Congress revisits retransmission issue
A dozen lawmakers Friday asked the Federal Communications Commission to protect broadcast television programming from being retransmitted-without permission-on the Internet. In a letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell, they said the next wave of digital cable set-top boxes being designed by electronics manufacturers bars unauthorized video streaming of cable and satellite shows without protecting broadcast fare.
“Program producers will be reluctant to license their programs for digital broadcast distribution in the face of widespread acts of infringement over the Internet,” the lawmakers wrote, adding this could slow the digital TV transition. The National Association of Broadcasters, Viacom, Disney and Fox and leading the behind-the-scenes push to secure protections.
The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents manufacturers, said it will review the parties’ concerns. But it refuses to take any steps that might curb the ability of consumers to make video recordings.
House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., House telecommunications subcommittee head Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Senate communications subcommittee Chairman Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., were among the signatories.
Immersive technology at March Madness: The NCAA will reprise the immersive TV experience that debuted at the Super Bowl, thanks to a deal signed with Revolution LLC-a joint venture of CBS, Core Digital Technologies and Princeton Video Image-which pioneered the EyeVision technology. Thirty cameras will be mounted in the upper deck of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis to capture a 250-degree view of the NCAA men’s basketball championship game.
TRIO hires duo: USA Cable’s recently acquired arts network TRIO appointed Andrew Cohen to vice president of original productions and Kris Slava to vice president, acquisitions and scheduling. Mr. Cohen was most recently senior producer for CBS News’ “The Early Show.” Mr. Slava was director of drama and the performing arts programming. Both executives will work in USA Cable’s New York office.
FCC: restore EEO rules: The Federal Communications Commission on Friday asked the Court of Appeals in Washington to let the agency resurrect at least part of the agency’s equal employment opportunity rules for broadcasters. The court threw out the regulations in January.
Court throws out key FCC rules: In a stunning victory for the nation’s biggest cable TV companies, the federal appeals court in Washington Friday threw out several key Federal Communications Commission cable ownership regulations, including ones barring ownership of systems reaching more than 30 percent of the nation’s TV subscribers and prohibiting systems from filling more than 40 percent of their channel capacity with programming they own.
The FCC argued that the caps are necessary to prevent huge cable companies from getting bigger and dominating the rest of the industry. But AT&T and Time Warner, the cable industry’s largest operators, sued.
In its decision Friday, a three-member panel of the appeals court sided with the cable companies, holding that the FCC hadn’t provided adequate justification for its regulations.
“Constitutional authority to impose some limit is not authority to impose any limit imaginable,” said Judge Stephen Williams, who wrote the decision for the court and sent the case back to the FCC.
Among other things, Judge Williams charged that the FCC hadn’t paid sufficient heed to the competition cable is getting from direct broadcast satellite.
The court also rejected an FCC ruling preventing programmers from taking advantage of a loophole that shields some cable industry partnership investments from the FCC’s cap limits.
‘Survivor’ beats NBC lineup: Entering the first Thursday of the post-February sweeps period, CBS’s “Survivor: The Australian Outback” thrashed NBC’s back-to-back repeats of “Friends,” reaching 8 p.m. hour personal bests in adults 18 to 49, households and total viewers. Combined with strong lead-out drama performances from “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and the series premiere of “Big Apple,” CBS won the evening in households and finished a close second to NBC in adults 18 to 49.
In the 8 p.m. hour, “Survivor’s” 13.5 rating/33 share average beat “Friends” reruns (7.5/19) by 80 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data. Additionally, “Survivor’s” 30.9 million total viewers held a 101 percent margin over “Friends'” 15.5 million viewers, while the household ratings margin was 73 percent (17.9/28 vs. 10.3/16). On a week-to-week basis, “Survivor” posted a 13 percent increase in adults 18 to 49 and identical 8 percent jumps in households and total viewers. Going up against NBC’s repeats of “Will & Grace” (8.8/21 in adults 18 to 49) and “Just Shoot Me” (7.6/18) opened up the way for an original episode of “CSI” (9.5/22) to win the hour and improve 23 percent week to week.
David Milch’s new cop drama “Big Apple” also opened to promising second-ranked ratings in adults 18 to 49 (4.5/12) and households (8.4/14) at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. But with NBC deciding to go with an original episode of “ER,” TV’s top-ranked show won in households (17.6/29) and adults 18 to 49 (13.3/35), with only slight 2 percent and 3 percent decreases week to week, respectively.
For the night, CBS pulled a bit of a surprise by beating NBC in households (13.7/22 vs. 12.6/20) and finishing a close second in adults 18 to 34 (9.2/23 vs. 9.7/24). CBS was up 21 percent week to week in adults 18 to 49.
Upfront spending going down: This year’s upfront advertiser spending-the weakest in 10 years-will drop 15 percent from 2000 levels, with pricing up 5 percent at best and volume declining 20 percent to 1998 levels.
That was the word Friday from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter analyst Richard Bilotti, who downgraded Walt Disney and Fox Entertainment to “neutral” ratings on reduced earnings estimates. He remains bullish on AOL Time Warner because it is not as dependant on traditional advertising. He also downgraded the entire entertainment sector to “underweight” and slashed entertainment-sector revenue and earnings estimates. Audience fragmentation, intensified by satellite and digital cable competition, will increase pricing pressures. He also blames the permanent deceleration of television revenues and earnings growth on high-speed connections that will increasingly have the Internet snaring TV ad dollars. Mr. Bilotti sounded the alarm in a slew of negative reports and a late-day conference call to clients.