars to local TV stations, Axelrod said.
"We spent the vast majority of our money last time on broadcast television," Axelrod told attendees at the cable convention. Only 12% of the money went to cable television, he said, adding that about 68% of the dollars went to TV stations in battleground states.

"It's still the nuclear weapon," Axelrod said of TV stations. "We will probably spend a little more on cable this time, but there still are barriers in cable television that we need to overcome."

He explained that more commercial spots are up for grabs on local broadcast stations, and that candidates have a greater level of assurance that their messages hit the right geographic targets. "It is a national campaign, but it is delivered locally," he said.

Decisions also come down to how much money the various candidates raise.

"If the president has a billion dollars to spend in the election, you know they will be buying time on "American Idol" and "NCIS" and our nominee will be buying the Cooking Channel in Butler County, Ohio," Gillespie, the Republican said.

-- Meg James


Fox Broadcasting upfront advertising sales approach $2 billion

What we learned about the fall 2011 TV season at the 'upfronts'

ABC wraps up advanced advertising sales, generating more than $2.2 billion in prime-time


Don Browne, president of NBCUniversal's Telemundo network, retires

Telemundo President Don Browne is stepping down, clearing the way for his new bosses at NBCUniversal to make sweeping changes to the Spanish-language television operation.

Browne, who turns 68 next month, plans to leave the company June 3 -- the eight anniversary of his arrival at Telemundo after a distinguished career in NBC News. Browne joined NBC in 1979 as NBC News' Miami bureau chief. He eventually became a top executive within NBC News, and later served as general manager of WTVJ, NBC's owned-and-operated station in Miami.

Don Browne NBCUniversal said it would announce a new Telemundo president "in the coming months."

The architect of Telemundo's entry into the business of original programming, Browne wanted to end the network's reliance on foreign studios for its prime-time shows.  Browne oversaw the construction of a small TV production center in Hialeah, Fla., just outside of Miami. In recent months, the network has grown its ratings on the strength of its original telenovela, "La Reina del Sur."

However, despite investing hundreds of millions of dollars in original programming over the years, the NBCUniversal-owned Spanish-language network has struggled to make headway in the market. It is dwarfed by its more potent rival, Univision Communications Inc., which obtains most of its popular prime-time soap operas, or telenovelas, from its Mexican programming partner, Grupo Televisa.  Univision has a substantial advantage because its telenovelas -- which have already played on TV in Mexico --  are cheaper to acquire and have a track record. Univision schedules the programs that generated big ratings in Mexico and appeal to the large Mexican American population in the U.S.

When Comcast Corp. took control of NBCUniversal in January, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal's new chief, Steve Burke, said they wanted Telemundo to produce stronger ratings and, thus, more revenue for the company.

Browne was assigned a new supervisor, Lauren Zalaznick, who is dramatically different from the suit-and-tie bosses that Browne had before. Instead of giving Browne autonomy to run his business, Zalaznick was determined to get involved, even taking Spanish lessons and spending days immersing herself in Telemundo's operations in South Florida and Los Angeles.

Since 2005, Browne has been responsible for all of Telemundo's business and programming functions, including running Telemundo's 14 owned-and-operated television stations, including KVEA-TV Channel 52 in Los Angeles. He also managed Telemundo's news and sports operations and its youth-oriented cable channel, mun2.

NBCUniversal said Browne was "an early and fervent supporter of NBC's investment in Spanish-language television and played a key role in the company's 2001 acquisition of Telemundo."

"Don Browne has had an outstanding career as a broadcaster and executive, from his years as a bureau chief and executive vice president of NBC News to his tenure most recently at Telemundo," Burke said in a statement Tuesday announcing Browne's retirement.  "We are grateful for what he has accomplished."

-- Meg James

Photo: Don Browne. Credit: Telemundo / NBCUniversal


Univision shuffles management, names a new L.A. station general manager

Univision Communications announced several promotions Tuesday, including a new general manager for its flagship television stations in Los Angeles.

Alberto2Alberto Mier y Terán, 43, was named vice president and general manager for Univision's two highly ranked L.A. stations KMEX-TV Channel 34, which carries Univision programming, and KFTR-TV Channel 46, which is its TeleFutura-branded station.

A 10-year Univision veteran, Mier y Terán most recently worked as general manager of the company's two stations in Chicago. He previously managed the Univision affiliate and TeleFutura station in San Diego.

He will be based in L.A. and report to Peter Walker, who is in charge of Univision's large chain of TV stations.

The other management moves were intended to fortify the company's advertising sales force. In two months, the broadcast TV industry will kick off its all-important commercial sales season, when advertisers commit the bulk of their spending budgets for the upcoming fall season.

Univision tapped former KMEX general manager Maelia Macin as executive vice president of network advertising sales, based in New York. Previously, she was in charge of all of Univision's southwestern stations, including those in San Francisco, Phoenix and Tucson. Macin has been with Univision 19 years.

Peter Lazarus was named executive vice president, sales strategies for new networks, including the newly acquired TuTV channels.

Univision last week parted ways with its chief executive of four years, Joe Uva.  The company's board -- which includes L.A. billionaire Haim Saban and representatives of Mexico's Grupo Televisa and the private equity firms Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Texas Pacific Group -- said it would conduct a search for a new CEO. No timetable was given.

Four years ago, Univision moved its corporate headquarters to New York from L.A.

-- Meg James

Photo: Alberto Mier y Terán. Credit: Univision

On-location film production flat last week in L.A.

Feb.chart On-location film production was as flat as Wilshire Boulevard last week, with overall production days down 1% compared with the same period a year ago, according to FilmLA Inc., the nonprofit film permitting group.

One production day is defined as a single crew's permission to film at a single location in a 24-hour period.

Features generated 106 production days, down 5% from the same week in 2010. Major films currently shooting on location in L.A. include "Welcome to People," a DreamWorks drama starring Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer; and Twentieth Century Fox's sci-fi thriller "NOW" with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried and the fourth installment of the "Spider-Man" series from Sony Pictures.

Pine Commercial activity, which began to slow in the fourth quarter, was also down 5% with 174 production days, while TV production was up slightly at 1% with 425 days. 

Local TV production has been fueled by such shows as NBC's drama "The Event," and FX's crime series "Justified" and the ABC crime drama "Castle."

Although commercial production is up nationwide as advertisers spend more as a result of the improved economy, L.A.'s share of commercial filming has declined in recent years as other states such as New Mexico, New York and Illinois grab more of the business.

For more details on what's filming where, see the accompanying chart.

 -- Richard Verrier

Photo: Chris Pine is stars in the DreamWorks movie "Welcome to People," which is currently filming in L.A. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images


Comcast: Take the bus, park the golf carts at the office

Comcast Corp. executives are preparing for a "global" town hall meeting Thursday to introduce the approximately 30,000 NBC Universal employees to the new leadership.

Comcast officially assumes control of NBC Universal on Friday, but Thursday's town hall meeting, moderated by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, is being designed to set the tone for the new administration.  Employees at five locations will receive the Comcast "credo," a set of business objectives, along with a book that features the three founders of the soon-to-be melded company: Carl Laemmle, who in 1909 formed the Independent Moving Picture Company of America, the precursor to Universal Studios;  David Sarnoff, the radio pioneer who was intregal to the formation of NBC in 1926; and Ralph J. Roberts, who in 1963 bought a small cable TV system in Tupelo, Miss., and over the next five decades built Comcast, which soon will be among the nation's largest media companies. Ralph Roberts' son, Brian, is the CEO of Comcast.

Last week, employees in Burbank and Los Angeles received invitations to Thursday's town hall meeting  "to be a part of history to celebrate the formation of the new NBC Universal." The invitation "strongly" encourages workers to attend the telecast, which will be held at the Universal Amphitheatre. Employees will be able to park in one of Universal's hulking parking structures or hop a shuttle bus, which will be at the ready at 7 a.m.

Employees were told they must be in their seats by 8:30 a.m. — earlier than the 9 a.m. when much of the workforce usually rolls in.

Those trying to read the Comcast tea leaves were puzzled by one sentence in the invite: "Golf Cart Parking Will Not Be Available."  Was that because Comcast wanted to send a message that ranking studio executives, who can tool around the film studio lot in golf carts, should ride in the shuttle buses like ordinary employees?

No, said one high-level executive. There just isn't enough space around the amphitheatre to accommodate a flotilla of golf carts.

After the webcast featuring Brian Williams interviewing new NBC Universal Chief Executive Steve Burke, a localized session will follow. In Los Angeles, Brian Roberts, Universal Studios chief operating officer Ron Meyer and the new chairman of NBC Entertainment, Bob Greenblatt, will take questions from employees.  

At two other locations — NBC's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York and Telemundo's production center in Hialeah, Fla. — demand is so high that employees must enter a lottery for a chance to win a ticket to the telecast, which also is being beamed to Comcast's headquarter's in Philadelphia and NBC's offices in London.

Employees have been told they must surrender their old NBC Universal badges on Thursday in order to receive a new Comcast-issued NBC Universal badge.

— Meg James

Photo: Golf carts at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times.


Comcast unveils management team for NBC Universal

Comcast unveiled its new executive lineup for NBC Universal on Thursday morning, ending months of anticipation and executive jockeying. Although Comcast has its new team in position, it must now wait until federal regulators approve the cable company's deal to take over NBC Universal, and that is not expected until late this year or early next year.

Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke, who will run NBC Universal after the deal closes, has created a layered structure with six executives holding the title of chairman. 

BURKE "For nearly a year, we have worked hard to identify people from NBC Universal, Comcast and outside the two companies to form our new leadership team when the deal closes.  Our goal has been to find people who have the skill sets we need to succeed and who reflect the values that will be the hallmark of NBC Universal, including teamwork, integrity, creativity and a commitment to treating people the right way," Steve Burke said in a statement. 

"We have also been very focused on putting in place the best possible organizational structure.  To that end, we have created some new positions, changed the scope of others and shifted some reporting assignments.  We think we’ve developed a structure that organizes the company in the smartest way possible," he said.

The proposed structure, with more than 10 people reporting to him, ensures that Burke will be a hands-on manager, involved in decisions large and small. Burke will serve as chief executive officer, replacing Jeff Zucker, who announced in September that he would step down when Comcast took over.

As expected, former Showtime President Robert Greenblatt will become chairman of NBC Entertainment, responsible for all aspects of prime-time and late-night programming, business affairs, West Coast research, marketing, public relations, scheduling and NBC Universal's television production studio. Marc Graboff and Angela Bromstad will report to Greenblatt.

Ted Harbert, who currently runs Comcast's entertainment channels, including E!, will become chairman of NBC Broadcasting.  He will take charge of advertising sales, NBC affiliate relations, companywide research, domestic television syndication and the NBC TV station group.  Alan Wurtzel, Barry Wallach, Vivi Zigler and John Wallace will report to Harbert.

Bonnie Hammer assumes control of the soon-to-be-merged company's most profitable enterprises. She becomes chairman of the NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. Hammer will continue to oversee the USA and Syfy channels, and she will take on responsibility for E! Entertainment, G4, Chiller, Sleuth, Universal HD and Universal Cable Productions.   

Lauren Zalaznick's portfolio also expanded enormously. She becomes chairwoman of NBC Universal Entertainment and Digital Networks. Bravo, Oxygen and the website iVillage will continue to report to Zalaznick, and she will oversee strategic marketing initiatives, including Green is Universal.  Zalaznick picks such digital properties as Daily Candy, Fandango, Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo and the cable networks Style, mun2 and PBS Sprout.

Dick Ebersol becomes chairman of the NBC Sports Group, responsible for NBC Sports, the Golf Channel, Versus and the Comcast Regional Sports Networks. 

