MANY WILL BE FORCED TO SPEND NEW YEAR'S EVE AT THE OFFICE

Millennium doomsday predictors won't be the only ones spending New Year's Eve hunkered down watching news reports from around the world.

Polls show that the majority of Americans plan to stay home and that spells opportunity for local broadcast outlets.

TV stations in L.A. were already planning to keep their news departments well staffed on New Year's to monitor any Y2K-related glitches. But adding some icing to the cake are projections of larger than expected audiences.

About 40 percent of the homes in Los Angeles were watching TV at midnight last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. Analysts predict that percentage to fall between 50 and 70 this year.

With the audience expected to increase, advertising rates have jumped as well.

New Year's Eve rates are up about 40 percent over last year for a 30-second spot on "ABC 2000," the network's 22-hour special featuring countdowns in numerous international time zones the most comprehensive coverage among the big four networks. A 30-second spot could range from $10,000 to about $225,000, depending on how close an ad runs to the time the ball drops in Times Square, according to television buyer Tim Spengler with Western Initiative Media.

For months, local stations have been ramping up plans for New Year's Eve coverage, selecting locations where they'll send crews. L.A. viewers will be able to watch everything from international updates to what's going on downtown to reruns of their favorite comedies.

"Vacation schedules were written to give us a full staff, or more if need be," said Rozanne Englehart, director of syndicated programming and research at KCBS-TV Channel 2, echoing statements from other local stations.

KCBS and the other three network owned-and-operated stations in L.A. are all rolling out special news segments that will cut in during other programming throughout the day. That's a far cry from past years, when most stations operated with small, holiday shifts.

KNBC-TV Channel 4, which has the market's top-rated news slate, will air extensive coverage, with local updates running at selected times from 3 p.m. New Year's Eve until 3 a.m. New Year's Day. It culminates at 11 p.m. with "Countdown to 2000," a locally produced show anchored by Chuck Henry and Colleen Williams and including live reports from numerous locations, including the L.A. City Emergency Operations Center, Disneyland, the Hollywood Sign, the Rose Bowl, the Queen Mary, and Van Nuys Airport.

Officials at KABC-TV Channel 7 were still working on their plans last week, because ABC programming will revolve around "ABC 2000." Local news crews will cut in with news updates during the national broadcast, but exact times and lengths for those cut-ins were not yet decided.

KABC news crews will be posted at locations including Staples Center, the Rose Bowl, Long Beach, and the city's emergency operations center.

Like ABC, the Fox network is pulling out its own national show for the big event, though it's considerably shorter. The network's "Fox 2000" hosted by Brit Hume and Paula Zahn will air from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Local news crews will air live updates during the national broadcast.

Of course, not everybody wants to watch the news, even on millennium eve. KTLA-TV Channel 5 plans to run its regularly scheduled comedy lineup: old episodes of "Friends," "Caroline in the City," "Cheers," and "The Nanny."

"If there's breaking news, then of course we would break in if it's warranted," said spokeswoman Carolyn Aguayo. "We're on standby."

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