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BBC Fiddles While 'Rome' Burns

October 10, 2005 12:00 AM

HBO has shown confidence in its $100 million drama "Rome" by granting a renewal despite the series' lukewarm Nielsens. But HBO's co-production partner on the project, the BBC, is not quite so bold. The BBC is refusing to fund the epic drama's second season until after it begins airing "Rome" later this month in the United Kingdom and the broadcaster is able to gauge viewer reaction there. The BBC's share of the first season's budget was reportedly $15 million. The decision leaves HBO to fund the second season solo, at least for the time being. "We're confident they're going to join us as co-producers for second season," an HBO spokesperson said. Et tu, BBC? -JAMES HIBBERD

Leading the TiVo Charge

When TiVo instituted a $150 service cancellation fee for the first time last month, TiVo loyalists barked, likening the DVR maker to cellphone companies and DSL providers that assess similar fees. On message boards including tivocommunity.com and pvrblog.com, TiVo enthusiasts talked amongst themselves about the curious move by the leading DVR brand, which desperately needs to corral customers now that DirecTV has cut ties. "[TiVo is] repeatedly showing themselves incapable of controlling any sort of spin in the media, mainly because they don't seem able to look forward and comprehend what [the] decisions they make now will do to their image," posted Doug Swallow, who said he owns four TiVos, on tivocommunity.com. But TiVo spokesman Jeff Weir said the people posting on message boards represent a small impassioned segment of TiVo's 3 million users and that their frustration is not pervasive. He added that as TiVo customers contact customer service with questions about the policy, the company explains that the fee does not apply to existing customers. The cancellation fee was instituted for new customers because TiVo is currently offering a $150 mail-in rebate that makes the box available for $49.99.-DAISY WHITNEY

Getting the Message

Music video channel Fuse will become the first U.S. cable network to make use of short message service technology, a staple of European shows that allows two-way cellphone text messaging to be displayed on-screen with programming. The messaging service will be utilized with a trio of new Fuse shows-"Perfect Pair," "Dumped" and "Heavy Texting"-to debut this month. Fuse and MTV already have used text messaging services to enable viewers to submit on-screen messages that are scrolled during shows such as MTV's "Video Clash" ("Ying Yang Twins rule" … "Ashlee is hot," etc.). Compared with current text messaging services, SMS can be a more rapid two-way radio-style interaction. Viewers willing to spend 50 cents a pop, for instance, can text message their names to "Dumped" and will receive a reply with a "numerology-based forecast" of how long their current relationships will last.-JAMES HIBBERD