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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kids TV Latest Casualty Of Crisis

Nothing is sacred for the heavy ax of the financial crisis.

Now it is taking a whack at such staples of Russian television as "Spokoinoi Nochi, Malyshi," or "Good Night, Little Ones," a children's program whose trademark lullaby has sent generations of young Russians to bed, and "Pole Chudes," or "Field of Wonders," a game show said to have the largest audience among Russia's couch potatoes.

These programs and many others on Russian television will have the number of new shows cut in half. The rest of the time, reruns will be shown.

With advertising revenues decreasing by as much as two-thirds, televisions stations say they have no choice but to slash their most expensive programs. Expect fewer new American movies, and more soap operas and talk shows.

Klass, an independent television production company that creates "Spokoinoi Nochi, Malyshi" for ORT television and is the main producer of Russian children's programming, two weeks ago sent its 160 creative workers on unpaid leave, said one of its directors, Tamara Pavlichenko.

The company plans to keep only two of the six teams that have produced "Spokoinoi Nochi, Malyshi," she said.

"I cannot believe this," said Yelena Afanasyeva, a television critic and mother of a young child, who was crying in the background as she spoke on the phone. "'Spokoinoi Nochi, Malyshi,' it is such a staple program, basically an institution."

The producers of "Pole Chudes," also shown on ORT, said they, too, would create only half as many new shows because of drastic budget cuts.

During the past week, Russian television stations have begun launching their new fall schedules. Newspapers have reported that several programs are being dropped, and Komsomolskaya Pravda came out with a list of at least 20 programs it said were being canned or reduced to reruns.

While denying they are stripping their programming bare, the television stations acknowledge they are being forced to make changes. But with the crisis still not even two months old, they say they are still sorting out what the new season will look like.

NTV is cutting costs by ending its broadcast day earlier, said Tatyana Blinova, a station spokeswoman. This will be done by moving sports to earlier time slots and no longer running movies into the wee hours of the morning, she said.

"We are simply moving around some shows that did not have a high rating," she said.

NTV viewers also will see studio-produced talk shows pop up more often in different time slots, Blinova said. For example, Segodnyachko, a newsy television equivalent of a call-in radio show known for its motley hosts, will now rerun during the day. And the influential political talk show Itogi, aired Sunday nights, will be repeated Monday.

But of the several NTV programs that Komsomolskaya Pravda said were being dropped, Blinova said only one, Svadba, or Wedding, was being dropped and the plans were made long ago.

TV-6, an entertainment-oriented station, says it will be packed with new soap operas and call-in shows this fall. But cuts will be seen here, too. The channel is losing the program "Taxi TV-6," in which a host and a driver cruise twilight Moscow, picking up strangers and chatting them up. The conversations usually turn to the amorous aspects of life.

What is definite, experts say, is that Russians will see far fewer new movies, such as The English Patient or Lolita, on television.

"This is an overly scared schedule," Afanasyeva, the TV critic, said. "Under the cover of crisis management, some channels want to get rid of programs that they didn't have the nerve to ax before."

But she acknowledged that the situation may look even worse when current advertising contracts run out.

"Around the New Year, when the dust settles, the real losses that television will suffer will become clear," Afanasyeva said.