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Jan 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 10:15 a.m. (PT); last updated at 3:55 p.m.

Chung jumping to CNN

ABC’s Connie Chung is heading to Cable News Network, where she will anchor a prime-time news show, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN’s hometown newspaper.

CNN will announce the new hire Wednesday, according to the Journal-Constitution. The move would be the latest shot in the cable-news talent wars. In other recent high-profile talent raids, Paula Zahn defected from Fox News Channel to CNN, then Greta Van Susteren jumped in the other direction, from CNN to Fox News.

A CNN spokeswoman could not confirm the new hire but did say, “We hope to have an announcement tomorrow.”

CBS signs ‘Survivor’ sponsors: CBS Television has announced that seven sponsors have signed on to become integrated marketing partners throughout the entire run of “Survivor: Marquesas,” which premieres Thursday, Feb. 28.

The seven marketing partners include Cingular Wireless, Saturn VUE, Sierra Mist/Pepsi, Reebok, Masterfoods USA, VISA and Coors. All sponsorship packages include guaranteed category exclusivity, promotional billboards in each “Survivor” broadcast, logo inclusion in all CBS “Survivor” print ads and, where applicable, product placement. Of the seven sponsors, five are returning sponsors of “Survivor,” including Cingular, GM (via the Saturn VUE), Sierra Mist/Pepsi, Reebok and VISA.

Strips get clearances at NATPE: The pace picked up Tuesday at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention as a number of series secured key clearances or renewals for the fall 2002 season.

Warner Brothers Domestic Television Distribution President Dick Robertson met with the press this morning to announce key clearances for “The Caroline Rhea Show.” The distributor has now signed eight of the ABC owned-and-operated stations, among others, for fall pickup of the Rosie O’Donnell replacement. Included in the deal are airings on WABC-TV in New York and WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, with the show now standing near a 60 percent clearance level nationally.

Mr. Robertson also outlined other ideas in store for syndicators. He said the Syndicated Network Television Association is targeting a March gathering in New York for members of the ad group, with a possible expansion into late October/early November targeting programming sales in Los Angeles. “We need to make it as convenient as possible for clients,” he said.

Meanwhile, Columbia TriStar’s court show strip “Judge Hatchett” has been signed up for a third season. The series has been renewed on all the Fox O&Os that currently carry the show and is now confirmed in 19 of the top 20 markets, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The series recently followed industry trends and will shift from cash plus barter to a 7/7 split with double runs set on all its stations.

Paramount has renewed weekly series “Hot Ticket” on all the CBS O&Os while expanding upcoming strip “Life Moments” to 60 percent of the country, including KIRO-TV in Seattle and KSTP-TV in Minneapolis.

Universal Worldwide TV and Studios USA may be in the process of merging in coming weeks, but it remains business as usual for the two syndicators, both of which have firmed up key deals on their shows. Universal executives have renewed “Blind Date” for a fourth season and “The 5th Wheel” for a sophomore season in more than 75 percent of the United States.

Studios USA has bucked recent fledgling talk show trends with “Crossing Over With John Edward” now renewed for a second season in 65 percent of the country, including 20 of the top 30 markets. Tribune has renewed action hour “Mutant X” and half-hour off-net comedy strip “City Guys” for their sophomore seasons, with “Mutant X” cleared in 93 percent of the country while “City Guys” stands at 92 percent national clearance.

NATPE panel: Networks, affils must work together: Instead of fighting each other, broadcast networks and affiliates should work together to battle their larger enemies, such as the cable operators. That was one point brought up Tuesday by Victor Miller, managing director at Bear Stearns, during a panel on media deregulation moderated by Electronic Media’s Diane Mermigas at the National Association of Television Program Executives meeting in Las Vegas.

“You have the wrong enemy,” Mr. Miller said. “They love the fact that there is infighting.” Mr. Miller said stations and their networks should also align to become stronger entities in their markets with the common goal of beating rival networks.

Mr. Miller said small-market stations are bearing the brunt of this tough economy. They not only get less network compensation, but they also have to build digital facilities while getting fewer dollars from auto dealerships affiliated with such giants as General Motors, which has decided to spend more advertising dollars nationally and less at the dealership level.

Mr. Miller said he’s worried about small-market stations going bankrupt and leaving networks without local distribution. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to let them drown,” he said. “I hope it never reaches that. There are some broadcasters close to the edge.”

Other panelists were Jay Ireland, president of NBC TV Stations; Deb McDermott, executive vice president of operations for Young Broadcasting; Tony Vinciquerra, president of Fox Television Network; Barbara Cochran, RTNDA president; and John Dille, president of Federated Media.

“Victor is right — we’re fighting ourselves,” Mr. Ireland said. Networks used to get some 80 percent of the business. Now cable and other entities are eating into the pie. He said major multiple system operators such as Time Warner have local sales divisions and news departments. And now day-to-day sports events are “pretty much on cable,” he said.

“The way local broadcasters are going to continue to be viable is having capability to sell,” Mr. Ireland said. “If there is anything local, we want to be known as that local station. You’ve got to go out and generate new business. … Anything that has advertising is competition.”

Ms. McDermott said major MSOs have “very sophisticated” interconnects. “They don’t think they need us — they’ve become very successful in their advertising,” she said.

One way station groups can save money is to follow NBC’s lead in hubbing operations. The Peacock’s New York hub is able to monitor seven NBC-owned stations. The Miami hub can monitor four, and in California the Los Angeles hub can run three stations. For example, a syndicated show can be brought to the master control area at a hub, be played back to the stations and then aired at the appropriate time on each one, so the shows do not have to be redubbed several times. “Doing all those backroom operations is where you want to centralize,” Mr. Ireland said, adding viewers don’t care about how station are operated behind the scenes.

NBA games make home at ABC/ESPN next season: As expected, ESPN, ABC and the National Basketball Association have finalized a wide-ranging rights agreement to televise 100 regular and postseason NBA games per year.

The deal, which begins with the 2002-03 season, is for six years and includes distribution rights for related NBA programming and content on several ESPN and ABC outlets and on various platforms, including video on demand.

ABC will broadcast as many as 15 regular-season games beginning on Christmas and continuing on Sunday afternoons. Postseason on ABC will include the entire best-of-seven NBA Finals. ABC Family also will televise postgame shows after each NBA Finals game aired on ABC, as well as several NBA specials and repeats of “NBA Inside Stuff,” which will be aired first by ABC.

ESPN and ESPN2 will televise 75 regular-season games, primarily on Wednesday and Friday nights. ESPN also will televise up to 24 playoff games, including up to seven exclusive telecasts of the conference finals. On Tuesday nights throughout the season, ESPN2 will debut a weekly “whiparound” program, featuring highlights of all current NBA games.

Showtime greenlights ‘Odyssey 5’: As expected, Showtime Networks has given the green li
ght to “Odyssey 5,” a sci-fi time-travel series about a group of astronauts who try to stop an apocalypse that will destroy the Earth in five years. The commitment to the Columbia TriStar Domestic Television series is for a feature-length pilot and 18 one-hour episodes. “Odyssey” stars Peter Weller (“RoboCop”).

MTV working on new young-adult targeted series: MTV and Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana have signed an agreement to co-produce two new television series targeted to a young adult audience. The shows include “Clone High,” an animated comedy, and “Varsity Blues,” a live action sitcom. Production on “Clone High” is under way; production on “Varsity Blues” is scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2002.

In addition, MTV will work in association with Nelvana and Peace Arch Entertainment Group on a new live-action program that premiered with high ratings on Canadian television’s Comedy Network last fall. The show, with a working title of “The Sausage Factory,” launched on Canada’s Comedy Network in November and is already the second highest rated program on its Monday night lineup.

Tryon takes top programming post at Comcast: Comcast Cable Communications said Tuesday that Jennifer Tryon has been promoted to the post of programming VP. Ms. Tryon joined Comcast in 1997 and most recently served as senior director of programming.

Fat chance for TV-watching kids: Limiting the amount of television children watch may have a greater impact on obesity than increasing exercise.

“There is now an accumulating body of evidence that suggests that the impact of reduced television viewing on food intake may be greater than the impact on activity,” said William Dietz, director of the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a report by Reuters. Mr. Dietz spoke at an obesity conference in London.

Obesity is now epidemic in the United States, where almost two-thirds of the adult population is classified as overweight, with obesity rates for teens and younger children skyrocketing in recent years, right along with TV viewing levels. Obesity rates are increasing even more rapidly among African Americans and Hispanic American women and children, according to Mr. Dietz. Those are two of the ethnic groups with the highest daily TV-viewing levels as well.

American children may eat as much as a quarter of their daily food in front of the television, Mr. Dietz said. “We showed a linear relationship of television viewing to the prevalence of obesity,” he said, according to the Reuters report.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications