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Jan 9, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Posted Thurs. Jan. 9

Break in WCVB, WMUR, Nielsen ratings stand-off

WCVB-TV and WMUR-TV, the Hearst-Argyle-owned ABC affiliates in Boston and Manchester, N.H., respectively, have come to an agreement with Nielsen Media Research and are set to begin receiving ratings data for the first time in eight months starting Friday.

The development, which is part of a multiyear Nielsen contract with all 27 Hearst-Argyle stations, is a significant break in the stand-off over the deployment of Nielsen’s Local People Meter service in Boston, the country’s sixth-largest market and the first test market for the new Nielsen service designed to give ongoing demographic data. In addition to getting overnight demographics and ratings data starting immediately, WCVB and WMUR also will get data for the eight months in which most of the commercial broadcasters in Boston, citing questions about accuracy and methodology, refused to take the new Nielsen service.

Public TV stations WGBH and WENH, New England Cable News, New England Sports Network and Entravision-owned Univision affiliate WUNI-TV had, however, signed up for the new measurement service, which Nielsen intends to deploy in the rest of the Top 10 markets in the next three years. In December, the independent Media Research Council announced accreditation of the Boston People Meter Service, which replaces set-tuning meters and paper diaries, after Nielsen showed it had addressed some of the concerns. A Nielsen spokesman said, “We are in negotiation with all of the other stations in the market.”

AOL TW may issue IPO for TWC: AOL Time Warner may soon spin off Time Warner Cable, the nation’s second-largest multiple system operator, creating a publicly traded company that would issue an IPO. The move, intended to ease AOL TW’s immense debt load, could come as early as the second quarter, the company’s chief financial officer told a Salomon Smith Barney investor conference in California, according to several reports.

The IPO would still leave AOL TW with a majority ownership position in the new cable entity, according to the reports. How much money any cable public offering, even one based on TWC’s proven assets, can raise in the present economic environment, with the cable sector’s stock values generally depressed, is the central question that any cable IPO faces. Today, analysts are estimating that the IPO could bring approximately $6 billion to the AOL TW’s coffers.

NAB disputes NCTA HDTV claims: The National Cable and Telecommunications Association was tried to move its best HDTV foot forward Tuesday. Then the National Association of Broadcasters stomped on it. The object of NAB’s ire: An NCTA press release asserting that cable operators are offering high-definition TV service on cable systems serving about one-third of U.S. TV households in more than 90 markets.

“HDTV service is very important to cable’s future,” Robert Sachs, NCTA president and CEO was quoted as saying in the statement. “Cable operators and programmers are striving to drive consumer demand for HDTV by creating more programming and making HDTV available to more TV households.”

But according to an unusually harsh NAB e-mail notice fired off to reporters yesterday, the “artfully worded NCTA press release forgot to mention” that in most of the 90 HDTV markets, the only HDTV being carried is provided by cable networks. Broadcast HDTV is being carried in 33 of those markets.

“That’s a paltry commitment, considering that local, over-the-air stations are now transmitting digital and HDTV programming in 179 markets,” NAB said.

The NAB said the NCTA announcement was particularly galling because fewer than 10 percent of the 700 broadcast TV stations that have made the transition to DTV are being carried on cable.”No amount of rosy NCTA spin changes the fact that the cable industry is still using its gatekeeper clout to deny most Americans access to over-the-air digital and high-definition television programming,” NAB said.

Rob Stoddard, an NCTA spokesman, responded, “We stand on the strength of our announcement. Very good progress has been made early in the game. We consider local broadcasters to be our partners in the DTV transition. More markets and more channels will be added in the months ahead.”

Hecht in charge of The New TNN: Albie Hecht, the Nickelodeon production executive responsible for bringing “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Rugrats” to television, has been named president of Viacom’s The New TNN basic-cable network. His first order of business will be to sharpen the positioning of the already-male-skewing network so that it becomes “television’s first entertainment network for men,” which is how a network announcement characterized it.

The network, which currently airs World Wrestling Entertainment programming and such other syndicated male-attracting series as “Star Trek: TNG,” will “super-serve” its male audience by emphasizing original programming in animation, video games, men’s health, finance, reality and other genres, according to the network.

Mr. Hecht, who replaces Diane Robina, the network’s general manager for the past two years, will report to Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon, TV Land and The New TNN. Mr. Hecht will continue to oversee Nickelodeon Movies, the division responsible for successfully transferring many of the network’s kid characters to the big screen.

Reality on a roll: Reality programming continued to deliver Wednesday night as the debuts of ABC’s “The Bachelorette” and CBS’s “Star Search” drew big demo wins in their time slots. The highest-rated show of the night among adults 18 to 49 was “The Bachelorette” from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. with an 8.5 rating/20 share, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “The Bachelorette” claimed a 80 percent advantage over NBC’s second-place “The West Wing,” which had a 4.7/11.

CBS’s updated version of “Star Search” kicked off at 8 p.m. to a time-slot-winning 4.9/14 among adults 18 to 49, beating NBC’s “Ed” (4.0/1) and ABC’s comedies “My Wife and Kids” and “George Lopez (3.9/11). “Bachelorette” and “Star Search” also won their time slots in total viewers and households. The only reality show debuting Wednesday night that didn’t win its time slot was ABC’s “Celebrity Mole Hawaii,” which finished second across the board to NBC’s powerhouse “Law & Order.” “Law & Order,” with a 7.2/19 held a 36 percent advantage over “Mole” (5.3/14) in adults 18 to 49.

However, that didn’t keep ABC from winning the night in the demo with a 5.9/15, 11 percent ahead of second place NBC (5.3/14). CBS was third with a 3.9/10, followed by Fox with a 3.6/9. NBC did beat ABC in total viewers (14.8 million vs. 13.1 million) and households (10.1/16 vs. 8.3/13) to win the night in those measurements. CBS was third (11.8 million viewers and a 7.9/12 in households) followed by Fox (8.4 million viewers and a 5.1/8 in households).

GSN slates ‘Press Your Luck’ documentary : Game Show Network is going into the original documentary business with “Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal,” a two-hour documentary that will air March 16. The documentary tells the story of a game-show contestant who deduced that there was a “code” underlying the “Press Your Luck” game, then broke it and became the game’s all-time money winner, taking home $110,237.

GSN announced the project at the semiannual Television Critics Association Press Tour, now under way in Los Angeles. Other TCA news from GSN includes a one-hour special that will present the never-before-seen 1963 pilot of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Its spring debut is timed to coincide with the return of a new NBC prime-time version of the series. GSN also announced a new name for its Chuck Woolery reality series. Formerly “Chuck Woolery: Behind The Lingo,” the series will now be called “Chuck Woolery: Naturally Stoned,” a title derived from a Sixties-era top 40 pop song from Mr. Woolery that also will be the title song of the series. GSN also plans an April promotional stunt. On April Fools’ Day the network will swap hosts on all of its original shows.

‘Shield’ premiere makes cable history: FX’s “The Shield,” the gr
itty and controversial cop drama that earned a surprise Best Actor Emmy for its star Michael Chiklis last fall, opened its sophomore season Jan. 7 with a 3.6 household rating and 4.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched show on cable television that night and the highest-rated and most-watched second-season premiere of an original dramatic series in basic cable history, according to network data.

By comparison, “The Shield’s” 13-episode freshman season premiered with a 4.1 household rating, and the series averaged a 2.8 rating over the course of its first full season. Compared with that first-season average, the second-season premiere was up 29 percent in households and 39 percent in adults 18 to 49 (a 3.2 vs. last season’s 2.3 average). Mr. Chiklis recently received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series and the series received a Globe nomination for Best Drama.

Jones named VP ABC News radio: Steve Jones has been named VP and general manager of radio for ABC News. Mr. Jones, who had been VP of programming and operations for ABCNEWS.com, will oversee all coverage for the five ABC Radio networks, which serve some 4,800 affiliates nationwide.

Mullen moves up at Tribune: Patrick Mullen has been promoted to president of Tribune Broadcasting, a role that will give him oversight of Tribune’s 24 TV stations, radio station WGN-AM in Chicago and Tribune’s entertainment division. Mr. Mullen, who joined Tribune in 1998 as a regional VP, had been president of Tribune Television.

RCA to sponsor HDTV Super Bowl: RCA will sponsor ABC’s Super Bowl HDTV broadcast Sunday, Jan. 26.