Ron Meyer retains his turf as president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios. Adam Fogelson will continue as chairman of Universal Pictures, and Tom Williams will be in charge of Universal's parks and resorts.

Steve Capus continues as president of NBC News and MSNBC.  Mark Hoffman continues as president of CNBC.

Jeff Shell joins NBC Universal from Comcast to become chairman of NBC Universal International. He will be based in London.

Pat Fili-Krushel will join NBC Universal from Time Warner Inc. with a broad portfolio, including business strategy, human resources and legal.

Lynn Calpeter continues as NBC Universal's chief financial officer.  Rick Cotton continues as NBC Universal general counsel and will report to both Burke and Fili-Krushel.  Salil Mehta continues as president of business operations and strategy and will report to Fili-Krushel.  Former KNBC Channel 4 General Manager Paula Madison will continue to serve as executive vice president of diversity. John Eck continues in his role as president of NBC Media Works.

Longtime Comcast communications advisor Adam Miller will join NBC Universal as executive vice president for corporate affairs. The communications department will report to Miller, who currently works at Abernathy MacGregor Group.  Page Thompson will join NBC Universal from Comcast as executive vice president of strategic integration and be charged with identifying synergy opportunities among Comcast, NBC, Universal Studios, theme parks and cable channels.

Matt Bond will join NBC Universal from Comcast as executive vice president for content distribution. Two influential NBC Universal executives, Bridget Baker and J.B. Perrette, will report to Bond.

Advertising sales are split between Comcast executive Dave Cassaro, who becomes president of cable advertising sales, and Marianne Gambelli, who will become president of NBC Network Advertising. The former chief of ad sales and longtime General Electric executive, Mike Pilot, will leave the company.  

Jeff Gaspin, who has been in charge of NBC Universal's television channels since July 2009, will stay on during the transition period.  He and Burke discussed scenarios for Gaspin to remain at the company, but the two men could not agree on a suitable role.  Burke said communications chief Allison Gollust also will step down when Comcast takes over.  

"While this announcement provides some clarity to some roles and responsibilities," Burke said, "it is only the first in what will be a series of milestones as we move into 2011."

Now, the intrigue shifts from the question of which executives will survive the cut to speculation about when Comcast will get the keys to the prominent media company.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission continues to weigh the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal, currently owned by General Electric Co.  Most observers expect the government to attach several conditions before giving its blessing to the high-profile marriage. Comcast hopes the deal will close by year's end, but Washington insiders speculate that regulatory approval might come during the first quarter of 2011.

-- Meg James

Photo: Comcast's Steve Burke. Credit: Comcast.

Law & Order franchise finds new home on the streets of L.A.

Law & order At the bottom of a culvert beneath an underpass near the 405 in Culver City, a dead body is half submerged in the water, trapped in net that is catching garbage from the rushing water draining to the ocean.

“There is something in the water down there!” shouts a woman, who spots the body as she is roller blading along Ballona Creek, to a nearby maintenance worker.

The worker hesitatingly approaches and lifts his arm to cover his face, wincing at the stench of the rotting corpse.

Passersby might have been forgiven for thinking they were witnessing just another L.A. murder scene -- except for the presence of film, catering trucks and Star Waggons trailers parked on the street above.

In fact, the scene is part of “Ballona Creek,” the eighth episode of “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” a new spinoff series of the long-running NBC drama that was canceled in May after a 20-year run.

Although the original “Law & Order” has long been associated with New York City, its spinoff is finding a new life on the streets of Los Angeles.

The drama, which stars Skeet Ulrich and Corey Stoll as LAPD homicide detectives, is among nine new one-hour series filming in LA, giving a needed boost to local production. Local filming of dramas declined 33% in the third quarter from last year due to the proliferation of reality shows, competition for location shooting from other states, and the cancellation of the series “24” and “Numbers” and “Heroes.”

Location filming for television has recently bounced back, however, thanks to new series this season such as “The Defenders” on CBS and “The Event” on NBC. It was up 52% last week over the same period a year ago, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc., the non profit group that handles films permits.

Among the biggest contributors to the increased activity is “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” or LOLA as the production crew calls it.

The series is the latest in a long line of crime and cop shows that have used L.A. as a backdrop, from “Dragnet” and “Adam 12” in the 60s and “SWAT” in the 70s to, more recently, “The Shield” and “Southland.” But none have tied themselves so closely to L.A.’s neighborhoods and communities, in the way LOLA has -- albeit not in a flattering light.

Each episode of LOLA is named after a place where a crime occurred or that has some connection to the killer.

For instance, one episode is titled Echo Park where a Charles Manson-type serial killer lived (the Manson murders occurred in neighboring Los Feliz and Benedict Canyon). Another episode called “Sylmar” is about terrorists plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport and features a scene inside The Encounter restaurant and bar at LAX. And another episode centers on Pasadena, where a suspected driver in a hit-and-run accident lives.

“The crime will drive where we go,’’ said Rene Balcer, an executive producer of LOLA. “If we’re going to shoot an episode about the porn industry, we’ll going to be in Van Nuys. If it’s a surfing scene, will be at the beach.  And if we’re doing something about the Grim Sleeper, we’ll be in South Central L.A. In the crime area, we’re well represented.”

Last week, LOLA shot at 10 locations around L.A., and this week is filming in downtown, Culver City, Marina del Rey and Hancock Park.

Like “NCIS: Los Angeles,” another spinoff series on CBS, “Law & Order: Los Angeles” films heavily on-location, shooting about 4 out of 8 days per episode on the city’s streets, and the remainder on sound stages at Los Angeles Center Studios, where the show is based. Occupying the tenth floor in the old Unocal building, which doubles as the homicide division headquarters there are also sets for a courtroom and district attorney’s office.

“We spend a lot of time in the scouting van,’’ said Chris Misiano, an executive producer and director on the show. “We try to stay relatively true to the title of the episode and bring an element of that community to the show.”

Although identifying clusters of locations in L.A. is much harder than in New York because L.A. is so spread out, there is no shortage of sites from which to chose. Crew members chip in with suggestions on where to film, Misiano said. One of the show’s writers was familiar with a culvert at the Will Rogers State Beach, and suggested it as good location for the Echo Park episode, where the body of a former female cult member is found by detectives.

People who work on the show will “say there’s a great hotel around the corner from my house, you’ve got to see it,” Misiano said.

Familiarity with the local landscape doesn’t mean it makes the job any easier for the show’s producers, however. When it comes to red tape, LA is much like any other city.

The Ballona Creek episode took nearly a month of preparation. “We had to get approval from ten different agencies,’’ said production executive Jill Danton. “We had no idea permission was going to be granted until the 11th hour.”

-Richard Verrier

Los Angeles TV stations rake in the campaign cash

Most of the votes have yet to be cast, but one group already has emerged as a big winner in next Tuesday's election: Los Angeles television stations. 

Well Fargo Securities' media analyst Marci Ryvicker estimates that overall political spending this year could be as much as $3.3 billion -- an 11% jump over 2008. Television stations around the country are expected to collect two thirds of that total -- more than any other medium.

Los Angeles television stations are particularly well positioned. Ryvicker found that LA stations had collected $105 million by the third week of September -- three times as much as New York stations. And that was before the candidates' spending sprees kicked into high gear.  By the time election season is over, LA stations could take in as much as $150 million in political money.

“We could reach record spending levels here in Southern California,” said Sue Johenning, who is in charge of local advertising for the ad-buying firm Initiative. “It’s clearly the two big statewide races and all of these various committees. That’s making a difference.”

Meg Whitman, a Republican, has led the charge. The former Ebay chief has poured more than $140 million of her own billion-dollar wealth into her campaign for California governor. The floodgates opened after Labor Day when Democrat Jerry Brown and his backers began promoting his gubernatorial bid. That’s also when the race for U.S. Senate between incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer and Republican Carly Fiorina intensified.

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Photos: L.A.’s busiest filming sites