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May 10, 2001  •  Post A Comment

It’s official: XFL is dead

World Wrestling Federation Entertainment and NBC, which were equal partners in the XFL, pronounced the football league dead late Thursday afternoon.

The project, conceived by WWFE Chairman Vince McMahon and announced with WWF-style braggadocio, hyperbole and ambition in February 2000, overachieved on its Feb. 3, 2001 debut on NBC and by 12 weeks later had stumbled to a finish line at which the audiences on NBC, UPN and TNN had fallen far short of the promises made to a dwindling number of advertisers.

In a statement released before a conference call, Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Sports and Olympics, said: “Launching a new football league in such a short time period was a daunting and exciting challenge, but we gave it our best shot. The risk of our XFL joint venture was prudent and tolerable given that the ownership of a successful new league today provided the possibility of an enormous economic opportunity in a time of wildly escalating sports TV rights.

“We are proud of the innovative, fan-friendly football and television production enhancements that NBC and the WWF jointly developed for this league. I especially want to salute the fans, players and coaches who created the fun and entertaining XFL in-stadium experience.

“Most of all, I want to thank Vince McMahon. NBC has enjoyed many partnerships through the years, but we would be challenged to find a more decent, trusting and accommodating partner and friend than Vince.”

“While we believe that it is an extraordinary accomplishment to have created a new professional football league in what amounts to less than a year’s time, we feel that it is in the best interests of our shareholders and our partners to discontinue the XFL,” Mr. McMahon said in a statement. “I would personally like to thank the employees of the XFL and WWFE, the XFL fans, our partner NBC and especially Dick Ebersol and his team for their perseverance, support and enthusiasm that did not waver throughout the season. We are all proud of the creative innovations that we introduced in the production of the game as well as in the rule changes that were implemented to increase the excitement and enjoyment of the game and provide a fan-friendly brand of football.”Shapiro named head of NBC News: NBC made it official Thursday. “Dateline NBC” Executive Producer Neal Shapiro will become president of NBC News effective June 4, the same day Andrew Lack officially moves up from news president to NBC president and chief operating officer. Bob Wright moves from NBC president and CEO to chairman and CEO.

Mr. Shapiro left ABC News to take over “Dateline” in 1993-when the newsmagazine was on the ropes after a scandal involving a staged fire in a story about GM truck safety-and steadily turned the magazine into a multinight franchise and award winner without losing his reputation as a good guy who inspires extreme loyalty from his staff.

“We as a group know better than anyone what a terrific guy he is and what a fantastic job he has done with ‘Dateline,'” Mr. Lack said in a memo to news staffers this morning.

Sinclair files petition with FCC: Sinclair Broadcast Group filed an emergency petition with the FCC to postpone termination of local marketing agreements in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Charleston, S.C.; and Charleston, W.Va.; by Aug. 6, pending a decision on the appeal Sinclair filed in February regarding this FCC requirement and existing duopoly rules. Sinclair claimed “irreparable injury” if the postponement is not granted, and noted it would file a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals if the commission fails to act on its petition by May 18.

Sony launching online banking: Sony announced plans in Tokyo Thursday to launch online banking services next month. From the first day of operations (June 11), Sony Bank will provide deposit accounts, auto loans and investment trust services. Future plans include foreign-currency deposit accounts, specialized loans and home loans. The venture is expected to draw 500 billion yen by 2004.

Gemstar, Cablesystems ink deal: Gemstar-TV Guide International and Canada’s Shaw Cablesystems signed a nonexclusive long-term interactive program guide agreement. Terms of the agreement provide for customary license fees, advertising/t-commerce splits and guaranteed distribution of Gemstar-TV Guide’s Prevue Interactive service in Shaw’s six largest cable systems.Dimling, Whiting upped at Nielsen: John Dimling was promoted to chairman and CEO of Nielsen Media Research, from president and CEO. Susan Whiting was named president and chief operating officer. She was general manager in charge of national services and emerging markets.

CNBC expands ‘Business Center’: On Monday, when Lou Dobbs makes his ballyhooed return as anchor of CNN’s “Moneyline,” CNBC will unveil an expanded version of “Business Center,” the show that for months has won the head-to-head competition for viewers.

“Business Center” will expand to two hours and start at 6 p.m. (ET), giving CNBC a half-hour jump on “Moneyline,” which airs from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. In addition, the popular anchor duo of Ron Insana and Sue Herera will focus solely on “Business Center.”

Sightward expands sights with new product: Sightward is expected to announce Tuesday that it is considering creating a new intelligent CRM software application for the cable industry. The product would enable cable operators to predict which advanced services-high-speed Internet, telephony, video on demand, etc. — a given customer is likely to purchase. The company, which produces intelligent CRM software for a multitude of industries, is just now venturing into the nascent cable CRM space. Sightward has raised about $5 million in venture capital since its inception in 1999. The company was named Applied Inference (www.appliedinference.com) until now.

‘Voyager’ treks to high ratings: The next-to-last episode of UPN’s soon-to-be-departing “Star Trek: Voyager” scored a healthy 5.2 rating/7 share household average in Nielsen Media Research’s metered markets to post an impressive 68 percent boost from 8 p.m. (ET) lead-in drama “Special Unit 2” (3.1/5) last night.

“Voyager” held a 41 percent advantage over The WB’s “Felicity” (3.7/5) at 9 p.m. But The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” (4.1/6) held a 32 percent edge over “Special Unit 2” in the 8 p.m. hour.

For its 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. prime-time rotations, UPN’s 4.1/6 average held a 5 percent margin over The WB’s 3.9/6 score in overnight households.

Pax reveals ‘Power’: In a continuing sign of cooperation with NBC, a one-third equity partner in Paxson Communications, the Pax TV network is set to air “The Power of One,” an original one-hour special hosted by “Dateline NBC” anchor Maria Shriver, at 8 p.m. (ET) May 23.

The show, produced for Pax by “Dateline NBC” and NBC News, spotlights individuals whose drive and determination are instrumental in bettering their communities and the world around them.

Capitol OKs deal with accessDTV: Capitol Broadcasting announced a deal with accessDTV Thursday to distribute several thousand digital video and data-ready PC tuners to WRAL-TV’s Raleigh-Durham, N.C., audience starting this summer. Selected recipients will be able to watch over-the-air digital television as well as datacasted programming on their PCs. Provider accessDTV was a finalist for best of show at the 2001 International Consumer Electronics convention.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications