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May 7, 2002  •  Post A Comment

House passes bill to postpone spectrum auction

The House of Representatives late this afternoon passed legislation that indefinitely postpones the Federal Communications Commission’s scheduled June 19 auction of spectrum used for analog television channels 52 to 69. Supporters of the measure, including House Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., say the auction should be delayed because there’s too much uncertainty surrounding the TV industry’s transition to digital and plans by wireless companies seeking to use the frequencies for communications services. Passage of the bill marks a setback for Paxson Communications and other broadcasters that have arranged to be compensated by wireless companies for vacating the spectrum earlier than required by the government. The Senate is considering counterpart legislation.

Final answer: Meredith Vieira to host syndicated ‘Millionaire’: Buena Vista Television has confirmed that Meredith Vieira, co-host of ABC’s daytime talk show “The View,” has been tapped to host the company’s stripped version of the hit game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which will launch in syndication this September. The decision was announced Tuesday by Ms. Vieira during a taping of “The View.”

Sources say that the chance to host the game show helped keep Ms. Vieira in the Disney family. She had been courted to take a spot on “The Early Show” at CBS.

News Corp., Cablevision bringing ’24,’ ‘FX’ to VOD: Fox’s “24” and FX’s “The Shield” are coming to video on demand. News Corp. and Cablevision Systems will shortly announce specifics of the deal to bring the two high-profile series to Cablevision’s New York tri-state area digital subscribers, said Peter Chernin, president and COO, News Corp., during a panel at Cable 2002, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s annual convention, now underway in New Orleans. Cablevision will offer the shows for free in exchange for promoting the two series. Mr. Chernin said it has yet to be decided whether the repurposed shows on VOD would carry commercials.

News Corp., the nation’s largest broadcast-station-group owner, also is exploring ways to use its local broadcast assets on cable, Mr. Chernin said. “There’s no reason we can’t be packaging a tremendous amount of valuable local content,” he said. “We have helicopters and traffic cameras all over every city we’re in. Should we be providing a traffic service that goes from six in the morning to nine in the morning? Should we be providing customized local weather, should we be providing local culture, [a] high-school sports channel, [a] local sports channel, backstage in the locker for the Knicks or the Rangers?… We can create quality local product for the cable industry that satellite can never compete with.”

Mr. Chernin also reiterated that there were “some financial concerns” with FX, News Corp.’s general entertainment cable network, but no “particular brand” concern. Defecting advertisers have been “more than” replaced on “The Shield,” he said, and are of less concern than the pressure groups targeting Fox’s “Boston Public.

Wendy’s to sponsor Hallmark Channel series: Wendy’s and the Hallmark Channel have reached an agreement that will make the restaurant chain the presenting sponsor for “Adoption,” the channel’s original series, set to debut on June 1.

The deal, the channel’s first presenting sponsorship, is valued in the seven-figure range, according Lana Corbi, president and CEO, Crown Media U.S.

As part of the deal, Hallmark and the nonprofit Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption will collaborate on feature spots that will air within each episode, and Wendy’s will be a presence in Hallmark’s national print and radio campaigns promoting the series, which will have an “‘Adoption’ Presented by Wendy’s” introduction.

Mr. Thomas, who was adopted as a child, opened his first Wendy’s restaurant in 1969 in Columbus, Ohio. He established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in 1992. He died on Jan. 8 at 69.

On the local marketing front, Hallmark Channel will be partnering with cable operators nationally to host “Adoption” events in select cities around the country, and Wendy’s will have the opportunity to participate in four of these local market initiatives in any community selected. Wendy’s also will feature “Adoption” on its in-store tray liners in November, which is to National Adoption Month.

Media titans covet ‘Friends,’ ‘CSI,’ ‘Osbournes’: Captains of industry have a sense of humor, too. Viacom’s Sumner Redstone, attending Cable 2002, was asked what his favorite MTV show was.

“Spongebob,” he replied without hesitation to his incredulous interlocutor, referring of course to Nickelodeon’s hit kid’s cartoon, “Spongebob Squarepants.”

He waited a beat while the questioner squirmed, then …

“Just kidding,” he deadpanned. “‘The Osbournes,’ of course.”

Mr. Redstone wasn’t the only prominent media figure to reveal his favorite program at the national cable show. For Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, it’s Fox’s “24” that he considers Must See TV.

Of course, programming like that cries out for big screen TV — the bigger the better, according to Chairman Powell, who told Cable 2002 that the coming of high definition television was inevitable and that inevitably HDTV would be driven by people wanting to have TVs every bit as up-to-date as the neighbor’s latest model.

Asked which program they most coveted on the competition, this how five media titans on a Cable 2002 programming panel replied:

“The Osbournes” — Peter Chernin, president and COO, News Corp.

“Friends” — Tom Freston, chairman and CEO, MTV Networks.

“C.S.I.” and “24” — John Hendricks, chairman and CEO, Discovery Communications.

“C.S.I.” — Robert Iger, president and COO, The Walt Disney Co.

“Friends” — Jamie Kellner, chairman and CEO, Turner Broadcasting System.

“Long term, the line between broadcast and cable breaks down completely,” Mr. Iger said during the panel. For a program to exist on broadcast alone will “probably not [be] feasible” without multiplexing, he said.

Advertisers will have to support multiplexing with higher dollars for cable, Mr. Kellner cautioned, or it won’t succeed, despite the fact that early evidence suggests broadcast’s hit series draw unduplicated audiences for their subsequent cable runs.

On the high-tech frontier, Mr. Kellner predicted that Hollywood, traditionally fearful of new technologies, will embrace cable and its video on demand as a plafform for Hollywood studio films and other content as a way of fending off the threat of TiVo, Replay and other personal video recorders.

In the era of TiVo, said Mr. Hendricks, “marginal programmers” and “compromise viewing” will diminish because viewers who don’t find something to watch in real time will have their favorite programs stored on PVRs and so won’t resort to channel surfing and settling for whatever’s on.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications