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Oct 10, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Starz Encore’s Sie Applauds FCC Action on VOD

The fine print in the text of a Federal Communications Commission order released Thursday gives cable TV operators and satellite providers who offer subscription video-on-demand services the right to restrict-or even bar-consumer copying of programming. At least that was the interpretation being offered by John Sie, chairman and CEO of Starz Encore Group, in a statement Friday. “The FCC’s action represents a landmark victory for cable operators, satellite service providers and their customers,” Mr. Sie said. “Cable and satellite operators will choose whether to classify programs in this important new consumer platform as copy once or copy never.” The provision, according to Mr. Sie, was included in an order setting standards for the manufacture of digital-ready cable TV sets.

FCC Schedules Vote on Station Extensions: The Federal Communications Commission will vote Oct. 16 to decide what to do about the more than 150 commercial TV stations that failed to meet the FCC’s May 2002 deadline for launching digital television operations. The agency’s Media Bureau is said to be recommending that the commissioners reject the requests of some stations for renewal of their deadline extensions.

Under the FCC’s rules, commercial stations that don’t qualify for extensions could face punishment ranging from fines to license revocation.

Bay Sells TV Project to ABC: Feature film director Michael Bay has sold his first television project to ABC. Mr. Bay and writer Shane Salerno will develop a one-hour drama through Touchstone Television. The series will focus on a U.S. attorney who leaves Washington and returns to his hometown of Chicago to try to take down a criminal network headed by a kingpin he has known since childhood.

Mr. Salerno will create and write the pilot, which Mr. Bay likely will direct. Mr. Bay and Mr. Salerno first worked together on the film “Armageddon.” Mr. Salerno’s previous TV credit was as the co-creator, executive producer and showrunner of NBC’s “UC: Undercover.”

FCC Wants More Info on News Corp.-DirecTV: The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that it is seeking more information and additional time to deliberate with the Department of Justice before completing review of News Corp.’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV.

The FCC had yet to announce what new information it wants the companies to provide. But the agency said it is stopping its usual 180-day shot-clock on merger reviews pending review of the new information.

“Once we have received an adequate response to that request and completed our discussions with the Department of Justice, we will restart the clock,” said Ken Ferree, FCC media bureau chief, in a letter to the companies. The agency shot clock for the DirecTV deal was on day 149 Friday. If the FCC had not stopped the clock, the review normally would have been expected to be completed next month.

NBC Wins Thursday in Adult Demo: NBC won last night in adults 18 to 49, while CBS took total viewers on a Thursday night with the added competition of Fox’s postseason baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

NBC seemed to be hit the hardest with its entire lineup down week –to -week. However, “Friends” (9.8/28 and 21.1 million viewers) and “ER” (9.2/23 and 19.9 million total viewers) both won their time slots in adults 18 to 49 and total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

The second half of “Survivor” won the 8:30 p.m. time slot in adults 18 to 49 (8.2/21) and total viewers (21 million), while “CSI” steamrolled over the 9 p.m. hour, beating “Will & Grace”/”Coupling” by 43 percent in adults 18 to 49 and by 13.2 million total viewers. At 10 p.m., “ER” dominated in adults 18 to 49, but only 3 million total viewers separated the two shows.

While baseball took a bite out of some series last night (final baseball numbers won’t be available until later today), ABC also showed some life last night with “Extreme Makeover” at 9 p.m. “Extreme” finished fourth but delivered a 3.2/8 rating in adults 18 to 49 and 8.6 million total viewers. That matched its best 18 to 49 performance and is its best total viewer performance in its Thursday time slot.

For the night, NBC won in adults 18 to 49 with an 8.2/21, followed by CBS (7.5/19), Fox (4.4/11), ABC (2.8/7), UPN (2.0/5) and The WB (0.9/2). In total viewers, CBS was tops with 20.8 million, followed by NBC (17.1 million), Fox (12.2 million), ABC (8.3 million), UPN (5.1 million) and The WB (2.6 million). (Note: Fox’s numbers are not time-zone-adjusted for baseball and will change when nationals are available. However, its position for the night should stay the same).

‘Keen Eddie’ Team Reunites for ABC Show: ABC has bought a detective dramedy project from the team behind Fox’s canceled summer series “Keen Eddie.” The project, called “Joe Green and Eugene,” was created by J.H. Wyman and will star Mark Valley, who played the lead character in “Keen Eddie.” Mr. Wyman will executive produce the show with his “Eddie” colleagues Warren Littlefield and Simon West.

Several networks were interested in the show, but the producers ultimately decided to go with ABC.

“One of the keys is they are a 22-hour network,” Mr. Littlefield said. “It looks like they are going to continue to have needs on the hour side. They were really passionate for it. We felt we had a great opportunity there. They were really favorable in the way they responded to ‘Keen Eddie.’ When the show was on the air there they really made a point of letting us know just how much they thought about the show.”

The deal for the hour-long project has penalties attached if ABC chooses not to make a pilot of the show.

The show revolves around Joe Green, an L.A. detective, played by Mr. Valley, who becomes woefully encumbered when his inept brother Eugene arrives from Philadelphia to be a part of his life. “It’s a story about brothers and a story about family and about reconnecting,” Mr. Wyman said.

Mr. Wyman said he had Mr. Valley in mind when he was creating the project. “The consensus is we all think he’s a star,” Mr. Wyman said. “We felt somebody is going to reap the benefits of our hard work and someone’s going to come and make him a star on some other show [if we don’t do it first].”

Thom Sherman, senior VP of drama series at ABC, said the network was attracted to the auspices of the show and the concept focusing on a relationship between brothers. “We love Joel’s work in features and we were big fans of his work on ‘Keen Eddie.’ We just think he’s a monster talent. Simon West is a fantastic director and also a monster talent, and Mark Valley we’ve been huge fans of for a long time, going to back to his role on [canceled ABC drama] ‘Once and Again.'”

Paramount and Mr. Wyman’s Frequency Films shingle will produce the show in association with The Littlefield Co. and Simon West Productions. The series was packaged by CAA, ICM and Endeavor.

GE Reports Third Quarter Results: NBC parent General Electric on Friday reported an 11 percent drop in third-quarter profit, as mounting raw materials costs and slower sales at its plastics division more than offset strong results at the broadcast network and its insurance business, GE Insurance. At the same time, GE lowered its fourth-quarter and full-year outlook.

The Fairfield, Conn.-based conglomerate reported a third-quarter profit of $3.65 billion, or 36 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $4.09 billion, or 41 cents a share. Revenue during the period rose by 2 percent to $33.4 billion.

The earnings report came on the heels of GE’s announcement Wednesday that it was merging NBC with Vivendi Universal Entertainment in a $14 billion all-stock deal that will create a media giant with television, film and cable assets. The company also announced Friday that its medical systems unit was buying British medical company Amersham for $9.5 billion in stock.

Company officials said eight of its 13 businesses reported revenue growth in the quarter, with NBC coming in as one of the stronger performers behind GE’s consumer finance and spec
ialty materials units.

For the period, NBC generated a 31 percent increase in profit to $431 million and an 11 percent jump in revenue to $1.5 billion. The company noted that in the 2002 quarter, NBC took charges related to its broadcast of NASCAR events and for its acquisition of the cable channel Bravo.

Meanwhile, GE trimmed its fourth-quarter per-share earnings projection to between 45 cents and 47 cents from previous guidance of 46 cents to 49 cents, while full-year guidance was lowered to $1.55 to $1.57 from earlier estimates of $1.55 to $1.61.

Fox Renews ‘That ’70s Show’: Fox has renewed “That ’70s Show” for a seventh season. The new deal with producer Carsey-Werner-Mandabach will keep the show on the air through the 2004-05 season. All the major cast members are already signed for a seventh season. When “American Idol” joined Fox’s schedule in January, “’70s Show” moved to Wednesday nights and saw its ratings increase. Last season, “’70s Show” averaged a 5.3 rating in adults 18 to 49, up10 percent from the previous year, and 10.4 million total viewers, up 15 percent.