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Jul 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Hecht: TNN Launching Spike ‘As Fast As Possible’

TNN will relaunch as Spike TV “as fast as possible, within a month,” said network president Albie Hecht. “We’ve de-Spiked, now we have to re-Spike” Mr. Hecht’s statement came on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that film director Spike Lee has settled his lawsuit against Viacom. Mr. Hecht is in Los Angeles Monday to promote Spike TV’s new programming at the Cable Press Tour.

“Leave it to men to launch prematurely. Spike TV lives,” Mr. Hecht joked from the podium.

After the presentation, Mr. Hecht told TelevisionWeek the network is eager to continue their rebranding. He would not comment on specific settlement terms, whether publicity from the controversy has helped the network, or if TNN’s claimed $16 million loss is recoverable now that the network can use the name “Spike.”

As for whether the network still plans to air a “switch-flipping” special marking the moment of the name change, Mr. Hecht said he’s not sure yet.

“We’d like to do something, but right now we don’t want to take attention away from our new programming,” he said. “You might just turn it on one Monday, and there it is.”

When asked what surprised him about the lawsuit, he replied, “It really surprised me it happened in the first place.”

Yet Mr. Hecht still left open the possibility of future, more amicable dealings between Spike Lee and Spike TV.

“Spike Lee has always done things for MTV Networks, so it’s not out of the question,” he said.

MTV Re-Signs ‘Osbournes’: “If you thought we wouldn’t re-sign “The Osbournes” for another season, you’re crazy,” said Van Toffler, president, MTV, as he announced today that MTV re-signed “The Osbournes” for a third season. Since ratings for the second season of the show fell off from the record-breaking freshman season, insiders speculated that MTV might move on rather than re-up the clan. Twenty new episodes will start airing in early winter 2004. The announcement was made during the cable portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles.

Spike Lee and Viacom Settle: Viacom and director Spike Lee ended their legal dispute over the media company’s plan to rebrand TNN as Spike TV with a joint public statement that referred to new Viacom development projects for Mr. Lee and Tanya Lee, his wife, though both sides in the dispute declined to offer specific settlement terms. Similarly, a Viacom spokeswoman declined to say whether money had changed hands as part of the settlement.

“In accordance with our settlement agreement all we can say is that Viacom is broadening its existing development relationships with Tanya and Spike Lee,” the spokeswoman said.

“On reviewing the circumstances concerning the name change of the network, I no longer believe Viacom deliberately intended to trade on my name when naming Spike TV,” Mr. Lee said in the statement.

“We are pleased to put aside our differences with such a highly respected and influential creative talent as Mr. Lee and we are delighted to have resolved this lawsuit with him,” Viacom said in the statement.

Mr. Lee suggested in his statement that he had settled to avoid harming First Amendment rights of “Viacom and others,” saying, “As an artist and a filmmaker, I feel that protection of freedom of expression is a critical value, and I am concerned that my efforts to stop Viacom from using the Spike TV name could have the unintended consequence of threatening the First Amendment rights of Viacom and others. I am pleased to be able to resolve this matter and be able to work with Viacom on new projects.”

Cable TV Rates Up: Cable TV rates were up by 8.2 percent, from $37.06 to $40.11 a month, last year, more than five times the rate of inflation, according to a report issued today by the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC said a major component of the increase was a 10.8 percent rise in rates for cable’s enhanced programming service tier, from $19.88 to $22.02 per month. Basic service tier rates, according to the FCC, went up 3.7 percent, from $13.93 to $14.45, while the rates for equipment rose 12 percent, from $3.25 to $3.64.

The FCC said that the average number of channels offered also rose, from 59 to 62.7 channels, over the annual study period that ended on July 1 last year, meaning that the average overall monthly rate per channel increased about 1.2 percent, from 65.6 cents to 66.4 cents.

Factoring in the inflation rate of 1.5 percent, the FCC said the real per-channel rate fell by about two-tenths of a percent over the same period.

In a statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the increases demonstrate that the cable industry has “risen to new heights in their apparent willingness and ability to gouge the American consumer.”

The watchdog Consumers Union said the report demonstrates that competition from satellite TV is not enough to put a brake on cable rates. “Clearly Congress needs to step into the cable morass and help protect consumers from cable price gouging,” said Gene Kimmelman, senior director of public policy and advocacy for the group. “Consumers should have the chance to pay for only the channels they want to watch. If Congress won ‘t put a lid on cable rates, at least such a la carte pricing should allow consumers to save money.”

But Rob Stoddard, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said cable consumers are “enjoying increased value ” for their entertainment dollar. “Compared with taking a family of four to a single movie, concert or professional sports event, a month of basic cable remains a superior entertainment value,” Mr. Stoddard said.

Mr. Stoddard also said cable operators invested more than $15 billion in system upgrades during the study period, while experiencing greater-than-inflation increases in personnel and programming costs. “These investments have resulted in more technically reliable systems, improved customer care, better programming quality and the launch of new cable services

CBS Pick Ups ‘Century City’: CBS picked up futuristic legal drama “Century City” for midseason. The network ordered eight episodes plus the pilot. “Century City,” produced by Universal Network Television, is set in a law firm in the year 2053 and stars Hector Elizondo and Nestor Carbonell. Paul Attanasio, Katie Jacobs and Ed Zuckerman executive produce.

Cowell Signs 3-Year Deal With Fox: “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell signed a three-year deal with Fox to continue as a judge on “Idol.” Under the deal, Mr. Cowell will launch his own production company, simcow ltd., which has a first-look deal with Fox that includes a series commitment. Mr. Cowell will be an executive producer on any project developed by simcow for Fox. “Idol” auditions start again later this summer, with the next edition of the show premiering in January 2004.

‘For Love or Money’ Finale Scores for NBC: The finale of “For Love or Money” scored for NBC last night, giving the network summer’s top-rated telecast in adults 18 to 49. The two-hour finale, in which Erin chose $1 million over bachelor Rob Campos, pulled a 6 rating/16 share in adults 18 to 49 and 12.8 million total viewers. The finale helped power NBC to a victory in the demo (5.1/15) for the night, beating its closest competitor CBS (3.1/9) by 76 percent.

Fox’s reality lineup was third for the night with a 2.3/7, while ABC’s “George Lopez” reruns and “PrimeTime” special finished fourth with a 2.2/6.

NBC also won the night in total viewers with 11.3 million, followed by CBS (9.5 million), ABC (5.8 million) and Fox (4.5 million).

Taylor to Join ‘Two and a Half Men’: Holland Taylor has signed on to join the cast of CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” She replaces Blythe Danner in the part of Evelyn Harper, the controlling mother of Charlie Sheen’s and Jon Cryer’s characters. “After a long search for an actress capable of playing an emotionally destructive narcissist, we’re very fortunate to have found Holland Taylor,” said Chuck Lorre, executive producer and creator of the series. “Holland is deeply talented and hilariously funny and manages to perfect an already perfect cast.” “Men” will ai
r Monday nights at 9:30 to 10 p.m. (ET) this fall.

‘Shock’ Fourth Season in Works: Kids’ WB! has picked up a fourth season of “Static Shock.” The network also picked up 13 more episodes for the 2003-04 season, when the series will be stripped six days a week Monday through Saturday. “Shock,” which is produced by Warner Bros. Animation, will start its fourth season in winter 2004. “Shock” finished the 2002-03 season as the No. 2-rated program in boys 6 to 11 with a 7.5/27, tying “Pokemon: Master Quest” (7.5/26).