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Oct 1, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Showtime to Launch HD Version of The Movie Channel

In an expected move, Showtime Networks said it will launch a high-definition version of The Movie Channel on Dec. 1. The HD channel will carry the East Coast feed of the movie service in the 1080i HD format.

Titles airing in December in HD include “Bandits,” “Hardball,” “Novocaine,” “Rollerball,” “Sidewalks of New York” and “What’s the Worst that Could Happen?” TMC HD will offer 75 percent of its prime-time programming in what it calls “true” HD format and the remainder will be upconverted to HD.

Showtime Networks said content upconverted into HD from standard definition is virtually indistinguishable from native HDTV. The content company began offering flagship channel Showtime in HD in January 2000.

SÌ TV Adds 3: SÌ TV has announced the production of a new original new program and has licensed two others: “Fly Paper: Fashion That Sticks,” “Urban Latino” and “Malcolm & Eddie” will make their debut when the net lauches in Feburary, 2004.

“We continue to build a matrix of programming that appeals to young Latino viewers as well as those crossover audiences who enjoy English-language, Latino-targeted entertainment,” said Jeff Valdez, SÌ TV co-chairman.

SÌ TV also recently announced that Time Warner and Cox Communications have agreed to carry the net.

Three Big Studios Return to NATPE Floor: The NATPE floor just got a lot more crowded. The National Association of Television Program Executives announced today that three heavy hitters will return to the floor of its convention in January after a two-year leave in which they held business in hotel suites. Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, CBS Enterprises (which includes King World) and Universal Domestic and International will join Sony and NBC Enterprises on the floor of the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas.

Still on the fence, according to insiders, are Twentieth Television, Paramount and Tribune, while Warner Bros. and Buena Vista will likely remain in the suites.

“I am gratified to have these major players in program distribution agree to exhibit on our conference floor at the Sands in January,” said Rick Feldman, president and CEO of NATPE. “Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, CBS International, King World and Universal Television Distribution join a growing list of exhibitors at NATPE that are key to both domestic and international buyers. I’d like to thank these companies for showing their support of the organization and we will work extremely hard to help their investment pay off.”

“As staunch supporters of NATPE for many years, we are pleased to do whatever we can to make the 2004 convention a major success,” said Roger King, CEO of CBS Enterprises. “We are looking forward to being back on the floor and are preparing to once again make a major statement to our colleagues and clients at the convention.”

The conference will be held January 18-20, 2004, in Las Vegas.

Deborah Potter Named RTNDF Executive Director: Former CBS News and CNN correspondent Deborah Potter was named Wednesday as executive director of the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation, replacing Rosalind Stark, who is retiring later this month.

Ms. Potter joins the RTNDF from NewsLab, a Washington-based nonprofit that focuses on journalism research and training, where she was executive director. She also taught journalism at American University and was a faculty associate at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Before that, she held several correspondent roles at CNN and CBS News.

ABC Sitcoms Keep on Rolling: ABC won the night in adults 18 to 49 last night but was edged out by CBS in total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

While down from last week’s premiere numbers, ABC continued to see stellar ratings for “8 Simple Rules,” which scored a time slot-winning 6.1/19 in adults 18 to 49. It also won the time slot in total viewers with 15.5 million.

New sitcom “I’m With Her” won its time slot in the demo by 63 percent with a 5.2/15 and retained 85 percent of its lead-in audience. “According to Jim” beat NBC’s “Frasier” in the demo, 5.4/14 to 4.7/12. The season premiere of “Good Morning, Miami” pulled decent numbers for NBC with a second-place 4.3/11 in its time slot. It retained 91 percent of “Frasier’s” 18 to 49 audience.

At 10 p.m., NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” won the hour with a 4.8/13 in adults 18 to 49. It finished second in total viewers to CBS’s “Judging Amy.” CBS’s three dramas finished fourth in their time slots in adults 18 to 49, but in total viewers “Navy NCIS” finished second and “The Guardian” and “Amy” finished first.

Fox aired the first game of the Major League Baseball playoffs, between the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. The game was up 11 percent over the first game last year, between the Anaheim Angels and New York Yankees, according to Nielsen overnight data. The game scored an 8.9 overnight rating and 14 share. It was the best baseball playoff opener for Fox since 1998.

For the night, according to fast affiliate data, ABC won in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.9/13, followed by NBC (4.1/11), Fox (3.9/11), CBS (2.7/7), UPN (1.4/4) and The WB (1.3/3). In total viewers, CBS won the night with 11.8 million, followed by ABC (11.7 million), Fox (10.4 million), NBC (10.2 million), The WB (3.5 million) and UPN (3.3 million). Fox numbers will change when national numbers are available because fast affiliates are not time zone adjusted for the live sporting event.

Green Named ABC’s Late-Night VP: Danielle Greene was named VP of late-night at ABC Television. She will oversee late-night entertainment programming, mostly focusing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Previously, Ms. Greene was head of comedy and alternative development at UPN.

Liberty Acquires News Corp. ADRs: Liberty Media on Wednesday exercised its right to acquire $500 million worth of News Corp. preferred American depository receipts, a move that will help News Corp. finance its $6.6 billion purchase of a controlling interest in DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics.

Per the terms of the sale, whose structure was agreed to in March, Liberty will pay $21.50 for each preferred ADR. The price represents a more than 21 percent discount of the ADRs’ Tuesday closing price of $27.29. News Corp. expects the transaction to close within two weeks.

Following the sale Liberty will have another 23.3 million ADRs, boosting its stake in News Corp. to 93 million shares and bringing its controlling economic interest in the company to 20 percent.

News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch holds a 19 percent economic interest in the company, though he controls 31 percent of the voting shares.

Viacom Productions Promotes Three: Viacom Productions on Wednesday promoted Susan Edelist to senior VP of business affairs, Pamela Soper to VP of creative affairs and Dave Watson to VP of production at the production company responsible for television such series as “Ed” on NBC, “The Handler” on CBS and “The Division” on Lifetime.

Ms. Edelist joined the company in April 2002 from Big Ticket Television, where she was VP of business affairs. In her new role she will oversee business affairs activities for television series and movies.

Ms. Soper has been with Viacom Productions off and on since the 1990s, having worked as a manager of creative affairs until 1995, when she left to work in feature films. She returned to the company in 1999 as a creative affairs consultant. In her new role, she will oversee current comedy and drama projects and work on select development projects.

Mr. Watson joined the company in 1989 as a production estimator, becoming a production executive in 1997. In his new role he will oversee production on television series and movies.

Vivendi Holding Talks to Sell Cable Channel to Al Gore: Vivendi Universal is in talks with an investor team led by former Vice President Al Gore to sell the conglomerate’s Newsworld International cable network for $70 million, according to a report in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.

The channel, which reaches fewer than 20 million U.S. households and features newscasts from all over the world, was not included in Vi
vendi’s deal with General Electric’s NBC, which will fold most of Vivendi’s U.S. entertainment assets with those of NBC. The NBC-Vivendi deal is expected to be finalized this week or the beginning of next week.

A Vivendi spokeswoman declined to comment further on the status of the talks.

The Journal reported that the sale would cap months of searching by Mr. Gore’s group for a cable property. The article said Mr. Gore looked at Tech TV, the cable channel owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has met with executives at cable giant Comcast and is interested in meeting with officials at Time Warner.

Citing a person familiar with Mr. Gore’s plans, the report said the team is interested in owning a channel that would target younger audiences with a combination of news and documentaries.

Newsworld launched in 1994 by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp and has had several owners over the years. Barry Diller acquired the channel three years ago along with arts channel Trio, both of which were sold to Vivendi. The article said the channel this year is expected to generate $19 million in revenue and negative cash flow of $20 million.

Powell Announces FCC Plans for Community Hearings: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell today announced agency plans to hold a series of hearings across the country to determine how well broadcasters are meeting their obligation to serve their local communities. At a press briefing this morning, Mr. Powell said the FCC was still deliberating over details of the hearings. But he said they will be part of an agency inquiry on localism that is expected to be officially launched soon.

In addition, he said the hearings would be scheduled to coincide with broadcast license renewals in a region and that the first in the series would be held later this month. A key goal of the hearings, he said, will be to listen to the concerns that consumers may have about the performance of broadcasters in their communities. “It is meant to listen to their concerns,” Mr. Powell said. The chairman originally announced his intent to launch an inquiry on localism in July.

At the time, he said, the issues to be teed up would include the FCC’s licensing renewal procedures, which critics have charged are so lax they result in virtually automatic renewals. “At the moment, nothing is off the table,” Mr. Powell said.

Today Mr. Powell also warned that the inquiry could result in new regulations. “I have no problem with it resulting in rules if they’re suggested by what we learn,” he said. He also said details about the scope of the proposed inquiry would be distributed to his agency colleagues this week that will “suggest important areas of inquiry about whether there should be either enhancements or improved rules.”