Basic-cable execs are giddy over this year's original hits like The Osbournes
. Aiming to quantify original programming success, MTV Networks research chief Betsy Frank took a look at the prime time Emmy nods this year and last. "All the growth is coming from cable," she says. Basic-cable networks increased their Emmy nominations by 45%, from 69 to 100. Broadcast-TV nominations, meanwhile, fell 15%, from 255 to 218.
"Cable is evolving," Frank said. "Other than sitcoms, there are hits in every genre." FX's bad-boy cop drama The Shield
boasted three nods, including a basic-cable first for best actor. TNT's 22 nominations included best miniseries for Mists of Avalon
. Non-scripted fare like TLC's hit redecorating show Trading Spaces
is on the Emmy screen. South Park, Samurai Jack
and Discovery specials are up for animation awards.—A.R.
Last Thursday's live broadcast of the MTV Video Music Awards
was shot in the 24p HD format, which gave it a film look that definitely didn't slip past viewers. An informal viewer survey finds reactions ranging from "cool" (mostly from those in MTV's core demo, which will no doubt please the network) to "distracting" from the older set (so VH1 has no fear of losing audience share to future MTV awards broadcasts). Of course, the opinion that counts most is that of MTV itself. Early word there is that the network was thrilled with the look and it already plans on using it for next year's awards broadcast.—K.K.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell is aiming to bring two of the media industry's most controversial and long-running public-policy fights down the home stretch. A massive rulemaking on broadcast-ownership limits is set to be teed off at the commission's Sept. 12 meeting. On the docket will be a call for suggested changes to rules limiting national broadcast ownership, crossownership of local radio and TV stations, TV duopolies, and dual TV-network ownership. Consolidated into that rulemaking will be previously launched proceedings on local broadcast/TV crossownership and local radio concentration.
Less certain is Powell's effort to settle disputes between broadcasters and the cable industry over must-carry rules in the digital age. The proceeding is highly controversial, and late-August vacations have bogged down commission discussions. Must-carry action may have to wait, sources say.—B.M.
There were two surprises at MTV's Video Music Awards bash last Thursday. One was when Michael Jackson bounded up on stage. He grabbed a spare "moon man" statuette and thanked MTV for declaring him "Artist of The Millennium." But he wasn't. Although MTV is contractually obligated to refer to Jacko as "The King of Pop," Britney Spears had called Jackson up only to wish him a happy birthday.
The other surprise came during a commercial break when an announcement was made thanking Peter Barton, "who has supported us since the beginning." The kids had no idea who Barton was, but the cable VIPs up in the balcony knew. Barton, a former senior executive of Liberty Media and cable operator Tele-Communications Inc., is suffering from cancer, and few thought he was well enough to travel. Once a championship skier, Barton looked frail but smiled as executives went up to greet him.
MTV Networks President Mark Rosenthal arranged Barton's trip, and Starz Chairman John Sie helped by supplying a private jet for Barton and his family. Barton, who is being inducted into the BROADCASTING CABLE Hall of Fame in November, told the reporter writing his HOF profile that he was in a rock band in college: "In my heart and soul, I'm a musician."—J.M.H.