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Dec 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Starz Launches Kids Channel

At the Western Show on Wednesday, Starz Encore Group announced the launch of a movie channel aimed at ages 2 to 11. Called Starz! Kids, the channel will show G and PG-rated movies, commercial free, as part of its existing premium channel package.

“We are privileged to enjoy and unparalleled inventory of films geared for young viewers, particularly with our recent addition of exclusive first-run animated Disney movies,” said Robert Leighton, president of Starz Encore.

‘Bachelorette’s’ Trista Sued by Manager: “Bachelorette” Trista Rehn is being sued by her manager for commissions he claims are owed to him. Filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Nov. 19, manager Kevin Allyn is asking the court to award him at least $200,000. In the complaint, Mr. Allyn said he advised Ms. Rehn in her deal with ABC to televise her wedding to Ryan Sutter. ABC agreed to pay Ms. Rehn $1 million to broadcast her wedding.

Mr. Allyn claims she never paid him the 20 percent commission he is owed on that money, though she has paid him commissions for other projects she has participated in. The lawsuit asks for $200,000 plus punitive damages.

Comcast to Sell Shares in Liberty: Cable giant Comcast reached an agreement Wednesday with John Malone’s Liberty Media under which Comcast will sell 100 million shares of Liberty stock for $894 million.

As part of the transaction, Liberty, which has been keen on pumping up its stock price in recent months through stock buybacks, agreed to repurchase 25 million shares.

Comcast’s decision to monetize part of its stake in Liberty comes as Comcast looks to pay down debt incurred with its November 2002 acquisition of AT&T Broadband. Comcast received 217.7 million Liberty shares in September as part of its $7.9 billion sale of a 56.5 percent stake in shopping channel QVC to Liberty.

Dean Vows to Break Up Media Conglomerates: Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean is vowing that if he wins his race for the White House he will break up the nation’s major media conglomerates. “We’re going to break up giant media enterprises,” Dr. Dean said in a Dec. 1 interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” According to Dr. Dean’s analysis, the Bush administration and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell have paved the way for far too much consolidation in the industry. “What we’re going to do is say that media enterprises can’t be as big as they are today,” Dr. Dean said. Dr. Dean also said the concept of allowing one media company to control several media outlets in a single community runs afoul of democratic principles. “If the state has an interest, which it does, in preserving democracy, then there has to be a limitation on how deeply the media companies can penetrate every single community,” he said. “Eleven companies in this country control 90 percent of what ordinary people are able to read and watch on their television.

That’s wrong. We need to have a wide variety of opinions in every community.” Continued Dr. Dean, “What I’m going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.”

‘The Reagans’ Scores for Showtime: “The Reagans” was Showtime’s highest-rated original movie in two years, since it telecast “The Day Reagan Was Shot,” according to the network. The cable net declined to provide precise audience figures from Nielsen Media Research, but claimed the new movie, which it acquired after CBS dropped it amid controversy, drew twice the network’s usual prime-time audience.

According to Nielsen figures furnished by a source said that Showtime registered a 3.7 Nielsen rating and 5 share in its universe of about 12 million subscribers. “The Reagans” aired opposite the finale of HBO’s “Carnivale,” which drew 3.5 million viewers and a 7.4 rating and 10 share within HBO’s universe of about 27 million households. The previous week, “Carnivale” drew its second-biggest audience with an 8.5/12.

MSOs Talk Strategy at Western Show: At the final Western Show, a panel of multiple system operator heavyweights weighed in about the future of the cable industry in the face of increasing competition. Though all agreed that satellite providers are major threats, they emphasized that the technical capabilities of the cable platform give them a long-term advantage — if they can get their collective act together enough to educate consumers.

“There needs to be more discussion about the strengths of our video business. We’re going to have VOD and HD and all these things in our bundle that [satellite] has a tough time delivering,” said Carl Vogel, president and CEO of Charter Communications.

Discussion of the satellite threat has been heightened this year due to News Corp.’s impending purchase of DirecTV. Tom Rutledge, president of Cablevision Systems, said Rupert Murdoch’s presence doesn’t change cable’s mandate.

