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Dec 20, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Posted Thursday, Dec. 20, at 11:45 a.m. (PT); last updated at 4:40 p.m.

‘The Job’ back to work, ’20/20′ returns to Fridays on ABC

ABC has chalked in the midseason return of “The Job,” a critically received single-camera sitcom starring edgy comedian Denis Leary. The show will return in the 9:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Wednesday time slot beginning Jan. 16. The series will take the place of an added run of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” that is currently filling the time slot.

Additionally, ABC has slated newsmagazine “20/20” to return its long-running 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. Friday time slot on Jan. 18. “Downtown” will fill “20/20’s” current 10 p.m. Wednesday slot on Jan. 16. ABC News’ other magazine, “PrimeTime Thursday,” will stay put in its 10 p.m. Thursday slot. To make room for “20/20” on Friday, acclaimed but modestly received drama “Once & Again” will air an hour earlier in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time slot effective Jan. 4.

“Downtown” will be adding Chris Cuomo to the anchor team, joining Elizabeth Vargas, John Quinones and Cynthia McFadden. The program, which originally premiered in 1999, will feature JuJu Chang, Don Dahler, Jami Floyd, John Miller and Bill Ritter as contributing correspondents. Victor Neufeld is senior executive producer of ABC’s newsmagazines.

Hispanic media giants unite: Spanish-language media companies Univision Communications, Grupo Televisa S.A. and Venevision said Thursday they have reached an agreement to align resources in an effort to further penetrate the growing U.S. Hispanic market. Under the agreement, Univision’s three networks — Univision, Telefutura (scheduled to launch Jan. 14) and Galavision — will have exclusive broadcast rights to Televisa and Univision programming through 2017. As part of the agreement, Televisa and Venevision will increase their ownership in Univision Communications, and Univision will acquire Televisa’s Los Angeles-based music recording company, Fonovisa, and will merge it into its Univision Music Group.

Univision and Televisa have also agreed to form a strategic joint venture to leverage Televisa’s satellite and pay-TV programming in the United States and to create future channels. Televisa’s existing channels included three music video channels and two movie channels.

Congress asks Powell to scrutinize EchoStar-DirecTV deal: More than 80 bipartisan members of Congress urged Attorney General John Ashcroft and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell Wednesday to closely scrutinize the proposed EchoStar-DirecTV deal to protect rural consumers, many of which would be left with only one choice for television programming: the new company. The lawmakers, who represent largely rural districts, said that if the combination is approved, it should safeguard rural consumers on price, quality and access to service. Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters released the results of a survey of 1,000 adults nationwide that found 71 percent think the federal government should block the merger. NAB strongly opposes the deal, fearing it will result in local retransmission of fewer TV stations. But the survey, commissioned by NAB, did not ask participants whether they’d support the deal if it were conditioned to protect consumers, an option that’s been widely discussed in Washington.AT&T Comcast expects heap of synergy: Comcast Corp. says it can realize nearly $2 billion of annual synergies — mostly within the first three years of the AT&T Broadband and Comcast merger — from program cost savings, operating efficiencies, expanding a national adverting platform, improving AT&T cable margins to Comcast levels and introducing new products, including telephony.

Comcast says the 22-million-cable-subscriber footprint of the merged AT&T Comcast Corp. will be as penetrating and significant as any broadcast network-owned TV station footprint. The new company will aggressively work to sell national advertisers and program suppliers on that upside. AT&T Chairman and CEO Michael Armstrong and Comcast President Brian Roberts said AT&T-branded telephony will be rolled out a year from now as part of an advanced bundled digital video, data and telephony strategy that should yield $18 billion in revenues and nearly $5 billion in cash flow the first year, expected to grow 20 percent annually.

Meetings with investors and press Thursday to discuss their $72 billion merger of stock and the assumption of $27 billion in AT&T debt, offered the following insights:

— Although a transition committee will determine integration and management matters, Comcast appears receptive to retaining the new top management-including AT&T Broadband President and CEO Bill Schleyer-recently named to run the Broadband unit.

— The nation’s largest cable company will seek to “monetize” AT&T’s 25 percent stake in the Time Warner Entertainment partnership — valued at more than $15 billion — in exchange for other considerations. It also will talk to AOL Time Warner about terms for an Internet service provider arrangement on its systems.

— Although AT&T shareholders will have 66 percent voting control and 56 percent economic interest, Comcast’s Roberts family will have the single largest vote of 33 percent. Mr. Roberts said Comcast bested its earlier, rejected $58 billion bid for AT&T Broadband that ignited the furious six-month auction, because “things got competitive.” The price represents roughly $4,500 per subscriber or 22 times 2002 cash flow. AT&T will spin off its broadband unit in a tax-free transaction.

— Analysts speculate that foiled bidders will seek other smaller cable operators: AOL Time Warner could go after Cablevision Systems and Adelphia Cable, while Cox Communications could pursue Charter Communications. The deal lifted all cable stocks Thursday, including AT&T, which has been at record lows but traded up nearly 10 percent on the news. But the consolidation of cable and satellite operators will have along-term negative for cable programmers, according to John Martin of ABN-AMRO.

NBC’s move to accept liquor ads taking heat in Washington: NBC’s maverick decision last week to air hard-liquor ads is facing mounting opposition in Washington, setting the stage for a pitched battle with lawmakers that will carry into next year’s Congress. In a letter Thursday to executives at NBC and parent company General Electric, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., threatened to offer legislation in 2002 banning the booze spots and to hold extensive hearings on televised alcohol ads if NBC doesn’t rescind its decision.

Meanwhile, Rep. Wolf, who heads a House panel that funds the Federal Communications Commission, asked the agency and the entire Bush administration to oppose NBC’s move. At a press briefing Thursday afternoon, the lawmakers, along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and watchdogs, railed against the Peacock Network, calling its decision “shameful” and insisting the ads will lead to a higher alcoholism rate, particularly among youth.

“It is unconscionable that NBC has decided to violate its agreement for its own financial gain,” Rep. Roybal-Allard said of a longtime voluntary ban on spirits ads by the broadcast networks.

Rep. Markey said NBC would violate its public-interest obligations when it airs spots during programs that reach millions of kids, including the Olympics, which the network will broadcast in February. He and others worry that the other TV networks will follow NBC’s lead. NBC maintains it is running the ads responsibly by limiting them to shows with mostly adult audiences and requiring advertisers to air public-service messages.

Meanwhile, in a development that may create more headaches for NBC, Rep. Wolf said Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., also has concerns and will examine the issue. Sen. Hollings heads the powerful Senate Commerce Committee and has the authority to hold hearings on the matter. The senator was unavailable for comment.

‘Lost’ returns to NBC schedule: NBC’s modestly rated summer 2001 alternative-adventure series, “Lost,” will be returning to the Peacock’s schedule with a second incarnation premiering Sunday, D
ec. 23 (from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET) and airing as a two-hour special on Dec. 30 (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.).

The new run of episodes introduces viewers to six new contestants and a different “exotic” starting location and race home, NBC said in a statement. The last installment of “Lost” found six contestants broken into three pairs and dropped in the middle of Mongolia with little money and no idea where they were. Still, the group pushed to get back to the finish line at New York’s Statue of Liberty.

“Lost” is a co-production of Conan O’Brien’s Conaco Productions, Jumbolaya Productions and the U.K.-based Windfall Films and Channel 4. It is executive produced by Nancy Stern and David Dugan and co-executive produced by Jeff Ross and A.J. Morewitz.

Golden Globe nominations announced: In an important first litmus test before the Emmy Awards next September, a trio of freshman dramas — Fox’s “24,” ABC’s “Alias” and HBO’s “Six Feet Under” — joined veterans “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (CBS), “The Sopranos” (HBO) and “The West Wing” (NBC) in receiving best-drama nominations for the Golden Globe Awards. The nominations — as selected by 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — for best comedy series froze out all freshman network TV series, with returning shows “Friends” (NBC), “Frasier” (NBC), “Will & Grace” (NBC), “Sex and the City” (HBO) and “Ally McBeal” (Fox) collecting the nods.

Overall, HBO led the networks with 19 nominations, followed by NBC’s 15 and ABC’s 11 nods.

The Golden Globe Awards, which also include nominations for films and actors in the motion picture world, will be telecast live by NBC from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET) Sunday, Jan. 20, 2002. The following is the full list of TV series and acting nominations:

BEST TELEVISION SERIES — DRAMA

“24” (Fox), Real Time Productions, Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television

“Alias” (ABC), Touchstone Television

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” Alliance Atlantis Communications, CBS Productions and Jerry Bruckheimer Films

“Six Feet Under” (HBO), Actual Size Films, Greenblatt/Janollari Studios and HBO

“The Sopranos” (HBO), David Chase Films/Brad Grey Television and HBO

“The West Wing” (NBC), John Wells Productions and Warner Bros. Television

BEST TELEVISION SERIES — MUSICAL OR COMEDY

“Ally McBeal” (Fox), David E. Kelley Productions and 20th Century Fox Television

“Frasier” (NBC), Grub Street Productions and Paramount Network Television

“Friends” (NBC), Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions and Warner Bros. Television

