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August 2006 Archives

Fine Tuning Fine Living

August 28, 2006 12:00 AM

Fine Living wants its viewers to clean house—its house. The digi-net launched a new initiative online last week inviting fans to run a fine-toothed comb through the Fineliving.com Web site for any outdated links or pages that need freshening. The network is giving gifts for site visitors who find the most links that need updating. Fine Living is putting viewers to work in other ways too. For the new travel show "We Live Here," which dishes the inside scoop on cities, the network has added a pair of blogs to its site, enabling users to comment on what they love and hate about particular cities. Fine Living will use those comments to determine the cities it will visit during the second season. In addition to seeking fan input, the network plans to sneak-peek a bonus episode of every new show online in advance of the on-air premiere, starting with "We Live Here" on Aug. 25. The show makes its on-air debut Sept. 17. Because Fine Living is carried in about 39 million homes, the online preview lets the network reach a larger audience with its programs, said Ron Senkowski, site director for FineLiving.com.

—DAISY WHITNEY



Hip-Hop 'Replay' Spots

Joining the NFL Network lineup in new commercials for its "NFL Replay" program are stars Tony Gonzalez, Chad Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson, Ray Lewis, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Warren Sapp and Jeremy Shockey. The players were drawn not by money but by the opportunity to work with Bryan Barber, director of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" and the just-released film "Idlewild." The guys lip-synch and even try to dance. "You missed 85 / there was nothing you could do / So take some advice from a good friend / You can check out games on NFLN," says Chad Johnson of the Bengals. "NFL Replay" features rebroadcasts of NFL games from the previous Sunday in a quick 90-minute format that cuts out halftime and other non-critical elements. It's the first time ever NFL games have been rebroadcast.

—JON LAFAYETTE



Sci Fi Launches Web-Only Episodes

Making good on its April pledge to create new media content for every program, Sci Fi Channel has quietly launched its first series of Web-only episodes, in support of its drama "Eureka." The webisodes debuted July 25 on Sci Fi's broadband network Pulse, and six new installments are premiering online every Tuesday throughout the summer. The webisodes follow a self-contained story line about a creature attacking teenagers in the woods. "Eureka" has averaged more than 3 million viewers since its premiere, besting better-known hits such as FX's "Rescue Me" and MTV's "The Real World."

—JAMES HIBBERD

'Behrendt' Wants a Comfy Audience

August 21, 2006 12:00 AM

Being part of a studio audience can be a trying experience—just getting into a taping usually requires a couple of tedious hours of standing in line outside in fairly spartan conditions. Sony Pictures Television is doing something about that for its new talk strip "The Greg Behrendt Show"—it created an "audience experience" waiting area on its Culver City, Calif., sound stage that boasts beanbag chairs, flat-screen TVs, carpeting, soft lighting, vending machines and even Web access via Sony laptops. "We wanted to make the audience feel more a part of the show," Melanie Chilek, Sony's senior VP of programming, said at a recent taping. As the show shoots more episodes, the space will be used to interview audience members for polls, get instant feedback and make them a part of the show. The space also includes "Greg's Truth Booth," a refurbished photo booth that allows audience members to film confessional-like video clips. In a market where dozens of shows are always on the hunt for studio audiences, the space gives Sony a competitive advantage with audiences, Ms. Chilek said: "We wanted them to leave the show and say, 'Boy, I'd like to come back here because I had a great time.'" -Christopher Lisotta



The Father, The Sons and DirecTV

If DirecTV has a fantasy football team, it's all set at the quarterback position. The satellite company extended its agreement with Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning to act as spokesmen for its NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market game package through the 2008 season. A new commercial featuring home movies of the Manning men as young quarterbacks, illustrating how Sunday Ticket helps keep families together, began running over the weekend. -Jon Lafayette



Lighting Chicago's Fuse

Music network fuse is dancing its way to the Windy City-with its pants on. The Rainbow Media-owned channel, which has been getting a lot of media buzz for its late-night "Pants-Off Dance-Off" striptease program, is opening a Chicago ad sales office headed by Michael Roche, who had already been covering some of the territory. Sales are up 45 percent at fuse, and Bill Rosolie, senior VP of ad sales, said the network needed to be closer to service Midwest clients because of the customized, integrated and multiplatform deals that account for a big chunk of its business. As for the dress code in the office, "We'll sell it ["Dance Off"], but we'll stay away from the on-air part of it." -Jon Lafayette



Insider Trading

When CNBC is in a jam for sources, turns out it consults … its competition. Last week the following e-mail from a CNBC booking producer to a Bloomberg TV reporter made the rounds (complete with typos): "I am a booker with CNBC. I see that you cover tech for bloomberg. I was wondering if you could give me a hand with sources for H-P. I am trying to book a live interview this afternoon with someone who can talk about H-P earnings soon after they come out. There aren't any analysts available … and I've tried them all. Are there any fund managers, or people of that ilk that you think might be appropriate for the spot? Many Thanks." Ya think maybe somebody at that little organization known as NBC News might've been able to help? -Tom Gilbert

The Sincerest Form of Flattery, er, Right?