“Obviously [Mr. Murdoch] is an excellent programmer and he’s been successful at building media platforms around the world,” Mr. Rutledge said. “But the cable network we’ve built is superior to satellite — we just have a lot of problems explaining the technology to customers.”

Added Time Warner Cable Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt: “We have a reputation of having bad service and a worse platform than satellite. … It’s easier to get a bad reputation than a good one.”

The executives cited the need to continue strengthening ties with retailers and improving marketing efforts as the best methods for reversing satellite churn.”You’re going to go to into Circuit City and buy a panel with high definition and we’re in 4,000 stores with the salesman,” said Brian Roberts, president and CEO of Comcast. “We’re going to give you reasons to come back. We’re going to say, ‘Here’s the Super Bowl in hi-def.'”

One lighter moment at the session occurred when moderator Larry King asked the panel how MSOs are dealing with the rising cost of carrying ESPN.

Bill Schleyer, chairman and CEO of Adelphia Communications, quipped: “We have uniquely solved the sports-pricing problem by declaring bankruptcy.”

‘Simple’ Boosts Fox to Nightly Demo Win: Fox’s “The Simple Life” debuted Tuesday as the highest-rated show of the night in adults 18 to 49. It scored a 5.9 rating/16 share in adults 18 to 49, easily winning its 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. time slot by 37 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

“Simple” drew 13 million viewers, which is more than tuned in to see the first episode of NBC’s “Average Joe” (12.5 million) or ABC’s “The Bachelor” (11.2 million). “Simple” finished second in total viewers in its time slot to the second half-hour of CBS’s “JAG.”

Other new shows debuting last night didn’t fare as well. New NBC sitcom “The Tracy Morgan Show” had a fairly solid 4.1/12 in the demo from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. but finished second to ABC’s “Charlie Brown Christmas” special (4.3/13).

The second episode at 8:30 to 9 p.m. dropped to a third-place 3.8/10 in the demo. The first episode of “Tracy” pulled 10 million viewers and the second had 8.8 million. The two episodes of “Tracy” did give NBC its second-highest 18 to 49 ratings in the 8 p.m. hour all season.

ABC’s new drama “Line of Fire” premiered in “NYPD Blue’s” 10 p.m. time slot, finishing third in adults 18 to 49 (3.1/8) and total viewers (9.3 million) against NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” and CBS’s movie “Miss Congeniality.” “Fire” did have a strong showing in the male demos.

For the night, Fox won in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.5/12, followed by NBC (4.3/11), ABC (3.9/10), CBS (3.4/9), UPN (1.2/3) and The WB (1.0/3). In total viewers, CBS won with 12.6 million, followed by NBC (11 million), Fox (10.4 million), ABC (10.2 million), The WB (3 million) and UPN (2.8 million).

Fuel Gets Charter, Cox Distribution Deals: Charter Communications and Cox Communications have entered into distribution agreements to carry Fuel, the new 24-hour extreme sports service launched in July by Fox Cable Networks. Fuel also scored a carriage agreement with Cebridge Connections, an MSO that includes the former Classic Cable systems.

Kay Jewelers, Disco
ver to Sponsor TNT Christmas Special: Kay Jewelers and Discover Card have signed on as sponsors for TNT’s annual “Christmas in Washington” special. TNT’s annual holiday concert event, now in its 22nd year, will premiere Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. (ET). President and Mrs. George W. Bush are scheduled to be among the honored guests for the hour-long holiday concert, which benefits the Children’s National Medical Center.

Cox Continues Carriage of Fox’s Regional Sports: Cox Communications and Fox Cable Networks have reached an agreement that will keep the Fox regional sports networks on Cox systems for six years. Cox, which has been complaining about the high cost of sports programming, had threatened to remove the networks from its channel lineups as soon as January. Terms of the deal, which covers 3.3 million subscribers, were not disclosed. “This agreement is a fair deal for our customers as well as for both Cox and Fox,” said Bob Wilson, Cox VP of programming, in a statement.

Lifetime Renews ‘Strong Medicine’: Lifetime Television has renewed its original drama series “Strong Medicine” for a fifth season of 22 episodes. The network plans to run “Strong Medicine” as a Monday-to-Friday strip, the first time a cable original series has been sold as a strip.