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Feb 28, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Thursday, Feb. 28, at 10 a.m. (PT); last updated at 2:08 p.m.

Senators seek deadline for digital piracy protection

Senate lawmakers will soon offer legislation that gives the television, movie, consumer electronics and computer industries a firm deadline to set standards for protecting digital programming content from Internet piracy. If the industries fail to meet the deadline, which could be 18 months, the government would be required to step in and set standards for them.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., who’s preparing the bill, told media executives at a hearing Thursday that he’s fed up with the slow pace of industry negotiations and worried that the rollouts of broadband and DTV could be hindered by the delays. However, Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont, warned, “Usually when we come up with government solutions we create more problems.”

Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner and News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin asked the panel to speed the negotiations so protections can be developed for over-the-air DTV fare and other television programming. They also want free file sharing on the Web of illegally copied content to end. Broadcast networks and movie studios are worried that their digital fare can be easily copied and distributed on the Internet illegally. Computer and consumer electronics companies insist that any standards not limit home recording rights. “The media industry will try to make the personal computer nothing more than an expensive video player or an expensive DVD player,” said Leslie Vadasz, executive vice president for Intel Corp.

Tonya Harding vs. Amy Fisher … with gloves on: Looking to blaze new trails in the reality TV arena, Fox is getting ready to rumble with “Celebrity Boxing.”

Fox and Dick Clark Productions have signed deals with former tabloid headline stars Tonya Harding and Amy Fisher to face-off in the hour-long “Celebrity Boxing” special to air 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET) March 13. According to an Associated Press report, Fox is billing the bout between Ms. Harding and Ms. Fisher as “the battle of the bad girls.”

As an undercard of the boxing event, former “Brady Bunch” star Barry Williams (a k a Greg Brady) will be pitted against Danny Bonaduce, who was part of the TV’s “Partridge Family.”

Monday Night Football changing lineup: In the second booth-cleaning in three seasons, John Madden is in as Al Michaels’ partner, and Dennis Miller and Dan Fouts are out.

On Wednesday, Fox Sports gave permission to Mr. Madden, who had one year left on his contract, to talk to ABC Sports. A little more than six hours later, Mr. Madden, was headed for prime time with the TV football franchise that has struggled with eroding ratings and the universal search for younger viewers.

ABC Sports President Howard Katz, Mr. Madden and Mr. Madden’s agent, Sandy Montag, repeatedly said the deal was not about money — Fox recently took a $387 million write-down on its NFL franchise and reportedly is not unhappy to unload Mr. Madden’s $8 million-a-year salary. ABC is paying a reported $5 million a year under a four-year contract that also will give Mr. Madden some ESPN duties.

“I can’t imagine the blending not working almost perfectly,” said Mr. Michaels, the survivor of numerous “MNF” purges.

Melissa Stark will be back as a sidelines reporter, but Eric Dickerson will not.

Mr. Fouts, who had earned increasingly good reviews as the two-year experiment with the arcane and polysyllabic comedian Mr. Miller evolved, is still under contract to ABC Sports. “I think Dan could fit in in a lot of places,” said Mr. Katz.A spokesman for Mr. Miller, who hosts a talk show on HBO, was not available to comment on what the comedian might now be doing next fall.

Mr. Katz coyly said he is “not involved in conversations with Bob Costas on any level” when asked about recent rumors that the voice and face of NBC’s Olympics has been flirting with of ABC and ESPN since they (and Turner Sports) bought the NBA contract NBC said was too rich.

Grammys win night but hit some trouble with the ‘Law’: CBS’s “The 44th Annual Grammy Awards,” coming on the last night of the February sweeps (Jan. 31-Feb. 27), won Wednesday evening as expected in the key demos and households. But the music fete’s latest ratings are nonetheless tracking as the second lowest-rated telecast in the Grammy’s history, losing the household race in the 10 p.m. hour to NBC’s powerhouse “Law & Order.”

CBS’s expanded 31/2-hour Grammy telecast (8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. ET) drew a winning 12.0 rating/19 share household average, 19.17 million viewers and 9.0/22 in adults 18 to 49, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data.

Although the fast national data often has a margin of error of several percentage points when it comes to live event programming, the Grammy Awards latest ratings were pacing at a 28 percent drop vs. last year’s telecast in both households (16.7/26) and total viewers (26.6 million) on CBS. With the recording industry in somewhat of a slump and lacking a large number of artists with breakout music hits this season, this year’s outing marked the lowest rated Grammys since CBS’s 1995 telecast, which drew an all-time low 11.8/19 in households and 17.2 million total viewers.

Nevertheless, CBS won every half-hour frame from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., growing 38 percent from an 8.0/21 in adults 18 to 49 for the first half-hour to an 11.2/25 in the 9:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. frame.

During that two-hour span, NBC dramas “Ed” (4.1/11) and “The West Wing” (5.8/13) held up with respectable second-place averages in adults 18 to 49. ABC’s comedy duo “My Wife & Kids” (4.1/11) and “According to Jim” (4.1/10) kept ABC even with NBC during the 9 p.m. hour, while “The Drew Carey Show” (3.7/8) and “The Job” (2.7/6) limped in with fourth-place averages in adults 18 to 49 for the second hour. Fox’s 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. movie presentation of “Rush Hour” (3.7/9) edged out ABC’s sitcom lineup (3.6/9) for the two-hour span.

The Grammy Awards, however, faced somewhat stiffer competition in the 10 p.m. hour, with NBC’s “Law & Order” edging out the musical celebration in households (12.3/20 vs. 10.7/18) and total viewers (18.0 million vs. 16.8 million). However, the Grammys won the hour by a 27 percent margin over the 11-year-old legal drama in adults 18 to 49 (8.4/21 vs. 6.6/17).

For the night, CBS won the 8 p.m.-to-11 p.m. run of prime time in adults 18 to 49 by a 71 percent margin over NBC (9.4/23 vs. 5.5/13). It was followed by Fox’s 3.7/9 and ABC’s 3.4/8 averages in adults 18 to 49. CBS also beat out NBC for the night in households (12.5/20 vs. 10.6/17) and total viewers (19.9 million vs. 15.5 million).

It’s NBC, Fox and CBS in top demo spots for sweeps: Though getting only a 10 percent bump in the ratings from last night’s telecast of “The 44th Annual Grammy Awards,” CBS’s 3.3 rating/8 share average in adults 18 to 49 for the NBC-dominated February sweeps gave the Eye Network enough momentum to edge out ABC (3.0/8) for third-place in the key demo behind Fox.

According to Nielsen Media Research’s mixed final national data — preliminary for the final 10 days — of the February sweeps (Jan. 31-Feb. 27), NBC’s 8.9/22 average in adults 18 to 49 puts the Winter Olympics-fed Peacock Network up 65 percent over its regular series lineup in the year-ago sweeps period (5.4/14). Fox, assisted somewhat by the first-time airing of Super Bowl XXXVI during the sweeps (Feb. 3), turned in a second-ranked 5.5/14 among adults 18 to 49 and moved up 6 percent over its year-ago average (5.2/13). Nielsen is expected to issue final national data for the full 28 days of the sweeps early next week.

CBS’s third-ranked adults 18 to 49 score was still down 25 percent from its year-ago sweeps average (3.3/8 vs. 4.4/11), which was decidedly spiked by the run of “Survivor: The Australian Outback.” ABC saw its latest adults 18 to 49 score slide 32 percent compared to February 2001 (3.0/8 vs. 4.4/11).

UPN, with 93 percent of its prime time lineup consisting of regularly scheduled series (including the addition of “Buffy the Vampir
e Slayer” and “Enterprise”), moved up 25 percent February to February in adults 18 to 49 (2.0/5 vs. 1.5/4). The WB’s 1.6/4 average in adults 18 to 49 was down 6 percent from the year-ago sweeps (1.7/4).

On an overall basis, NBC also had robust increases of 42 percent in adults 18 to 34 (6.8/20), 73 percent in households (14.9/24) and 92 percent in total viewers (24.2 million) — winning in all three categories for the sweeps. However, once final numbers can be calculated by next week for the exclusion of extraordinary sweeps stunts (such as the Winter Olympics), NBC’s projected 5.0 rating in adults could actually be down 6 percent from the year-ago sweeps.

As for the other networks, CBS’s second-ranked average in households (7.2/11) is down 22 percent year to year, and its third-ranked 10.6 million total viewers also slid 22 percent. Fox came in an unexpected third in households (7.0/.11), moving up 6 percent year to year and won teens (5.2/16) with a healthy 18 percent growth spurt.

Woes for ABC continued, as the network was down by 30 percent-plus margins across the board, including a fourth-ranked household (5.2/8) and total viewers (8.0 million) sliding 38 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

By contrast, UPN was up almost across the board, with its core adults 18 to 34 score (2.0/6) moving up 33 percent year to year. The WB was either flat or had some slight slippage in most of the key demos, with it most notably dipping 15 percent in adults 18 to 34 (1.7/5) and 18 percent in teens (2.3/7).

Discovery Networks president resigns: Johnathan Rodgers, the well-regarded president of Discovery Networks U.S., has announced his resignation, calling it “amicable” and made for “personal and positive reasons.”

Mr. Rodgers said he would be interested in joining a start-up network targeting African Americans but that no such deal was “firm now.”

In a phone conference with reporters, Mr. Rodgers characterized himself as a “fixer and a builder” who had come to Discovery six years ago when it was valued at just $1 billion and had two channels. Now, he said, he’s leaving a company valued at $12 billion that has 11 channels.

“I’m not Jerry Levin,” he said in answer to the question of whether he was naming his own successor. There a “lot of good internal candidates,” he added, saying the company had hired an executive firm and that Judith McHale, president and chief operating officer of Discovery Networks, would be the in-house executive leading the search.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications