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Aug 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

CNN, L.A. Times to Sponsor Gubernatorial Debate

CNN and the Los Angeles Times will sponsor a debate among Gov. Gray Davis and the major candidates running for governor in California’s recall campaign. The debate will be in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Sept. 30. CNN will air the debate live nationwide, beginning at 9 p.m. ET, and will be made available live to CNN’s 59 broadcast affiliates in California. The debate will also be broadcast in Spanish on CNN en EspaÒol and carried by CNN en EspaÒol RADIO. Mr. Davis and active candidates on the ballot who have garnered the support of at least 10 percent of likely voters in Los Angeles Times or Field polls will be invited to participate.

‘Price Is Right’ Gambles on Reno: FremantleMedia is hoping “The Price Is Right” will be just as popular an attraction in Reno, Nev., as it is in Los Angeles. FremantleMedia will stage a “The Price Is Right Live!” show at Harrah’s Reno casino and hotel beginning Sept. 25. The show, which is slated to run for 11 weeks, will be a reproduction of the televised show with the big difference being that audience members get a chance to win their way on stage and play. This is not the first time the two companies have worked together — Harrah’s previously agreed to add new “The Price Is Right” slot machines in markets where it operates gambling properties.

Alliance Atlantis May Spin Off Unit: Alliance Atlantis Communications, the television production company that co-produces “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “CSI: Miami,” is close to spinning off its movie distribution unit into an income trust, according to several press reports.

The move, which was first discussed during a conference call Monday by Chief Financial Officer Judson Martin, is a popular strategy of Canadian companies interested in maximizing yields in an environment in which interest rates are falling. The company is expected to take action next week, and could raise more than $350 million to put toward reducing its debt load as part of the spinoff. The movie distribution unit handles Canadian releases of films produced by Walt Disney Co.’s Miramax, AOL Time Warner’s New Line Cinema, Alliance itself, Artisan Entertainment, Focus Features and IFC Films.

Allen Shops TechTV: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is shopping around his TechTV cable channel, as the network that concentrates on high-tech consumer devices continues to struggle to make a profit and attract audiences, according to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal.

According to the report, Mr. Allen, through his Vulcan Ventures Inc. investment company, has approached Viacom and Sony Corp. about a possible sale. The channel is worth between $250 million and $300 million, the article said. Mr. Allen paid $320 million for TechTV in 2000 when he bought it from Ziff-Davis.

TechTV since May has been trying to figure out a strategy that would keep the channel going. It hired investment bankers Greenbridge Partners to search for investors.

A spokesman for Vulcan declined to comment on the possibility of the channel being sold.

‘Playmakers’ Scores Male Demos: ESPN’s first scripted dramatic series premiered Tuesday with a 2.4 rating (2 million households). The score was the highest-rated dramatic series premiere in 2003 on basic cable among all male demos – men 18-34 (2.09 rating), men 18-49 (2.18 rating) and men 25-54 (2.40 rating). “We’ve introduced a new genre to our audience that we think is gritty, thought-provoking and compelling, and we know the challenges that lie ahead,” said Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive VP, programming and production. “We’re very encouraged by this initial response.”

INHD to Debut Sept. 15: Major League Baseball games will be telecast in wide-screen, high-resolution format on iN Demand’s linear INHD network at the rate of approximately three live games per week starting Monday, Sept. 15-the day INHD debuts in several hundred thousand homes. Under the multiyear deal, viewers must reside outside the competing teams’ territorial broadcast areas to see the MLB on INHD high-definition telecasts.

In addition to MLB, INHD will also feature HD telecasts of college sports-including college football, basketball and hockey-and professional tennis, as well as movies and other entertainment programming.

Fox Wins Tuesday: Fox’s “The O.C.” continues to grow, with the fourth episode ranking as the No. 1 show of the night Tuesday in adults 18 to 49. “The O.C.” was first in its time slot in the demo with a 3.8 rating/11 share, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. That’s up 9 percent from a week ago. It picked up 24 percent more teen viewers than the week before, giving Fox its highest ratings in the time period among teens in more than five months.

Fox also debuted its new musical talent show, “Performing As,” at 8 p.m., but it didn’t fare as well. It scored a 2.9/10 in adults 18 to 49, finishing third in its time slot. CBS’s “Big Brother” won the 8 p.m. hour with a 3.3/11.

For the night, Fox won in adults 18 to 49 with a 3.4/10, followed by ABC and CBS (tied at 2.6/8) and NBC (2.5/8). In total viewers, Fox also won the night with 8 million, followed by NBC (7.1 million), ABC (7 million) and CBS (6.9 million).

iN Demand Honored for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive TV: iN Demand, NASCAR Digital Entertainment and Cablevision Systems Corp. won Emmys for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

iN Demand won Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television for a Single Program for its “NASCAR in Car” on iN Demand that allows digital cable subscribers to access video from seven in-car cameras for every NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. The Emmy went to Jeffrey Pollack and Paul Brooks of NASCAR Digital Entertainment and Robert Jacobson and Stacie Gray of iN Demand.

Cablevision Systems Corp. won the Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television for an Interactive TV Service for iO, its Interactive Optimum digital cable service. The Emmy went to Patricia Falese, senior VP, consumer product management and marketing; Ed McLaughlin, senior VP, systems integration; Brian Sweeney, senior VP, eMedia; and Kristin Dolan, senior VP, digital product management.

Winners were selected by a blue-ribbon jury made up of members of the Academy’s Interactive Media Peer Group. The awards will be presented at this year’s Primetime Emmy Creative Arts Awards ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

NBC Renews ‘Fear Factor’: NBC finalized a deal that had been in the works for months to renew “Fear Factor” for up to three more years. The renewal deal with producer Endemol USA covers the 2004-05 season with options for two more years, which would take it through the 2006-07 season. NBC Enterprises also acquired the off-network syndication rights to “Fear Factor.” While most reality shows don’t have much, if any, value in the syndication marketplace, “Fear Factor” is a self-contained show that repeats extremely well for NBC.

BellSouth, DirecTV Connect to Offer Package Services: Telephone company BellSouth said Tuesday it was teaming up with DirecTV to offer telephone, Internet and video services in a bundled package to BellSouth’s 45 million customers, in the latest alliance between a telephone company and a satellite operator designed to beat back the inroads made by the cable industry.

The new service, called BellSouth Answers, comes on the heels of similar pacts made earlier this summer by DirecTV and its chief competitor, EchoStar Communications, that use telephone companies’ huge customer bases to help expand the number of subscribers to satellite, and undercut the cable industry’s growth. Telephone companies, meanwhile, benefit by being able to bundle their high-speed data and telephony services with a video offering that they hope will staunch the number of customers canceling their phone service in favor of telephony offerings from the cable operators or choosing high-speed cable modems over telephone companies’ digital subscriber line (DSL) service.

As part of the BellSouth-DirecTV agreement, Atlant
a-based BellSouth starting early next year will bundle DirecTV’s video service with BellSouth’s product offering, consolidating the services into a single monthly bill sent out and collected by BellSouth. Initially, new satellite customers must have an antenna installed to pick up the satellite services. However, plans are underway to explore using BellSouth’s fiber optic network instead, the companies said.

Appeals Court Sets Sept. 3 Hearing on FCC Rules: The Federal Appeals Court in Philadelphia has scheduled oral arguments Sept. 3 on a request by Media Access Project to stay the Federal Communications Commission’s deregulation of its media ownership rules. The vast majority of requests to stay federal agency rulings are ultimately rejected by the courts.

But in a statement, Cheryl Leanza, MAP deputy director, said the court’s decision to hold a hearing demonstrated the “weighty nature of citizens’ requests that the rules be stayed.” Added Ms. Leanza, “As compared with the FCC, which has not even dignified repeated requests for a stay with a response, the federal court recognized rules of this magnitude should not necessarily go into effect while their legality is considered.” Without a stay, the rules will go into effect Sept. 4.

‘Hardball’ to Take a Swing at California Election: “Hardball With Chris Matthews” will originate live from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, Calif., from Labor Day through the California gubernatorial recall election Oct. 7. Mr. Matthews will cover all the aspects of the recall race and interview the candidates, consultants and others who make up the recall landscape on his MSNBC weeknight show.