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Jan 21, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, Jan. 21, at 3 a.m. (PT); last updated at 1:20 p.m.

4Kids gets Fox block; affiliates meet at NATPE

4Kids Entertainment signed a deal late Friday to lease Fox’s Saturday morning time slots for $25.3 million per year over four years, sources said.

4Kids, which produces the Kids’ WB hit series “Pokemon,” outbid DIC Entertainment, among others, and will begin to program the slots at the start of the kids season this fall. At NATPE this week, 4Kids Entertainment had plans to launch two new TV series from Japan — the animated “Kinnikuman” and the live-action “Ultraman Tiga.”

With Fox signing the deal with 4Kids Entertainment to program its 8 a.m.-to-noon Saturday kids block, the network will give affiliates 20 avails to sell, which is more than what the affiliates have now. In addition, 4Kids will retain all national ad sales revenue; local affiliates will retain their local splits.

Fox made the announcement during an affiliate board meeting on Sunday in Las Vegas.

“It’s looking positive,” said Mark Higgins, general manager at WOFL-TV, Orlando, who is the new Fox affiliate board chairman. “We did a lot of asking … and Tony [Vinciquerra, Fox Television president] graciously has said he would send us all of the deal points so we can get better familiar with this. Anytime that you subcontract out your time, it’s our responsibility as broadcasters — it’s one of the fundamental rights we have as broadcasters — to protect our airwaves. So until we know exactly what the deal is, we can’t respond. But we did feel better at the end of the conversation than we did starting the conversation.”

In addition to Mr. Higgins being elected chairman, Jon Lawhead, general manager at WXIX-TV, Cincinnati, was named vice chairman during Sunday’s meeting. Fox was the only network that met with its affiliate board during the start of the National Association of Television Program Executives conference. This was Mr. Vinciquerra’s first time before the board.

Before Mr. Vinciquerra was hired, the affiliate board had voted unanimously to eliminate the prime-time inventory purchase agreement, which ends in June. The three-year program gave affiliates 15 additional spots per week, on top of the 90 spots they had, at a cost of about $55 million. Station managers called this reverse compensation, and each station paid based on its market size. But now with the election of Mr. Vinciquerra, the affiliate board said it would give him time to look over the agreement that had been in place.

“There might be a new creative idea where something that we haven’t thought about works for both of us,” Mr. Higgins told Electronic Media. “As long as we both come out of this OK and the economics work for both parties. [Tony] has asked for some time to get familiar and get acquainted [with the agreement].”

“Tony, you have to respect, he’s only two weeks old [on this job], and I’m one day old,” Mr. Higgins said. “We have agreed to take a look at some of the models and this model that we both inherited is well over 3 years old. We’re anxious to take a look at some other possibilities. And he gave us his commitment that he would do that.”

Mr. Vinciquerra said the network expects some contribution from the affiliates.

“We’re not contemplating that going away,” Mr. Vinciquerra said. “We’re looking at ways that we can both feel good about it. It’s a very fluid situation — we already have some deals done going forward with individual groups, and that’s how they will be negotiated.”

Mr. Higgins emphasized the affiliate board is just an advisory board, and the deals are made between group owners and the networks. But as a board, they seemed pleased about Fox’s choice in hiring Mr. Vinciquerra.

“We view Tony as one of us,” Mr. Higgins said. “He’s an operator — he understands our perspective, and he understands what we do on a day-to-day basis. So having him as part of the team is very exciting to the Fox board. We ended in a very upbeat manner and are very optimistic on what we can accomplish. I am highly encouraged on what we can do together.”

Mr. Vinciquerra told the board he understands stations have had the “toughest” 18 months they’ve had in a long time. “This was one of the best meetings I’ve been at,” Mr. Vinciquerra said. “It was very constructive, very positive. We talked about ways to advance our businesses rather than point fingers at each other. I was very encouraged by the attendance from Fox. People at Fox are very interested at making sure that the relationship between the affiliates and network is a positive one and will grow. I’m hoping that I can help that process along.”

Tribune announces action-hour clearances: Bewildered visitors to a divided NATPE market this year were quick to get their bearings as exhibitors at the Venetian Hotel drew crowds even before the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center officially opened. But that didn’t stop business as usual for some distributors, with Tribune Entertainment announcing the latest addition to its action-hour franchises.

The company has declared a “firm go” for new weekly hour “The Ultimate Adventure Company” with Fireworks Entertainment, which will handle international rights to the series. The upcoming hour from “Aliens” producer Gale Anne Hurd and “Tomb Raider” writer Steven De Souza has been cleared in 60 percent of the United States, including the entire Tribune Broadcasting Group, which owns WPIX-TV in New York and KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. The series follows the exploits of an adventurer from his home base in the Florida Keys.

“We enjoy a successful relationship with Fireworks on ‘Mutant X’ and ‘Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda,’ the highest-performing action hours in syndication,” said Dick Askin, president and CEO of Tribune Entertainment. “We’re pleased to expand our relationship with ‘The Ultimate Adventure Company.’ Gale Anne Hurd and Steven De Souza have a tremendous track record in this genre.”

TBS Latin America signs carriage agreement with Metropolis Intercom: Turner Broadcasting System Latin America has reached a new five-year carriage agreement with Chile’s Metropolis Intercom for continued cable distribution of all Turner networks, including The Cartoon Network, Boomerang, TNT, CNN en EspaÒol and CNN International.

Boomerang, which will become available in the market in March, is a 24-hour cartoon network offering classic animation from Hanna-Barbera, MGM and other animation-studio libraries. Metropolis Intercom reaches more than 250,000 cable subscribers in the Chilean market.

WTSN agrees to broadcast WUSA games: The Canadian Women’s Television Sports Network has agreed to an exclusive one-year deal with the Women’s United Soccer Association to broadcast all 25 WUSA games during the 2002 season. WTSN is the first 24-hour network dedicated to women’s sports. Based in Toronto, the network is owned by NetStar’s TSN, part of CTV, a division of Bell Globemedia.

Carat acquires Lot21, Vizium: Carat Interactive, one of the largest interactive advertising agencies in the world, today announced the company’s acquisition of San Francisco-based Lot21 and Framingham, Mass.-based Vizium. The acquisition adds digital media services, emerging technology and eCRM service solutions to Carat Interactive’s interactive media services practices.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications