Briefly Noted

Mar 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Sci-Fi abducts `Taken,’ ignites new `Firestarter’

The Sci-Fi Channel has given the green light to the 20-hour Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks Television miniseries “Taken,” a four-hour sequel to Stephen King’s “Firestarter” and a slate of movies that includes “Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers” and “Clive Barker’s Saint Sinner.”

“Taken,” which focuses on 50 years of alien abductions and three families, is scheduled to run in 10 two-hour installments sometime next year. Production is scheduled to begin later this year, barring complications due to strikes. Casting has not been done.

The schedules for “Firestarter” and “Babylon 5,” on the other hand, are said to be strikeproof.

That gives Bonnie Hammer, Sci-Fi executive vice president and general manager, a couple of guaranteed jewels with which to crown her first big movie slate for the channel, which has grown 47 percent in distribution since USA Networks took it over three years ago, to 70 million homes.

“Firestarter: The Next Chapter,” a working title, catches up with Mr. King’s orphaned and pyrokinetic heroine 20 years after she went on the run from the government. Tom Thayer is executive-producing, and Robert Iscove is directing.

The new installment of “Babylon 5” is executive-produced by the original “Babylon” creative team, Douglas Netter and Executive Producer/creator J. Michael Straczynski, and may feature cast members of the series.

Doris Egan (“Dark Angel”) will adapt Mr. Barker’s original tale for “Saint Sinner.”

Scardino wooed away from Disney by AOL TW

America Online confirmed that it has hired an executive away from The Walt Disney Co. Janet Scardino, who last served as managing director for Italian television service Disney Italia, was named senior vice president of international marketing for the Internet service arm of media conglomerate AOL Time Warner.

Ancier lands key post at Turner

Jamie Kellner doesn’t waste time. In his second major move in as many weeks, the newly installed Turner Broadcasting System chairman appointed Garth Ancier to the new position of executive vice president of programming for the Turner Networks.

Mr. Ancier, who was most recently entertainment president at NBC, will be in charge of creating the overall corporate program strategies for the Turner networks, which include TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television, the Cartoon Network, Turner South, CNN and CNN Headline News (see story, Page 3). Division heads at both The WB and Turner Networks will continue to report to Mr. Kellner.

AOL seeks shelter from Microsoft’s Hailstorm

In the wake of Microsoft’s announcement of its new Hailstorm technology last week, AOL confirmed reports that it met with the Association of (state) Attorneys General to discuss the “potentially tremendous competitive threat” presented by Microsoft’s new online-oriented technologies-Passport, XP and .NET. These claims dovetail with similar issues raised in a suit by the Justice Department and states that is under appeal in Washington.

Particularly irksome to AOL, one official said, is Microsoft’s bundling of a music player, photo program and-most of all-instant messaging into the operating system itself, which AOL said would hurt players such as RealNetworks, Kodak, Yahoo! and AOL. The company also objected to perceived tactics that would force everyone to convert to Microsoft protocols to write software code and produce Internet applications.

Digital copyright issue heads to Supreme Court

Free-lancers will take their case for digital copyrights to the Supreme Court on March 28. Laurence Tribe, who took the Democratic National Committee’s Florida recount argument to the Supreme Court, will represent the defendants, who include The New York Times, Time and Newsday. Ex-special counsel Kenneth Starr is the counsel of record for the National Geographic Society, which has sided with the publishers. Dan Sherrick, general counsel for the United Auto Workers, will represent the plaintiffs; law firm Bredoff & Kaiser’s Lawrence Gold will present oral arguments for the free-lancers.

Local TV ad revenues rise 12.8 percent

Local broadcast TV ad revenues for the year 2000 were up 12.8 percent compared with 1999, according to Harold Simpson, vice president of research for the Television Bureau of Advertising, who based his figures on estimates from CMR MediaWatch. Network ad revenue gained 12.6 percent and syndicated rose 6.4 percent.

The broadcast industry as a whole experienced a 12.2 percent increase for the year.

All sectors registered fourth-quarter slowdowns but still outperformed fourth quarter 1999 by as much as 6.4 percent at local stations, 5.3 percent at the broadcast networks and 4.9 percent in syndication. Overall, broadcast television ad revenues in the fourth quarter were up 5.8 percent year to year.