Briefly Noted

Apr 9, 2001  •  Post A Comment

A&E adding brio with new bios
In the “mad frenzy for eyeballs” that is the May sweeps, A&E will be counterprogramming the big events on the major broadcast networks with a month of new biographies, ranging from Martha Stewart and Rosemary Clooney to Dizzy Gillespie and Sean “Puffy” Combs.
Allen Sabinson, senior vice president, programming, A&E Network, said, “Truth be told, we didn’t do very well last May,” he said, “and [this May] we want to compete on every night.” So the network will be deploying 26 new editions of its signature “Biography” series to offer an alternative to what Mr. Sabinson calls the “discerning television viewer.”
Will that viewer be discerning enough to notice that for the new adventures of “Horatio Hornblower”-A&E’s Emmy-winning miniseries that’s back this month for another voyage-the production relied on models and computer-generated imagery for most of its seafaring scenes instead of returning to the ocean, where the first “Hornblower” was shot?
Geographic channel maps deal to boost access
The National Geographic Channel, launched in January, got two big viewership boosts last week. Charter Communications signed an affiliation agreement that will give the Washington-based channel access to two-thirds of its customers during the next four years. In addition, the documentary “National Geographic Channel Presents Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack,” premiering Sunday, May 27, has been set to air the same night on NBC. The Charter affiliation agreement, when added to existing affiliation agreements, is expected to help boost National Geographic’s cable carriage to 32 million homes during the next five years.
Zilo Networks pairs with Reebok
Multimedia advertainment start-up Zilo Networks is preparing to announce that Reebok will sponsor some of its entertainment offerings, Electronic Media has learned. The Reebok partnership comes shortly after Zilo inked a similar deal with General Motors. Zilo, which has raised $7 million in venture capital to date, targets students on college campuses with its youth-oriented television programs and companion Internet sites. General Motors is sponsoring Zilo’s “Extreme Team College Games,” a television and Web series that will be aired on selected college campuses this spring. The show will air live telecasts of both intramural and extramural extreme sports competitions. Among the sports on display will be mountain biking and Razor scooter races.
CBSNews.com lays off 20
CBS confirmed that CBSNews.com laid off about 20 staffers last week. Viacom-owned MTVi.com also reported cutting its staff.
Coalition: Use spectrum funds for education
A broad coalition of academics, museum officials, philanthropists and industry executives called on the government to set aside the estimated $18 billion it expects to reap during the next five years from the auction of public spectrum, including frequencies used now by analog television channels, for educational purposes. The coalition is led by Newton Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and PBS, and Lawrence Grossman, former president of NBC News and PBS.
Suit: `Sopranos’ defames Italian Americans
Add an anti-defamation lawsuit against the producers of HBO’s “The Sopranos” to the list of things giving angst to fictional New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano. The suit against Time Warner Entertainment Co., filed in a Cook County (Ill.) Circuit Court by the Chicago area-based American Italian Defense Association (AIDA), does not call for financial or other compensation. Instead, it simply asks the court to find that the critical and ratings hit violates the individual-dignity provision of the Illinois Constitution because, as a statement issued by AIDA puts it, the series “suggests that criminality is in the blood or in the genes of Italian Americans.” In fact, that’s an issue for some of the characters in the show itself, who have repeatedly agonized over the fact that Italian-surnamed professional criminals tar all Italian Americans. Time Warner defended the show. “We are very proud of `The Sopranos,”’ a Time Warner spokesperson said.
Corbin crosses over to Studios USA
Studios USA Programming has signed a drama development deal with writer-producer Samantha Corbin, who will immediately begin serving as a consultant on Dick Wolf Films’ and Studios USA’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” airing at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET) Fridays on NBC. Ms. Corbin, who most recently served as supervising producer on ABC’s “Gideon’s Crossing” hospital drama, will now be reporting to Dan Pasternack, senior vice president for drama programming at Studios USA.