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Apr 30, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Quokka files for Chapter 11

Online sports entertainment and news provider Quokka Sports confirmed that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the federal bankruptcy court in San Francisco, CNET reported. A hearing is scheduled with U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Carlson in August. Before the filing the company laid off most of its staff, which had numbered about 140 people.

Canal Plus wins deal with WINFirst: Interactive TV technology provider Canal Plus Technologies has been recruited to serve as software integrator for the rollout of a first-of-its-kind fiber-to-home network deployed by WINFirst. It will also provide services and content, leveraging its position as part of Vivendi (and its Universal TV and film division).

The 11/2-year-old, Denver-based broadband delivery contender has received regulatory approval to build networks to more than 3.7 million homes in Sacramento, Calif., San Diego, Austin, Texas, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Seattle. Further plans for WINFirst are pending for Los Angeles, the East Bay area near San Francisco and Portland, Ore.

DemandVideo shuts down: Video-on-demand content aggregator DemandVideo has closed its doors. The announcement was made Monday after the company was unable to line up its third round of funding. The company had recently been in talks with several television studios about the possibility of licensing those studios’ content for video-on-demand purposes, as was originally reported by Electronic Media (“Video on demand to tap TV,” April 23).

Earlier this month, DemandVideo employees were abruptly told that the company might have to suspend operations if additional financing couldn’t be raised. DemandVideo’s collapse is somewhat surprising, given the cable and satellite industries’ bullishness on VOD and the experience of DemandVideo’s management team.

CEO Richard Hercules worked during the mid-’90s on some of the first American VOD trials at telco Bell Atlantic. During the past couple of years, DemandVideo has raised about $25 million in venture capital–with most of those funds coming from lead investors J.P. Morgan and Com Ventures.

AOL Time Warner may be in talks with NTL: AOL Time Warner would not officially confirm or deny reports that it was specifically negotiating with U.K.-based cable/telecom giant NTL about joint ventures. “No one should find it of any surprise that we are talking to broadband providers in any part of the world,” said AOL spokesman Rich D’Mato.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that an “outline term sheet had been agreed, though a final agreement isn’t necessarily imminent.”

Last week another U.S. player, GE, made a $388 million financing commitment to NTL.

Kelly finalizes change at Paramount: As expected, Paramount Television officially announced that Co-President Frank Kelly will step down from his current post to take a production development deal with the company. Under the deal, Mr. Kelly will develop and produce programs for syndication, network and cable while serving as executive producer on “Judge Joe Brown.”

In addition, Mr. Kelly will take the role of executive producer of “Entertainment Tonight Enterprises” with the task of creating ancillary formats and spinoffs of “ET.”

Fellow Co-President Joel Berman becomes sole president of Paramount Domestic Television Distribution. Programming vet Bobbee Gabelmann, however, will stay with the company.

Meanwhile, former Universal and Paramount exec Greg Meidel has officially joined the Paramount team as president of programming for Paramount Domestic Television, where he will oversee all programming and development for series ranging from “Entertainment Tonight” to upcoming series “Rendez-View” and “Hot Ticket.”

Mr. Meidel will report to Mr. Berman.

CBS plans ‘Survivor’ promotions: Looking to get as much out of the Thursday finale of “Survivor: The Australian Outback” as possible, the show’s executive producer, Mark Burnett, and host Jeff Probst will appear on CBS News’ “The Early Show” the next morning to present the $1 million check and a new Pontiac Aztek to the winner. Throughout the winter/spring run of “Survivor” as well as last summer’s original run, the latest contestants voted out are booked each week to appear on “The Early Show,” which has helped to spike the 7 a.m.-to-9 a.m. morning show’s Friday ratings.

In addition to the three-hour finale for “Survivor II” 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET) on May 3, “Early Show” anchors Jane Clayson and Bryant Gumbel (the latter of whom will host the 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. reunion show Thursday night) will again talk to all 16 survivors about their experiences in the outback on Friday morning. Mr. Burnett and Mr. Probst will also turn over a $100,000 check to the runner-up.

Fox wins key demo: Fox’s three-hour Sunday night lineup–with three back-to-back airings of “The Simpsons” opening the night–held substantial margins of victory in adults 18 to 49 for Sunday, the fourth night of the May sweeps.

