Jan 31, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Showtime, Yahoo! Close to Content, Promo Deal

Showtime Networks is close to announcing a content and promotion deal with Yahoo! Robert Greenblatt, president of entertainment at Showtime, mentioned the deal last Thursday during a panel discussion at the NATPE convention in Las Vegas but declined to provide details. Asked whether the network is considering previewing and promoting its shows over the Internet, similar to the way The WB premiered “Jack & Bobby” on AOL, Mr. Greenblatt said Showtime is going to do something “much bigger” with Yahoo, where former ABC Entertainment executive Lloyd Braun is now head of media and entertainment.

Paramount’s `Enterprise’ Tops 90% Clearance

Paramount Domestic Television has cleared the off-net weekly one-hour “Star Trek: Enterprise” in more than 90 percent of the country for fall 2005. The latest incarnation of the “Star Trek” franchise, which currently runs on UPN, has been sold to 49 of the top 50 markets. Key clearances include WNBC-TV in New York and KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.

Fox Stations Snatch `Farscape’ for Fall

The Fox Television Stations group last week agreed to run “Farscape,” the top-rated show on the Sci Fi Channel from 2000 to 2004. The show is distributed by Debmar Studios and Mercury Entertainment. Fox Stations will begin to air “Farscape” in fall 2005 under the two-year barter deal. Debmar/Mercury will split the advertising time evenly with Fox, and a deal has been reached for Fox’s Twentieth Television to sell Debmar/Mercury’s commercial inventory. Ira Bernstein, president of Mercury Entertainment, said “Farscape” has also been sold to some Viacom-owned stations and that the series has been cleared in about 50 percent of the country. A source said the Fox stations are also interested in acquiring “Stargate SG-1” and “Stargate: Atlantis” and running them as a block with “Farscape.”

Tribune Stations, Others Renew `Twilight Zone’

New Line Television announced that the second season of “The Twilight Zone” has been renewed by stations representing coverage of 75 percent of the country, including KCAL-TV and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles and Tribune stations in New York, Dallas and Houston. In addition, the Forest Whitaker-hosted anthology has been cleared on the WB 100+ Station Group.

Turner Blasts Fox News as `Propaganda Voice’

CNN founder Ted Turner during the NATPE opening session last week called Fox News Channel a “propaganda voice” for the Bush administration. He also said media concentration is among the “top five biggest problems we face in America” and that the craziest thing he ever did was not voting against Time Warner’s merger with AOL. The billionaire media mogul called FNC’s brand of TV news “very, very disturbing, particularly in times like these of war.” Asked how he felt about Fox News beating CNN in the ratings, he offered an analogy to the Nazi regime, saying Adolf Hitler was more popular in the 1930s than his opponents in politics. “Just because you’re popular, it doesn’t mean you’re right,” he said.

NATPE Sets Sights on Government Censorship

Hoping to get some clarification about what material is permitted to air on TV, NATPE is planning a symposium this spring to address “issues surrounding government censorship of television content.”

In his opening remarks last Tuesday at the NATPE conference, NATPE President and CEO Rick Feldman said the symposium, which is scheduled to be co-hosted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication, will seek to bring government and industry officials together to ventilate industry concerns.

“Free over-the-air television should not have to operate in an environment where a scene, as in `Dirty War,’ or language in `Saving Private Ryan’ could, when aired, result in fines or license revocation,” Mr. Feldman said. “Conversations regarding this issue and how to reconcile the legitimate interests of all concerned need to happen, and NATPE will make it happen.” Details about the date, location and session participants are still under discussion, Mr. Feldman said.

Deborah Norville Re-Ups With `Inside Edition’

Deborah Norville, who recently left her second job, hosting “Deborah Norville” on MSNBC’s prime-time lineup, has signed on for 11th and 12th years at her post as anchor of King World’s “Inside Edition.”

`Girls Behaving Badly’ Sold in Most Top DMAs

Sony Pictures Television has sold the off-cable hidden-camera show “Girls Behaving Badly” in nine of the top 10 markets. WCBS-TV, New York; KTLA-TV, Los Angeles; and WCIU-TV, Chicago, are among the clearances. The show’s 70 episodes originated and currently air on Oxygen.

King World Party Boasts Plenty of Star Power

Roger King, CEO of CBS Enterprises and King World Productions, once again made a statement at NATPE with his annual thank-you dinner for station executives. The Jan. 25 event filled a Four Seasons Hotel ballroom and featured not one, but two notable musical guests-Michael McDonald and Hall & Oates. Mr. King already had Viacom star wattage in the room, with the company’s co-President and co-Chief Operating Officer Leslie Moonves praising Mr. King and King World’s work, but the big surprise of the night was the unannounced appearance of Oprah Winfrey-her first time at NATPE in a decade.

“I’d like to thank you, Roger, for giving me the greatest platform,” Ms. Winfrey said, referring to her self-named talk show and Mr. King’s almost two decades distributing it. “Most importantly, thank you for staying out of our way.” Ms. Winfrey had the crowd laughing at her impersonation of Mr. King when she suggested he “couldn’t produce.” She told the crowd about an episode of her show-suggested by Mr. King-about weather, one of her lowest-rated episodes ever.

Ms. Winfrey stopped in Las Vegas after being in Los Angeles to film segments for an upcoming “Oprah Winfrey Show” episode featuring scripted segments written by “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry.

E! Networks’ Harbert Sizes Up Performance

Ted Harbert, the new honcho of E! Networks, was almost as harsh in judging his network as Joan Rivers ever was on E!’s red carpet coverage. “We let it become a surfers’ paradise,” Mr. Harbert said, emphasizing that E! desperately needs to increase its length of tune. And given that other networks, including TV Guide Channel and even A&E, have moved into E!’s showbiz/celebrity niche, things could be much worse. “I’m amazed our ratings are only stagnant,” he said.

Mandel Tough on Cable’s VOD Ad Sales Efforts

Jon Mandel, CEO of MediaCom, said it isn’t clear how motivated cable operators are to sell advertising on their VOD services. “Only one cable company is sharing the data on who’s watching,” he said. “It seems they’d rather get the $3 a month for DVRs than sell advertising.”

Rosy Outlook Presented for Local Broadcasters

Despite hard times and competition, panelists at one NATPE presentation said they are optimistic the local TV broadcaster model will endure. “When you look at the core broadcasting business, it’s a good business,” said Patrick Mullen, president of Tribune Broadcasting. Over time, as the cable business matures and competition for local services such as phone service heat up, “Local stations will become more valuable,” he said.

“I’m not doom and gloom. We’ve just got to be smarter, work harder,” said Dennis Swanson, executive VP and chief operating officer of the Viacom Television Stations Group. “Thank God I was around in the ’60s and ’70s, when you picked up the phone and wrote orders. We had parties, people played golf. … Then came the mid-’80s. There aren’t easy solutions, but content is still king. I never understood how the signal got to the house; I just knew it had to have something on it.”

Taco Bell Exec Expla
ins Passing Up `Apprentice’

Taco Bell turned down an opportunity to have “The Apprentice” on its menu. During a panel discussion at NATPE, Debbie Myers, VP of media services for Taco Bell, said Mark Burnett wanted $3 million to shoot in Taco Bell restaurants and put its chief marketing officer on the air, an opportunity Burger King snapped up. “For $500,000 I’d rather have 30-second spots talking about the attributes of our brand than have our CMO telling people how to do an ad campaign,” she said.

`Millionaire’ Upgraded in Two Key Markets

Buena Vista Television said its game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” has been upgraded in West Palm Beach, Fla. Starting in fall 2005 the half-hour strip will move to an access slot on Freedom Communications’ CBS affiliate WPEC-TV, replacing the off-network sitcom “Friends.” “Millionaire” will move to WPEC from the Scripps NBC affiliate WPTV-TV, where it currently runs at 11 and 11:30 a.m.

In Charlotte, N.C., where “Millionaire” runs on Jefferson Pilot Communications’ CBS affiliate WBTV, the strip will move in 2006 from its double run at 10 a.m. back to access. “Millionaire” had been in an access slot until fall 2004, when Paramount’s “The Insider” bumped it to daytime.

Wolf Credits Tartikoff With `Law & Order’

“Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf credited late TV executive Brandon Tartikoff with the very existence of “Law & Order” during the second annual Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards cocktail reception at NATPE. “Everybody at NBC hated it except Brandon Tartikoff,” said Mr. Wolf, who was honored at the reception along with Lifetime Entertainment Services President and CEO Carole Black and sitcom director James Burrows. “When he believed in you, you really had to screw up to get him not to believe in you. He was the single most supportive executive I’ve ever worked with.”

Alex Ben Block, Melissa Grego, Michele Greppi, Doug Halonen, Jon Lafayette and Christopher Lisotta contributed to this report.