News Briefs: USA Network Gets Broadcast Rights to ‘Virgin’

Oct 17, 2005  •  Post A Comment

USA Network said last Friday it has acquired the rights to the first ad-supported broadcast of “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” the comedy that has drawn $104 million at the box office. The movie is part of a three-film deal with sister company NBC Universal Television Distribution with an estimated value of $26 million. The other films are “The Skeleton Key” with Kate Hudson, which has done $47 million in ticket sales, and Joss Whedon’s “Serenity,” which has pulled down $18 million in the two weeks since its release. USA also has the first airings of “Skeleton” and “Serenity.” The films become available in 2008. “Serenity” might also appear on Sci Fi Channel. The deal allows NBC Universal to sell second windows for the films to another broadcast or cable outlet.

NBC, The WB Competing for ‘The Simple Life’

NBC and The WB are vying for the fourth installment of the comedy reality series “The Simple Life,” which Fox said last week it was no longer interested in airing. A public falling-out between stars Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie has been reported for months in tabloids and on the Internet. A statement issued by Fox said the network was dropping the show for scheduling reasons. 20th Century Fox Television, the studio producing “Life” along with Bunim-Murray Productions, said it is looking for a new network partner. The show is slated to begin production in November and is expected to be ready for a January launch.

Cable Nets, Shopzilla Drive Scripps Profit Surge

The E.W. Scripps Co. reported Friday that its third-quarter profit surged 48 percent to $82.2 million, driven by continued strength at the company’s cable operations and strong growth at its online shopping Web site Shopzilla. Revenue jumped 19 percent to $595 million. The Scripps Networks cable operations continued to be a source of growth, recording a 38 percent rise in segment profit to $87.9 million and a 25 percent jump in revenue. Shopzilla, which Scripps acquired this year, reported a segment profit of $7.3 million versus a year-earlier $1.2 million, while revenue rose 121 percent to $35.2 million.

Court Orders FCC Response on Kids TV Rules

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has ordered the Federal Communications Commission to file a response by Oct. 25 to The Walt Disney Co.’s same-day request that the court force action on long-pending industry petitions urging the FCC to dramatically ease its new children’s TV rules. In a petition filed last week, Disney asked that the court require FCC action by Nov. 15, or that it delay the agency’s regulations pending resolution of network challenges. The networks are concerned that the new FCC rules will restrict their ability to attract children to their Web sites, where FCC regulations-including prohibitions on selling or pitching by children’s TV program hosts-don’t currently apply. Absent a delay, the FCC’s new rules are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2006.

CPB Executive Resigns to Join Law Firm

Ken Ferree, chief operating officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, resigned last week to join the Washington office of the law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton. Mr. Ferree, a former chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau, joined CPB in March. He lost his bid for CPB’s top executive slot to Patricia Harrison, a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee who was recently hired as president and CEO. Fred DeMarco, executive VP of the CPB, will assume COO duties on an interim basis.

‘Wild Animals’ Offered for Syndication

Debmar Studios and Mercury Entertainment are syndicating the National Geographic weekly wildlife series “Really Wild Animals” for the 2006-07 season. The half-hour “Animals,” which aired on CBS in 1997, is being offered for the first time in syndication. Debmar/Mercury plans to run the half-hours back-to-back in a one-hour block. Debmar/Mercury is currently syndicating the off-cable animated series “South Park” as a strip.