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Mar 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Saturday, March 16, at 5:45 a.m. (PT); last updated Monday, March 18, at 1:50 p.m.

Gemstar’s Boylan resigns

Gemstar TV Guide International announced Monday the resignation of Co-President and Co-Chief Operating Officer Peter Boylan III as of April 1. Mr. Boylan will remain a consultant to the Pasadena, Calif.-based company. No reasons were given for his departure, although Gemstar founding Chairman Henry Yuen said, “Pete Boylan’s energy and focus on the cable industry has helped Gemstar-TV Guide to sign some 140 long-term licensing agreements with cable MSOs in a short 15-month period. … We wish him well in his new ventures.”

Broadcast revenue could hit 5 percent in 2002: Bear Stearns analysts said Monday that 2002 will be a better advertising year than Wall Street or broadcasters had expected. In a report, the brokerage pointed to national advertising growing faster than local advertising, and increasing levels of pending business — ad dollars that will likely be committed but are not yet. The recent upturn in radio advertising could push overall broadcast industry revenue growth to 3 percent or 4 percent higher than the flat growth originally forecast, the Bear Stearns report said. It added that significant political advertising on stations in the second half of 2002 could push overall industry revenue growth to nearly 5 percent. The report comes on the heels of a reversal on Friday in UBS Warburg’s mostly negative outlook on media spending for the year. In its new position, UBS Warburg said it is forecasting a recovery in ad spending sooner than expected, and as much as a 4 percent increase in upfront ad spending. On Tuesday, Lehman Brothers is expected to also make the case for a sustainable ad recovery.

DTV waiver requests reach 61 percent: Including a count of applications posted by mail, the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that 787 commercial TV stations have now asked for waivers from the agency’s obligation to launch DTV operations by May 1. That means that more than 61 percent of the nation’s 1,288 commercial TV stations are citing technical, legal or financial grounds for putting DTV launches on at least temporary hold. Earlier this month, the FCC reported that 650 stations had requested the waivers. But an agency source said that figure did not include a precise count of mail-in applications.

French channel launches in New York: Say bonjour to French-language TV5 Etats-Unis, which beginning Tuesday, will be carried on digital Channel 555 on Time Warner Cable in New York.

TV5 Monde, the state-run French parent network, is available to approximately 132 million households in more than 125 countries worldwide and is the third-largest world network (after MTV and CNN) in terms of subscribers. The general entertainment French network offers a wide variety of programming, from news to movies and French and international soccer and rugby tournaments. For its American public, TV5’s signature newscast, dramatic series and fiction films will be subtitled in English.

As part of a multiyear deal, TV5 now will be offered to the more than 350,000 digital household subscribers in the New York City area for $9.95 per month. TW Cable has more than 1.2 million subscribers overall in the New York metropolitan area, and TV5 will be available as part of a package to non-digital customers for $12.95 per month. That package to TW Cable analog customers includes, in addition to TV5, the International Channel, Newsworld International and TW’s digital navigator, which provides access to program and schedule information and 40 all-music channels.

The French channel already is available in the San Francisco market on AT&T Broadband and on Time Warner Cable in the Los Angeles market and soon will be available in other cities as well, according to Serge Adda, president and CEO of TV5 Monde.

Sylvester ‘Pat’ Weaver dies: Revolutionized TV programming, advertising: Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, the greatest innovator in the programming and advertising sides of the TV business, has died.

Mr. Weaver, 93, the father of actress Sigourney Weaver, died of pneumonia on Friday night at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., NBC announced Saturday. Mr. Weaver had been ailing for quite some time. Besides Ms. Weaver, he is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and his son, Trajan.

Mr. Weaver spent his entire career as a TV network executive at NBC, and he was only there 7 years. But he was there just as TV was getting its full head of steam. His list of innovations is staggering, from the “Today” show to the “Tonight” show to myriad programs in between, from “Your Show of Shows” to “Wide Wide World.”

Furthermore, Mr. Weaver created a revolution on the ad side of the business — it was his idea to have multiple advertisers sponsor a TV show and have the network own the show. Previously, as in radio, advertising agencies owned most of the shows.

As he wrote in “The Best Seat in the House,” his 1993 autobiography, “Even some of the biggest companies were beginning to feel the pinch of sponsoring an entire program. I could envision the day when no corporation would be able to afford a whole hour, or even half-hour, in prime time week after week.

“I had stipulated before coming to NBC that I be allowed to sell advertising to multiple sponsors instead of time slots to individual companies. … My plan would only work if the networks, rather than the agencies and their clients, owned the programs.”

Mr. Weaver, a longtime executive on Madison Avenue — mostly at Young & Rubicam, much later at McCann-Erickson — joined NBC in June 1949 and for all intents and purposes was the network’s programming chief until he left in 1956.

Along with broadcast visionary General David Sarnoff, whose primary expertise was on the technological side of the business, Mr. Weaver built NBC into a juggernaut. Ironically, the two men disliked each other intensely.

Mr. Weaver wrote in his autobiography that some of Mr. Sarnoff’s animosity might have been because of Mr. Weaver’s nickname for his boss: General Fangs.

In the early ’60s, Mr. Weaver got involved with the nation’s first major pay TV operation, STV, in Southern California: three channels that came through phone company lines.

Movie exhibitors went ballistic and were able to get a referendum on the California ballot to ban pay TV. Through a massive lobbying campaign, the theater owners convinced a majority of those who voted to cast their ballots against pay TV. By the time the California Supreme Court overturned the vote and ruled in favor of Mr. Weaver’s company, it was too late, and the company filed for Chapter 11.

Mr. Weaver ended his autobiography with this line:

“I am proud of what I have accomplished in broadcasting and cable, but the future of communications is so fascinating, I wish I had another lifetime to help in realizing its potential.”

Grove to cover trials for Court TV: Lawyer and broadcast journalist Amanda Grove is joining Court TV to cover trials. Prior to joining the cable network, Ms. Grove worked for WCBS-TV in New York City, where she anchored the station’s morning and weekend newscasts. She also hosted the PBS series “World Museum Classics,” which was syndicated nationally. Before becoming a journalist, Ms. Grove was a lawyer in private practice in San Francisco and a deputy district attorney in San Mateo County, Calif.

Ebert up and on the red carpet: Roger Ebert was a guest recently on “The View” and “Today” after having surgery for thyroid cancer. But having taped several episodes of his own show, “Ebert & Roeper and the Movies,” in advance, viewers will be happy to see Mr. Ebert back at work on his annual live gig — the Oscar preshow and postshow, “An Evening at the Academy Awards.” It is produced in Los Angeles by KABC-TV and will be syndicated in 25 U.S. markets and 17 foreign countries. He will co-anchor with KABC entertainment reporter George Pennacchio on the red carpet. The two will be joined by KABC anchors Marc Brown and Laura Diaz. This year, with the Oscars at Hollywood’s new Kodak Theater, KABC will rent the El Capitan Theatre, which is across the
street, so bleacher fans can watch the show and participate with Mr. Ebert, et al, for the postshow. One fan will win a seven-night Disney cruise just for going to the station’s postshow.

Philly ‘cat fight’ ends with firing: NBC-owned WCAU-TV, Philadelphia, has gotten ink in local newspapers for the wrong reasons lately. The local press have been characterizing the relationship between WCAU morning anchor Sharon Reed and WCAU reporter Alicia Taylor as a “cat fight.” Ms. Reed was last seen on the air Feb. 21, right in the middle of sweeps. WCAU released a statement on March 8 saying, “Sharon Reed is no longer an employee of NBC10.” The gist of the newspaper reports were that Ms. Reed allegedly posted anonymous Internet threats against Ms. Taylor on some industry Web sites. The two had both worked in Baltimore years ago at different stations, Ms. Reed at WMAR-TV and Ms. Taylor at WBAL-TV.

Several weeks ago, Ms. Taylor filed a complaint against Ms. Reed at the police station in Lower Merion, where the TV station is located. After Ms. Reed was let go, one WCAU staffer told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I’m glad it’s over. It had become a distraction.” When asked if Ms. Reed was going to file a lawsuit against the station as reported, one of her attorneys, Neil Hamburg, told Electronic Media, “Sharon is considering all her legal options. We are considering all potential causes of action. No decision has been made. I’m hoping that she will have a stellar and wonderful career somewhere. She sells newspapers in this town.”

Senate battle over FCC nominee: Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, D-S.D., intends to block the nomination of an aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, R-Miss., for a spot on the Federal Communications Commission.

The move to keep Jonathan Adelstein off the FCC is widely seen as Republican payback for the recent Democratic rejection of the nomination of Judge James Pickering, who is a personal friend of Sen. Lott, to the federal appeals court, according to a report by the Reuters wire service, Sen. Lott denied that he was playing partisan politics with the FCC nomination, telling Reuters that Mr. Adelstein “doesn’t have experience.”

Sen. Daschle countered that Mr. Adelstein was well qualified and that he was being unfairly “singled out” as part of the dispute over Judge Pickering, according to the report. Mr. Adelstein has been nominated to fill the FCC seat vacated by Democrat Gloria Tristani.

Comedy Central teams with Tennis Channel on marketing efforts: When it comes to affiliate sales and marketing, Comedy Central will be playing doubles with the Tennis Channel. The new all-tennis network, which is scheduled to launch this fall, will employ Comedy Central’s affiliate relations sales force for system-level launch negotiations, fulfillment and coordination, and to provide marketing support. In addition, Comedy Central will negotiate affiliation agreements for the channel outside the top 15 distributors.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications