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Apr 13, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Spike TV Enlists Giuliani

Spike TV is launching a national campaign with the aid of former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani to urge men to get annual physicals. The “Check Up or Check Out” campaign will attempt to register at least 100,000 men to visit their doctor for an annual physical by the end of 2004. Mr. Giuliani, who recently fought a battle with prostate cancer, has signed on as campaign chairperson. The campaign includes PSAs on Viacom networks and a national traveling health tour.

Cheatwood to Head Program Development at CNN Headline News: CNN Headline News Executive VP and General Manager Rolando Santos announced Tuesday that he has hired his former boss, Joel Cheatwood, as senior executive producer in charge of program development for CNN Headline News.

Mr. Cheatwood, who also has been the boss more than once of CNN/U.S. Executive VP and General Manager Princell Hair, will report to Mr. Santos but will remain based in New York, where he had been waiting out the end of his contract with the Viacom stations group.

“I have known Joel for more than 20 years, and we’ve worked together in two different successful newsrooms,” Mr. Santos said in a message to his staff. “I appreciate and respect Joel’s unique ability to create innovative programming that has a wide range of audience appeal. I am delighted that we can add Joel’s skills, energy and experience to our efforts to take HLN to its next level.”

CBS Makes Upfront Prediction: CBS predicted Tuesday that for the first time in some 20 years it will challenge NBC for the position of market leader in the 2004-05 upfront and take money from a lot of its competitors, including cable.

“We are the future,” said CBS President Leslie Moonves at a press breakfast designed to “set the table” for the upfront selling frenzy that will kick off in mid-May by predicting CBS will get the highest cost-per-thousand increases (double digits) because CBS:

— Has the most stable lineup, in which no more than four hours will be new (assuming “Everybody Loves Raymond” comes back for one final season, a negotiation Mr. Moonves hopes to have wrapped up shortly). “We’ve already won next season,” said Mr. Moonves. “Where we have needs, we have lead-ins.” In addition, the third edition of the “CSI” franchise, “CSI: New York,” arrives soon at CBS. Mr. Moonves predicts “CSI:N.Y.” will be the biggest freshman performer next season.

— Is the leader in total viewers and the 25 to 54 demo, which the network insists is “the audience most coveted by advertisers,” and is running only 0.2 ratings points behind NBC in the 18 to 49 demo that is harder fought.

— Has the audience with “the best socioeconomic profile,” if advertisers are looking for real upscale viewers.

Executive VP of Research and Planning David Poltrack declared the upscale 18 to 49 category, in which NBC has touted its leadership, “the most bogus statistic ever,” because it includes dependent young adults, which Mr. Moonves characterized as a “Daddy, buy me a car” group. And, daddy doesn’t buy the kids a Lexus, Mr. Moonves said.

Mr. Poltrack said, “The buying power in this country is absolutely concentrated in the 35 to 64 [demo],” and brand-switching is greatest in the same group. (Mr. Poltrack said CBS is asking Nielsen for a network-by-network break-down of dependent young adults in upper-income households.) “We hear that from CBS every year,” said Randy Falco, NBC television network group president, responding to Mr. Moonves’ claim CBS was going to be the market leader. “It’s getting old, just like their audience.”

Network Sales President Jo Ann Ross said CBS is breathing down NBC’s neck in key retail categories on Thursday night, now the richest night of the TV week, and has been dubbed a “must-buy” on Thursday night for movie advertisers; has “a huge opportunity” on Wednesdays and has improved Sundays with “Cold Case” and a “revived” Sunday night movie that brings in broad demos.

She also said CBS is seeing growth among upscale men targeted by low-carb beers; and ticked off growth in the financial sector (especially on Sundays and the tech sector (Thursdays and Mondays) and predicted that “a lot of money is going to be placed against” high-definition TV advertising.

Ms. Ross also said that “any growth in cable is not coming from CBS.”

Mr. Moonves said that “cable has done a very good job of telling you that cable is doing better than it is.”

EchoStar Readies for Carriage Fight With Turner: Just a month after ending its contentious battle with Viacom over an affiliate agreement, satellite operator EchoStar Communications appears to be gearing up to wage a new affiliate war — this time with Turner Broadcasting and six of its channels, including CNN.

At issue are the terms of a new carriage agreement between Turner and EchoStar’s DISH Network to carry CNN, CNNfn, CNN Headline News, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies and Boomerang. Turner’s most popular channels, TBS and TNT, are not included in the negotiations.

In the clearest sign yet that the talks are on the brink of stalling, EchoStar Chairman and CEO Charles Ergen raised the topic during his “Charlie’s Chat” talk show Monday night and attempted to prepare EchoStar’s 9.45 million subscribers for the possibility that the channels might go dark soon.

The fight centers on EchoStar’s belief that it pays a premium relative to cable operators because it is a satellite company. EchoStar’s contract with Turner ended at the end of last year, and the two sides agreed to an extension, which still has some time left on it.

“If we are unable to reach an agreement, we will be forced to take the channels off [the air],” said EchoStar spokesman Steve Caulk. He said the company believes the impact of taking down the channels will be minimal given the alternatives available. For example, Mr. Caulk noted that if CNN goes dark, subscribers still have Fox News and MSNBC; Cartoon Network viewers can make do with Nickelodeon.

Said Turner in a statement: “We are in negotiations with EchoStar and remain hopeful that EchoStar will continue to make Turner’s industry-leading networks available to its DISH Network customers.”

The fight shaping up between EchoStar and Turner is the latest in a string of public battles between content providers and content distributors over price increases in carriage agreements.

EchoStar in March settled a long-running dispute with Viacom involving carriage of CBS owned-and-operated TV stations and its cable channels, dropping all Viacom-owned properties for two days before the two sides reached an agreement.

Then in late March, Cablevision lost its two-year battle with YES Network over whether the sports channel could be carried on a sports tier when an arbitration panel mandated that the cable operator carry YES on its most popular cable packages.

Earlier this year, Cox Communications and ESPN settled their months-long dispute over carriage of the sports network’s suite of channels after Cox threatened to dump the network onto a tier.

‘Miss USA’ Scores for NBC: NBC can thank Miss USA for its ratings victory Monday night. “Miss USA 2004” was the highest-rated Miss USA pageant in six years. It averaged a 4.8/12 in adults 18 to 49 and 13 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. It was up 9 percent in adults 18 to 49 versus last year and up 71 percent over its rating in 2002, when it aired on CBS.

A special Miss USA edition of “Fear Factor” kicked off the night for NBC, winning its time slot in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.8/16 and 14.4 million viewers.

“Miss USA” easily beat Fox’s wannabe pageant show “The Swan.” After debuting to huge numbers after “American Idol” last Wednesday night, “The Swan” dropped dramatically with its first airing in its regular Monday 9 p.m. time slot. “Swan” scored a third-place 3.8/10 in adults 18 to 49 (down 44 percent from its debut) and finished in fourth place in total viewers with 8.2 million (down 45 percent from its debut).

For the night, NBC won in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.2/13, followed by CBS (3.8/10), Fox (3.3/9), ABC (2.8/7), The WB (1.6/4) and U
PN (1.1/3). In total viewers, NBC won the night with 13.5 million, followed by CBS (11.4 million), ABC (8.5 million), Fox (7.2 million), The WB (4.4 million) and UPN (2.8 million).

ABC Renews Seven Series: ABC gave early renewals to seven series for next season: scripted shows “According to Jim,” “My Wife and Kids,” “George Lopez” and “Hope & Faith” and unscripted series “Extreme Makeover,” “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” “NYPD Blue” has already been renewed for its 12th and final season.

“These seven shows are all important anchor programs for the network, and we feel confident that they will continue to deliver for us next season,” said ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne.

“Jim” is averaging a 4.3/11 in adults 18 to 49 and is ABC’s No. 1 scripted series this season in the demo. “Wife and Kids” finishes second in its Wednesday 8 p.m. time slot, often up against “American Idol,” with a 3.7/11 average. “Extreme Makeover” has improved ABC’s Thursday 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time slot by 27 percent among adults 18 to 49, averaging a 2.8/7.

“George Lopez” wins its time slot on Friday nights with a 2.7/9 average, as does freshman sitcom “Hope & Faith,” which averages a 3.1/10. “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is averaging a 2.5/7 in adults 18 to 49. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has improved ABC’s Sunday 8 p.m. time slot by 64 percent this season in adults 18 to 49, with a 4.1/10 average.

‘Everwood,’ ‘Smallville’ Return to The WB: The WB has renewed “Everwood” and “Smallville” for another season. “Smallville” saw its ratings drop when it moved from Tuesdays to kick off Wednesday nights, but it is still a solid performer. Season to date, it averages a 2.1 Nielsen Media Research rating and 6 share in adults 18 to 49, making it The WB’s highest-rated scripted show in that demo. “Everwood” is averaging a 1.5/4 in the demo and has proved to be a nice companion piece for the long-running “7th Heaven.”

NBC Slates Specials: NBC will air the reality romance special “The One That Got Away” on Monday, May 31, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. The special features a bachelor who must choose between seven women, all of whom are women from his past. The entire competition takes place over the two-hour episode with his final choice being revealed at the end.

NBC has also scheduled “The Mentalist” to air Wednesday, May 12, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., during May sweeps. “The Mentalist” showcases Gerry McCambridge’s abilities to tap into strangers’ minds and tell them personal details about their lives.

Valentine Forms First Family: Former UPN President and CEO Dean Valentine has formed a new company, First Family Entertainment, with entertainment executives Richard Cohen and Nicolas Van Dyk. The company will produce family-oriented direct-to-DVD/video programming.

First Family has an exclusive multiyear distribution deal with MGM, giving MGM exclusive domestic and international distribution rights for First Family productions. First Family plans to produce four to five titles a year, primarily live action with budgets of $2 million to $3 million.

Mr. Cohen was most recently president of Tremaine Associates, an entertainment media consultancy. Mr. Van Dyk was executive VP and chief strategic officer of Artisan Entertainment. Both execs will be partners in the new company, with Mr. Valentine retaining the title of senior partner.

Disney CFO Issues Buoyant Financial Outlook: Walt Disney Co. CFO Tom Staggs said late Monday that the media giant is on track to deliver “attractive growth in our earnings” of more than 40 percent in the current fiscal year.

The comments, which followed the weak box-office performance of its recent films “The Alamo” and “Home on the Range” and continued ratings woes at its ABC Network, came as Wall Street analysts suggested the latest spate of bad news will put even more pressure on embattled CEO Michael Eisner and could lead cable giant Comcast to hang tough in its quest to acquire the media company.

Mr. Staggs said in a statement, “Assuming a continuation of the favorable economic conditions and trends we’re seeing, we believe that we will deliver earnings growth from continuing operations of more than 40 percent for this fiscal year” from the 65 cents per share the company posted in the previous fiscal year.

Putting on a good face is seen as essential to keeping Mr. Eisner in place following a huge vote of no confidence from shareholders at the company’s annual meeting last month.

There is pressure from several camps to oust Mr. Eisner, who for his part has insisted on staying and points to the company’s recent upswing as evidence that Disney is on the right track.

Sen. McCain Withdraws From NAB Event Due to Wife’s Illness: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told the National Association of Broadcasters today that due to his wife’s illness he will not be able attend the association’s annual convention in Las Vegas next week. Sen. McCain was to be the featured speaker at NAB’s broadcast leadership dinner April 18.

In a statement, Sen. McCain said his wife, Cindy, suffered a “small cerebral hemorrhage” Monday and is currently in stable condition at a Phoenix hospital. “Mrs. McCain had a small bleed in her brain and her speech is mildly affected, but she is otherwise intact,” Sen. McCain said. “Tests are ongoing, but at this point the prognosis is cautiously excellent.”

An NAB source said the association is searching for a substitute speaker for the invitation-only dinner for influential broadcasters and Washington power brokers.

‘Band of Brothers’ Makes History Channel History: The History Channel set a network ratings record Sunday when it aired the first episode of “Band of Brothers,” the Steven Spielberg-produced World War II miniseries originally developed for HBO. The show averaged a 3.7 rating and 4.6 million total viewers, the highest ever for the channel. “Band of Brothers” was also the most watched program among all ad-supported cable networks for the night.

CinemaNow Forms Partnership With SBC Yahoo! : Online video-on-demand service CinemaNow formed a partnership with SBC Yahoo! to offer a customized version its VOD Web site for SBC Yahoo! DSL customers.

Under the agreement, CinemaNow and SBC will promote each other’s services and SBC Yahoo! DSL customers will be able to purchase their first pay-per-view program for 98 cents for a limited time offer. The deal is noteworthy as an example of how telephone companies are aiming to increase the value of their high-speed services with more rich media content. CinemaNow features pay-per-view, download-to-own and subscription-based access to movies, shorts, concerts and television programs. CinemaNow’s content partners include 20th Century Fox, Disney, Lions Gate, MGM, Miramax and Warner Bros.

Crown Media to Explore Sale of Hallmark Channel Internationally: Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Holdings said Tuesday that it is considering a sale of its international business as the company decides to direct its energies toward expanding the channel in the United States.

The Greenwood Village, Colo.-based company said it is exploring all options, including a sale of its international business or some other transaction that, in its words, can “maximize shareholder value.”

The company stressed that its domestic operations would remain intact and that the company is focused on expanding the channel’s reach in the United States.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Crown said Hallmark Channel subscriptions rose 15 percent to 113.3 million worldwide from a year-earlier level of 98.3 million. In the United States, the channel boasts 56 million subscribers and late last year inked a new affiliation agreement with Comcast that adds 1 million new customers in the South.