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Apr 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Disney Goes Digital

Disney will implement a number of initiatives to move the company aggressively into a digital transformation that is a key part of the Disney’s business strategy, chairman and CEO Michael Eisner told attendees of the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.

ABC network will carry “Monday Night Football” in high definition starting this fall as part of the network’s larger transition to an HD schedule. “We expect ‘Monday Night Football’ will play a critical role in the acceptance of high definition,” he said. ABC carried the games in HD a few years ago and currently carries its prime-time schedule in HD.

In addition, Disney plans to test Movie Beam, a service through which leftover broadcast “bits” are used to download movies into set-top boxes. Customers can then watch hundreds of stored movies from their set-top boxes with DVD-like functionality. Disney’s growth strategy also entails enhancing Disney’s two strongest brands, Disney and ESPN. That includes extending those brands through the recent introduction of ESPN’s slate of high-definition sporting events and the expected launch of a Spanish-language version of the network later this year, Mr. Eisner said during an analyst conference at the show.

The company intends to shrink capital costs and lower debt in part by reducing the number of films it makes and distributes and spending with more circumspection on the films it creates, he said. ABC is on the tail end of its prime-time downturn and should regain momentum in comedies and dramas in the fall schedule, with reality diminishing in importance, he said. The network will generate significant cost-per-thousand increases at this year’s upfront. “In two to three years I would like to be at a place where ABC was in 1995,” he said.

NCAA Basketball Scores for CBS: The NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game between Syracuse and Kansas delivered CBS a nightly win with an average 18.57 million viewers watching the game, according to Nielsen Media Research. The game scored a 7.5 rating and 18 share among adults 18 to 49. About 38.4 million people watched all or part of the game, which was won by Syracuse.

NAB Convention Attendance Down: Attendance at the National Association of Broadcasters convention was being estimated at about 89,000 at deadline today, down from 92,356 last year, with much of the decline attributed to a drop-off in foreign attendance. That’s down dramatically from the convention’s record attendance of 115,293 in 2000 during the dot.com boom. “Considering the war and issues related to SARS, we are ecstatic with the turnout,” said Dennis Wharton, an NAB spokesman.

Journalists Killed In Baghdad: Journalists found themselves under fire by U.S. forces in Baghdad today. At least three journalists were reported killed: a Jordanian reporter on the roof of the Al-Jazeera office and two TV cameramen who were in the Palestine hotel that is serving as home and office for foreign journalists when a U.S. tank fired at the upper floors.

CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, who was ordered out of Baghdad by her bosses on the eve of the war but who returned last Friday after U.S. forces began circling the Iraqi capital, was among the journalists in the hotel during the incident, which the U.S. military said was provoked by sniper fire from the hotel. Spokesmen at Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said the U.S. military is not targeting journalists and the tank was only returning “significant” fire from the hotel.

ITVN News correspondent Lindsey Hilsum said in an interview on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon that journalists in the hotel heard no sniper fire and could see no reason for an Iraqi sniper opening fire, since there was no U.S. military presence within a sniper’s reach from the Palestine Hotel.

Ms. Hilsum suggested that perhaps the U.S. tank troops mistook a cameraperson or someone else on a balcony for a sniper and there “must have been a major miscalculation” in taking aim.

Though Ms. Logan later filed a live report on what happened-ending with the observation that such incidents are unlikely to help the coalition win the “hearts and minds” of the populace-she did it wearing a helmet and a flak vest.

CBS News executive Marcy McGinnis said Ms. Logan had known one of the slain cameramen for about 12 years. He was a member of the Reuters TV crew that was helping Ms. Logan file her reports. Ms. Logan herself had been in the Reuters workspace at the hotel only hours before it was hit.

“Baghdad is a very tough place,” Ms. McGinnis said. “I think we always knew there was going to be an element of chaos in Baghdad at some point. I didn’t think we’d be in a position where the United States would be firing on the hotel. Our fear for our people was on the Iraqi score.”

Richard Engel, the free-lancer who has been filing for ABC News since its staffers were ordered to leave for their own safety, likewise was wearing a helmet and a Kevlar vest as he reported for “Good Morning American” Tuesday morning.

Only Sunday, a bullet came through a window in Mr. Engel’s room on the 14th floor of

Cable News Continues to Thrive: Interest in the war in Iraq continued to buoy the cable news channels, which claimed three of the four top spots for total viewing in Nielsen Media Research’s list of all cable viewing for the week of March 31 through April 6.

Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable channel with an average of 3.126 million viewers for total day, up 325 percent from the comparable week in 2002.

CNN ranked No. 2 for the week with an average of 2.421 million viewers, up 323 percent from a year ago. MSNBC ranked No. 4 for the week with an average of 1.275 million viewers, up 315 percent from a year ago. Breaking the all-news gridlock at the top: Nickelodeon, which ranked third for the week with an average of 1.745 million viewers, down 6 percent from the comparable week in 2002.

Warner Bros. Domestic TV to Add Spots:

With stations still scrambling to make up ad revenues for war pre-emptions, TelevisionWeek has learned that Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution will add a 30-second spot for local stations to its syndicated fare beginning Monday, April 14. The extra commercial period will continue for six weeks. In a letter to stations, company President Dick Robertson and Executive VP Jim Paratore said the extra spots would cover series ranging from Elimidate to Friends to The People’s Court.

Mr. Paratore said the added spots would not affect programming.

“The stations have made due sacrifices to cover the war not only in pre-emptions but in additional cost,” he said. “This is our way of helping them, and everybody has been very appreciative.”

FCC to Vote June 2: The Federal Communications Commission will vote on whether to ax or relax its media ownership rules June 2, come hell or high water. At least that was the word from Ken Ferree, chief of the FCC Media Bureau, during a panel session at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas this morning. “There will be no delay,” Mr. Ferree said. “June 2 is the day.”

FCC Chairman Michael Powell previously said that he had tentatively slated the vote for June 2. But Mr. Ferree said that’s now a commitment. “There’s no wiggle room,” he told reporters. An industry attorney said the pronouncement clearly puts pressure on the agency’s chairman. “If it’s not June 2, it’s a public defeat,” the attorney said.

A source said it appears in this case Mr. Powell decided to refuse to grant his agency colleagues the usual courtesy of being able bump the item from a vote for a month.

MuchMusic Gets Name Change: MuchMusic USA, a Rainbow Media Holdings network, is changing its name to Fuse on May 19. It will focus on 12- to 34-year-old viewers and will frequently change its programming to keep pace with that audience’s attitudes and tastes in music.

“We have worked to craft a programming formula that appeals to teenagers: the ability to choose and curate the music they want and to enjoy it through an entertainment experience that unites the technology that has become an integral part of our audience’s li
ves,” said Marc Juris, Fuse president.

‘NBC News’ Up In Viewers: NBC Nightly News extended its lead over the competition the week of March 31, when it averaged 10.824 million viewers, up 8 percent from the comparable week in 2002. After enjoying a five percent lead for the season prior to the outbreak of war, Nightly last week showed a 10 percent lead over ABC World News Tonight (down 2 percent year-to-year to 9.846 million viewers). CBS Evening News, was down 12 percent year-to-year to 7.332 million as it had been a year ago after two weeks of disruption because of NCAA men’s basketball coverage.

‘American Girl’ Moves to Thursday: ABC moved low-rated reality series All American Girl to Thursday nights from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. to finish its run, starting April 17. Taking over the Wednesday 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. time slot will be Extreme Makeover, which is slated to air seven episodes. Makeover premieres April 23 following a special two-hour edition of The Bachelor.