The Association of National Advertisers said last week it will form a committee to study the national television upfront buying process for possible changes. ANA President Bob Liodice announced the decision after Jon Mandel of Mediacom and David Verklin of Carat called on advertisers to lead the effort to reform the upfront during the ANA Television Advertising Forum. Proposed changes include moving the upfront to the fourth quarter, when client ad budgets are set, instituting an opening and closing bell to keep negotiations from dragging into the wee hours of the morning and eliminating the “integration charge” the networks receive for handling commercials. The ANA released the results of a study that showed 56.6 percent of the marketers surveyed said they were either somewhat or very dissatisfied with the process. The survey also found that 47 percent of advertisers agreed or strongly agreed that network pricing is unfair.
`Practice’ Spinoff on ABC Order for Fall
ABC will close “The Practice” in May but will open a new one next season. “The Practice” will end its run May 16 after eight years. However, executive producer David E. Kelley has signed on to create a new legal drama set at a high-end civil law firm, where some characters from “The Practice” will go to work. Sources said ABC and Mr. Kelley would like James Spader, who joined “The Practice” this season, back for the new show. Mr. Spader hasn’t signed on to the new project.
Buena Vista Renews `Millionaire’
Buena Vista Television has renewed sophomore game show hit “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” for a third season in syndication. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Janice Marinelli, president of Buena Vista Television. “With remarkable double-digit growth in key markets and a steady climb across the board, `Millionaire’ has shown that it has real staying power. We look forward to its third season.” The series just completed a revival in prime time with “Super Millionaire,” which will return to ABC in May.
McHale to Become Discovery CEO
Discovery Communications founder John Hendricks plans to pass his title of CEO to Judith McHale, now president and chief operating officer. The move will take place June 17, which marks the beginning of the company’s 20th year. Mr. Hendricks will remain chairman of Discovery Communications.
Cablers Make Carriage Deals
NFL Network has reached a carriage agreement with Insight Communications, the nation’s ninth-largest cable operator. The deal follows NFL Network’s launch on Charter Communications last month. Insight, which serves 1.4 million customers, will begin a digital rollout of NFL Network this summer. As part of the agreement, NFL Network will provide Insight with a separate high-definition simulcast feed of the channel beginning with the 2004 NFL season, and a customized video-on-demand package that includes access to the NFL Films library and extended highlights of each NFL regular-season game. … Rainbow Media struck a deal last week with Comcast that includes long-term carriage of the AMC cable channel and extends the life of carriage agreements with Fox Sports Net Bay Area, Fox Sports Net Florida and Fox Sports Net New England. As part of the agreement, Rainbow’s sports networks will soon broadcast all home games in the Fox Sports Net markets in high definition. The hi-def component bolsters the number of HD channels Comcast is offering subscribers. Also last week, the cable company inked a deal with NBA TV in which some games will be broadcast in high definition.