August 14, 2006 12:00 AM

We admit it. When the editors of TelevisionWeek first received e-mails early last week directing our attention to the Web site TVMonthDaily.com-featuring a tag line of "Up to the minute weekly news"-yes, we were a little offended. The site emulates our look, with a big red TVWeek-like circle in its logo, while billing itself as "The Broadcast & Cable Industry's Leading Fake News Magazine." Aside from poking fun at our regular e-mail-based newsletters, the site skewered several aspects of the TV business. One TVMonthDaily headline, for example, read: "Flustered Dan Rather Finally Admits He Has No Idea What HDNet Is." So once we got over the initial sting, we had to chuckle. Then, of course, we set out straight away to find out who's spoofing us. The "editor" of TVMonthDaily at first declined by e-mail to identify herself. By Friday morning, though, former SoapNet Marketing Director Jacinda Cannon claimed responsibility via telephone. She now serves as managing director, East Coast, of advertising agency G&M Plumbing, where she was part of the team that came up with the idea of an inside humor magazine satirizing industry newsletters, she said. The goal, Ms. Cannon explained, was to showcase G&M's "creative capabilities" and display how well the shop knows the TV business. She e-mailed the first edition to "400 or 500" members of the industry last week and plans to unleash the next edition today. Ms. Cannon said she chose to emulate TVWeek because we cover the business so well and because it's "the most recognizable brand in the industry." Aw, shucks. We feel much better now.

-Melissa Grego



Capturing Idle 'Idol' Hopefuls

Networks are always on the lookout for captive audiences to whom they can promote their new fall schedules. Fox has a unique promotional opportunity for such an audience with the tens of thousands of hopefuls lining up to audition for its music reality behemoth "American Idol." The "Idol" tryouts, which started last week and will run through Sept. 19, are being held in seven cities, and along for the ride are Fox street teams, who are handing out swag pushing the network's debuting fall shows. Katharine McPhee and Bo Bice wannabes waiting for their big break are being offered "Justice" pens, "Vanished" compact mirrors and "Standoff" mints. Not being handed out: Ryan Seacrest makeup kits or Simon Cowell black T-shirts. n

-Christopher Lisotta



Dale Turner Finds His Space

Today's teenagers are nothing without a page on MySpace.com. The upcoming CBS drama "Jericho" has taken that belief to heart by creating a MySpace page for one of the show's characters: the sensitive 16-year-old Dale Turner. According to his page, Dale is a single, 5'9" Radiohead-loving Cancer from Jericho, Kan., and, according to his punctuation-scarce blog entries, kind of a loner who likes to read. CBS Paramount Network TV, the studio behind "Jericho," has hired an outside firm to write the blog entries, which tease the opening episode of the mysterious, possibly apocalyptic drama. For a shy, fake Kansas teen, Dale is doing fairly well on MySpace; a total of 602 users have joined his Friend Space since his first blog entry July 15. No doubt CBS Paramount is hoping they all tune in to see Dale on TV on Wednesdays this fall.

-Christopher Lisotta



How MTV2 Lost Its 'Pants'

Fuse's cult hit "Pants-Off Dance-Off," the most praised music video gimmick since mid-1990s sensation "Pop-Up Video," was passed up by MTV before it ever got to Fuse. Since debuting earlier this year, the amateur striptease series has been heralded by The New York Times, TV Guide, the Associated Press and even MTV Networks'-own "Best Week Ever" on VH1. "It's so brilliantly simple that I'm shocked it hasn't been done," wrote a critic with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The name is brilliant too." The biggest hit ever for bottom-ranked network Fuse, the show airs five nights a week and earns double Fuse's average prime-time rating. But back in 2004, executive producer Tad Low first took the idea to MTV2. "MTV's channels are restricted from playing lots of music videos, mostly due to poor relationships with the various record labels, so they had to pass," Mr. Low said. "I was recently back at MTV2 pitching a new show and was told that, even with the extreme popularity of 'Pants-Off,' MTV wouldn't have been able to skirt the [label issues]." An MTV2 spokesman noted the network passed "for a variety of reasons." Hmm, maybe it was because Mr. Low didn't have the resume to produce a breakout music video series. After all, his credits include … "Pop-Up Video."

-James Hibberd

The Bong Show

August 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Showtime's marketing campaign for "Weeds" may be a hit with Rolling Stone readers, but the Bush administration is not amused.

To promote the second-season premiere of its pot-themed domestic drama, Showtime is inserting perfume-style scent strips into the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone. The fold-out strips emit an odor familiar to anybody who has gone to a frat party, attended a Snoop Dogg concert or watched "The Animatrix" on DVD. The network is also passing out "Weeds"-themed brownies at major transportation hubs. A Munchie Mobile is distributing merchandise at Los Angeles and New York concerts and sporting events. Showtime Executive VP of Creative Marketing Len Fogge said the network went to several scent-manufacturing companies before finding the perfect herbal essence. "We experimented with several scents before we chose one—not that anyone here knows firsthand what it might smell like," he said. "Our print campaign is fantastic, but we wanted to put whipped cream and a cherry on top." Tom Riley, director of public affairs for the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, is not impressed. In addition to reciting statistics about marijuana use ("There are more teens in treatment for marijuana than for alcohol dependence—is that funny?"), Riley chided the Rolling Stone promotion as all too retro. "Unless they're going for the over-50 demographic, it sounds like their marketing department might be a little out of touch," Riley said. "Maybe some baby boomers still find this kind of thing edgy, but young people don't." That's right, because nobody knows what's cool better than the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. -James Hibberd and Ira Teinowitz