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Jun 9, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Kaplan Returns to ABC News

It’s official: Rick Kaplan is returning to ABC News as senior VP in charge of the news shows and the political unit. Reporting to him will be “Nightline,” “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” “World News Tonight Saturday and Sunday,” “World News Now” and “World News This Morning.” In August, he is expected to add responsibility for “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings” after a successor for former executive producer Paul Slavin is chosen.

Mr. Slavin was recently promoted to senior VP of worldwide news gathering. Mr. Slavin, Mr. Kaplan and Phyllis McGrady, the senior VP in change of newsmagazines, “Good Morning America” and project development, all will report to ABC News President David Westin.

During 18 years that were formative for himself and for ABC News, Mr. Kaplan won numerous awards in assorted roles on nearly all of the division’s signature programs. He left in 1997 to become president of CNN/U.S., only to have the rough-and-rocky ride end three years later. Since then, he has taught and lectured. He first came back to ABC News with a three-month assignment to produce ABC News coverage of the war in Iraq.

“Having been the producer of most of the broadcasts he is now charged with leading, Rick Kaplan comes to this new job with the respect and admiration of the news division,” Mr. Westin said. “Rick is as competitive as he is creative and his talent is matched only by his drive to be the very best. He is a world-class journalist, and I am very pleased that Rick has accepted this new opportunity.”

“I grew up at ABC News and this is a wonderful homecoming for me,” Mr. Kaplan said. “The finest producers, the most experienced correspondents and anchors in the industry coupled with world class reporting are the foundations of ABC News. I am deeply honored to rejoin their ranks.”

Spencer to Host ‘Roadshow’: Lara Spencer is keeping her early weekday job as “Good Morning America” correspondent, but she also will be hitting the road as host of “Antiques Roadshow” when the 7-year-old PBS show begins its summer appraisal tour in July in Savannah, Ga. The first episodes featuring Ms. Spencer will air on PBS in January.

Meanwhile, Leigh and Leslie Keno, best known as antiques experts on “Roadshow,” are scheduled to host “Find!” a new series from the creators of “This Old House”; it starts this fall.

They will cast an appraising eye on consumers’ possessions and visit contemporary designers in the show intended as a complement to the fix-it focus of the original “House” and the maintenance focus of “Ask This Old House.”

Starz Encore Unveils HDTV Plans: At cable’s National Show in Chicago, focused this year on high-definition television, Starz Encore has unveiled plans to launch new high-definition and high-resolution services by year’s end.

Those services will include Sharper Movies HD, which will consist of commercial-free films from Starz’s inventory in high definition, and Starz! Hi Rez, designed for cable systems with limited available bandwidth, which will offer widescreen, DVD-quality pictures using one-third the bandwidth of high definition.

The new services “should drive both the sales of hi-def tiers and the purchase of HDTV sets,” said John Sie, founder, chairman and CEO of Starz Encore Group, announcing the launches.

In other cable news from the convention, ESPN is getting into the reality-competition business with “Dream Job,” an eight-episode one-hour series in which contestants will compete for a one-year contract as an on-air “SportsCenter” anchor. The series is scheduled to debut in February.

Hollywood Execs Discuss TV Programming Online: The secure delivery of movies, TV programming and other content via high-speed Internet was on the minds of key Hollywood executives at the opening session of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s 52nd Annual National Show, now under way in the Chicago.

Bill Gates chairman and chief software architect, Microsoft Corp., raised the medium-term future prospect of Internet Protocol data, voice and video transmission, all seamlessly integrated, piped into the home via cable modem, putting the “power of the PC into the set-top box.”

The “revolutionary” future that Mr. Gates envisioned would involve “doing everything” over IP, from Hollywood content distribution to cable-enabled telephony integrated with video, a “no limits” broadband world which he characterized as “instant messaging on steroids.” And Brian Roberts, president and CEO, Comcast Corp., said the “computer skill set [was] coming to television.” But Mel Karmazin, Viacom’s president and chief operating officer, whose company includes CBS, MTV, the Blockbuster home-video chain and the Paramount movie studio, said he was “not very secure” about IP security. While all the panelists averred they were for deregulation, both Mr. Karmazin and Richard Parsons, chairman and CEO of AOL Time Warner, indicated they would support government action to reinforce copyright protection in the digital age.

Mr. Roberts replied to Mr. Karmazin’s concern about IP security by noting that cable’s video-on-demand capability “presents an opportunity for content companies” to reposition themselves now for the digital future. He also warned content companies that if they wait too long and are too concerned with copyright protection in the digital age they will suffer the fate of music companies and be “Napsterized.”

Mr. Parsons agreed with the Napster analogy, saying that four or five years ago the “music guys saw the wave coming,” but each company wanted to own the solution to digital piracy, so they waited to take action, and the wave almost drowned them. “We all have skins in this game, and let’s all work together to come up with some ways of protecting these golden eggs [and] this goose that’s laying the golden eggs,” Mr. Parsons said, calling for cooperation among content creators, the software industry and the consumer electronics industry to develop IP security.

Later, Mr. Parsons, whose company includes the Warner movie studio, told TelevisionWeek that it would be a very long time, if ever, before Hollywood felt secure enough about IP security to debut a theatrical blockbuster via the Internet. Even the coming competition from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which is expected to be a fierce competitor with cable once it complete its acquisition of DirecTV, didn’t arouse the panelists particularly. “There’s no Death Star out there from my perspective,” Mr. Parsons said, calling Mr. Murdoch’s satellite venture “not a serious threat to the viability or primacy of cable.”

TiVo and Gemstar-TV Guide End Lawsuit: TiVo and Gemstar-TV Guide International inked an agreement today in which the two companies will share technologies and content and dismiss litigation between the two firms.

Both companies refused to release financial terms of the agreement.

As part of the pact, Gemstar-TV Guide will take a patent license from TiVo, while Gemstar-TV Guide will supply TV Guide-branded entertainment content to TiVo.

The agreement ends a lawsuit filed by Gemstar-TV Guide’s StarSight Telecast unit, which alleged that TiVo’s use of an unlicensed interactive guide in its personal video recording technology infringed on StarSight’s patents.

ABC Wins Sunday with Hillary Clinton, NBA: ABC won the night last night in adults 18 to 49 and total viewers with a combination of “20/20,” featuring an interview with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, and the NBA Finals. “20/20” won the 7 p.m.-to-8 p.m. (ET) hour with a 3.5 rating and 12 share, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. From 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., the NBA Finals averaged a 4.5/12, beating out second-place NBC, which had a 3.8/10 with a rerun of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Crime & Punishment.”

The Tony Awards on CBS finished in last place in adults 18 to 49 with a 1.9/5. The 8 p.m.-to-11 p.m. broadcast averaged 7.95 million total viewers.

For the night, ABC won in adults 18 to 49 (3.8/11), followed by Fox (3.0/9), NBC (2.8/8) and CBS (1.9/6). In total viewers, ABC won the night with 10.6 million, followed by CBS and
NBC (8.4 million each) and Fox (6.8 million).

NCTA Brings Flood of Cable Announcements: The National Show, the cable industry’s annual gathering, hosted by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, got under way in Chicago with a flurry of network announcements on subjects ranging from a new name for CNN’s “Moneyline” to the latest local ad-sales campaigns and new tie-in book and VOD deals. Here are some highlights: CNN will announce today that “Lou Dobbs Moneyline” is changing its name to “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” The one-hour show, which has been airing a truncated half-hour repeat in the 11:30 p.m. (ET) slot, now will have a second full-hour reprise from 11 p.m. until midnight. The reason for the name change: The program has evolved and it’s about more than just the markets and business news, according to a senior CNN official.

Court TV has completed a video-on-demand deal with Time Warner Cable, and 10 hours of its programming will be included in TWC’s Free on Demand platform. The network also has completed a VOD deal with In Demand that will bring the network’s VOD offerings to other MSOs. Court TV also estimates that its Digital Fingerprinting Days promotion has generated almost $2 million in local ad-sales revenue in the past year for Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, Insight, Cablevision and Charter, the six participating multiple system operators. The promotion gives parents the opportunity to take preventive child-safety action, drawing foot traffic to participating malls and events, and gives MSOs the opportunity to display their newest wares and sign up new subscribers.

Court TV also is set to announce that its fourth annual Scales of Justice Award goes to the writers, producers and actors of “The Exonerated,” an off-Broadway play that tells the story of men and women condemned to Death Row who were eventually freed because DNA technology proved their innocence. Previous winners of the award include Erin Brockovich and Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins.

Oxygen Media is rolling out a marketing campaign in conjunction with Cox Communications aimed at convincing women to sign up for high-speed Internet. Most previous campaigns along these lines have been targeted at men, according to the network. An earlier tryout with Cox in Orange County, Calif., achieved a 2.5 percent sell-in rate, according to Oxygen.

Fine Living is offering a selection of 10 short-form “Essentials,” tips and how-to information on various subjects, free of charge to cable operators, as local ad-sales tools. Each 30-second spot will contain 25 seconds of content, followed by a 5-second window for local businesses to advertise products and services related to the spot’s general theme. The Fine Living giveaway will be offered through the end of 2003.

Reality is the big summer genre this year. Case in point: AMC’s one-hour monthly series “The Reality Project: Reality People,” a reality show about the after-fame lives of reality show contestants. In other AMC news, John Pezzini has been named VP, Western Division, and will head the Los Angeles-based sales and marketing unit.

A&E and the BBC have wrapped production on eight new one-hour episodes of “MI-5,” a spy series set in the world of Britain’s counterterrorism unit. “MI-5,” rated TV-14, premieres July 22 on A&E Network. In August, the network is set to begin the switch from analog to digital feeds for West Coast affiliates of A&E and the History Channel.

Summer at WE: Women’s Entertainment brings weekly Saturday night July specials, hosted by actresses Kelly Hu (“X-Men 2”) and Dana Delaney (“China Beach”), focusing on travel, food and fashion, as well as the second annual Summer of Style $25,000 Sweepstakes, in conjunction with Revlon. The network also has signed a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster for a book that will tie in with “When I Was a Girl,” the half-hour series from Linda Ellerbee’s production company that documents the early lives of famous women.

NPR to Provide Video Newsbreaks: Public broadcasting stations will receive live video newsbreaks at the top of each prime-time hour seven nights a week from National Public Radio starting in September. The joint agreement between the Public Broadcasting Service and NPR calls for the breaks to last 30 seconds to 60 seconds. Further details, including who will host the breaks, are still to come.

CNN and Los Angeles Times Co-Host Presidential Debate: CNN and the Los Angeles Times will co-host a debate featuring Democratic presidential candidates that will be televised live on CNN from The Times Feb. 28, 2004. At least 11 states are scheduled to hold their presidential primaries March 2.

New Products Discussed at NCTA: Cable operators’ chief strategy executives outlined their expectations of the cable/consumer electronics agreement, which should spawn new products such as home media centers and DVD players with set-top box capability, at a CTAM session Sunday afternoon at the National Cable Television Association show in Chicago.

The burning question is when such new devices will be available at retail, and the expectation is that retailers will have products in trial markets by the end of the third quarter or early fourth quarter, while the official agreement should be finalized by July 1, 2004, pending Federal Communications Commission approval, said Dallas Clement, senior VP strategy and development for Cox Communications.

The executives pointed to new products on the show floor to watch for, such as high-definition-capable digital video recorders and set-top boxes with high-definition and DVR functions. “In the next 12 months these will be products will finally be here,” said Steve Silva, executive VP and chief technology officer for Charter Communications. Also, VOD equipment makers are working on storage solutions that move the storage of on-demand content closer to the headend to enable faster delivery, said Kevin Leddy, senior VP strategy and development with Time Warner Cable. “2003 is clearly the year of on-demand,” he said.