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Dec 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Time Warner Cable Fires Back at AMC

Time Warner Cable on Thursday filed a counterclaim against American Movie Classics Co. in answer to a suit filed last month.

In its filing, TWC argues that the new American Movie Classics is a challenge to TWC’s “fundamental editorial role in choosing the nature of content provided through its cable service.”

Time Warner Cable spokesman Keith Cocozza said the company “can’t comment on matters in litigation.” AMC spokesperson Whit Clay described the TW suit as “an irrelevant smoke screen in the ongoing campaign to create phony leverage that doesn’t exist. Time Warner Cable is engaged in an illegal attempt to break its contract with AMC, which extends through 2008. We are confident we will win in the courts.”

The counterclaim asserts that AMC Co. “has transformed American Movie Classics from a classic film network consisting of older films primarily from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, to a new service increasingly focused on contemporary Hollywood movies and related programming. Even the name of the service has changed-from ‘American Movie Classics’ to ‘AMC: TV for Movie People.’ While the movies provided by the service were once exclusively classic films such as ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ (1947) and ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ (1942), AMC’s lineup now routinely features contemporary movies such as ‘Alien Resurrection’ (1997) and ‘Broken Arrow’ (1996).”

TWC charges that AMC wants to turn the carriage agreement into “little more than a generic ‘real estate’ lease of channel space over which AMCC can deliver any content it chooses. This is not the bargain that Time Warner Cable made with AMCC.”

AMC has previously vigorously denied the Time Warner claims.

AMC sued TWC for $250 million in November, charging that the cabler improperly announced termination of AMC’s carriage contract on the basis of changes made to its programming.

PGA to Honor Lorne Michaels: “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels will receive the 2004 David Susskind Acheivement Award in Television from the Producers Guild of America at the 15th Annual PGA Awards. The Awards take place on Saturday, Jan. 17 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. Mr. Michaels has been executive producer of “SNL” for its 28 years in existence, is an executive producer of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and has produced numerous feature films.

NBC Stations Pick up ‘Ellen’: As expected, the NBC O&O stations have picked up Telepictures’ “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for a sophomore run come next fall. The deal will include all of the 14 O&O stations and brings the clearance level for “Ellen” to more than 60 percent for its second season.

“‘Ellen’ has been a terrific addition to our lineup, and we are thrilled to have her back for another season,” said Jay Ireland, president of NBC Television Stations. “Her dynamic personality, wonderful sense of humor and ability to connect with the audience is the key to her success. The series is not only bringing more viewers to our stations, but has great demographics.”

“Ellen,” which debuted Sept. 8, averaged a 2.8 rating/8 share on the station group during the recently concluded November sweeps, improving time periods 22 percent in rating (2.3) and 14 percent in share (7) from November ’02 time period averages.

Asian Cable Net Planned: WorldAsia Television is in early negotiations with multiple system operators and satellite operators to find carriage for a mid-2004 launch. The network would become the nation’s first English-language Asian-themed channel, with programming topics, including yoga, holistic health, martial arts and anime. The network is founded by producer and venture capitalist Michael Tsang.

“For Asian Americans, WA-TV will fulfill a need to see Asian stars, families, situations, cultural references and even advertising on a single English-language network,” said Mr. Tsang, who is also the networks president and CEO. “For non-Asian viewers it will satisfy a growing interest in the most fascinating aspects of Asian culture and the popularity of films such as “Kill Bill” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to stars such as Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan.”

Adelstein Suggests Changes in FCC rules: Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein today suggested he might vote in favor of a proposal to change the agency’s must-carry rules and require cable operators to carry all of the free signals that broadcasters offer on their new digital channels. His approval would be predicated on broadcasters agreeing to a requirement that all qualified signals would include a local angle.

“With respect to carriage, broadcasters make the case that multicast carriage will further localism,” the commissioner said in a speech to media industry attorneys in Washington. “If so, there should be no reason why they cannot accept a localism requirement on all their digital program streams that gain the privilege of must-carry.”

Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, declined comment on whether NAB would support a formal government mandate. However, he said, “We think there will be an explosion of all types of programming, including local public interest programming, under digital multicasting.”

Mr. Adelstein’s comment is of particular interest in the carriage debate because two of his agency colleagues-Republicans Kevin Martin and Kathleen Abernathy-have signaled their support for a multicasting carriage requirement. If Mr. Adelstein can be persuaded to join them, broadcasters will have majority support in the agency.

Bronfmans Resign from Vivendi Board: Vivendi Universal said Thursday that Edgar Bronfman Jr. and his father Edgar M. Bronfman submitted their notices of resignation from the Franco-American conglomerate’s board of directors.

The moves by the father and son, whose family remains a major shareholder in the Paris-based company, follow the September announcement of the merger of Vivendi Universal Entertainment with General Electric’s NBC, and more recently, Edgar Bronfman Jr.’s successful bid for the music assets of Time Warner. Many of the assets that the Bronfmans contributed to VUE from their former Seagram Co., including the Universal film studio, will now be controlled by NBC.

The junior Mr. Bronfman decided to resign his board post and step down as vice chairman of Vivendi Universal “due to his participation in the acquisition of Warner Music,” Vivendi Universal said in a statement. Edgar Bronfman Jr. in May stepped down from his role as vice chairman to join an investor team that unsuccessfully bid on the VUE assets.

TNT to Air ‘The Grid’: TNT announced plans to air a new dramatic series, “The Grid,” starring Dylan McDermott and Julianna Margulies. Produced by TNT and the BBC, the series looks at the war on terror and is scheduled to premiere in summer 2004. Before “Grid,” TNT hadn’t developed a new original series since “Witchblade,” which was canceled last year. Another series it produced, “Breaking News,” wound up airing on Bravo.

‘Simple’ Soars for Fox: “The Simple Life” scored again for Fox as the highest-rated show Wednesday night in adults 18 to 49. “Simple” pulled a 6.5 rating/18 share, up 10 percent from its debut Tuesday night, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. It also won its 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. time slot in total viewers with 13.2 million.

“Simple” also helped boost its lead-out “The O.C.” to its highest adults 18 to 49 ratings ever with a 4.3/11, in second place behind ABC’s “Trista & Ryan’s Wedding” (5.9/15). It was a good night all around for Fox with “That ’70s Show” winning its time slot at 8 p.m. with a 4.8/14.

ABC had a solid young adults performance with “Wedding” and new entry “Extreme Home Makeover” at 10 p.m. “Extreme” won its time slot with a 5.6/15, becoming the first series to beat an original episode of NBC’s “Law & Order” in 31/2 years. “Law & Order” finished second with a 5.3/14.

For the night, Fox just edged out ABC for the 18 to 49 crown with a 5.0/14 to ABC’s 4.9/13. NBC was third with a 4.1/11, followed by CBS (3.1/9), The WB (1.4/4) and UPN (1.0/3). In total viewers, NB
C won the night with 13.5 million, followed by ABC (11.2 million), CBS (10.5 million), Fox (10.4 million), The WB (3.2 million) and UPN (2.2 million).

Cowell Takes on ‘World’: Acerbic “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell has signed to be the American judge for the “World Idol” competition. “World Idol,” in which winners of the U.S. and international “Idol” competitions compete against each other, will air on Fox Dec. 25 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Jan. 1 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.