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Mar 6, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, March 6, at 4:15 a.m. (PT); last updated at 4:15 p.m.

MTV’s ‘Osbournes’ is the highest-rated series premiere in net’s history

The opening episode on Tuesday night of “The Osbournes,” the new MTV series in which cameras follow rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his real-life family, was the highest-rated new series premiere in MTV’s history among both households (2.8 rating) and persons 12 to 34 (3.4 rating).

Oscars advertiser list released: ABC has announced a partial list of advertisers for the upcoming Oscars telecast. They are American Express, Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Cingular, General Motors, ING (a financial-services group), J.C. Penney, Kodak, Mars, Mastercard, McDonald’s, Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Pepsi, Salton (a manufacturer of small appliances), UPS and Verizon.

ABC folds ‘The Chair’: ABC is canceling “The Chair.” The ratings-challenged game show, hosted by former tennis star John McEnroe, debuted Jan. 15 to modest initial returns and sank to a personal-low 2.1 rating/5 share last Monday among adults 18 to 49. Its Monday airing attracted 4.8 million total viewers-making it ABC’s least-viewed 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. Monday hour since the 1987 advent of Nielsen Media Research people meters.

ABC plans to execute the final episode of “The Chair” on March 18 and will then insert an unnamed reality series to take its time slot on March 25, an ABC spokesman said.

Just prior to the premiere of “The Chair,” ABC filed a copyright infringement lawsuit over Fox’s similar extreme game show concept, “The Chamber,” which was pulled last January by Fox after several airings due to lackluster ratings.

Lawmakers skeptical of DirecTV-EchoStar merger: Senate lawmakers voiced strong concerns about the planned merger of EchoStar and DirecTV at a hearing Wednesday, suggesting the deal as structured may violate antitrust law and would hurt consumers. Senate antitrust subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said he’s skeptical and apprehensive because the transaction combines the two largest satellite television players into a monopoly, leaving many rural consumers without a choice of video service providers.

“If the antitrust authorities find it appropriate to permit this merger, they need to tightly wrap all these promises into a consent decree,” he said of pledges made by EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen and DirecTV CEO Eddy Hartenstein. Consumers Union Co-Chairman Gene Kimmelman backs the merger, under certain conditions, as a way to spur competition against cable, which has been raising rates an average of 7 percent a year since 1996. Also expressing opposition were National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Eddie Fritts, former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky and Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon.

Mr. Ergen and Mr. Hartenstein said the merger would allow them to offer local signals nationwide, which they insisted the companies couldn’t do on their own. “This merger will not reduce our incentive to compete but will enhance our ability to compete,” Mr. Ergen told the panel.

FCC will vote on definition of broadband Internet service: The Federal Communications Commission next week is slated to vote on controversial staff proposal recommending that the agency define cable’s broadband Internet service in a way key observers say should ensure that cable won’t have to open its broadband networks to competing Internet access providers. Nonetheless, sources said the FCC staff also is urging the commissioners to launch new proceedings to further consider the implications of the definition.

More than half request DTV extension: Counting filings delivered to the agency physically, the total number of TV stations requesting extensions from the Federal Communications Commission’s May 1 deadline for launching digital television operations rose to 650 Wednesday, according to the FCC. That means that more than half of the nation’s 1,288 commercial TV stations have now put the FCC on notice that they need more time.

William Morris’ Golenberg joins AMG: Golenberg, a veteran Hollywood network TV series packager at William Morris Agency, has joined Michael Ovitz’s Artists Management Group as manager in the television literary department.

Mr. Golenberg was a network packaging agent at William Morris since 1997, where he exclusively handled coverage of series projects destined for NBC. Prior to that, he had served as an agent at Paradigm (1994-97) and Writers & Artists (1991-94). Mr. Golenberg began his career in the entertainment industry in 1988 as an assistant at Triad Artists in the TV packaging department, working under Lee Rosenberg and Rob Lee.

Mr. Golenberg joins a growing staff of executives who have recently left talent agencies for AMG, including Jim Garavente (AMG Literary), Christy Hall (AMG Talent), Steven Levy (AMG Talent), and Rich Rogers (AMG Television Literary).

NBC’s ‘Ellie’ wins frame but loses 28 percent of week-ago score: NBC’s second weekly turn for “Watching Ellie” won the 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) Tuesday frame again in adults 18 to 49 but also dropped 27 percent from its week-ago, post-Olympics broadcast. For the night, NBC’s 4.5 rating/12 share average in adults 18 to 49 chalked up another Tuesday evening victory, though the network was also down 20 percent from its week-ago score (5.6/14), according to comparable Nielsen Media Research fast national data.

“Watching Ellie,” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, turned in a top-ranked 5.2/14 average in adults 18 to 49 and improved 44 percent on a repeat episode of “Frasier” (3.5/10), which was its 8 p.m. lead-in. However, “Ellie,” which also tallied 12.5 million total viewers, was down from its week-ago premiere score of 7.1/17 in the key demo.

Meanwhile, Fox’s 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. run of “That 70s Show” (4.6/13) grabbed the opening frame in adults 18 to 49, but 8:30 p.m. lead-out “Undeclared” (3.6/9) dropped 22 percent of its lead-in. Nevertheless, critically acclaimed drama “24,” airing its 14th episode of the season, registered a third-ranked 4.0/10 score and improved 11 percent on its “Undeclared” lead-in. Fox came out second on the night with a 4.0/10 average in adults 18 to 49, down 18 percent from its week-ago score.

Showtime, BET will share in airing ‘Lift’: In yet another variation on the multiplexing of programming, Showtime and its sister Viacom cable network Black Entertainment Television have jointly acquired “Lift,” an independent film that revolves around a trendy shoplifter. “Lift” will premiere on Showtime on June 26, leading into the third season premiere of “Soul Food,” and then will have its subsequent basic cable premiere on BET. “Lift” is from Hart Sharp Entertainment (“Boys Don’t Cry”).

Allbritton’s Washington stations to share studio facilities: Allbritton Communications announced Wednesday that it is moving the news operations of its ABC affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington and NewsChannel 8, its local cable news channel in the area, into the same studio facilities this summer. The two news organizations have previously operated independently.

Christopher Pike, the WJLA president and general manager who will now oversee both properties, said the consolidation is expected to result in some sharing of news personnel. “Our goal is to take advantage of the synergies,” Mr. Pike said.

Comcast says yes to YES: The new Yankees Entertainment and Sports Channel has reached a carriage agreement with Philadelphia-based Comcast Cable.

Comcast, which will pay around $2 per subscriber, may announce the deal as early as Wednesday, according to a report in the New York Post. That deal is expected to put Yankees games into approximately 900,000 Comcast homes in the New York area. There’s still no agreement, however, between YES and giant Cablevision, which reaches almost 3 million homes in the New York tri-state area. Last December, Comcast reached a $72 billion acquisition agreement with AT&T Broadband. That agreement will create AT&T Comcast Corp., a huge multiple system cable operator with approximately 22 million subscribers.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications