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Networks Looking Back As New Millennium Approaches

Get ready for millennium fever.

As the 20th century draws to a close, broadcast and cable networks will be offering viewers dozens of hours to reminisce on the past hundred, in some cases thousand, years.

The most ambitious project will be unveiled next week by ABC, which under the title “The Century” is presenting six two-hour documentary programs on the broadcast network and 15 hours on cable - most likely the History Channel - and a companion book published by Doubleday.

CBS will air a series of programs produced in conjunction with Time magazine that will identify the 100 most important people of the century based on a survey of historians.

Cable network ESPN is offering “SportsCentury,” which includes 49 programs reviewing the top 50 athletes of the 20th century, and “SportsCenters of the Decade,” which will review the events of each decade in the style of the network’s signature program, “SportsCenter.”

NBC is counting down to the new century with “Millennium Moments,” sponsored vignettes that will make use of the network’s archives. It will also include segments on historic events since 1000 A.D.

CNN’s project will also focus on the history of the past 1,000 years with “Millennium.” The 10-hour program, scheduled to air on CNN in 1999, will be based on the book by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.

The programs are expected to appeal to advertisers looking for long-term prestigious platforms to present their messages.

But with more millennium projects likely to surface as 2000 draws closer, some television and advertising executives are wondering how much is too much.

“There’s going to be a lot of this kind of stuff all over the place,” said Bill Cella, executive vice president in charge of broadcast and programming for ad agency McCann-Erickson. “I’m concerned about millennium overkill.”


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