Television tie-ins are going to seem more like movie tie-ins this fall, as publishers respond to what appears to be an ongoing programming trend: the multipart television event. On the heels of HBO's success with the groundbreaking megaseries Band of Brothers and From the Earth to the Moon, other networks are getting in on the act with at least three major events this season: Taken (Sci-Fi Channel) from Steven Spielberg, Masterpiece Theater's remake of The Forsyte Saga (PBS) and a new Peter Jennings/Todd Brewster panorama, In Search of America (ABC). Ranging from six to 10 episodes, these sprawling megaseries may generate significantly greater benefits for their book tie-ins than television generally affords.
With 10 two-hour episodes airing December 1—10, the alien-abduction— themed Taken is an unprecedented marathon, and the biggest of the bunch. "It's hard to remember another television novelization that was at the top of our list, right next to Danielle Steel and John Grisham," said Irwyn Applebaum, president and publisher of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group. The house is announcing a first printing of more than half a million novelizations written by top mystery writer Thomas Cook.
The large print run is warranted, said Applebaum, by the unique combination of the popular subject matter, the scope of the program, the heavy commitment from the Sci-Fi Channel and, of course, Steven Spielberg's involvement. "This is a subject he's dealt with before, in Close Encounters and E.T., and [which has] galvanized audiences," said Applebaum.
For the Bantam Dell group, the bottom line is that a bigger TV budget yields better production values, a larger marketing budget and a heavier advertising push. The program's lengthy run also generates a longer promotional effort. "Normally, TV comes and goes pretty quickly, but this will have a sustained airing," said Applebaum. He also believes the holiday time crunch might push more people to make up for missed episodes by reading the book. A DreamWorks promotional video that features Spielberg explaining his vision helped sell the project to advertisers and booksellers.
A long run is also good news for The Forsyte Saga, Nobel laureate John Galsworthy's portrait of Victorian London, which Masterpiece Theatre is airing in three multipart segments. The first two parts will air on consecutive Sundays in October and November, while the final segments will run next spring. Mark Gompertz, executive v-p and publisher of Simon & Schuster Trade Paperbacks, said the extended airplay is key to big tie-in sales: "It's generally very hard to get out large numbers when it's a one-night event. But a long rollout means that bookstores will keep the book front and center."
Heir to a very successful 1969 adaptation, the new version is already a smash in the U.K. "As with Brideshead Revisited or The Jewel in the Crown, you had restaurants in England that were empty during the showing," said Gompertz. "This could be a communal event that people want to watch 'live' rather than tape." The initial print run was 50,000 before Scribner got wind of the British reaction; Gompertz said the number is likely to increase dramatically. Gompertz also credits the Masterpiece Theatre book club with goosing sales (Book News, July 8).
Riding the success of The Century, Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster return with In Search of America, a six-part megaseries that examines how 21st-century America reflects the vision and ideals this country was founded upon 225 years ago. Some 725,000 hardcovers will arrive with the series in September, with displays scheduled in stores through the holidays as the authors continue their promotional tour.
Current-affairs programming takes a more traditional route with a two-part production by Norman Mailer and Lawrence Schiller, who have teamed on several compelling true-crime stories since 1972, including the acclaimed TV movie The Executioner's Song. This time, the writers had to invent a fair amount of dialogue and private thoughts for their subject, FBI mole Robert Hanssen, whose plea-bargain barred press contact. While Master Spy (both the book and the miniseries) doesn't reveal much new factual information, it may be as close as we'll ever get to the mind of the this spy. Schiller's novelization from HarperCollins is based on the teleplay he co-wrote with Mailer.
As for the lifestyles of the well-off, formerly notorious and ineluctably middle-aged, rocker Ozzy Osbourne and wrestler Hulk Hogan offer tie-ins to their respective hit series. Pocket/MTV Books is planning a 500,000-copy first printing for an untitled book by the Osbourne family—plus a 175,000 printing for a book on the family's pets. The WWE wrestling phenomenon will debut in hardcover with Hollywood Hulk Hogan (Pocket/WWE), which also has a planned 500,000 first printing.
If those shows aren't "real" enough, ABC's new interactive series Push Nevada invites the audience to solve the mystery at the heart of the show for $1 million, using clues planted throughout the fall run. Hyperion will publish a trade paperback dossier with an announced 150,000 first printing that "ties into what the audience is seeing on the show and allows them to examine the clues in more detail," said Hyperion v-p and publisher Ellen Archer.