Briefly Noted

Mar 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Donaldson defends `Nightline’
ABC News veteran Sam Donaldson weighed in last week on the fate of “Nightline” in the wake of his network’s now failed effort to replace the longtime news program to make way for David Letterman. Mr. Letterman’s “Late Show” will remain at CBS, where he has a new five-year contract worth about $31 million a year, sources said. Addressing the annual Radio-Television News Directors Foundation dinner in Washington, Mr. Donaldson expressed strong support for retaining “Nightline.” “If we lose the soul of the news business we’re all in, we will not only have gained nothing, but we will lose something,” Mr. Donaldson said. He was careful not to criticize any executives with ABC’s parent, The Walt Disney Co., but did say that television networks must not “trivialize” the news programs they now air. “Nightline” host Ted Koppel was in the audience but did not address the crowd.
Silverman sounds Reveille
Ben Silverman, the former William Morris wunderkind known for bringing successful British formats-including “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Big Brother” and “The Weakest Link”-to the United States, last week announced the formation of his own New York-based production company, Reveille, backed by Vivendi Universal and by USA Entertainment CEO Michael Jackson. The first series project from Reveille that Mr. Silverman expects to reach air is an unnamed reality series from Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Films. The series will be set in a real Manhattan restaurant, with microphones and cameras set up to capture both staff and diners in candid situations. Advanced talks have been held with one of the four major broadcast networks, Mr. Silverman said, and the expectation is that a deal is close to bring the series to television in the second half of the new season.
Fox’s O’Reilly factoring in radio
Bill O’Reilly will take his “no-spin” act to radio with a two-hour weekday show to be launched May 8 by Westwood One and Fox News. “The Radio Factor With Bill O’Reilly” will add the element of nationwide call-ins to his formula of advocacy and comment on hot topics of the day and guests who dare to spar with him. It will originate from Westwood One studios at Fox News Channel headquarters in New York. Taping at noon Eastern time, the show will air on a delayed basis at 3 p.m. on WOR-AM in New York. Mr. O’Reilly will be pitted against Rush Limbaugh’s popular radio show in some markets and opposite Fox stablemate Sean Hannity in New York.
YES’s Hindery puts pressure on Cablevision
With the launch of Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network imminent and Cablevision still not planning to offer the regional sports channel to its 3 million New York-area subscribers, YES Chairman and CEO Leo Hindery Jr. took the opportunity afforded by a press conference to turn up the pressure on the holdout cable company. Cablevision, which is a partner with Fox Sports in regional networks, including the Madison Square Garden Network, which until the end of last baseball season carried numerous Yankees games, wants to make YES a premium channel for which subscribers would have to pay $10.95 a month.
Cablevision does not want to pay the $1.85-per-sub fees being paid by Time Warner Cable and Comcast, among other providers whose contracts include “most favored nations” clauses guaranteeing that no one gets a better deal than they do. Last week, Mr. Hindery-who has reminded Cablevision customers via newspaper ads that they can get YES by switching to DirecTV-said politicians, journalists and customers may be the only ones who can break the stalemate. He portrayed himself as someone who never likes to say take it or leave it, but he said he’s bound by the previously signed contracts.
He said Cablevision had offered “pennies” per subscriber-and that only via “a very junior guy” who seemed unaware that Time Warner Cable had already signed a deal. Cablevision refused to comment on Mr. Hindery’s numerous talking points. Mr. Hindery said if he doesn’t have Cablevision’s 3 million subscribers, it will spark “a giveback” to advertisers who have already signed up.
Drexler replacing DeWitt as Optimedia CEO
Mike Drexler will become CEO of Optimedia USA on April 1, replacing Gene DeWitt, who is leaving Optimedia to become the new president of the Syndicated Network Television Association, a trade and advocacy organization that represents the syndication divisions of the major Hollywood studios. Mr. Drexler moves to Optimedia from the New York office of Mediasmith, where he is currently executive VP.
Senate to review Bush’s merger-review decision
A Senate panel has launched a “formal review” of a new Bush administration policy that removes the Federal Trade Commission from the process of evaluating the antitrust and competitive implications of media mergers. The FTC has long divided the responsibility with the Justice Department, which now has sole authority in this area. The Senate Commerce Committee, headed by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., notified the agencies last week of its plans. The panel is seeking additional information about a “memorandum of agreement” reached by the agencies that modifies the government’s policies for scrutinizing mergers across several industries.