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Aug 20, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Insight Communications Intros HDNet Movies

Cable operator Insight Communications expanded its high-definition service with the introduction of HDNet and HDNet Movies. The networks are currently available in Insight systems with HDTV service, known as HDTV Pak, in Louisville, Ky.; Evansville, Ind.; and Peoria, Ill. Insight will roll out the networks in its other markets with HD service, including Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; Galesburg and Bloomington-Normal, Ill.; Springfield, Lincoln and Decatur, Ill.; Anderson-Noblesville, Ind.; Bloomington, Ind.; Lafayette-Kokomo, Ind.; Covington, Ky.; Lexington, Ky.; and Columbus, Ohio. The Insight HD Pak costs $7.95.

Liu to Join Cast of ‘Game Over’: Lucy Liu is joining the cast of UPN’s midseason CGI-animated comedy “Game Over.” She will supply the voice for Raquel, the secret agent wife and mother of the Smashenburn family. “Game Over” follows the exploits of the suburban Smashenburn family, which lives in an alternate video-game universe. The series, from Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, is written and executive produced by David Sacks, David Goestch, Jason Venokur and Ross Venokur.

‘The Man Show’ Premiere Rates High: Ratings for the Aug. 17 debut of “The Man Show’s” second incarnation on Comedy Central soared to a four-year season-premiere high. The premiere marked the debut of Doug Stanhope and “Fear Factor” host Joe Rogan as the new hosts of the series previously hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla.

The fifth-season opener scored 1.738 million viewers, 1.092 million of them in the 18 to 49 demo. Total viewership was up 16 percent from the previous season opener. The Rogan-Stanhope premiere was the most-watched episode of “Man” since its first season, when it had the extremely good fortune to have the hotter-than-hot “South Park” as its lead-in. Compared with last season’s opener, the adults 18 to 49 demo was up 16 percent, men 18 to 49 were up 22 percent and men 18 to 34 were up 29 percent.

The new “Man’s” viewership jumped 63 percent from its lead-in, which was a best-of-old-“Man” marathon. The season premiere audience grew from the first half of the half-hour to the second half.

Comcast, HBO Ink VOD Agreement: Comcast and HBO on Wednesday announced that they have signed an agreement that extends their carriage deal for HBO and Cinemax, including HBO’s subscription video-on-demand service and the channels’ high-definition feeds.

Though both companies refused to discuss particulars about the agreement, they did say the contract will make available HBO on Demand and Cinemax on Demand in Comcast service areas where the service can be made available. The high-definition versions of HBO and Cinemax are currently available in 20 markets, and will be rolled out in more markets as Comcast upgrades its systems. The SVOD service will be offered at no additional monthly charge to digital cable subscribers who have subscriptions to either HBO or Cinemax.

Neufeld Leaving ABC News to Exec Produce CBS’s ‘Early Show’: Victor Neufeld, one of the longest-tenured newsmagazine producers on the network scene, is changing dayparts and networks to become executive producer of “The Early Show” on CBS.

The stunning announcement Wednesday came after months of contract negotiations between Mr. Neufeld, who has been senior executive producer of newsmagazines at ABC since 2000, and ABC News management. Mr. Neufeld spent 30 years at ABC News, where he was best known as executive producer of “20/20” during its peak years and the John Stossel specials.

“I had really gone as far as I could go here,” said Mr. Neufeld, who as executive producer led “20/20” to more than 50 Emmy awards and multiple duPont-Columbia and Peabody awards from 1987 to 2000.

“I have had a wonderful run at ABC, a nourishing run,” said Mr. Neufeld. “The chapter ends, you turn a page and start a new chapter. It is a natural part of a career. This is chapter two.”

One person familiar with Mr. Neufeld’s career and instincts said his ability to get a fix on the zeitgeist will be invaluable at “The Early Show.” The CBS morning show remains in third place despite steady if incremental improvements in viewership and demographics since the morning program went to a four-anchor format under senior executive producer Michael Bass at the beginning of the 2002-03 season.

“They are really serious over there,” said Mr. Neufeld, who is scheduled to report to CBS News Sept. 8. “I’ve got my pencils sharpened and I’m ready to go.”

Powell: FCC to Inquire Into Improved Localism in Radio, TV: In a major regulatory threat to the broadcast industry, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell announced Wednesday that the agency will launch an inquiry next month that could result in new rules requiring radio and TV stations to serve their local communities. Among the issues to be addressed, according to the chairman, are the agency’s licensing renewal procedures and regulations governing the relationship between the networks and their affiliates. “We do suspect that there are problems with aspects of the marketplace,” Mr. Powell said at a press briefing in Washington.

Some critics alleged that the chairman’s initiative was meant to deflect attention from the agency’s controversial June 2 decision to relax its media ownership restrictions. “Ownership is the key to what gets on the air,” said Mark Cooper, research director for the Consumer Federation of America. But Mr. Powell said the inquiry instead addresses a concern raised by critics of the agency’s ownership rulings: localism. “It’s an effort to be responsive to consumers,” Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Powell also said he had no intention of staying the media ownership rules, which are slated to go into effect Sept. 4. “I don’t have any regret about the specific rules we constructed,” he said. Mr. Powell’s refusal to consider a stay drew a stinging rebuke from Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. “We should have vetted these issues before we voted,” said Mr. Copps. “Instead, we voted; now we are going to vet. This is a policy of ready, fire, aim.”

The activist Media Access Project said it welcomed the chairman’s new initiative, even though it offered the group no reason to change its opposition to the agency’s media ownership rulings. “The idea that ownership rules are unrelated to localism is absurd,” MAP said. Said the National Association of Broadcasters, in a statement, “NAB welcomes a review of the public service performed day in and day out by free over-the-air broadcasters. As was demonstrated just last week during the power crisis in the Northeast, there is no business in America more committed to keeping citizens informed than local radio and television stations.”

To help the agency with its review, Mr. Powell said he had launched an FCC task force to recommend regulatory and legislative initiatives to promote broadcast localism. In addition, the take force was charged with organizing a series of public hearings on localism around the country. In a related development, Mr. Powell said the agency would take several steps to make it easier for low-power FM radio stations to get on the air.