Briefly Noted

Apr 2, 2001  •  Post A Comment

CBS turns back on affiliate board

Opening another front in the escalating war between the networks and their affiliates, CBS Television last week said it is planning to stick to a long-time tradition of hosting a meeting for its affiliates this year. But at the same time, the network made clear it wants the affiliates to scrap their 17-member affiliates board.

“We at CBS feel that it is no longer possible for us to work effectively with the current affiliate advisory board,” said Peter Schruth, president, CBS affiliates relations, in a March 27 memo to station officials. In an interview, Mr. Schruth said network officials were steamed in part because CBS affiliates blindsided the network by joining a recent industrywide request for a federal investigation into alleged network abuses of their station partners.

Ray Deaver, chairman of the CBS affiliates advisory board and general manager of CBS affiliate KWTX-TV in Waco, Texas, said CBS’s extraordinary request might be addressed in a closed-door, affiliate-only session during the network’s upcoming affiliate meeting May 30-31 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Odyssey to be reborn as Hallmark

On Aug. 6, the Odyssey Network will rebrand and relaunch as the Hallmark Channel, promising “trustworthy and safe” family-friendly programming that adults can enjoy and that will satisfy the cultural critics in Washington and elsewhere.

The Hallmark Channel will draw on the Hallmark archive, which includes 208 “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentations, and will commission original production, both from Hallmark Entertainment and from other producers. The channel will debut six original movies, two original miniseries and three new series this year.

GOP FCC candidate drops out

Pat Wood, one of the leading candidates for a GOP vacancy at the Federal Communications Commission, bowed out of the race last week to accept an appointment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A GOP insider said a package of FCC appointments is expected soon, with Michael Copps, a former aide to Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), expected to get the nod for a Democratic vacancy. According to this source, one of the GOP vacancies is still expected to be filled by a woman, with the top contenders including Becky Armendariz, who served as an aide to President Bush in his previous role as Texas governor, and former FCC aides Kathleen Abernathy and Janice Obuchowski. A second GOP seat is said to be up for grabs, with Earl Comstock, a former aide to Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Kevin Martin, a former FCC aide, among the contenders.

Baseball throws high, hard one on webcasts

Major League Baseball and RealNetworks have signed an exclusive three-year pact that will corner the market on live audio webcasts and convert them from a free service to a subscription-based service. The deal, expected to be worth at least $20 million payable to the MLB by RealNetworks over three years, goes into effect Saturday. For RealNetworks it’s an opportunity to edge out competitors such as Microsoft Windows MediaPlayer.

When asked about local broadcaster rights to Internet audio feeds, MLB Advanced Media President Bob Bowman noted, “Those rights will disappear.” As for extending the new rules to live video, Mr. Bowman indicated there had been some discussion of that already, but this was “not within the four quarters of our transactions-it’s much more likely to be a 2002 item.”

MGM, NBC Enterprises complete deal

MGM and NBC Enterprises have finalized a multiyear alliance under which MGM will provide distribution services for all NBC Studios programming across all territories outside North America. Effective immediately, MGM will handle all of NBC’s current and future programming overseas, including “Will & Grace” and “Providence.” The agreement includes made-for-TV movies, miniseries and specials. NBC Enterprises will continue to handle its news, sports, late night and formats worldwide.

Campaign finance vote set

The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, which includes provisions requiring broadcasters to offer political candidates television time at rock-bottom rates, is set for a floor vote in the Senate on Monday, April 2. Speculation in Washington last Friday was that the upper chamber would pass it.

Meanwhile, senators last week broadened language in the bill that bars for-profit corporations and labor groups from running “sham” issue ads designed to support or oppose congressional or presidential candidates. The Senate voted 51 to 46 to add an amendment offered by Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., that extends those restrictions to all interest groups despite concerns it might raise constitutional issues.