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Schleiff's Next Act: Selling Ice to Eskimos?

February 12, 2007 12:00 AM

Leave it to smooth-talking cable network veteran Henry Schleiff to try to create leverage out of no leverage.

One of Mr. Schleiff's first priorities after becoming CEO of Crown Media Holdings was to get new carriage deals for the Hallmark Channel because most of its old deals expire this year. Last week, Hallmark signed a deal with cable operator Mediacom that pays fees somewhat more than the paltry 11 cents per subscriber the channel had been getting, but substantially less than the 35 to 40 cents some other networks with similar ratings command.

Mr. Schleiff's pitch? Cable operators should hurry to strike similar deals now, while Hallmark is an independent, rather than wait until it gets acquired by a media company that could use its heft-and retransmission consent power-to wrest higher fees later. And he says it's just a matter of time before that happens.

"The only thing that is totally conspicuous is our low license fees," Mr. Schleiff said. A rational cable operator would say, "Let's take this deal and get it signed and get some protection before these guys get bought by someone with retrans consent," Mr. Schleiff argued.

- Jon Lafayette

Roundball Homage

Legendary NBA coach Red Auerbach passed away last year, but he will remain a presence on TV thanks to a series of new commercials from NBA Entertainment that will run on TNT, ESPN, ABC, NBA TV and NBA.com.

The spots combine clips from current games with footage of the coach explaining basketball fundamentals, taken from the classic 1970s series "Red on Roundball."

In one spot about rebounding, the former Boston Celtics coach preaches, "You've got to work hard because without the ball, you've got nothing" as current NBA stars Amare Stoudemire, Ben Wallace, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard are shown cleaning the glass.

The spots, which will debut during the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, are meant as a tribute and end with the sign-off "Thanks, Red."

-Jon Lafayette

Anna Nicole, They Hardly Knew Ye

The ink on the death certificate was barely dry Thursday when the parade of "I didn't know her but I'm willing to babble on about the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith" began on TV. Then came the spam-like attack of ever-ready public relations "experts," ready to proffer opinions on Ms. Smith.

Among the barrage was an e-mail from one Michael Levine: "Reality TV star and former model Anna Nicole Smith was pronounced dead Thursday after being taken to a Florida hospital after being found unconscious in her hotel room," the e-mail said.

"I spoke with members of the family minutes ago and they are devastated. As a longtime media expert and author, this is a tragedy that was both unpredictable and horrible. Although the cause of death has not been determined, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if drugs had a role in her death. If you'd like to discuss this story in more detail, please contact me. Warm regards, Michael Levine."

Blink has a proposition: Don't e-mail us and we won't e-mail you. Mr. Levine couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

- Michele Greppi

New Yorker Kneecaps '24'

Even Jack Bauer would have a tough time defusing this bombshell: The Feb. 19 issue of The New Yorker explores "24's" famed torture fetish and reveals that some in the U.S. military believe the show is harming America's reputation overseas and causing real-life torture in Iraq.

According to the article, a contingent of top U.S. military officers and FBI investigators met with the show's writing staff last November to explain how torture isn't effective and said the popular series is giving good soldiers bad ideas.

"People watch the shows and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen," said one Army interrogator who served in Iraq.

Both Fox Broadcasting and Fox Studios, which produces the show, gave an emphatic "no comment."

- James Hibberd