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Sep 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Sept. 25

Tauzin DTV plan comes under fire

In a sharp turnabout of political momentum, leading lawmakers today publicly criticized a legislative proposal by Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., that would force broadcasters to switch to digital television by the end of 2006. Under existing law, broadcasters don’t have to return their analog channels to the government until 85 percent of the viewers in their communities are capable of receiving DTV — something many industry observers don’t expect to happen for a dozen years or more. In an effort to expedite the transition, Rep. Tauzin unveiled legislation earlier this month that would set a firm 2006 deadline for the spectrum’s return, claiming bipartisan support for the initiative.

But during congressional hearings today, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. — the powerful ranking minority member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee — warned that the initiative would force consumers to spend hundreds of dollars just to keep TV service.

“I am not convinced that an expedited return of the spectrum should be the chief goal of this legislation,” Rep. Dingell said. “The Congress initiated the policy of converting the nation’s broadcast system to digital, and I believe the Congress has the singular responsibility of ensuring that no consumer is disenfranchised as a result.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., also warned that angry consumers would be likely to retaliate by ejecting supporters of the initiative.

“The end of 2006 could also be the end of our political careers,” he said.

Rep. Tauzin said the legislative proposals were “designed to provoke tension,” to signal what Congress might do if the industry fails to move the digital transition along. “I want to make clear that this is just a discussion draft; it’s not a bill,” Rep. Tauzin said.

ESPN launches HD simulcast: ESPN is launching ESPN HD, a high-definition simulcast service of its flagship network, in April 2003. In its first year, ESPN HD plans to offer 100 live HD telecasts, including professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey games from the major professional sports leagues and men’s and women’s college basketball, the X Games, the Great Outdoor Games and the ESPY awards. ESPN HD will be managed by ESPN VP Bryan Burns, who will report to Rick Alessandri, VP, ESPN Enterprises.

WB premieres do well: Robust Tuesday season openers of “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” on The WB propelled it to a fourth-ranked finish among the six broadcast networks in Nielsen Media Research’s metered markets last night. Some of The WB’s year-to-year gains appeared to come at the expense of the Big 4 networks and UPN, which were down in the ratings for the evening.

Kicking off its third season, “Gilmore Girls” posted a 5.4 rating/8 share household average in 48 metered markets, registering growth of 8 percent in ratings and 14 percent over its year-ago two-hour opener (5.0/7) on Oct. 9, 2001. Most notably, “Gilmore Girls” held a 38 percent ratings advantage in the 8 p.m. (ET) hour over UPN’s competing opener of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer (3.9/6), which was down 14 percent in share from its two-hour season opener (4.3/7) on Oct. 1, 2001.

The second-season opener for “Smallville” improved 13 percent on its lead-in by posting a 6.3/19 household average in the metered markets during the 9 p.m. hour, holding even in share with its year-ago premiere average (6.6/9). “Smallville” was third-ranked for the hour among all six broadcast networks.

UPN’s series premiere of “Haunted” made a pretty good accounting of itself by posting a 3.1//4 average, which held 83 percent of “Buffy’s lead-in share and improving 15 percent on the year-ago season opener of “Roswell” (2.7/4) in the time slot.

For its common 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. prime-time rotations, The WB’s 5.9/6 overnight average in households held a 60 percent share advantage over UPN’s 3.5/5 score.

ABC to broadcast sports events in HDTV: The Walt Disney Co. today said ABC would broadcast the NFL Super Bowl and games of NBA finals and NHL Stanley Cup contests in HDTV in the current season. During the 2003-04 season, Disney said ABC will also broadcast every NFL Monday Night Football game in HDTV.

In addition, the company said ESPN will broadcast games of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League within the next year. Also, according to Disney, ESPN will launch an HDTV channel in April 2003 with at least 100 live events produced in HDTV. Also today, NBC President and CEO Bob Wright committed the Peacock Network to broadcasting 60 percent of its prime-time and late-night lineup, including special events, movies and sports, in HDTV in the current TV season.

NBC picks up more ‘Forensic Files’: NBC is staying on the Court case, picking up eight additional half-hour episodes of Court TV’s “Forensic Files.”

The episodes will begin airing on the Peacock Network Saturday, Oct. 12, in a back-to-back one-hour block, beginning at 8 p.m. A second one-hour block will air the following Saturday in the same hour. Airdates for the additional episodes will be announced later.

The experiment in what Court TV CEO Henry Schleiff called “reverse repurposing” began on NBC this summer, with a successful eight-episode Sunday night “Forensic” run.

‘Frasier’ props ‘Hidden Hills,’ NBC to demo wins: With the season opener of “Frasier” as NBC’s Tuesday evening 9 p.m. (ET) tentpole, the 9:30 p.m. premiere of “Hidden Hills” posted the highest-rated freshman debut of the young season-making NBC a winner in the adults 18 to 49 demographic.

Nevertheless, CBS took home Tuesday wins in total viewers and households for second consecutive night.

Featuring the wedding of Niles and Daphne, “Frasier” set evening highs in adults 18 to 49 (8.5 rating/20 share), total viewers (20.6 million) and households (13.9/21) in helping to trigger NBC’s Tuesday win in the key demo, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data. Compared with the year-ago (Sept. 25, 2001) hour-long season opener of “Frasier” (8.4/20 ), the nine-year-old sitcom lost no ground among adults 18 to 49.

“Hidden Hills” held onto 85 percent of adults 18 to 49 and 76 percent of total viewers from “Frasier’s” scores. The new family comedy won its time period in adults 18 to 49 (7.2/17), total viewers (15.6 million) and households (10.5/16).

The 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. frame proved more competitive for the Big 4 networks. ABC’s “8 Simple Rules” won the hour in adults 18 to 49 (4.8/14), but marked a 20 percent week-to-week drop from its debut score (6.0/18) in comparable fast nationals. Fox’s “That ’70s Show” came in second in adults 18 to 49 (4.4/13), marking a 12 percent drop week to week and a 23 percent slide from its year-ago demo score.

NBC’s series premiere of the family comedy “In-Laws” came in fourth at a 3.2/9 average in adults 18 to 49, down about 8 percent from what the Peacock’s premiere of “Emeril” (3.5/10) did in the year-ago period. However, another episode of the “In-Laws” won the 8:30 p.m. frame in adults 18 to 49 (4.4/12), suggesting that its 38 percent growth from its own its lead-in resulted from increased viewer sampling.

ABC’s “Life with Bonnie” came in second in adults 18 to 49 (4.3/12) for the 8:30 p.m. frame, dropping 27 percent from its previous week’s premiere (5.9/16).

NBC won the night in adults 18 to 49 (5.3/14), although the network was off 10 percent from its year-ago Tuesday opening (5.9/15). ABC came in second in adults 18 to 49 (4.3/11), tracking a 23 percent year-to-year decline, while CBS (3.9/10) was off 10 percent and Fox (3.5/9) was off 22 percent. CBS won the night in total viewers (14.1 million) and homes (9.8/16), but was off by identical 13 percent margins from the year-ago Tuesday.

Molund joins Gurin Co.: Gunilla Molund, an international TV programming veteran, has been named managing director of The Gurin Co., a Los Angeles-based independent producer of reality and dramas series headed up by “Weakest Link” executive producer Phil Gurin.

Ms. Molund will be based at Gurin’s headquarters in Studio City, Calif., and wi
ll be responsible for developing new reality- and drama-based projects based on European formats. The Gurin Co.’s new series, “Lingo,” based on the British network IDTV format, has recently received a pick-up from the Game Show Network. The Gurin Co. also produces NBC’s network and syndicated versions of the game show “Weakest Link.”

Ms. Molund joins The Gurin Co. from Stockholm, Sweden-based Jarowskij Sverige AB, one of Scandinavia’s largest independent production companies, where she was head of international affairs and business development.