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Oct 7, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, October 7

Echostar working to save Hughes deal

Late Monday, Echostar Communications said it wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission requesting the agency delay its decision about its pending $11 billion acquisition of Hughes Electronics’ DirecTV because the companies are working with the Department of Justice on “antitrust remedies.” The last minute concessions, whcih were not disclosed, could save the deal. They could include Echostar relinquishing satellite slots to Cablevision System’s start-up satellite business, set to launch in March. News Corp. stands ready to return to the fray with a new offer for DirecTV if the Department of Justice rejects the proposed Echostar-DirecTV merger.

Smee to oversee development at Discovery Civilization: Bill Smee has been named VP of production and development for the Discovery Civilization Channel digital cable network. Mr. Smee joins Discovery from CNN, where he was a senior supervising producer at “CNN Presents.” He will report to Vivian Schiller, senior VP and general manager of the channel. At Discovery Civilization, Mr. Smee will oversee the development and production of all original programming, including specials, series, interstitials and packaging of branded blocks.

SoapNet adds ‘Dynasty’ to lineup: Add “Dynasty,” one of the emblematic prime-time soaps of the 1980s, to the morning suds at SoapNet, ABC Cable Networks Group’s 24/7 soap opera channel. The series, which starred John Forsythe, Linda Evans and Joan Collins, will be stripped weekdays at 10 a.m., with a weekly late-night Sunday marathon, beginning at 1 a.m., repeating each week’s offerings. The Twentieth Television series, which first aired on ABC, SoapNet’s sister network, from 1980 to 1989, debuts Nov. 4.

Sundance to debut Monday documentary block: Monday will be “DocDay” at Sundance Channel beginning next March 3. That’s when the channel’s new “DocDay” noon-to-midnight weekly documentary block will premiere. Each week the block will include a feature documentary premiere in prime time, as well as shorts and non-fiction features from the United States and elsewhere.

Sundance Channel has acquired a package of 10 documentary features from Montreal-based sales company Films Transit International, its first acquisition for the block, Larry Aidem, the channel’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Sundance announced plans for an entire documentary channel. That plan remains on track, according to Mr. Aidem.

Hopkins to steer Gemstar’s sales, marketing efforts: Ray Hopkins has been named executive VP of affiliate sales and marketing for Gemstar-TV Guide International. Mr. Hopkins, who previously was senior VP of affiliate sales and marketing for Fox Cable Networks, will be based in Pasadena, Calif., and will report directly to Jeff Shell, the company’s co-president and chief operating officer.

Mr. Hopkins will be responsible for Gemstar-TV Guide’s interactions with U.S. cable and satellite providers and will oversee the company’s programming and interactive-programming-guide distribution efforts.

Rush to star in HBO’s ‘Peter Sellers’: Actor Geoffrey Rush (“Shine”) will star as the late comic actor Peter Sellers in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” a film for HBO that will be directed by Stephen Hopkins (“24”). The cable movie, to be shot next spring and summer in London, is based on a book of the same name. Word of the project comes as “Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers,” another life of the actor, hits bookstores.

Kroeger to host ‘Mrs. America’ pageant: Gary Kroeger, host of Pax TV’s revival of the classic game show “Beat the Clock,” has been set to host the 26th annual “Mrs. America” Pageant from Honolulu. The Pax TV prime-time special airs Saturday, Oct. 12, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET) and will be rebroadcast on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.