“Sex and the City” (HBO), Darren Star Productions and HBO

“Will & Grace” (NBC), KoMut Entertainment, NBC Studios and Three Sisters Entertainment

BEST ACTRESS — DRAMA

Lorraine Bracco, “The Sopranos” (HBO)

Amy Brenneman, “Judging Amy” (CBS)

Edie Falco, “The Sopranos” (HBO)

Jennifer Garner, “Alias” (ABC)

Lauren Graham, “Gilmore Girls” (The WB)

Marg Helgenberger, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (CBS)

Sela Ward, “Once And Again” (ABC)

BEST ACTOR — DRAMA

Simon Baker, “The Guardian” (CBS)

James Gandolfini, “The Sopranos” (HBO)

Peter Krause, “Six Feet Under” (HBO)

Martin Sheen, “The West Wing” (NBC)

Kiefer Sutherland, “24” (Fox)

BEST ACTRESS — MUSICAL OR COMEDY

Calista Flockhart, “Ally McBeal” (Fox)

Jane Kaczmarek, “Malcolm in the Middle” (Fox)

Heather Locklear, “Spin City” (ABC)

Debra Messing, “Will & Grace” (NBC)

Sarah Jessica Parker, “Sex and the City” (HBO)

BEST ACTOR — MUSICAL OR COMEDY

Tom Cavanagh, “Ed” (NBC)

Kelsey Grammer, “Frasier” (NBC)

Eric McCormack, “Will & Grace” (NBC)

Frankie Muniz, “Malcolm in the Middle” (Fox)

Charlie Sheen, “Spin City” (ABC)

BEST MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

“Anne Frank,” (ABC), Touchstone Television

“Band of Brothers” (HBO), DreamWorks Television and HBO

“Conspiracy” (HBO), BBC Films and HBO Films

“Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” (ABC), Alliance Atlantis, Storyline and In Motion

“Wit” (HBO), Avenue Pictures and HBO Films

BEST ACTRESS — MINISERIES OR A MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

Judy Davis, “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” (ABC)

Bridget Fonda, “No Ordinary Baby” (Lifetime)

Hannah Taylor Gordon, “Anne Frank” (ABC)

Julianna Margulies, “The Mists of Avalon” (Turner Network Television)

Leelee Sobieski, “Uprising” (NBC)

Emma Thompson, “Wit” (HBO)

BEST ACTOR — MINISERIES OR A MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

Kenneth Branagh, “Conspiracy” (HBO)

James Franco, “James Dean” (Turner Network Television)

Ben Kingsley, “Anne Frank” (ABC)

Damian Lewis, “Band of Brothers” (HBO)

Barry Pepper, “61*” (HBO)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS — COMEDY, DRAMA OR TELEFILM

Jennifer Aniston, “Friends” (NBC)

Tammy Blanchard, “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” (ABC)

Rachel Griffiths, “Six Feet Under” (HBO)

Allison Janney, “The West Wing” (NBC)

Megan Mullally, “Will & Grace” (NBC)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR — COMEDY, DRAMA OR TELEFILM

John Corbett, “Sex and the City” (HBO)

Sean Hayes, “Will & Grace” (NBC)

Ron Livingston, “Band of Brothers” (HBO)

Stanley Tucci, “Conspiracy” (HBO)Bradley Whitford, “The West Wing” (NBC)

Initiative Media advises continued caution in ad world: Low rates for first-quarter 2002 cancellation options and strong fourth-quarter network scatter ad pricing, which is generally around upfront levels, are not early indicators that the economy is turning around.

That’s the message of caution from Initiative Media to its clients. Scatter ad rates have stayed up in the fourth quarter — not from an influx of new money, which would signal new economic strength, but because supply has been reduced as ratings have declined, according to IM’s Review of the 2001 Network TV Markets.

In prime time, “Four of the six networks lost audience compared to last year — down 5 percent overall,” the IM review noted. Also, “90 percent of advertisers wanted to ‘make good’ that [post-Sept. 11] lost time [when network schedules were pre-empted by news coverage], further reducing the inventory. In addition, the networks still owed many advertisers audience deficiency weight from last year’s upfront ratings shortfall.”

As for those lower first-quarter cancellation rates, Initiative points out that “Advertisers were so cautious in their [upfront] spending that no one over-committed … leaving the cancellation rate down,” unlike the previous year when advertisers feared exorbitant scatter rates and over-committed in the upfront while retaining the option to cancel later.