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Jun 23, 2003  •  Post A Comment

CNN Changes Prime-Time Line-up

Popular CNN anchor Paula Zahn will now only host one hour of prime time news instead of two. Starting tonight, Zahn will anchor the 8 p.m. EST hour, while Anderson Cooper will helm the 7 p.m. hour. Zahn previously hosted a two-hour program beginning at 7 p.m.

In a CNN memo, executive VP and general manager Teya Ryan said it was Zahn’s idea to scale back her airtime.

“It has been Paula’s preference all along to anchor a one-hour broadcast, and while we considered several different options, we became convinced that a one-hour format is stronger and more accessible for viewers, ” Ryan wrote.

Spike Jones Jr. Supports Viacom, Slams Director Lee: Spike Jones Jr., son of the late bandleader, has jumped into the “Spike TV” fracas with scathing rebuke of director Spike Lee.

In an affidavit supporting Viacom in their fight to rename TNN “Spike TV,” Mr. Jones called the temporary injunction against the conglomerate “frightening.”

“I do not believe that Spike Lee ‘owns’ or has any individual right to the use of the name ‘Spike’ … any more than I do,” wrote Mr. Jones. “If anything, I believe my right would be superior to his … Indeed, if Spike Lee is concerned about confusion in the marketplace, why hasn’t he sued Spike Jonze? Both are motion picture filmmakers. I have known Spike Lee as a filmmaker who has pushed the boundaries of filmmaking in the name of artistic expression, and who has championed filmmakers’ freedom of speech. This lawsuit seems to be a violation of that spirit.”

Viacom attached Mr. Jones’ statement to a request for an evidentiary hearing due to the “the high costs of maintaining the opportunity” to rename the network Spike TV. Viacom has claimed they are losing millions in advertising revenue and marketing expenses due to the June 12 injunction.

In the affidavit, Mr. Jones said he has plans for a film and a Broadway play based on his father’s life. The tentative title for both works is “Spike.”

“I am very concerned that the court injunction in Spike Lee’s case against Viacom and MTV may hinder and interfere with the efforts we have been making for many years to promote, sell and market both my father’s work and the autobiographical commercial projects mentioned above,” he wrote.

But Jessica Litman, a law professor at Wayne State University who has followed the case, said the injunction against Viacom would not prevent Mr. Jones – or anybody else named Spike — from producing a self-titled work based on their lives.

“From a legal standpoint, the affidavit doesn’t mean anything, there’s nothing in the injunction that gives [Mr. Jones] reason for concern,” Ms. Litman said. “It may cause the trial judge to reconsider the injunction but, then again, he already knew there were lots of people named Spike.”

Ms. Litman added, however, that she believes Mr. Lee will face an uphill battle if his case goes to trial.

“He’s going to need to prove that some appreciable portion of the public, in the context of hearing “Spike TV,” thinks of Spike Lee,” Ms. Litman said. “My guess is that, at the end of the day, Spike Lee will find it’s a hard case to prove.”

Bidding Begins for Vivendi: Vivendi Universal today received bids from five parties interested in the French conglomerate’s U.S. entertainment assets, as the process to sell entertainment properties ranging from the USA and Sci Fi cable channels to the TV production operation responsible for the “Law and Order” franchise, gets underway.

The parties include Liberty Media, General Electric’s NBC unit, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and two investment teams, one headed up by Vivendi Universal Vice Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr, and the other comprising oil billionaire Marvin Davis.

Viacom had long been considered a contender, but opted not to place one by Monday’s deadline, a person close to Vivendi Universal said. One reason could be Vivendi Universal’s insistence that bidders not cherry pick assets. A source close to Viacom said the media giant was only interested in the USA and Sci Fi cable channels.

A Viacom spokeswoman couldn’t be reached for comment.

The assets, in addition to TV production facilities and cable channels, also include a film studio, theme parks and the world’s largest music group. The entire U.S. entertainment operation could fetch as much as $20 billion.

The sales process, which could involve a winning bid being identified by early next month, would go a long way toward helping Paris-based Vivendi Universal pay down a heavy debt load, now standing at around $16.5 billion at the end of May.

Big Ticket Folds Into Paramount Domestic: Big Ticket Television is folding its operations into Paramount Domestic Television. Larry Lyttle, who has headed Big Ticket since its inception in 1994, will leave the company within the next three months after helping to integrate Big Ticket into Paramount.

Mr. Lyttle does not have a new job lined up but said in a statement that he is interested in other career opportunities. Big Ticket, which is part of the Viacom Entertainment Group and managed by Paramount Domestic Television, produces a number of network TV series, including UPN’s “Moesha” and “The Parkers,” CBS’s “Hack” and The WB’s “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.”

‘Monk’ Scores for USA: USA Network’s season-two premiere of “Monk” Friday, June 20, scored solidly, garnering 5.4 million viewers, up 14 percent over last year’s premiere. Its 4.1 household rating was the best for the series to date and the highest-rated season-two opening for an original series on basic cable, according to the network’s research.

“Monk” stars Tony Shalhoub in the role of Adrian Monk, a detective who has an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Salvatore, MediaVest Visionary, Dies: Donna Salvatore, a well-known figure on Madison Avenue who was regarded as one of the visionaries of the cross-platform deal, has passed away. Ms. Salvatore died Friday, June 20, at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. The cause of death was a brain aneurysm she suffered during an exercise class the weekend before her death. She was 50.

Ms. Salvatore, a 25-year veteran of the agency business, held numerous management positions at MediaVest USA, including director of strategic development, president of broadcast and CEO.

At the beginning of this year, she stepped down as MediaVest’s CEO, becoming its chief investment officer and was succeeded by Laura Desmond, formerly CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group Latin America. At the time, she told TelevisionWeek she welcomed the change and the opportunity to become involved in activities beyond her agency career.

In 2002 TelevisionWeek named Ms. Salvatore one of its most powerful women in television. Clients she oversaw during this period include Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods. She also was generally regarded as the agency power behind the precedent-setting Viacom-P&G cross-platform deal of 2001.

“I’m a strong believer in clients’ parlaying their media clout into broader marketing solutions via the cross-platform deal format,” she said then.

Ms. Salvatore began her career on the national broadcast side of the business in 1978 at N.W. Ayer, followed by positions at Compton Advertising and Needham Harper & Steers. In June 1981 she joined Benton & Bowles, which became D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles in 1985. At D’Arcy, she was named VP in 1985, senior VP in 1986, and an executive VP and member of the four-person TeleVest management committee in 1993.

Donna Salvatore was born June 6, 1953. She is survived by her husband, Matthew Vaccaro; two children, Benjamin Vaccaro and Alexandra Vaccaro; and siblings, Rose DiBacco and Linda Guida. Her family requests that funeral and mass services be private.

MTV’s ‘Punk’d’ Gets 20-Episode Renewal: “Punk’d,” the MTV cult reality hit in which young celebrities get the “Candid Camera” treatment, has gotten a 20-episode second-season renewal order from the network.

“Punk’d” was created by Ashton Kutcher (“That ’70s Show”), who also stars, and Jason Goldberg, a producer of independent theatrical features. Mr. Kutcher and Mr. Goldberg are the principals in Katalyst Films an
d executive produce the series.