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TelevisionWeek's Blink page is an industry must-read, taking a sardonic look at happenings across the television business. This wry coverage is extended online and updated throughout the week.

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AOL's Date with 'Desperate'

February 7, 2005 12:00 AM

As part of a marketing deal with the ABC Network, visitors to America Online beginning Feb. 14 can watch a four-minute video recap of the network's big Sunday night hit "Desperate Housewives" on Monday mornings as well as a preview of the next episode. It is additional marketing for the network and an association with a hot property for the online service. "This is another great way to give our fans a little bit more," said Bruce Gersh, senior VP of business development for ABC Entertainment. Patricia Karpas, VP and general manager of AOL Television, said the deal is a content licensing agreement with ABC for which AOL paid a fee. She did not disclose the terms. The agreement allows AOL, which typically runs recaps of 10 to 15 programs each week, to sell advertising at the beginning of the "Housewives" recap. However, for now the deal does not include any on-air promotion at the end of "Desperate Housewives" episodes, as competitor Yahoo! has at the end of NBC's "The Apprentice." That could come later. AOL also may buy ads in the show down the road, Ms. Karpas said. This isn't their first association. At the start of the current TV season, AOL made a deal to show a two-minute preview of ABC's "Alias." AOL also has a content deal with ABC News. --WAYNE FRIEDMAN



The Capitol's Not-So-Odd Couple

After Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, started the 109th Congress by reorganizing the powerful Senate Commerce Committee to significantly reduce the role of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in broadcast policy, he moved quickly to share his power with the committee's ranking Democrat. Sen. Stevens publicly identified himself and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, as the panel's "co-chairmen." With the Republicans holding a majority in the Senate, it doesn't mean anything legally. But sources who know the lawmaker said he really does plan to share power as an affirmation of the friendship and respect the two lawmakers have for each other. They originally became close because both are World War II combat veterans and each represents one of the nation's two noncontiguous states. Over the years they have traveled the world together, identifying themselves as co-chairmen of the Defense appropriations subcommittee, an important panel that one or the other has officially chaired since 1981. "Sharing a chairmanship is nothing new to them," said Melanie Alvord, Sen. Stevens' spokeswoman. However, a Republican sharing any power with a Democrat is very unusual in the current partisan atmosphere of the Capitol.

--DOUG HALONEN



Job of a Lifetime

The question roiling at the Lifetime network is who will replace Carole Black as president. If you believe the buzz from both the East and West coasts, her successor will be Deborah Blackwell, general manager of SoapNet, the highest-rated network among women after Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network. SoapNet is part of the Disney-ABC Television Group, while Lifetime is a joint venture of Disney and Hearst. Disney's Anne Sweeney is one of two members of the network's search committee, which was to present its short list last week. Ms. Blackwell, Lifetime and Hearst all declined comment. Ms. Blackwell, a former William Morris TV packaging agent, has made her mark at SoapNet, which she took over in June 2001, by mixing more original content with replays of daytime soaps, including a newsmag, "SoapCenter"; a bio show, "Soapography"; and a reality show, "I Wanna Be a Soapstar." --JON LAFAYETTE



Frozen Images



The rush to roll out cable boxes with built-in digital video recorders has encountered some unexpected difficulties. Consider problems faced by Comcast in at least three markets, in Pennsylvania, Michigan and California. In the San Francisco area, for instance, the company began delivering Motorola HD dual-tuner DVR 6412 cable boxes in mid-December. First, there was a shortage of boxes. Now there are reports that on as many as 10,000 units delivered to all three states, the picture freezes on the lower analog channels. Bay area Comcast spokesman Andrew Johnson said the company began hearing about the problems shortly after Christmas. Comcast swapped out bad boxes for good ones in many cases. Paul Alfieri, a spokesman for Motorola, said the company shipped nearly 1 million units and less than 1 percent are experiencing the picture freeze. He said Motorola has a software patch to fix the problem, which Comcast will download in two weeks.

--DAISY WHITNEY