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Oct 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, Oct 22

Powell predicts DTV transition speeding up

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell told broadcasters in Washington today that the transition to digital television will “begin to accelerate exponentially in the next year or so.”

Many industry observers have been skeptical about DTV’s prospects. But in a speech at a seminar hosted by the Association for Maximum Service Television, Mr. Powell said he saw encouraging signs that the rollout is gaining momentum, including the facts that Wal-Mart is introducing HDTV in 1,500 stores nationwide and that “USA Today” is labeling HDTV shows in its TV listings.

“The cold truth, however, is that we have no choice, and not just because Congress has mandated it–which is reason enough–but because the trends in technology and the forces of change will ultimately demand it of any provider that hopes to be relevant in the digital future.” Mr. Powell also said the FCC will compel the rollout with regulatory intervention, when that proves necessary. “There is no turning back and no retreat,” he said.

Martha Stewart faces SEC civil case: Martha Stewart, who turned her folksy home tips into a multimedia empire encompassing everything from branded retail merchandise to TV programming, is facing a civil case that will be brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the Financial Times and other published reports.

That case arises from the SEC’s probe of insider trading at Imclone, the biotechnology company whose stock plummeted after its anti-cancer drug was rejected by the Food and Drug Administration. Ms. Stewart sold her ImClone stock one day before word of the FDA rejection.

The SEC’s notification to Ms. Stewart’s attorneys was made in the form of a so-called Wells Notice, which gives Ms. Stewart time to respond to the allegations before final charges are filed. The SEC, Ms. Stewart herself and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, her company, had no comment, according to the reports.

A criminal investigation by the Justice Dept. of Ms. Stewart’s actions is also under way.

AFTRA Coalition asks FCC to hold hearings on media consolidation: A coalition of groups led by the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists has asked that before the Federal Communications Commission takes additional steps to loosen industry ownership it hold field hearings on the impact media industry consolidation is having on the public.

“Ownership consolidation has severely reduced diversity of voices in the marketplace, marginalized the interests of local communities and restricted access to distribution outlets for creative talent, all at the expense of the public interest they are purportedly bound to serve,” said Greg Hessinger, AFTRA national executive director, in a statement today. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, the agency’s sole Democrat, has also urged the agency to hold field hearings but has yet to win a commitment from the FCC’s Republican majority.

AT&T Broadband to cut 1,700 jobs: AT&T Broadband, the multiple-system cable operator that is being acquired by Comcast Corp., will cut 1,700 jobs, or 4 percent of its 40,000 employees, after the acquisition, AT&T Broadband CEO Bill Schleyer said in an analysts’ third-quarter-earnings conference call, according to a report by the Reuters wire service.

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the year.

Few join Kelley’s ‘girls club’: Despite heavy promotion during the World Series telecasts, including stadium-seat-filling shots of the new cast of David E. Kelley’s “girls club,” the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. Monday series premiere of the Fox drama had a less than stellar opening in the ratings last night.

The sophomore season opener of Mr. Kelley’s “Boston Public” in the anchor 8 p.m. time slot came in with a competitive third-ranked score in key adults 18 to 49 (4.0 rating/11 share) and second-ranked position in adults 18 to 34 (4.2/12), according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data. However, “girls club” dropped 34 percent in adults 18 to 49 (2.6/6) and 31 percent in adults 18 to 34 (2.6/8) from what its lead-in scored in the key demos.

In the key women demos, “girls club” was also off 31 percent from what “Boston Public” scored in females 18 to 49 (2.9/7 vs. 4.2/11). A less negative impact was “girls club’s” 19 percent falloff among women 18 to 34 (3.6/9 vs. 4.3/12). Overall, “girls club” averaged 5.9 million total viewers-off 39 percent from “Boston Public’s” 9.7 million headcount.

Playing a major competitive factor in the 9 p.m. hour were, as usual, highly ranked adult 18 to 49 scores for CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” (7.4/18) and “Still Standing” (5.8/14), which held close to even with prior-week scores. NBC’s “Third Watch” also came in a competitive third among adults 18 to 49 (4.7/11), up 4 percent from its previous Monday score (4.5/11).

CBS’s night also included a top-ranked adults 18 to 49 score for 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. run of “King of Queens” (4.7/13) and a second-place 8:30 p.m. finish for “Yes, Dear” (5.0/13), capped off by “CSI: Miami’s” 10 p.m. hour wins in adults 18 to 49 (6.8/17), total viewers (18.4 million) and households (12.2/20).

ABC’s “Monday Night Football” came out of the 9 p.m.-to-11 p.m. portion of the Indianapolis Colts-Pittsburgh Steelers tilt with preliminary second-ranked scores in adults 18 to 49 (4.7/14), total viewers (14.2 million) and households (9.6/15).

CBS made it a sweep of the evening in adults 18 to 49 (6.1/15), total viewers (17.2 million) and households (11.2/17).

NBC axes ‘Providence,’ back-orders ‘American Dreams,’ ‘Boomtown’: After a five-year run and the past two years of down-trending in the key female adult ratings, NBC is ending “Providence’s” network run with a two-hour series finale (8 p.m. to 10 p.m., ET) Friday, Dec. 20. At the same time, NBC confirmed back nine-episode orders for Sunday dramas “American Dreams” and “Boomtown.”

The cancellation of “Providence” was not entirely unexpected, since NBC only ordered 13 episodes, in the hopes of seeing a ratings spike open this season. Unfortunately, the series opened the first three weeks of this season at a 2.7 rating/9 share average in adults 18 to 49, off 13 percent from what it was averaging in the comparable year-ago span, according to final Nielsen Media Research national data.

An NBC spokeswoman said the network has yet to decide what it will do to fill the impending 8 p.m. time slot vacancy.

There are already midseason orders placed for new dramas “Mister Sterling” and “Kingpin,” but the latter’s drug trafficking-oriented content is considered too edgy to start off the evening. Speculation in the talent agency community is that NBC could seek to slide “Dateline NBC” by an hour to the 8 p.m. Friday berth and then possibly shuttle “Crossing Jordan” from its current 10 p.m. Monday slot into the 9 p.m. Friday hour. That scenario could make it easier for NBC to slot “Kingpin” into the 10 p.m. Monday slot to take on CBS’s hit “CSI: Miami.”

Trio offers vintage ‘Letterman’: Trio, Universal Television Group’s emerging digital popular arts network, is bringing vintage “Late Night With David Letterman” episodes from his NBC days back to prime time.

The “Late Night” episodes are taken from the 1982 to 1993 period and include the series premiere and such guests as Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Howard Stern. The 80 episodes in the deal will be stripped nightly at 10 p.m. beginning in January and are part of a three-year licensing deal with NBC that includes a Trio option to renew and acquire 80 additional “Late Night” episodes.

Preceding the January “Late Night” launch will be a four-day Thanksgiving “Dave” marathon.

The deal was unveiled by Trio senior management at a press roundtable in Manhattan Tuesday; among the Trio executives were Lauren Zalaznick, Trio’s president and executive VP, emerging networks, Universal Television; Andrew Cohen, VP, original production, Trio; and Kris Slava, VP, acquisitions and scheduling, Trio.

Sears exclusive sponsor of Hallmark: Sears, Roebuck and Co. will serve as the exclusive retail sponsor of the “Hallm
ark Hall of Fame Collection” on Hallmark Channel.

The multimillion-dollar deal includes opening billboards adjacent to the Sunday night airing and tagged tune-in promos.

Showtime acquires ‘Jake and the Kid’: Showtime Networks has acquired “Jake and the Kid,” a 26-episode series that will debut on Showtime FamilyZone, the digital family-friendly Showtime channel, later this year.

The series, from Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana, follows a young boy and his mother who, following the death of the boy’s father, are left alone on the prairie with a hired hand, Jake.