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Jun 20, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Network upfront picking up steam

As expected, the network upfront marketplace has finally begun in earnest, led by NBC’s selling its advertising inventory at cost-per-thousand decreases of at least 5 percent compared to last year (EM, June 18). The Peacock Network has probably sold about $800 million worth of inventory thus far, buyers said. “If you’re willing to increase share significantly, NBC has been very willing to deal, going negative on their CPMs to a surprising extent,” said one top buyer. ABC is slightly behind, probably writing about $600 million thus far, again for decreases in CPMs, buyers reported.

Of the Big 3, CBS remains the laggard, as its sales staff is stymied by Viacom President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin’s mandate that the network not write business with CPM decreases compared to last year.

Fox, with more targeted programming to young adults, has written business with slight CPM increases, buyers said.

On the cable side, deals are still slow to develop. “The broadcast guys should be done by the Fourth of July,” said one cable sales executive. “We won’t have such luck.”

Likewise, syndication executives, for the most part were also sitting on the sidelines thus far.

FCC launches cable review: The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday launched its latest annual review of competition in the cable industry with a bit of a twist: It is seeking data on how many households rely on over-the-air reception of local TV stations on one or more of their TV sets. The FCC also requested comment on how cable operators are bundling traditional video services into packages with broadband information offerings — and how TV and the Internet are merging. The annual investigations, mandated by the Cable Act of 1992, are supposed to determine how much competition there is for cable TV. Comments are due Aug. 3.

ShopNBC does t-commerce: T-commerce technology provider Wink Communications will officially announce Thursday that DirecTV subscribers will be able to use Wink to make purchases with their remote controls while watching home-shopping cable network ShopNBC. The cable net was formerly known as ValueVision.

Sinclair allowed to keep station combos: A federal appeals court in Washington Wednesday stayed a Federal Communications Commission regulation that would have required Sinclair Broadcast Group to break up at least three of its 25 local marketing agreement TV station combinations in August. The FCC duopoly provision at issue requires the elimination of LMAs entered into after Nov. 5, 1996, in markets served by fewer than eight independent full-power TV stations.

The stay is good until after the court resolves a Sinclair lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FCC’s duopoly rules. The court’s action augurs well for Sinclair’s lawsuit because the court only stays regulations it believes are likely to be thrown out. “We view it (the court’s action) as a favorable event,” said Barry Faber, Sinclair vice president and general counsel.

‘Lowest unit rate’ proposal met with skepticism: A controversial proposal to substantially lower the already reduced rates politicians pay to advertise on television was met with strong opposition Wednesday from most members of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet. The so-called “lowest unit rate” proposal would force broadcast, cable and satellite television to offer federal candidates the lowest rates they have offered any advertiser for a particular time slot in the past 365 days.

The proposal, crafted by Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., was successfully added to campaign finance reform legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year.

The House will soon consider the Senate bill or a House counterpart that doesn’t yet include the proposal.

“In my view the system works today,” said panel chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. He and other lawmakers said the Torricelli approach raises constitutional concerns, would trigger more ads — many of them negative — and be unfair to state and local candidates, who wouldn’t benefit. Lawmakers also questioned why radio wasn’t included in the bill.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., was a lone voice expressing support for the amendment, but even he seemed open to scaling it back so it’s less burdensome on broadcasters, possibly by changing the 365 day requirement to 180 days.

NBC’s ‘Go Fish’ repels viewers: As its title implied, NBC’s double-run, 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) debut Tuesday night of summer replacement “Go Fish” appeared to drive viewers to cut bait and run to other channels. “Fish” turned in a third-ranked 2.4 rating/9 share average in adults 18 to 49 for the hour, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

For the 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. frame, “Go Fish’s” 2.3/9 in adults 18 to 49 represented a 20 percent slide from what a repeat of “3rd Rock From the Sun” averaged in the time period last week (2.9/11). It was a mixed bag as well from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., with “Fish’s” 2.6/8 improving 13 percent over its own lead-in but down 3 percent from what summer replacement “Kristin” averaged in the time slot last week (2.7/9).

Despite the weaker 8 p.m. hour lead-in, a 9 p.m. repeat of “Frasier” (3.1/10) ranked second in the period and improved 19 percent over “Fish’s” lead-in and 7 percent ahead of its previous week’s average (2.9/9). Moving one hour later to an 9:30 p.m. start, “Kristin’s” 2.4/7 in adults 18 to 49 was its lowest score in the demo since its premiere three weeks ago and marked a 27 percent decline from what a second run of “Frasier” averaged in the time period last week (3.3/10).

NBC still won Tuesday night in adults 18 to 49 (3.0/8) on the strength of the 10 p.m. run of “Dateline” (3.7/11, up 42 percent week to week) and against a number of repeats on the other networks.

KDVR-TV’s McDonald under investigation: Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter’s office confirmed that it launched a grand jury investigation last week to look into an allegation of investment fraud allegedly perpetrated by Scott McDonald, the former managing editor of Fox-owned KDVR-TV, Denver.

Last month the DA’s Office received a complaint that Mr. McDonald solicited loans and investments from some Denver news media personalities, public relations executives and a city government spokesman. Mr. McDonald left the station April 20 citing “private reasons” and told the Denver Post last month that $100,000 in investments and loans was involved. KDVR consumer reporter Tom Martino was subpoenaed. He accused Mr. McDonald of fraud and failure to repay a $50,000 loan.

According to Denver DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough the subpoena process “is just under way” and more people will be called in to testify behind closed doors.

“It is all still allegation and under investigation,” Ms. Kimbrough told Electronic Media. “The grand jury process is a very specific, confidential process for investigating and bringing forward a criminal charge. There is no guarantee that there is going to be a result; not every grand jury investigation results in an indictment.”

PROMAX keynoters put networks in their place: As the lights dimmed for PROMAX’s opening session in Miami, music blared with lyrics that may best define the power of promos to the industry today: “It’s all about the bottom line.”

MTV Networks International President Bill Roedy, BBDO Worldwide Chairman and CEO Allen Rosenshine and Lifetime Television CEO and President Carole Black welcomed PROMAX participants in keynote speeches with shots fired at broadcast networks.

“Programs are brands,” Mr. Rosenshine said. “Networks are not. People watch programs. Nobody watches a network … that is simply because broadcast networks cannot stand for anything. They must by definition be as much as they can to as many people as they can. No brand can exist under such a broad and undifferentiated mandate.”

Kurgan promoted at Fox Broadcasting: Ira Kurgan has been promoted to president of network business operations for Fox Broadcasting Co. Mr. Kurgan, who has been executive vice president of network business operations for six years, will expa
nd his duties to work closely on programming issues with network President Gail Berman, said Sandy Grushow, chairman of the Fox Television Entertainment Group, in making the announcement.

Mr. Kurgan joined Fox Broadcasting in 1987 as vice president of business affairs after a career that had seen him move from associate at Los Angeles law firms to theatrical and broadcast film counsel at CBS, production counsel for United Artists production counsel and director of business affairs for moves of the week and miniseries at CBS.

MSNBC plans scheduling moves: On July 9, when MSNBC moves “The News With Brian Williams” into its new 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) home, the news channel also will move “Hardball” back to its pre-election time slot of 7 p.m. and will move the hour of news anchored by Lester Holt and Ashleigh Banfield into “Hardball’s” current 5 p.m.-to-6 p.m. slot.

Loesch to speak at mayors’ conference: Margaret Loesch, president and chief executive officer, Hallmark Channel, is expected to be the only media representative speaking at this weekend’s United States Conference of Mayors’ 69th annual convention, which will be held in Detroit. Ms. Loesch will be on a panel addressing the topic “The Well-Being of the Family” on Sunday morning. President George W. Bush will also speak at the annual convention.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications