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December 2007 Archives

Syndie Pioneer Given a Sendoff Fit for a King

December 16, 2007 9:20 PM

Roger King’s memorial on Thursday in Palm Beach, Fla., was attended by syndication legends and up-and-comers alike, according to observers.

The closed-to-the-press event began at 5 p.m. and lasted nearly two hours, with about 400 people in attendance.

With a corps of bagpipers kicking off the memorial, CBS Television Distribution President-COO Bob Madden—also Roger’s friend and attorney—introduced Father Brian Dalton of local St. Ambrose Catholic Church and a lineup of speakers including Leslie Moonves, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil McGraw, Deborah Norville and Donald Trump, as well as Roger’s three daughters and his five siblings.

Other mourners included Rachael Ray, Lara Spencer, “Entertainment Tonight”/“The Insider” executive producer Linda Bell Blue, Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko and veteran station executive Dennis Swanson.

Some quotes from the eulogizers: Oprah: “I remember a NATPE in New Orleans where Roger and I danced on the tabletops until 4 in the morning, singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

Dr. Phil: “I recall Roger once said to me, ‘Before I leave this world I need you to analyze me,’ and I said, ‘Roger, it’s too late for that!’”

Father Dalton: “Roger used to tell me, ‘Priests talk too much!’ and I recall he used to light candles in the church because he wanted winners!” (Mr. King was an avid horse player.)

Donald Trump: “I learned a lot from Roger King, and I hate to admit that!"

Chris Pursell

For all of TelevisionWeek's coverage of Mr. King's career and remembrances from friends and colleagues, click here.

Power Powder

December 16, 2007 9:00 PM

Most skiers want snow, but few chase after severe storms to find the most extreme powder.

The nascent Ski Channel has signed a deal with ski photographer and weather expert Tony “Harro” Harrington to produce a new series for the network called “Storm Hunter.”

In the series, Mr. Harrington will predict the location of snowstorms and then airlift in extreme skiers and snowboarders to take advantage of the conditions. Columbia Sportswear will be a sponsor of the series.

Mr. Harrington also will produce a documentary about the biggest storms in history and the skiers they attracted. Ski Channel also will acquire broadcast rights to the World Heli Challenge from Mr. Harrington’s company.

In the challenge, choppers drop 50 skiers and snowboarders onto untouched terrain in New Zealand.

“Our goal is to have a spectacular network, and with building blocks like Harro, that is ensured,” said Ski Channel President Steve Bellamy. “He creates imagery you cannot take your eyes off of and researches like no other to find the best places to point his cameras.”

-Jon Lafayette

A Really Big Show

December 16, 2007 9:00 PM

The NFL battle with cable operators is about to take to the skies.

Over the next two weeks, the “DirecTV Starship,” a 178-foot blimp equipped with a 70-by-30-foot monitor on its belly, will fly around Florida showing football games from the NFL Network for the benefit of fans who can’t access the channel on their local cable systems.

The “fly-overs” will move from Tampa to St. Petersburg to Orlando while broadcasting four regular-season games. “NFL Network continues to demonstrate our commitment to our fans by going to great heights to give them access to our popular content,” said Dena Kaplan, NFL Network’s senior VP of marketing.

“DirecTV was NFL Network’s first distribution partner and for more than four years now has been taking advantage of the opportunities to use NFL content in unique and exciting ways for its customers.”

The blimp—the first of its kind to operate in North America—features a 2,100-square-foot video light sign with a resolution of 33,600 pixels to display programming.

“Once again, big cable is simply reluctant to enhance the programming options they provide their customers,” said Jon Gieselman, senior VP of advertising and public relations for DirecTV. “We’re seizing this unique opportunity to reinforce again why DirecTV is, hands down, the superior television service and one that is committed to consistently bring the best programming to our customers.”

-Chris Pursell

FCC’s Martin: Hoisted by His Own Petard?

December 9, 2007 9:00 PM

A Nov. 13 New York Times op-ed provided a high-visibility platform for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin to unveil his proposal for concluding the agency’s media-ownership proceedings. But last week there were indications the op-ed could quickly become prima facie support for critics’ contentions that Mr. Martin and the FCC didn’t adequately evaluate public comment in drawing new rules. The appellate court that overturned the FCC’s last attempt to rewrite ownership rules rejected them in part because the agency didn’t adequately seek or evaluate public comment. That same court will get to review any new rules the FCC approves, and is likely to see the op-ed as clear evidence the agency didn’t. In addition, the timing of the op-ed may exacerbate the ire of powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., who was already upset about the FCC’s procedures on ownership and other proceedings. The problem: the op-ed appeared on Tuesday, Nov. 13, a scant four days after the FCC’s last public hearing on ownership, which occurred Friday, Nov. 9, in Seattle (and lasted until nearly 1 a.m. Pacific time Nov. 10). That left Mr. Martin little time to evaluate the Seattle comments and craft both a proposal (and an op-ed about it) in time to make the newspaper’s deadline. Of course, he might have had time if the proposal had been drawn before the FCC heard public comment, a procedural no-no. The Times declined to say exactly when the op-ed was submitted. Mr. Martin said that he had been evaluating comments heard earlier during the media-ownership proceeding, but denied making a final decision before the Seattle hearing. No final decision had been made, but was I considering it? Were my views becoming more and more formed as we were going through the process? Sure.
—Ira Teinowitz

‘Donny & Marie’ Redux

December 9, 2007 9:00 PM

Though she didn’t win on "Dancing With the Stars," Marie Osmond may have won over development executives in the syndication industry. Multiple sources around town say that Marie and brother Donny, the one-time prime-time variety show stars who also which made a syndicated talk-show run in the late ’90s, are being quietly courted by at least one distributor. That could mean another run at a talk show that could air as early as fall 2008—exactly 10 years after their last go-round. Ms. Osmond—who earlier this year went through a divorce, saw her son enter rehab, suffered the death of her father and passed out on air while participating on ABC’s hit "Stars"—secured enough fan support during the dance competition to finish in third place. The last version of "Donny and Marie" was distributed by Sony for two seasons and saw its rating grow from a 1.1 debut to a 1.9 before the syndicator pulled the plug.
—Chris Pursell

What’s to Become of MTV’s ‘Tila Tequila’?

December 9, 2007 9:00 PM

Shortly after this season of "The Hills" wraps up on Monday, MTV is expected to announce that its top-rated show will return for another season. MTV will also soon have to figure out what to do with its successful new series, "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila," the bisexual dating show that drew 3.7 million viewers last week. Assuming Ms. Tequila, the MySpace star, begins a loving and monogamous relationship with the winner of season one, would another round of contestants make sense? Or would she be featured in a show more like "Newlyweds?" Or perhaps MTV will search for another bisexual searching for love. MTV officials had no comment.
—Jon Lafayette

And in His Spare Time

December 9, 2007 9:00 PM

Apparently, reinvigorating and relaunching Ovation TV to a national audience this year was not enough to fully engage the mind of Ovation CEO Charles Segars. His TV track record includes executive stops at Fine Living Network, DreamWorks SKG and CBS. He’s also a start-up kind of guy. He founded Sparkler Entertainment, a media investment, advisory and production company that has a first look film deal at Walt Disney Co. And don’t forget Mr. Segars’ CountingDown.com, the movie fan site that was sold to DreamWorks and Vulcan Ventures. Speaking of movies, he plumbed his deep interest in history to write and executive-produce the 2004 hit "National Treasure." Those who pay attention to the credits when the sequel debuts will see him listed as a producer of "National Treasure: Book of Secrets." He’s already at work on the third installment of the franchise. And somehow, he still finds time to play a real-life hero as a weekend deputy sheriff in areas of Los Angeles, where the grit is not a special effect. Mr. Segars may not have to work, but he clearly has a deep need to do so.
—Michele Greppi

Jazzing Up a ‘Storm’

December 9, 2007 9:00 PM

The idea that a CD from the Weather Channel would be a top holiday seller led the folks at NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” to speculate on records other cable channels could put out. For example, host Peter Sagal suggested CNN could put out “Larry King Hums Songs I Kinda Remember.” But seriously, “The Weather Channel Presents Smooth Jazz” hit No. 1 among contemporary jazz CDs, according to Billboard, and that success has the network considering other CD releases. Before that happens, however, Weather Channel is coming out with a DVD set featuring 25 episodes of its series “Storm Stories.” A collector’s item edition packaged in a tin also includes an episode of “Epic Conditions” in high definition.
—Jon Lafayette

The Good Book on Sam Haskell and Hollywood

December 2, 2007 9:00 PM

There it was, a spit-take mini-moment right at the end of the first paragraph of the announcement that Sam Haskell, the enormously liked former William Morris uber-agent, is writing a memoir for Ballantine about living a principled life in unprincipled times and climes: Mr. Haskell, who spent 26 years with William Morris, was repped in the deal by Endeavor’s Richard Abate. "Isn’t that the coolest thing?" Mr. Haskell asked. He was enjoying but not encouraging Blink’s cackle before pointing out that it was not about cosmic karma but instead about a long friendship with Nancy Josephson, who left ICM and went to Endeavor last year. "The toughest thing for an agent is to have an agent for a client," said Mr. Haskell, whose own clients over the years have included Bill Cosby, Ray Romano and Whoopi Goldberg. That he’ll be writing the memoir with best-selling writer David Rensin, the author of "The Mailroom: Hollywood History From the Bottom Up," is "the icing on the cake." The book is to be turned in in May. In the meantime, Mr. Haskell is chairman of the Miss America Organization and must focus on the pageant’s Jan. 26 debut on the Learning Channel. Good news for fans of the traditional Miss America pageant: The talent competition is back in the telecast. This time Mr. Haskell enjoys and encourages the eruption of laughter.
—Michele Greppi

Bonus of a Lifetime

December 2, 2007 9:00 PM

New Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong is giving the network’s staff extra time off for the holidays. In a memo last week, Ms. Wong noted Lifetime’s improved ratings among women, double-digit gains at Lifetime Movie Channel and the relaunched Web site myLifetime.com: "All of this great success is fueled by our exciting programming, marketing efforts, new digital focus ... but most of all, it is a testament to each of you! So as a heartfelt thank-you for your incredible hard work and dedication, Lifetime’s offices will be closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s and you will all get a much-deserved break to enjoy and spend time with friends and family." She said she hopes staffers come back rested "to keep building on our great momentum."
— Jon Lafayette

For Whom the Bell Tolls

December 2, 2007 9:00 PM

Treading where precious few of his guests have dared go, Jerry Springer is headed to college. The host of NBC Universal’s boisterous talk show will visit some of the nation’s top campuses next year to share outrageous tales and behind-the-scenes moments from “The Jerry Springer Show,” currently in its 17th season in syndication. The “Jerry Goes Back to School” tour, which is being organized by the American Program Bureau of Newton, Mass., will take Mr. Springer to American University, UCLA, Georgia Tech, the University of Pittsburgh, Florida International University, Wayne State University, Sacramento State University and others. Students will get a chance to ask the host questions during the visits, which will be moderated by a member of the school’s faculty or by a student body member. “I’m thinking this should be a mandatory class for all college students,” Mr. Springer said in a statement. “But the good news is there won’t be any homework, midterms or finals, just a fun night with me and some great moments from our outrageous show.”
—Tom Gilbert