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May 30, 2001  •  Post A Comment

CBS affiliates won’t scrap advisory board

The CBS affiliates advisory board will not be reformulated as the network had hoped. In a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning at the CBS affiliates convention in Las Vegas, the network’s request was rejected by what was described as an “overwhelming” voice vote.

“We’re gonna keep on keepin’ on,” said Ray Deaver, chairman of the affiliates board and general manager of KWTX-TV, Waco, Texas.

Peter Schruth, president of affiliate relations for CBS, had already assured the group: “Whatever the affiliate body wants to do is fine.”

The dialogue is in marked contrast to the tensions that had grown between the two sides after the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance filed a petition in early March asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate network practices.

“To be honest, we think we got a bum rap,” said Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Television.

Wednesday afternoon, when he addressed all of the affiliates, Mr. Moonves addressed head on several of the key issues on which the networks have found themselves increasingly at odds with local stations. He said the network supports owners’ rights to sell stations to “a qualified buyer.” Mr. Moonves also said the network supports “reasonable” caps on pre-emptions, “reasonable and limited repurposing” and a “collaborative approach to utilization of the digital spectrum.”

But he also said, “Let’s talk about moving on together. What works for us works for you.”

ABC’s Aaron Brown moving to CNN: The new face of CNN is going to be Aaron Brown, the ABC News wordsmith who earned a national cult following as the acerbic and smart founding co-anchor (with Lisa McRee) of ABC’s overnight “World News Now.”

Under a deal put together by Carole Cooper, the N.S. Bienstock agent who packaged Bill O’Reilly’s sweeping contract earlier this year, Mr. Brown will start at CNN this summer and by fall is scheduled to be headlining an hour-long evening newscast to be developed around him.

Perhaps more important for CNN, Mr. Brown is expected to anchor major breaking stories and live events. The new newscast will originate from the Unitel studios on Manhattan’s West 57th Street, which also will be the setting for “Jeff Greenfield at Large,” which launches Monday on CNN.

Mr. Brown, who had spent a decade at KING-TV and five years at KIRO-TV, both in Seattle, before joining ABC News a decade ago, was not on the so-called “hit list” at ABC News, where 85 people have gotten the OK to take companywide buyouts and some 30 to 40 more are expected to be laid off in the near future.

One person familiar with the negotiations to spring Mr. Brown described ABC News President David Westin as being “a gentlemen” about letting the well-regarded correspondent, who anchored the Saturday edition of “World News Tonight,” go for the brass ring at CNN.

Smiley could talk for Disney: Former BET personality Tavis Smiley may not be talking up his former cable home but now appears poised to enter the Mouse House. Sources say the former talk show host appears set to enter a deal with Disney for a talk show through Buena Vista. The talk show would be projected for a 2002 launch, should the deal be finalized, although there has been speculation the strip would be placed in daytime, other dayparts are being considered by the distributor.

Tribune-Hearst alliance: Tribune Entertainment continued a busy week by entering into a distribution alliance with Hearst Entertainment under which Tribune will manage administrative and operation functions for Hearst’s domestic first-run television programming. The multiyear agreement, covering series ranging from weekly half-hour “Ron Hazelton’s Housecalls” to the upcoming firefighting hour “The Bravest,” will include contract administration and research as well as cooperation in distribution and marketing strategies. The entire Hearst library was part of the alliance, with more than 1,000 hours of programming in the mix. Tribune already had a barter sales agreement with Hearst, which was extended earlier this year.

WSBK-TV to launch new evening news program: UPN affiliate WSBK-TV, Boston, will launch a 7 p.m. newscast as part of its new lineup in the fall. The station is part of CBS’s duopoly in the market, with CBS-owned WBZ-TV General Manager Ed Goldman running WSBK. Although the details have not been worked out yet, WSBK is likely to have its own anchor team, while WBZ’s newsroom will help put the newscast together.

In other WBZ news, Boston’s veteran meteorologist Bruce Schwoegler had his final broadcast Saturday after 33 years at the station.

NBC confirmed May sweeps victor in key demos: Incorporating the last three days of the May sweeps and the traditional end of the 2000-01 season, Nielsen Media Research’s national ratings for the week of May 21 confirmed NBC’s front-running position in the adults 18 to 49 and adults 18 to 34 demographics. NBC ended the season scoring nightly wins last Tuesday (May 22) and Wednesday (May 23) in the adults 18 to 49 demo, while finishing a close third on Monday (May 21).

For the week ending May 27, which included four nights of largely repeat programming, NBC posted a top-ranked 4.6 rating/14 share average in adults 18 to 49 — holding about even with its previous week’s prime-time tally (4.6/13).

For the overall May sweeps (April 26-May 23), NBC’s winning 5.1/16 average in adults 18 to 49 nevertheless marked a 7 percent decline from its year-ago sweeps score (5.5/16). The Peacock Network ended the 2000-01 season (Oct. 2, 2000-May 23, 2001) at a top-ranked 4.8/13 in adults 18 to 49, but was down 4 percent from last season’s 5.0/14 average.

As for the other networks last week, Fox, whose national average was held down by a disappointing 1.2/4 in adults 18 to 49 for a repeat of the concert special “Barbra Streisand: Timeless” on Thursday, dropped 14 percent week to week at a second-ranked 3.6/11 last week. Minus “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and airing a repeat of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS slid 17 percent to a fourth-ranked 3.0/9 for the week. ABC (3.2/10) dropped only 6 percent to finish third in the key demo.

UPN, benefiting from a second-ranked 4.6/13 average in adults 18 to 49 for the series finale of “Star Trek: Voyager” last Thursday (improving 100 percent week to week on its previous 2.3/6 score), finished the week with a surprising 31 percent spurt to a 2.1/6 score in prime time. The WB’s 1.7/5 score in adults 18 to 49 for the week of May 21 was up 13 percent.

Fox revs up record ratings for NASCAR: Final national ratings from Fox Sports’ Sunday (May 28) prime-time telecast of the “NASCAR Winston Cup: Coca-Cola 600” raced to all-time record rating scores in several key categories for the sport. Fox, in its first year of a new rights deal with NASCAR, scored a record 4.2 rating/16 share in adults 18 to 49 and 9.4 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research national data.

In the battle between beverage-sponsored races, the 2001 edition of the Coca-Cola 600 bested CBS’s July 2000 Pepsi 400 telecast by 45 percent in adults 18 to 49 (2.9/13) and by 19 percent in total viewers (7.9 million). The 7 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Coca-Cola 600 also outperformed the only other NASCAR event ever in prime-time television, CBS’s Pepsi 400 in July 1999, among adults 18 to 49 (by 24 percent, 4.2/16 vs. 3.4/16) and total viewers (by 16 percent, 9.4 million vs. 8.1 million).

Fox Sports’ first-ever prime-time NASCAR event, which posted a 5.3/10 in households, also earned a seventh-place tie among the week’s top 10 prime-time programs among men 18 to 49 and was sixth in men 25 to 54.

iMagicTV taps former SBC director: iMagicTV has named Gregory Allemann, a former executive at telco SBC Communications, to its board of directors. Allemann, who served as vice president and executive director of broadband infrastructure and services for SBC Technology Resources, the research and development arm of SBC Communications, during the final eight years of his 30-year tenure at the telecom provider, is a natural fit for iMagicTV. The company’s software allows telcos to
provide video entertainment such as scheduled TV programs and video on demand via broadband DSL services. iMagicTV is allied with server technology giant Sun Microsystems.

ACTV introduces new TV/Internet convergence tool: ACTV has launched the latest version of its HyperTV Internet-and-television-synchronization platform. Unlike prior versions of the technology, the just-released HyperTV 3.0 allows viewers to play along with television programs on their personal computers without downloading plug-ins. The dual-screen entertainment service is the subject of ongoing patent litigation between ACTV and Disney.

mPhase signs with more cable nets: mPhase, which creates infrastructure that enables telcos to broadcast live television shows via DSL lines, has announced partnerships with several cable programming networks, including MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, TV Land, Nick Too, Starz! Encore, Fox, National Geographic and FX. Before those deals were announced, mPhase had established pacts with CNBC, MSNBC, A&E and C-SPAN.

XACT snags former SonicNet exec: Targeted radio advertising service XACT Radio Network has hired Scott Bonn, a former marketing manager at MTVi’s online music site, SonicNet. In addition to providing customized advertising services for traditional analog radio stations, the company creates Web sites for its radio clients that stream audio content. ACTV’s SpotOn provides a targeted ad service similar to XACT’s for cable television operators.

Pearl Harbor documentary makes History Channel history: What tops sex, at least when it comes to the History Channel? It’s the day that will live in infamy — and in the network’s record books. Its broadcast of “Tora, Tora, Tora: The Real Story of Pearl Harbor,” a documentary that debuted over the Memorial Day weekend with an average of 1.85 million households, became the most watched program in the history of the History Channel, topping “The History of Sex,” which averaged 1.7 million.

The WB’s ‘Witchblade’ pummels UPN’s ‘Seven Days’: The WB’s first try at AOL Time Warner synergy paid off with its airing of the Turner Network Television made-for-cable movie “Witchblade” scoring a 4.5 rating/7 share household average in Nielsen Media Research’s metered markets Tuesday night.

Although off 1 share point, or 13 percent, from what the season finale of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” averaged in the comparable 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) frame last week (an 8 share average), “Witchblade” nonetheless crushed UPN’s double-run airings of “Seven Days” (2.0/3) by a whopping 125 percent margin.

Shatner signed to host ‘Iron Chef’ special: Never one to shy away from out-of-this-world cuisine as captain of the Enterprise, William Shatner has been signed to serve as host of a pair of hour-long “Iron Chef USA: Showdown in Las Vegas” specials to air on UPN next fall.

Mr. Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original “Star Trek” series and is now featured in commercial spots for Priceline.com, will preside as “chairman” of a “kitchen stadium” competition between a challenger chef and four Iron Chefs who specialize in a variety of ethnic cuisine.

Based on the popular “Iron Chef” series format produced by Fuji TV Network for U.S. cable distribution on the Food Network for more than 300 episodes (dubbed in English), the domestically produced UPN specials will be taped at MGM Grand Hotel by The Larry Thompson Organization and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

Barzilay to supervise Toon Disney for ABC Cable: Jonathan Barzilay, a longtime general manager of ABC’s children’s programming for the broadcast network, has been promoted to senior vice president and general manager, adding management of ABC Cable Networks Group’s all-animation Toon Disney cable channel to his responsibilities.

In an appointment made by Anne Sweeney, president of ABC Cable Networks Group and president of Disney Channel Worldwide, to whom Mr. Barzilay will report, Ms. Sweeney cited his “wide-ranging experience in television and his current focus on children’s programming for ABC [as] ideal preparation to assume operational oversight of Toon Disney.”

“Having worked with Jonathan for several years now, I know his business acumen, analytical skills and vision are perfectly suited to pilot Toon Disney as it continues to grow and thrive,” Ms. Sweeney added in a prepared statement.

Mr. Barzilay will manage day-to-day operations for Toon Disney and will continue to be responsible for coordinating all network functions for “Disney’s One Saturday Morning,” ABC’s weekly five-hour children’s programming block.

Toon Disney, the 24-hour basic cable network, showcases The Walt Disney Co.’s vast library of animation from seven decades of series, specials, shorts and movies, as well as a variety of acquired programs. Launched April 18, 1998, Toon Disney is currently available in more than 20 million U.S. television households.

Mr. Barzilay has served as general manager of children’s programming for the ABC Television Network since April 1997. From 1996 to 1997 he served as vice president of the ABC Television Network Group. Mr. Barzilay served as counsel to ABC News and to the Capital Cities/ABC Owned Television Stations division from 1990 to 1996. Before joining ABC in 1990, he worked as an attorney in private practice, specializing in advertising and entertainment law. Mr. Barzilay is a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School.

Ullman headed for Oxygen: Actress/comedian Tracey Ullman, whose 1980s sketch comedy series became one of the first signature shows of the then-fledgling Fox Broadcasting Company, is now coming to Oxygen, another new network that should benefit from her high-visibility, critically favored brand of comedy.

The new series, a weekly half hour with an 11-episode commitment, is “Tracey Ullman’s Visible Panty Lines,” a look at fashion, its foibles and its influences in every sphere of modern life. Each episode will feature a close look at a celebrity guest’s personal style. Among the guests set for the first season are Cindy Crawford, Jackie Collins, Rita Wilson, Belinda Carlisle, Kathy Najimy, Rhea Perlman and Mo Gaffney. “Panty Lines” will become visible on Oxygen beginning in September.

Fox Sports International to expand presence in South America: Fox Sports International has extended its reach into the Spanish-speaking TV sports audience with an agreement to combine its Spanish-language sports assets with those of TeleRed Imagen S.A. of Argentina (TRISA), a joint venture between Argentina’s Grupo Clarin S.A. and Tomeos y Competencias S.A.

FSI’s assets that will become part of the Buenos Aires-based joint venture are Fox Sports World Espanol and the Fox Sports Latin America channels. TRISA’s asset in the venture is the TyC Sports network, with 6.7 million subscribers. Local advertising sales for and day-to-day operating management of the Fox channels in Latin America, which currently reach 9.8 million households in 18 nations, will fall to TRISA, which will continue managing the TyC network as well. FSI will manage the venture’s North American assets, which will include a TyC Sports-branded network for U.S. distribution, and will handle pan-regional advertising sales.

One goal of the new venture, described by FSI as a “straight combination of assets,” is increased penetration in the burgeoning Latin market. Another is utilizing TRISA programming, including Argentinian soccer and basketball, to help drive FSI’s broadband penetration. Brazil is one important South American territory that is not part of the TRISA venture; there, FSI is already part of a joint venture with ESPN International and Globosat. The venture’s networks currently reach more than 19 million households across the Western hemisphere.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications