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Oct 15, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Cablevision Launches HD Satellite Service

Cablevision Systems on Wednesday officially rolled out its national high-definition satellite service Voom, in a bet that the cable operator can tap into a burgeoning segment of the television-viewing community that is expected to own high-definition television sets.

The service will offer 39 high-definition channels along with 88 standard-definition channels in an attempt to snag a chunk of what Cablevision projects will be 40 million customers with HDTV sets in a few years. Cablevision is the first satellite operator to offer a high-definition-centric programming service, the company said.

Cablevision officials said the satellite service will be available both online at www.voom.com and through more than 1,600 Sears stores nationwide. Charter members will pay no monthly fee for the first few months, with plans to charge $39.90 a month starting in February 2004. There is a one-time installation cost of $749.99 for a professional installation of an 18-inch satellite dish, digital off-air antenna and set-top box and remote.

Voom’s launch caps a years-long effort to introduce a satellite service, and cost nearly $500 million in capital and marketing costs. The company declined to say how many customers it needed to break even or when the service would turn a profit.

Cablevision said in June that it planned to spin off its satellite and movie-theater chain into a separate company by year-end. The company is also betting its service will be expanding, having applied in August for five satellite orbital slots and receiving approval for four already.

NBC Increases Stake in German News Channel: Looking to expand its footprint overseas, NBC has purchased a majority stake in Germany’s Deutsche Fernsehnachrichten Agentur, a television news agency, giving the U.S. broadcaster control of a leading channel in the German television market.

Terms of the equity purchase were not disclosed. NBC bought the stake with German investor Helmut Keiser, and now has a 63.4 percent stake in DFA.

Before this week’s move, NBC had a small stake in DFA and worked with the German network for the past five years on NBC Europe, which produces programming for the German market.

Steinlauf Upped at Scripps: Jon Steinlauf has been promoted to senior VP, ad sales, of Scripps Networks Advertising Sales Group, from VP, ad sales. The new post reflects the expansion of the Scripps Networks Advertising Group into generating revenue from video-on-demand, broadband and the Shop at Home network.

‘5th Wheel’ Announces Text Messaging Promo: Universal Domestic Television’s dating show “The 5th Wheel” has announced a “watch-and-win” text messaging promotion. The promotion encourages viewers to volunteer their cellphone numbers to receive program announcements. In exchange, the viewers are eligible to receive prizes, including a new Porsche Boxster. For the campaign, Universal is partnering with messaging management company m-Qube. A similar promotion was recently launched by “All My Children” during its “Sexiest Man in America” contest.

NFL Hires Business Development Executive: NFL Network, about three weeks away from its Nov. 4 launch, said today it has hired Brian Rolapp as director of distribution finance and strategy.

Mr. Rolapp will be responsible for the financial facets of NFL Network’s distribution agreement, from the formulation of a distribution strategy to the structuring of affiliate deals. He will also develop new distribution services, including video-on-demand and high-definition television.

Mr. Rolapp joins the network from NBC, where he served as director of business development and worked on a raft of recent NBC transactions, including the merger of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, the network’s relationship with the Arena Football League and the business plan for Telemundo’s mun2 cable channel.

Showtime to Develop Jayson Blair Film: Showtime is planning a film it says will be a “dark comedy” exploring the story of Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who fabricated stories. The film is being written by Jon Maas, who will also serve as executive producer and is based in part on articles written by former Newsweek reporter Seth Mnookin.

NBC News Gets Priority Use of CRP Database: Effective immediately, NBC News has a first-priority arrangement with the Center for Responsive Politics to use CRP’s extensive database to provide on-demand, targeted research and database analysis to the network news division’s programs and outlets, the two organizations announced Wednesday.

CRP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides analysis of campaign contributions and their impact on federal elections and public policy to a wide variety of media.

“With this new arrangement, CRP and NBC News are uniquely positioned to track money and its essential role in the political process,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, executive producer of NBC’s “Decision 2004” coverage. “The viewer cannot understand what is happening in this election without understanding where the money comes from and where it ends up.”

The announcement came a day after the Bush-Cheney campaign released information on its record fundraising efforts that amassed almost $50 million for the third quarter — more than a presidential candidate may spend in all the primaries and remain eligible for federal matching funds — and more than $80 million for the year to date.

The deadline for filing quarterly reports is midnight Wednesday.

CBS Intros ITV With ‘CSI: Miami’: CBS took its first step into prime-time interactivity with a two-screen ITV application in conjunction with hit show “CSI: Miami” on Monday nights. The network introduced an interactive component to the show on CBS.com that allows viewers to play along with the episode in real time for the chance to win weekly prizes such as a DVD player and a walk-on role in the show. CBS said it’s the only interactive drama series on network TV. American Express sponsors the interactivity, which is powered by leading ITV company GoldPocket Interactive. The interactive features include a “Weekly Web Investigation” that tests investigation skills, a “Crack the Case” feature with questions revolving around the night’s episode and an “Evidence Tracker,” which files clues.