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Jan 20, 2004  •  Post A Comment

UPN Sixth Night of Programming Under Consideration

Optimism about ground gained emanated from the weekend UPN affiliates advisory board gathering in Las Vegas, where CBS President Leslie Moonves, who oversees UPN, said expansion to a sixth night of programming will not happen until all signs say the time is right.

“The pieces are falling into place,” said UPN board chairman and Lockwood Broadcast Group President Dave Hanna. “It’s not if but when.”

“UPN feels more like a first-class network than ever before,” Mr. Moonves said.

The return of “America’s Top Model” — which boosted Mr. Hanna’s WUPV-TV to No. 2 in the time period in Richmond, Va. — the performance of UPN’s Friday night movies, Monday and Tuesday night lineups and the stability of the recently renewed “WWE Smackdown” are among the reasons he is optimistic that growth and expansion will continue.

Another reason: “[Viacom Chief Operating Officer] Mel Karmazin didn’t buy this network intending to lose money,” Mr. Hanna said.

NBC Execs, Affils Discuss Varied Topics: Digital must-carry and network-local partnerships, the transition from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams as “NBC Nightly News” anchor and this year’s Summer Olympics in Athens were among the topics discussed in a meeting of the NBC affiliates advisory board and NBC executives in Las Vegas over the weekend.

About 70 percent of the network inventory in the Games is sold, NBC Television Network Group President Randy Falco said. He said that adds up to some $700 million.

With no official date identified for Mr. Brokaw to step back from the “Nightly” desk after the presidential election in November, the discussion centered on how affiliates can work with the network to call attention to the milestone, with on-air promos and perhaps even appearances by Mr. Brokaw in their local markets.

“We’re very enthusiastic,” said Roger Ogden, the affiliate board chairman and president and general manager of Gannett-owned KUSA-TV in Denver.

As for plans to jointly develop projects using local stations’ digital spectrum, Mr. Falco and Mr. Ogden agreed digital must-carry rules, which have been described as essential if digital channels are to become financially viable, certainly would be nice-in fact, the NBC affiliates board has lobbied the Federal Communications Commission. But both also indicated that the lack of a mandate to carry all of a station’s signals on local cable might not kill a project they really believe in.

“If [cable companies] don’t buy in, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad business,” said Mr. Falco, who said distribution comes in “many forms.”

Ownership Cap Vote Effort Fails: In a surprise blow to compromise legislation that would set the cap on national TV ownership at 39 percent of the nation’s TV homes, the Senate this afternoon refused to clear the way for a vote on a massive appropriations bill that includes the cap provision-putting the cap’s prospects in at least temporary limbo. The White House and Senate GOP leaders had agreed to set the cap at 39 percent, with the blessing of the National Association of Broadcasters and the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance. But to clear the way for a vote on the measure, the White House needed the support of 60 Senators.

In the largely partisan vote today, the GOP mustered only 48 votes, with 45 lawmakers in opposition. Barry Piatt, a spokesman for Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said the vote offered an opportunity for the cap to be renegotiated and rolled back to 35 percent, which Sen. Dorgan advocates. “This is a victory for those who want to go back to 35 percent,” Mr. Piatt said. But other sources said the vote was at most a temporary setback to the cap compromise, a blatant effort to embarrass President Bush on the evening of his State of the Union address. “Ultimately, we’ll see that [the 39 percent cap] gets passed,” said an attorney for the affiliates.

A Senate GOP source said another vote was expected this week-perhaps Thursday. Among the Senate Republicans voting against the GOP leadership’s position were Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., also voted against the GOP position in what sources said was a parliamentary move that clears the way for him to bring the measure up for another vote.

CBS ‘Scrooge’ Remake Planned for Christmas ’04: A tuneful $12 million, three-hour remake of “Scrooge” is being readied for CBS for Christmas 2004 by The Hatchery and Leslie Bricusse, who received two Oscar nominations for his 1970 film musical, “Scrooge,” starring Albert Finney in the title role. Mr. Bricusse is writing the script and new music.

Hatchery partners Margaret Loesch and Bruce Stein and Mr. Bricusse are executive producers of “Scrooge,” along with Dan Angel and Billy Brown, Emmy winners for “Door to Door.” Production is expected to begin in June in Ireland.

“Leslie Bricusse is one of the great songwriters of our time with an array of memorable music and lyrics in his four-decade career,” Ms. Loesch said. “Scrooge is truly one of the most beloved characters in literature. Leslie’s wondrous musical adaptation of this treasured story — and his new original material in this version — will make it a family classic all over again.”

TV Guide Channel to Reach 70 Million Subscribers: TV Guide Channel said today that with its Jan. 23 launch on DirecTV, it will have nearly 70 million subscribers. The channel today also re-launched with new programming and graphics.

The centerpiece of the new programming is the hour-long “What’s On,” which will be updated hourly during prime time with show reviews. “What’s On,” hosted by Lesley Ann Machado, is part of a plan to use longer-form programming. The channel has also changed the color scheme of its scrolling listings to titanium, red and white.

HDNet Partners With Adelphia: HDNet has added another cable operator to its roster of cable partners with the news that Adelphia will carry HDNet and HDNet Movies. Adelphia is currently rolling out HDTV in several markets and will be adding the two Mark Cuban HD channels in the near future, according to HDNet.

HD service is available to more than half of Adelphia’s customers. HDNet has been picking up carriage on more cable operators and announced late last year that Time Warner Cable would carry its networks. HDNet is slated to announce another cable carriage deal later this week with Mediacom.

Discovery HD Theater to Offer Super Bowl Alternative Programs: Discovery HD Theater plans to offer a Super Bowl alternative Feb. 2 called “Super Bowl Showcase: The Xs and Os of HD.” The lineup includes a host of nonsports entertainment, all in HD, including a sneak peek into Discovery’s “Arctic Mission,” an HD series that starts Feb. 24 and explores the Arctic.

Other HD shows slated for Super Bowl Sunday are: “Dinosaur Planet: White Tip’s Journey,” “South Georgia Island: Life Under the Furious Fifties,” “XMA: Xtreme Martial Arts” and “Dinosaur Planet: Pod’s Travels.” Discovery HD is also offering a “Viewer’s Choice” component in which viewers can visit dhd.discovery.com/convergence/viewerschoice/viewerschoice.html and vote for one of six HD programs for Discovery to air at 9 p.m. that night.

ABC News to Broadcast State of the Union in HD: ABC News plans to broadcast the State of the Union address tonight in high-definition for the first time. ABC is handling pool coverage of the event for the others networks, CBS, NBC and Fox, which also plan to carry the broadcast in HD. ABC said it’s the first time the State of the Union has been carried in HD on any network.

Brokaw Honored at Museum of Television Gala: Tom Brokaw, who will turn over his “NBC Nightly News” anchor desk to Brian Williams in late November or early December, will be honored for his body of work at the annual gala of the Museum of Television in New York Thursday, Feb. 19.

“Tom Brokaw has been providing viewers with outstanding reporting of current events for nearly 40 years,” commented Museum Chairman Frank Bennack Jr. “The Museum is pleased to recognize the insight, integrity and ability of one of today’s most distinguished journalists
and celebrate his extraordinary career at NBC.”

Telepictures in Discussion About Elder Talk Show: In a potential deal that surprises many syndication insiders, Telepictures is said to be in serious negotiations with the CBS owned-and-operated stations to carry the upcoming Larry Elder talk show.

Sources say the deal is being ironed out, and speculation is that the show may be picked up to replace King World’s “Living It Up! With Ali & Jack” if that series does not come back for a second season.

Telepictures is also said to be close to a deal with the Tribune stations for a Steve Harvey talk show project.

At the National Association Television Program Executives convention in Las Vegas, a Telepictures spokesperson would not comment on any potential negotiations between CBS and Telepictures.

Lifetime Kicks Off Campaign with Candidates Forum: Lifetime Television will kick off its election-year advocacy campaign, “Our Lifetime Commitment: Every Woman Counts” with a one-hour candidates forum in New Hampshire on Jan. 25, two days before that state’s presidential primary.

Lifetime will team up with ABC News’ “Good Morning America” to present the forum on ABC. The forum will take place at Dartmouth College and the moderator will be Claire Shipman, “GMA’s” senior national correspondent. Lifetime will also publish the results of a poll looking at key concerns facing American women and how the candidates are addressing them. Throughout the year, subsequent polls will explore a wide range of timely issues significant to women. “Our Lifetime Commitment: Every Woman Counts” is co-sponsored by Luna Nutrition Bars.

