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Mar 20, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, March 20, at 11:25 a.m. (PT); last updated at 2:15 p.m.

NBC halts liquor ads

NBC has abandoned its short-lived but highly controversial policy of accepting hard-liquor ads on the network.

The announcement by the network was both sudden and unexpected. The about-face comes in the wake of mounting congressional and watchdog opposition to the policy and growing resistance among some NBC affiliates.

“Recently, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Commerce Committee asked NBC to reconsider our policy on distilled spirits advertising and to continue discussions with various public health and interest groups. We have agreed to do that,” the network said in a statement Wednesday.

NBC had announced its policy last December and immediately triggered opposition on Capitol Hill, with Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., leading the charge.

Electronic Media reported this week that House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin was planning a possible hearing on NBC’s ad policy, but those plans are now “moot,” said Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson. EM also had reported that at least 10 NBC affiliates, some in major markets, had decided to break ranks with the network and not run the spots.

Prior to the NBC statement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving said earlier Wednesday that it would hold a press conference Thursday calling on Congress to hold immediate hearings, a position echoed by the watchdog Center for Science in the Public Interest. MADD also planned to ask lawmakers to impose stringent guidelines on all televised alcohol ads, including spots for beer and wine, which exceeded the restrictions NBC had imposed on its booze spots.

NBC began running distilled spirits ads in December in the form of public service messages and was planning to air actual hard-liquor ads in April. “We are therefore ending the first phase of branded social responsibility advertising on our network and will not proceed into the next phase of carrying produce advertising for distilled spirits,” NBC said.

Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said NBC and Diageo, the first company to agree to advertise booze on the network, “are to be commended for responsible alcohol advertising. There would have been more social responsibility messages about drinking on television than ever before. Sadly, a few misguided critics through their attacks on NBC have undercut this effort.”

News Corp.’s Chernin worried about illegal copying: News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin said Wednesday that his company is considering creating a series of new public service announcements as part of a public relations effort to persuade consumers — and particularly younger people — to stop unauthorized copying of movies and TV programming.

“Swiping a movie with the help of digital technology is no different than snatching it from the local video store,” said Mr. Chernin, in a speech to the Media Institute in Washington. Mr. Chernin said digital theft is a serious threat to the entire content community. “Our American entertainment industry, with its 4 million workers and $565 billion in experts, is firmly based on the security of copyrighted content,” he said. “To render our industry suddenly impotent would create an economic trickle-down effect that would be truly devastating.”

‘Conan’ comes to Comedy Central: NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” is getting a second window on cable’s Comedy Central. It’s the latest example in the burgeoning trend of cable repurposing.

In a unique programming arrangement, beginning Sept. 3 Comedy Central will air the previous night’s “Conan” episode Monday through Friday in an early-evening time period, beginning at either 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., and then at midday of that same day it will air the “Conan” episode that played in late-night on NBC two nights earlier.

The repurposing arrangement follows Mr. Brien’s recent four-year contract renewal with NBC, reported to be for more than $30 million. When that renewal was announced last month, NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker confirmed that Mr. O’Brien’s new deal included cable repurposing, and at the time he said that negotiations were ongoing with E! Entertainment, which also repurposes NBC’s for “Last Call With Carson Daly.”

Fox News cameraman detained for videotaping on Pentagon property: A Fox News cameraman was detained Tuesday and his camera seized after he videotaped Virginia state police apparently arresting the occupants of a truck on the state highway that runs through the Pentagon property.

Cameraman Gregg Gursky was on his way to renew his Pentagon press pass when he photographed the scene from an overpass above the highway but was on Pentagon property, Fox News Washington bureau chief Kim Hume said Wednesday. Ms. Hume said Mr. Gursky was “accosted” by Pentagon police who “demanded” the tape and said he was not allowed to take pictures there.

When Mr. Gursky “balked” at giving up the tape, he was handcuffed and frisked and his camera was taken, Ms. Hume said. A short time later, he was released with a ticket for “unlawful photography” and was given back the camera, but not the tape.

During a press briefing Wednesday, Department of Defense spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said the tape would be returned “any minute now.” By mid-afternoon, the tape had not been returned to Fox.

Ms. Hume, who likened the tape seizure to confiscation of a reporter’s notebook, protested to Ms. Clarke early Tuesday night but had received no direct response by Wednesday afternoon.

“As far as I know this is not what happens in America,” the bureau chief said.

Later Wednesday, having received no apologies and no tapes, Fox News filed a formal complaint with the Pentagon.

HBO re-creates CNN’s Baghdad experience: HBO will produce and telecast “Live From Baghdad,” a film adaptation of the real-life story behind CNN’s broadcasts from Baghdad during the Gulf War. The film, based on CNN senior executive producer Robert Wiener’s memoir of the same name, will star Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter. Both HBO and CNN are units of AOL Time Warner.

Cast nailed down for Sci-Fi’s ‘Taken’: Casting is set on “Taken,” Sci Fi Channel’s 20-hour alien-encounter miniseries from DreamWorks Television and Steven Spielberg. Joining Dakota Fanning (“I Am Sam”), who will play young Allie, are Matt Frewer (“Max Headroom”), Desmond Harrington (“We Were Soldiers”) and James McDaniel (“NYPD Blue”). The series, currently shooting in Vancouver, will air over 10 consecutive nights in December.

KCAL-TV to broadcast Galaxy soccer games: The Los Angeles Galaxy soccer franchise and KCAL-TV have entered into a three-year broadcasting agreement, it was announced Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal, which covers the next three seasons, Young Broadcasting-owned KCAL will be the exclusive local broadcaster for 10 games of the L.A. Galaxy, the Anschutz Entertainment Group-operated Major League Soccer franchise. The broadcasts will include a pregame show as part of the 21/2-hour programming block during the Saturday games. In addition, KCAL will produce a weekly “Galaxy Update,” which will air during KCAL’s Sunday sports news program. KCAL’s coverage will include both home and away games.

Fireworks enters the dungeon with author Salvatore: Fireworks Television will enter “Forgotten Realms” and has signed a deal with New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore to pen the new series. Through a recent licensing agreement with Hasbro, the live-action series being developed by Fireworks Television is based on the popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game setting and novels.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to join with the team at Fireworks Television to bring the stories from ‘Forgotten Realms’ to life for what we anticipate will be a global viewing audience,” Mr. Salvatore said. “As a writer, it will be very rewarding for me to find new ways to tell these tales about the ‘Forgotten Realms.'”

Promotions at NBC syndie division: NBC Enterprises has upped two executives, naming Kim Nie
mi as senior VP of video, music and product development for NBC Enterprises and George Nunes as VP of the division.

In her new role, Niemi will be responsible for developing new business ventures for NBC properties in home video, book publishing, merchandising, licensing and music for series such as “Will & Grace,” “Weakest Link,” “Passions,” “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Saturday Night Live.”

In Mr. Nunes’ new role, he will be responsible for growing NBC’s ancillary business including home video, music, special markets, merchandising, licensing and establishing marketing partnerships.

Nix moves to Tribune: Mashawn Nix has been tapped by Tribune Entertainment Co. as director of unscripted and reality programming and development.

Ms. Nix will now oversee all development and production activities of Tribune Entertainment’s unscripted and reality programming, including the company’s new daily strip “Beyond With James Van Praagh.” Most recently, Ms. Nix was supervising producer for Columbia TriStar Television and Merv Griffin Productions’ strip “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

‘Shield’ hangs tough on FX: The second episode of FX’s controversial police drama “The Shield” did a 3.7 national household rating, down just 0.4 from last week’s highly touted premiere. Nearly a full two-thirds, or 65 percent, of that second-episode audience was composed of adults 18 to 49, according to network research.

Fox’s ‘Andy Richter’ premiere scores key demo victory: Possibly marking the second potential midseason sitcom hit (along with CBS’s “Baby Bob”), Fox’s premiere of “Andy Richter Controls the Universe” won the 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. frame Tuesday night by posting a 4.8 rating/13 share average in adults 18 to 49, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data. “Andy” soundly beat NBC’s fading midseason comedy “Watching Ellie” (3.7/10) and ABC’s established “Spin City” (3.6/10) by about 30 percent margins in the key demo.

“Andy’s” first outing improved the time slot by 45 percent over the previous week’s airing of “Undeclared.” Mr. Richter, former sidekick on NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” saw his new sitcom claim 98 percent demo retention from Fox’s winning 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. sitcom “That ’70s Show” (4.9/14), which was up 19 percent from the previous week’s repeat of the show.

In Fox’s other key demo, adults 18 to 34, “Andy Richter” posted a top-ranked 5.2/15, up 33 percent from “Undeclared’s” previous week’s average. “Andy” drew 9.6 million total viewers and a 5.9/9 average in households.

NBC’s highly promoted “Watching Ellie” has suffered some troubling ratings erosion, dropping 48 percent in adults 18 to 49 (3.7/10 vs. 7.1/17) since its premiere on Feb. 26.

For the night, Fox won adults 18 to 49 (4.6/12), improving 16 percent from the previous Tuesday. NBC dropped 16 percent to a second-ranked score in adults 18 to 49 (4.2/11), followed by ABC (3.8/10, up 3 percent) and CBS (2.8/8, down 15 percent).

WB promotes marketing execs: The WB’s network marketing department announced a new round of promotions, with Suzanne Kolb being named as executive VP and second-in-command to co-presidents Bob Bibb and Lew Goldstein. Also being upped are Dean Norris to senior VP of special projects and production and Betsy McGowen to senior VP of Kids’ WB marketing.

Ms. Kolb, who joined The WB in 1996 as head of print advertising, is responsible for promotions, integrated marketing, media planning, radio advertising, affiliate marketing and Kids’ WB marketing. Ms. Kolb, who created the promotions department at The WB, most recently served as senior VP of strategic marketing.

Mr. Norris, who joined The WB in 1996, oversees all filmed advertising campaigns for the network. He also executive produces all of the network’s live events, including the annual upfront networks sales presentations, the twice-annual Television Critics Association press tours and affiliate meetings and teleconferences.

Ms. McGowen, who joined The WB in 1995 as an on-air promo writer/producer, creates and develops short- and long-term marketing strategies.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications