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Mar 8, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Affiliates ask FCC to start probe of networks

The Network Affiliated Stations Alliance asked the Federal Communications Commission Thursday to launch an investigation into allegations that the networks are abusing their station partners in violation of agency rules. In a petition to the FCC, the affiliates alleged that networks are running afoul of regulations by regularly demanding and getting agreements that effectively gut an affiliate’s freedom to pre-empt network programming. The petition also alleges Fox Broadcasting Co. has been requiring affiliates to cede control of digital capacity.

In addition, the petition alleges that Fox, NBC and ABC are putting undue pressure on affiliates by including stipulations in affiliate agreements that give the networks the right to refuse the transfer of an affiliation when a station is sold. The affiliates also want the FCC to investigate network efforts to persuade affiliates to participate in collaborative efforts to gather and distribute news, such as Voter News Service and the Network News Service. The affiliates also urged the FCC to investigate network efforts to encourage their broadcast viewers to switch to network cable channels and Internet sites.

“By making it more difficult for local stations to attract audience and advertising revenue, these network practices threaten affiliates’ economic viability,” the affiliates said. “The commission should examine the networks’ increasing tendency to advantage their other business interests at the expense of local station service.”

A CBS official said, “This is an ill-advised and extremely disappointing action, particularly given CBS’s strong, ongoing commitment to the network/affiliate relationship. CBS categorically denies taking part in any unlawful activity whatsoever, and we are confident that the FCC will find no merit in these baseless and irresponsible charges.”

At deadline, representatives of Fox could not be reached for comment, and ABC and NBC had no comment.

Alan Frank, NASA chairman, said the petition was intended to check network dominance. “We are partners with the network, but we cannot stand by and let them control our local stations,” said Mr. Frank, who is also president of Post-Newsweek Stations. “We know what works best for our local communities, and by law those decisions cannot be made in Hollywood or New York. Both Congress and the FCC have long cared about localism and diversity, and this petition establishes that those core values of our nation’s broadcasting system are at risk.”

NASA represents more than 600 affiliates of the Big 3 TV networks.

UPN links to ‘Chains,’ adds pair of dramas: UPN has unveiled a bevy of midseason scheduling moves, including those for the critical May sweeps period (April 26-May 23), with the provocative “Chains of Love” and two new dramas being added to its prime-time schedule. Perhaps representing the most potentially controversial move, UPN has slated “Chains of Love” to start in the so-called “family hour” (8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET) effective April 17.

Although the concept of a “family hour” has been in severe decline on the broadcast networks for close to 10 years, UPN officials insist that “Chains of Love” is more of a “social experiment,” going as far as to send out Valentine cards to members of the media suggesting the program is “not about S&M” or bondage. A spokeswoman for UPN said the show will be “appropriately rated” to warn younger viewers and parents about its content.

“Chains” is being joined on the Tuesday schedule by Aaron Spelling Television’s paranormal hospital series “All Souls,” which will also debut April 17 in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. slot. The two shows will be taking over the evening from UPN’s growing movie showcase, which will be moving to Friday nights April 20.

Effective March 23, until the UPN Movie premieres, episodes of Monday comedies “The Parkers” and “The Hughleys” will air in the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Friday slots. A week later, March 30, current 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. Friday comedy “Gary & Mike” will air back-to-back 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. episodes through Friday, April 13. Current 8:30 p.m. Friday comedy “Celebrity Deathmatch” goes on hiatus, but is seen as a long shot to return to the schedule due to sagging ratings for the MTV series.

On Monday nights, “The Hughleys” swapped time periods with “The Parkers” at 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively, March 5.

Friedman named AOL TV president: Robert Friedman has been named president of AOL TV and will report to Barry Schuler, AOL chairman and CEO. The challenge for Mr. Friedman will be to turn the year-old service into a must-have package combining television and interactive services. The appointment marks Mr. Friedman’s new media debut. He last served as co-chairman of worldwide theatrical marketing for AOL’s New Line Cinema and president of New Line Television.

AOL Time Warner also said Thursday that it is boosting and broadening cross-platform marketing relationships with three of its online advertisers: Kinko’s, Continental Airlines and P&O Princess Cruises.

Bob Pittman, AOL Time Warner co-chief operating officer, made the announcement at the Merrill Lynch Internet Conference today. He said his company has more growth potential than any large-cap company in the world because of the 28 million-plus consumer relationships that can be monetized in multiple ways and are “recession-resistant.” This means they’re less dependent on advertising revenue, and the more people that stay home the more time they spend with AOL-making AOL a more attractive vehicle to advertisers who have to watch every advertising dollar.

Mr. Pittman referred to AOL TV as a “first-generation” service and said, “We’re learning about it. We’re learning about price points. We’re learning about what consumers do with it. … I think we’ve got a couple of years of this sort of sorting out technical issues, licensing issues, partner issues, etc. We’re dealing completely with early adopters on that one.”

Vasgersian back in XFL starting lineup: The XFL is going back to the Matt-Vasgersian, that is-as the announcer for the primary football game on NBC on Saturday night. Mr. Vasgersian started the season calling NBC’s primary game with Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. After the phenomenal first-week ratings success, Mr. Vasgersian was abruptly shipped to the Saturday night “B” game and supplanted on the main game by Jim Ross.

Mr. Ross and his voice are well-known to fans of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, partners with NBC in the XFL. The league has seen its viewership drop more than 75 percent since opening weekend.

Mr. Ross is now going back to NBC’s secondary game. He’ll be paired there again this weekend with Dick Butkus, the XFL executive who’s again keeping warm the seat abruptly vacated by Jerry “The King” Lawler after Lawler’s wife, Stacy “The Kat” Carter, was dumped by the WWF last week.

KGTV reacts to school violence: In light of the recent school shooting in Santee, Calif., ABC affiliate KGTV, San Diego, will pre-empt one hour of programming and commercials at 8 p.m. Friday and instead show a stark screen with rotating messages suggesting parents turn off their television and talk to their children. The screen will give a telephone number for a free brochure with youth violence prevention resources and a hotline number. This will follow KGTV’s one-hour coverage of the memorial service at 7 p.m.

“A lot of viewers are calling in saying they need some help finding additional resources to help their kids,” KGTV General Manager Darrell Brown said. “We believe the whole issue with youth violence is it starts in the home, and the best work that can be done is through parents and kids in their own home.”

Mullen heads Tribune TV: Patrick Mullen, Tribune Television regional vice president, has been promoted to president. Michael Eigner, executive vice president of Tribune Television, has been named to the new position of Tribune Cable president. Tribune Television regional Vice President Peter Walker is now senior vice president.

John Reardon, general manager at WB affiliate KLTA-TV, Los Angeles, will add Wes
t Coast regional vice president to his current duties.#

‘Once’ hijacks higher ratings: Wednesday night’s episode of ABC’s “Once and Again,” in which a disgruntled waiter takes Jake (played by Jeffrey Nordling), Grace (Julia Whelan) and others hostage at Phil’s Restaurant, attracted the drama’s largest audience (9.7 million total viewers) and best adults 18 to 49 average (4.9 rating/14 share) this season, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

“Once and Again” also posted its highest ratings this season among adults 18 to 34 (4.1/13), women 18 to 49 (6.3/18) and women 18 to 34 (5.2/16) in the 10 p.m. (ET) Wednesday time slot. Since moving into the time period in early January (from 10 p.m. Monday), “Once and Again” has improved ABC’s delivery in the hour by 9 percent among adults 18 to 49 (4.5/12 vs. 4.1/11).

‘Early’ has strong week: A record Friday pushed “The Early Show” to its best-ever week in key demos. Driven by interest in the first interview with Michael Skupin after he was forced off “Survivor: The Australian Outback” by burns suffered when he fell into his tribe’s campfire, the national audience for “Early” on March 2 totaled 4.91 million viewers.

For the week of Feb. 26-March 2, “Early” finished third with an average 3.05 million viewers, up 16 percent from a year ago.

NBC’s “Today” led with 6 million viewers, down 5 percent year to year. ABC’s “Good Morning America” averaged 4.59 million viewers, down 8 percent year-to-year.

High ratings vista for ‘View’: The February sweeps ended with ABC’s “The View” doing its best ever with women 18 to 49.

For the month, “The View” averaged a 1.7/13 in the demo, the network’s best delivery among women 18 to 49 in the time period since “The Home Show” in 1991.

Kids’ WB announces schedule: Kids’ WB unveiled its 2001-02 season schedules for Saturday and weekdays, including its first-ever live-action series and four new animated series in an upfront presentation to advertising executives Thursday in New York.

Topping the list of new Saturday morning shows is “The Nightmare Room,” a live-action series based on R.L. Stine’s book series in which nightmarish tales become real-life occurrences. It is from Tollin/Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television.

Also joining the weekend rotation are “The Mummy,” an animated series based on the Universal Pictures theatrical release starring Brandon Fraser; and “Cubix,” a Japanese-made computer-generated animated series about a boy and his robot, which comes from 4Kids Entertainment. The 8 a.m.-to-noon schedule for next season, in order, is “Static Shock,” “Pokemon: Johto League Champions,” “Jackie Chan Adventures,” “Cubix,” “X-Men Evolution” and “The Nightmare Room.”

The weekday morning Kids’ WB rotation includes “Rescue Heroes: Global Response Team,” an animated series (split into 11-minute segments each half-hour episode) about an emergency response team, from Nelvana Entertainment. Also in the lineup is “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century,” a series emphasizing critical thinking, problem-solving and deductive reasoning skills, from DIC Entertainment and Scottish Television.The weekday 7 a.m.-to 8-a.m. rotation consists of “Batman Beyond” (Monday-Thursday) and “Sherlock Holmes” (Monday-Thursday), with “Rescue Heroes” running in both time slots on Fridays. The weekday 3 p.m.-to-5 p.m. slot marks the return of incumbents “Card Captors,” “Pokemon,” “Pokemon: The Johto Journeys” and “Jackie Chan Adventures.”

Alphabet spells out animated additions: ABC is adding two new half-hour animated series to its highly rated Saturday morning children’s lineup in September.

Jonathan Barzilay, senior vice president and general manager of ABC’s children’s programming, said twin sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen will return in a new animated series (also featuring them in live-action wraparounds) and “Disney’s Teamo Supremo” cartoon will join the Disney One Saturday morning block.

The 14-year-old Olsen twins, both of whom starred in two past ABC sitcoms (“Two of a Kind” and “Full House”), will executive-produce the yet-to-be titled Saturday series to produced by their own production company, Dual Star Entertainment Group, in association with DIC Entertainment.

“Teamo Supremo” follows the adventures of a quirky triumvirate of superheroes, Captain Crandall, Rope Girl and Skate Lad, who protect their state from the forces of evil and still finish all of their homework on time. Produced by Walt Disney Television Animation, “Disney’s Teamo Supremo” is executive-produced by Phil Walsh (producer of “Disney’s Recess”); Joe Horne will direct.

Spencer Breslin and Alana Ubach provide the voices of team leaders. Other celebrities lending their voices include Martin Mull, Fred Willard, Julia Sweeney, Brian Doyle Murray, Mark Hamill, Tim Curry, Ed Asner, Jim Belushi, Wendie Malick, Michael McKean, Michael J. Pollard and Joe Flaherty.

BRIEFLY NOTED

Sci-Fi Channel this summer will run a original eight-hour miniseries based on the “Robocop” sci-fi franchise. Called “Robocop: Prime Directives,” the series is produced by Fireworks Entertainment. … Showtime Network ordered a second 20-episode season of its controversial dramatic series “Queer as Folk,” which will air later this year. … Rainbow Media’s Much Music USA signed distribution deals with Time Warner Cable and Adelphia Cable Communications that will give the network 40 million homes by year-end. … VH1 reached the 75 million subscriber mark last month, adding roughly 750,000 new homes during February. VH1 now reaches 75.5 million homes. … NBC’s part-owned cable shopping network Valuevision is changing its name to ShopNBC starting June 1. The channel is 40 percent owned by NBC and GE.

WHO IS NEWS

Robert Lemle to vice chairman of Cablevision Systems Corp., Bethpage, N.Y., from vice president.

Natasha Sinel Cohen to director of business development, digital media group, Showtime Networks, New York, from manager, business development.#