Hallmark Creates Ad Sales Department: Hallmark Channel has created a Sponsorship Solutions Unit, a new department within the national advertising sales department that will develop opportunities to showcase advertiser messages within programming. Hallmark said this should help the network’s original movies to contain reduced commercial time within the network’s movies, resulting in a more unique viewing experience with longer programming segments and fewer interruptions. “Hallmark Channel is providing new and creative answers to our clients’ changing needs, helping them stand out in a cluttered advertising landscape,” said Bill Abbott, executive VP, national advertising sales. “The opportunities that we are creating will help them capture the viewers’ attention, which is their ultimate goal.”

MSNBC VP Jerry Nachman Dead at 57: Jerry Nachman, the MSNBC VP and editor-in-chief who was one of the most well-known, outside-the-box and colorful characters in his generation of television newsmen, died Monday night at his home in Hoboken, N.J. He was 57 and had been battling cancer for the past year.

“Jerry was well-informed, candid, witty and charming. He was also a gifted newsman and executive, and his passing is a loss not just to NBC but to the entire profession,” said Bob Wright, GE vice chairman and NBC chairman and CEO. “Our hearts go out to his friends and family.”

“Jerry Nachman will be remembered not only for what he brought to the news-insight, context and a relentless search for the truth-but also for what he brought to the newsroom: integrity, tenacity and a refreshing splash of humor,” said NBC News President Neal Shapiro. “He will be missed by all of us at NBC News.”

“Jerry was a beloved member of the MSNBC family,” said Erik Sorenson, MSNBC president and general manager. “His passion for news was contagious. All of us will fondly remember Jerry’s many wonderful stories about his colorful years in the news business. We will miss him greatly.”

Mr. Nachman put his stamp on radio, television and print news, working on and off camera (and microphone) in newsrooms and front offices from Washington, where he was VP and general manager of NBC-owned WRC-TV and worked at WRC Radio, to New York, where he worked for WCBS-TV and WCBS Radio. In the late ’80s he served as a columnist and editor of the New York Post during one of its more tumultuous times.

After leaving the Post, he headed west, where he started a new list of credits that ranged from staff writer and executive producer on “Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher”; co-anchor of “Life and Times Tonight” at KCET-TV, Los Angeles; and co-writer of the 1999 Oscar-winning short done for the American Film Institute. Mr. Nachman was a staff writer on the short-lived “UC: Undercover” before heading back east to take the job at MSNBC.

He returned late last year to California to report on the Michael became become hard to shake because of his weakened condition. The illness had kept him off the air and landed him in the hospital for a brief spell over the holidays before he returned to his New Jersey home.

Mr. Nachman had won a Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association and an Emmy award, plus numerous others. He twice served as a Pulitzer Prize juror in the journalism competition.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

‘Idol’ Debut Steamrolls Over Competition: Fox is back. The premiere of the third edition of “American Idol” overwhelmed the competition in all demos and boosted the debut of “My Big Fat Obnoxious FiancÈ” to highs not seen in that time slot since the first “Joe Millionaire.”

“Idol” trounced the competition scoring a 12.5 rating and 30 share in adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate numbers. It also pulled 28. 2 million viewers, outscoring its closest competition, NBC’s “Fear Factor” by 16.6 million viewers.

At 9 p.m. “Obnoxious Fiance” scored a 9.9/22 in adults 18 to 49 and 21.4 million viewers. While it dropped from its “Idol” lead-in, it still dominated the competition, easily winning its time slot.

NBC, with a two-hour “Fear Factor,” held up the best against the “Idol” debut, with a 5.6/13 in adults 18 to 49 and 12.9 million total viewers. The WB’s “7th Heaven” was hit hardest by “Idol.” An original episode scored below average 1.9/4 and 5.4 million viewers. CBS and UPN ran repeats last night, and ABC aired the movie “Meet the Parents,” which came in a distant fourth.

At 10 p.m. NBC’s “Average Joe: Hawaii” pulled its best numbers yet, scoring a first place 5.6/13 in adults 18 to 49. A rerun of CBS’s “CSI: Miami” won the hour in total viewers with 11.8 million.

For the night, Fox won the night in adults 18 to 49 with an 11.2/26, followed by NBC (5.6/13), CBS (4.3/10), ABC (2.2/5), The WB (1.8/4) and UPN (1.0/2). In total viewers, Fox won the night with 24.8 million, followed by CBS (12.8 million), NBC (12.6 million), ABC (6.7 million), The WB (5.5 million) and UPN (2.6 million).