Winning each half-hour 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET), Fox’s 5.9 rating/16 share improved 4 percent week to week, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. Fox also held a substantial 28 percent margin over NBC (4.6/11), although the Peacock Network posted a surprising second place and racked up 39 percent growth week to week.

ABC came in a close third in adults 18 to 49 (4.5/12), up 21 percent. CBS, featuring a live 9 p.m.-to-11 p.m. airing of “On Golden Pond” (starring Christopher Plummer) did not resonate well with adults 18 to 49 , posting a 14 percent decrease week to week to a 2.5/7 in the key demo.

Running 7 p.m.-to-8 p.m. repeats of “The Simpsons” (in place of “Futurama” and “King of the Hill”), the Fox staple’s 3.8/14 and 4.8/15 averages still won the hour en route to posting 27 percent and 20 percent increases week to week in adults 18 to 49.

An original episode of “The Simpsons” at 8 p.m. saw a 3 percent week-to-week decrease to a 7.0/20 average. At 8:30 p.m., “Malcolm in the Middle” posted a 1 percent increase to a winning 7.0/18 in adults 18 to 49.

With even stiffer competition starting the 9 p.m. hour, “The X-Files” (6.3/15) saw its adult 18 to 49 average drop 6 percent from its previous week’s average (6.7/16).

Much of NBC’s improved position on the night was attributable to the 8 p.m.-to-11 p.m. movie “U.S. Marshals,” which scored 49 percent week-to-week growth to a 5.2/13 in adults 18 to 49 for the span.

Though a strong start from the 7 p.m.-to-9 p.m. presentation of the animated movie “Tarzan” (3.4/10) scored a robust 79 percent gain in adults 18 to 49 on ABC, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (4.8/11) was flat week to week, while “The Practice” (6.4/16) won the 10 p.m. hour with 2 percent growth.

CBS’s two-hour live presentation of “On Golden Pond” tied ABC’s “Millionaire” and “The Practice” in adults 55-plus (12.5/22), with the Eye Network marking 17 percent growth in the older demo. But among adults 18 to 49 (2.5/7), adults 18 to 34 (1.4/4) and adults 25 to 54 (3.3/7), “Pond” was flat, down 17 percent and up 3 percent, respectively, compared with the previous week’s telefilm, “Murder on the Orient Express.”

‘Isaak’ renewed for 17 new episodes: The comedy series with charismatic rocker Chris Isaak–who plays a rock star named Chris Isaak in a blend of fiction and reality that’s evoked critical comparisons to “The Garry Shandling Show”–has been renewed for 17 new episodes. The series, from Viacom Productions, is written and executive-produced by Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, the husband-and-wife team who wrote some of the most memorable episodes of “Northern Exposure.”

Bonnie Hammer tops Sci-Fi: Bonnie Hammer has been named president of the Sci-Fi Channel, a new position at the USA Cable division.

Most recently, Ms. Hammer was the Sci-Fi Channel’s executive vice president and general manager. Before that she was senior vice president of programming for the Sci-Fi Channel and for USA Network’s original productions and was responsible both for programming and scheduling the Sci-Fi Channel and for developing original programming for both Sci-Fi and USA.

The new title, announced on
the eve of the Sci-Fi Channel’s upfront presentation in New York, recognizes Ms. Hammer’s contribution to the channel’s increased slate of original programming, which includes the upcoming “Taken,” a 20-hour miniseries from DreamWorks Television. Before joining USA, Ms. Hammer was a programming executive at Lifetime Television.

Tully VP at KXAS: Susan Tully has been named vice president and news director at NBC-owned KXAS-TV, Dallas, effective immediately. She comes to Dallas after three successful years as assistant news director at NBC-owned WCAU-TV, Philadelphia, and NBC-owned KNSD-TV, San Diego, before that. KXAS President and General Manager Steve Doerr announced Ms. Tully’s appointment to the KXAS news department this morning.

NBC maintains sweeps lead: Through the first four days of the May sweeps, last Thursday through last night, NBC is maintaining leads in the key adults 18 to 49 and adults 18 to 34 demographics but is also dropping by double-digit percentages, since CBS and Fox are nipping at the Peacock’s feathers.

Counting victories in adults 18 to 49 Thursday and Friday as well as a stronger-than-expected second-place Sunday evening, NBC’s 5.0 rating/17 share average in the demo still marks a 12 percent decrease from the comparable year-ago sweeps four-day period (5.7/17), according to Nielsen Media Research fast national averages. NBC’s top-ranked 4.4/14 in adults 18 to 34 is similarly off 12 percent from its year-ago period (5.0/17) average.

Thanks to the young-demo pull of “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS has spiked 43 percent to a second-ranked 4.0/12 in adults 18 to 49, 67 percent to a third-ranked 3.0/10 in adults 18 to 34 and 75 percent in teens to a fifth-ranked 2.1/8 average.

CBS also moved up 21 percent to a top-ranked 13.1 million total viewers for the four-day span. However, it should be noted that CBS’s typically weaker young demo rating positions on Tuesday and Wednesday nights could further dilute its first full week’s averages.

Fox dipped a slight 3 percent during the first four days of the sweeps in adults 18 to 49 (3.9/12), but it is also up 3 percent in adults 18 to 34 (4.0/14) with its bolstered Monday-through-Wednesday lineups. Meanwhile, ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”-led lineup is down 27 percent in adults 18 to 49 (3.3/10), 26 percent in adults 18 to 34 (2.6/9) and 13 percent in teens (2.0/8).

In the overall season-to-date race (Oct. 10-April 29), NBC’s top-ranked 4.8/14 is off 6 percent year to year, while its adults 18 to 34 base (4.1/13) is off 7 percent. Fox is closer to NBC’s heels in adults 18 to 49 (4.3/12), up 8 percent from year-ago season-to-date levels. Fox is also winning in adults 18 to 34 (4.5/14) and in teens (3.9/13), holding even in the former and up 11 percent in the latter demo.

Also, for the season-to-date, CBS has overtaken ABC for third in adults 18 to 49 (3.8/11 vs. 3.5/10), moving up 8 percent compared with ABC’s 18 percent decline. CBS and ABC are tied second in total viewers (38.9 million), but either could overturn NBC (39.0 million each) to win the traditional season at the end of the May sweeps.

NCTA changes name: The National Cable Television Association has changed its name to National Cable & Telecommunications Association, effective tomorrow. The change, first announced in February, reflects cable’s transformation from a one-way video provider to a competitive supplier of advanced, two-way services, including digital video, high-speed Internet, cable telephony and interactive TV, the organization said.

KTVU, Chronicle join forces: Fox affiliate KTVU-TV, Oakland, Calif., and the San Francisco Chronicle have created an alliance in which they will share resources for news, marketing, promotion and sales.

KTVU General Manager Jeff Block and Chronicle Executive Editor Phil Bronstein formally announced the partnership today on KTVU’s morning newscast. They will co-sponsor major area events and broadcasts, which include the Independence Day fireworks and the Chinese New Year parade, and develop other joint projects.

Disney Net, Nextel link up: Walt Disney Internet Group and Nextel Communications signed a deal to display ABCNews.com, ESPN.com and Mr. Showbiz content on Nextel’s Wireless Web Service.

Separately, ABCNews.com is hyping its findings that 45 percent of Americans think their personal privacy is threatened when they buy things over the Internet.

Monday’s webcast installment of “Chris Wallace’s Internet Expose,” titled “Identity Theft,” looks at e-commerce, how ripping off customer identities is becoming more common and the steps users can take steps to prevent this. The ABCNews.com webcast, www.internetexpose.com, will be archived so users can view it on demand.

Liberate, Intertainer form alliance: Liberate Technologies and on-demand entertainment delivery service Intertainer have formed a strategic alliance, with Intertainer joining Liberate’s PopTV program as an infrastructure partner. The agreement provides for the integration of products and joint marketing and sales efforts aimed at expanding the availability of revenue-generating entertainment-on-demand services.

Airlines extend reach of Web radio in deal: United Airlines, American and Northwest Airlines have signed deals with C I Host (Sky Radio Network) to extend the reach of this Web-hosting radio producer to more than 183 million travelers a year. Programming on all American and Northwest Airlines flights will begin in July; programming for United will kick in this fall.

Humphrey turns to NextLeft as COO: Former Turner Broadcasting and Sony Pictures executive Bill Humphrey has become digital strategy, branding and technology services firm NextLeft’s new chief operating officer. Mr. Humphrey was the1998 recipient of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Technical Emmy and most recently executive vice president of business development, technology and entertainment operations for Turner Broadcasting Systems. NextLeft clients include Ziff Davis, The Copley Press, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications