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Jun 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Palmer steps up at Sony

Sony Pictures Family Entertainment has promoted David A. Palmer to senior vice president of marketing and promotions. In his new position, Mr. Palmer will continue to be responsible for developing and implementing the overall marketing, advertising and publicity campaigns for all of SPFE’s TV properties. Additionally, Mr. Palmer, who serves as the marketing liaison among SPFE, the Sony Corporation of America marketing council, distribution partners and many of Sony’s internal divisions, will now assist in other areas of Sony Pictures Entertainment, including Columbia TriStar Television’s prime-time and daytime properties.

At SPFE, Mr. Palmer has been involved in the launch of such highly successful children’s series as the Kids’ WB hits “Jackie Chan Adventures” and “Max Steel,” the upcoming Kids’ WB show “Phantom Investigators,” PBS’s “Dragon Tales” (in conjunction with Sesame Workshop), and the upcoming series “Harold and the Purple Crayon” for the HBO Family cable network. Mr. Palmer was also instrumental in initiating QSR (quick service restaurant) deals with SPFE’s properties, generating in excess of $50 million in barter advertising deals.

“When it comes to developing marketing strategies for launching new properties or maintaining an existing franchise, David’s marketing experience and relationships with Fortune 500 companies, agencies and the networks is invaluable to us,” said Len Grossi, president of Columbia TriStar Television.

Mr. Palmer joined SPFE (formerly known as Columbia TriStar Television Children’s Programming) in 1998 from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he served as vice president of marketing for the company’s consumer products division. Mr. Palmer also spent five years at The Walt Disney Co.

HBO’s sex and death lineup thriving: HBO’s new-season gambit of sex and death on Sunday nights got off to a rousing start, with drop-dead ratings on Sunday. The second of two premiere episodes of “Sex and the City” was the highest-rated episode in the ultra-fashionable series’ history, vamping up a 13.8/19 in the cable service’s homes, while the debut of “Six Feet Under,” HBO’s new take on the usual dysfunctional family, which this time just happens to be a family of morticians, dug up an 11.2/17, the highest-ever rating for a premiere of any original HBO series.

Court TV sends media buyers to Broadway: Upfront may be far from over, but when it comes to the best freebie from a network to its potential advertisers, the verdict is in: The winner is Court TV Chairman and CEO Henry Schleiff, who came up with a block of 100 orchestra seats for the first post-Tony Awards performance of “The Producers,” the Broadway megahit that has theatergoers waiting endless months for a chance at tickets.

How did Mr. Schleiff get 100 of the hottest tickets in town? It didn’t hurt that he’s friends with the show’s producer, comic actor and director Mel Brooks (who, when he came to visit the network a while back, told gullible young Court staffers that he was the new anchor, hired to report exclusively on German trials).

Months ago, before the show was in tryouts, Mr. Schleiff recalled, he had “as a favor to Mr. Brooks” offered to invite to the first post-Tonys performance the “hundred biggest players in advertising, who have a ton of word of mouth … so that if you don’t do well or if you do do well, you’ll get a little heat.”

Tongue firmly in cheek, Mr. Schleiff explained that, now that his friend’s show is such a big hit, he had the choice to “scalp [the tickets] and make budget. But we’ve decided to go the old-fashioned way, to use them as a form of creating our relationships … with our friends.”

Not only did Madison Avenue’s best and brightest get a chance to see the musical that just copped 12 Tonys, but there was a pre-show dinner as well. Attendees included Donna Salvatore from Mediavest, Erwin Gottlieb and Mike Goldstein from Mindshare, Bob Igiel from the Media Edge and Dan Rank and Steve Grubbs from OMB.

CNN’s ‘Greenfield’ ratings best ‘Spin Room’ numbers: Jeff Greenfield’s new CNN show, “Greenfield at Large,” debuted Monday with ratings that showed dramatic improvements compared with the 10:30-to-11 p.m. (ET) time slot’s previous occupant, “The Spin Room,” although “Greenfield” didn’t steamroller the competition. “Greenfield” averaged a 0.5 rating, which translates into 270,000 homes and 452,000 total viewers. That’s slightly off from its lead-in, a Bill Hemmer-anchored newscast that averaged a 0.6 rating, 523,000 homes and 621,000 total viewers.

“Greenfield” outperformed the May averages of “Spin Room” by 25 percent in ratings, 15 percent in homes and 22 percent in total viewers.

Departed ‘ER’ cast member Stringfield to return next season: Sherry Stringfield, an original cast member of “ER” who departed the NBC hit after its first three seasons, has made a new three-year deal to return to the Thursday night staple. Ms. Stringfield, who will reprise her role as Dr. Susan Lewis, left the Warner Bros. Television series long before the studio scored a record $13 million-per-episode license fee from NBC in 1998 — making some of her original castmates among the highest-paid dramatic actors in television.

“ER” executive producer John Wells has three more seasons left on the show’s extension with NBC. Mr. Wells and Warner Bros. Television recently sealed a three-year extension as well with Noah Wyle, whose Dr. John Carter character will become more of a centerpiece after Anthony Edwards leaves “ER” next season. Eriq LaSalle, who is directing, producing and starring in the motion picture “Crazy As Hell,” has yet to sign an extension with the 7-year-old show.

Tauzin-Dingell bill facing June 13 vote: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a June 13 vote on the Tauzin-Dingell bill, legislation that deregulates the Baby Bells with the goal of making them more competitive against cable in the broadband market. At a hearing Tuesday before the panel, Chairman James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., said he is undecided about the legislation and about alternative bills that impose more restrictions on the Bells’ ability to build out Internet infrastructure nationwide. Judiciary has limited jurisdiction over Tauzin-Dingell and can only review portions dealing with antitrust issues. The panel must complete its work on the bill offered by Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., on or by June 18.

Cates to direct high-definition television drama for PBS: Director and producer Gil Cates will direct “Collected Stories,” a drama that will be broadcast as part of the new “PBS Hollywood Presents” drama series. Mr. Cates is also producer of the Academy Awards.

“Collected Stories” is based on the play by Donald Margulies, who will adapt his work for television. It will be shot in high definition at PBS station KCET-TV, Los Angeles, where “PBS Hollywood Presents” is based will air on PBS this winter. “PBS Hollywood Presents” premiered in April with “Old Settler” starring Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen.

Telemundo widens L.A. reach: Telemundo Communications Group has completed its purchase of the Los Angeles-based independent Spanish-language television station KWHY-TV from Harriscope Corp. The acquisition provides Telemundo with two full-power UHF TV stations in Los Angeles, the largest Hispanic market in the United States. Telemundo also owns and operates Los Angeles-based KVEA-TV.

Closing the deal for KWHY-TV could also be one of the first steppingstones to helping the Spanish-language broadcaster’s rumored plans to launch a second Hispanic-American TV network. Dominant Hispanic broadcaster Univision Communications laid out plans last month for the launch of its second Spanish-language network in the United States.

Last month, Univision received Federal Trade Commission approval of its $1.1 billion acquisition of the 13-market USA Broadcasting station group, which would give the Latino broadcaster duopolies in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Miami. Final regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission is expected by late this year.

Telemundo currently
holds bragging rights as the fastest-growing Spanish-language TV network in the United States but still lags behind Unvision’s dominant share of the Hispanic viewing market. Telemundo owns and operates eight full-power UHF stations serving the seven largest Hispanic markets in the country, as well as a full-power TV station and production facility in Puerto Rico. Telemundo Communications Group is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, AT&T- and John Malone-led Liberty Media Group, BV Capital, Bastion Capital and Council Tree Communications.

RespondTV, House of Blues announce ITV channel: Respond-TV and House of Blues have officially announced that their forthcoming interactive live music channel will be authored with Liberate Technologies’ interactive content development tools. The interactive channel was originally reported by ELECTRONIC MEDIA on April 16 (“House of Blues sings song of convergence”). The companies will be demonstrating the channel next week at Liberate’s booth at the NCTA show in Chicago.

Bill to allow TV, radio coverage in federal cases back on the floor: Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced legislation Tuesday that would allow radio and TV coverage of federal court proceedings. The measure, called the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, is the same bill the two introduced in the previous Congress. A version of that bill was approved by the House but died when the Senate adjourned without holding hearings on it.

But Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said she thinks the measure has a better shot this year, with Senate committees now under the control of Democrats. “We will do all we can to see that this bill becomes law,” Ms. Cochran said. The RTNDA chief also said Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and William Delahunt, D-Mass., are planning to introduce the legislation in the House.

ABC News makes deal with online religion news service: ABC News has struck an editorial deal with Beliefnet, an 18-month-old New York-based “multifaith e-community,” to produce jointly branded polls and segments about religion and spirituality and their impact on the public for ABC News programs.

“We want to take consistent snapshots of the American spiritual landscape. There are just so many interesting things going on,” said Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of the Web site, about which he said, “We interact on a monthly basis with 2.5 million people.”

“That in itself is a wealth of content,” said Mr. Uphoff, who added that Beliefnet — which posts more than 60 columnists, religious news services, chat subjects and listings of houses of worship — offers “an extraordinary depth and breadth” of content and talent.

“ABC News could not hope to replicate the number of people we have in the marketplaces,” said Mr. Uphoff.

More than a decade ago, ABC News heralded its hiring of Dallas-based Peggy Wehmeyer to cover religion. But not much of Ms. Wehmeyer’s work had been making its way onto the air. The network and the correspondent decided to part ways in October.

Mr. Uphoff said ABC News anchor Peter Jennings reached out to Beliefnet last summer when he was working on “The Search for Jesus,” which attracted 16 million viewers and helped send what Mr. Uphoff said was “several hundred thousand” visitors to Beliefnet.com in the 24-hour period that followed.

“From there, Peter very closely watched what we were doing,” said the Beliefnet CEO.

Paul Friedman, executive vice president and managing editor for ABC News coverage, said no money is changing hands under the loosely structured deal, which Mr. Friedman said is expected to benefit Beliefnet by pointing ABC News viewers to the Web site and to give ABC News the benefit of Beliefnet’s expertise.

In addition to casual polls on the Web site, there will be more scientific samplings of public opinion conducted under the supervision of ABC News’ polling unit, run by Gary Langer.

TVN, nCube ready to stream VOD: TVN’s Digital Content Express content delivery system for video on demand has been certified as compatible with nCube’s streaming video servers, the companies announced. The companies have formed a strategic alliance to provide VOD content to the cable industry, as was originally reported by ELECTRONIC MEDIA (“TVN takes plunge into video on demand,” June 4). The certification was announced after the companies completed a series of tests.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications