News Articles

Fast Track

2/06/2005 07:00:00 PM Eastern
Items:

Schieffer Replaces Rather—for Now

Lombardo Blasts FCC, Cable

TiVo President Resigns

Comcast, TW Lead Bidders for Adelphia

'Buster’ Producer Is “Reinvited” to DoE Panel

FCC to Sinclair: No! Again!

Herzog To Drive Spike

'Enterprise’ Ends Its Trek

State of the Union: Down

Cablevision’s John Tatta Dies

BVT’S Steven Cohen Dies

PTC Doesn’t Want Its MTV

'Apprentice’, Stewart-Style

Corrections

Schieffer Replaces Rather—for Now

When Dan Rather steps down March 9 after 24 years, Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer, the network’s top Washington presence, will step in for a “short transition period,” until a new format hits the air, CBS News says. That’s expected to be several months.

Schieffer is a safe choice for an embattled news division in the wake of the controversial 60 Minutes Wednesday report on President Bush’s Texas National Guard service. Viacom Co-COO and CBS Chairman Les Moonves is looking to overhaul the broadcast and has said he will consider a multiple-anchor format. Who will replace Rather permanently is a favorite media exercise these days, with names like Today stars Katie Couric and Matt Lauer and Meet the Press host Tim Russert among the favorites.

Marcy McGinnis, CBS News SVP of news coverage, says the network opted for Schieffer “because he is a name the American public knows.” He will continue to host Face the Nation.—A.R./J.E.

Lombardo Blasts FCC, Cable

National Association of Broadcasters Joint Board Chairman Phil Lombardo last week lambasted the Federal Communications Commission for its unequal treatment of broadcast stations versus cable and satellite when it came to indecency standards, saying that the NAB has a $2.5 million legal fund that could be used to fight the indecency crackdown in court, although he would not identify any particular case.

At a Media Institute lunch in Washington Thursday, Lombardo labeled as an “indecency disconnect” the fact that, while broadcasters had been fined $7.7 million for indecency (compared with $48,000 just four years ago), cable had been fined nothing.

“At the same time that indecency regulations are being ratcheted up against local broadcasters,” he said, “cable giants like Comcast and Time Warner are raking in hundreds of millions a year from pay-per-view, hardcore pornography.”

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association disagrees with that view. “Cable is a subscription service that people invite in their homes,” said NCTA spokesman Rob Stoddard.—J.E.

TiVo President Resigns

Marty Yudkovitz, president of TiVo Inc., resigned Jan. 31 but will consult with the company for the near future.

President since May 2003, he is the second top exec of the company to announce his resignation in less than a month.

Mike Ramsey, chairman and CEO, announced that he was resigning on Jan. 12. Ramsey is still serving as chairman and CEO as the company looks for a replacement.

Yudkovitz’ resignation prolongs a rough patch for the DVR maker, which began the year by ending its relationship with DirecTV. —J.M.H.

Comcast, TW Lead Bidders for Adelphia

Time Warner and Comcast have the inside track in the auction of Adelphia’s cable systems, but creditors could take days to evaluate all the offers.

Time Warner and Comcast put a $17 billion value on their offer, which would fold Adelphia’s systems into Time Warner Cable, giving creditors a little cash but mostly stock in the combined operation. Comcast would get some systems, then leave the partnership. Creditors could then sell their stock or stay along for the ride.

Creditors and their bankers may decide that that bid is worth something less than $17 billion. A $16 billion bid for the whole company came in from buyout firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Providence Equity Partners. Other financial players bid for smaller parts of Adelphia.—J.M.H.

'Buster’ Producer Is “Reinvited” to DoE Panel

The Department of Education has reinvited Postcards From Buster executive producer Carol Greenwald to speak at a joint PBS/DOE kids’-TV conference in Baltimore. DoE Press Secretary Susan Aspey says the “uninviting” was a mistake and the department has apologized. According to a spokeswoman for WGBH Boston, where Buster is produced, Greenwald, who was attending the conference anyway, was contacted by a DOE staffer there Thursday, told that it had all been a misunderstanding and asked to rejoin the panel. She graciously accepted, said WGBH’s Jeanne Hopkins.—J.E.

FCC to Sinclair: No! Again!

For the fourth time, the FCC this week will give the thumbs down to Sinclair Broadcast Group’s bid to buy five stations from Cunningham Broadcasting.

Sinclair already owns stations in the affected markets, which are too small to permit two-station “duopolies” under FCC rules. FCC commissioners are expected to vote no, again, at their monthly meeting Feb. 10. Sinclair already operates the five stations under local marketing agreements but would have to sell them if the FCC outlaws LMAs. Critics say such partnerships allow owners to circumvent rules designed to prevent one company from dominating a local TV market. The FCC voted to phase out LMAs long ago, but the status of the ban is in limbo because of ongoing court fights over all broadcast-ownership limits.

Sinclair’s wants permission to buy WGRT Dayton, Ohio; WVAH Charleston, W.Va.; WTAT Charleston, S.C.; WTTE Columbus, Ohio; and WNUV Baltimore. The stations are currently owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, a company 7.2% owned by Carolyn Smith, mother of Sinclair Chief Executive David Smith. Prior to 2002, Cunningham was named Glencairn Ltd.—J.M.H.

Herzog To Drive Spike

It’s official: Comedy Central President Doug Herzog will also head co-owned Spike TV as president of the network, reporting to MTV Networks Group President Herb Scannell while wearing his Spike hat and to MTV Networks Chairman Judy McGrath for Comedy. The two networks under Herzog’s purview will now form a separate unit within MTV Networks.

Herzog’s appointment comes after Albie Hecht, president of Spike since January 2003, resigned, citing creative differences with MTV.—J.M.H.

'Enterprise’ Ends Its Trek

UPN and co-owned Paramount have decided to pull the plug on new episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise after this season.

May 13 will be the end date of its four-season mission. The prequel to the original Star Trek, the series has been sold in syndication in more than 90% of the country for a fall 2005 launch. Star Trek: E’s departure could mark the end for new incarnations of the 40-year-old franchise, which ultimately spanned five TV shows and 10 feature films. Viacom Co-President and Co-COO Les Moonves told reporters last month that Star Trek’s time may have come and gone.—J.E.

State of the Union: Down

President Bush’s State of the Union address drew around 39 million viewers, down substantially from previous addresses, in which terrorism attacks and U.S. wars were more central.

NBC drew the biggest audience for the speech, around 8 million viewers. On cable, Fox News reported an average audience of 5 million viewers, five times CNN’s audience and a jump from previous years. MSNBC drew 723,00 viewers. CNN lost half the audience it scored during last year’s address.—A.R.

Cablevision’s John Tatta Dies

A longtime Cablevision Systems executive who helped Chairman Chuck Dolan create the company, John Tatta, 84, died last week of bone cancer. Tatta joined Dolan’s Sterling Cable, which created Manhattan Cable, in 1996. He was in charge of laying underground cable throughout Manhattan. When Dolan sold Sterling to Time Inc. in 1973, Tatta followed Dolan out to Long Island, where they started building an operation that now covers the entire island. Tatta served as Cablevision’s president from 1981 to 1992. He remained a board member until his death.

He is survived by his wife, the former Anne Frasca, whom he married in 1949; two daughters and eight grandchildren.—J.M.H.

BVT’S Steven Cohen Dies

Steven Cohen, 33, VP of business and legal affairs for Buena Vista Television, died suddenly in his sleep Jan. 31. A cause of death is still to be determined. Cohen joined BVT in January 2000 as director of business affairs and was named to his latest post in March 2003. He was described last week as a rising star in the Disney division by BVT President Janice Marinelli: “An outstanding human being, Steven had a thirst and passion for learning and always kept one step ahead.” Cohen is survived by his wife of 10 months, Brielle, who is expecting their first child in July; his parents, Penny and Howard Cohen, of Denver; and a sister, Eden Cohen, also of Denver.—J.E.

PTC Doesn’t Want Its MTV

Forget MTV: Music Television’s halftime: It’s the rest of the time that the Parents Television Council is worried about.

On the one-year anniversary of MTV’s Janet Jackson Super Bowl reveal, the group released an analysis of 171 hours of MTV programming over its Spring Break week March 20-27 and said it found that the cable service was delivering “8.9 un-bleeped profanities per hour and an additional 18.3 bleeped profanities per hour,” plus “nine sexual scenes per hour,” with “18 sexual depictions and 17 instances of sexual dialogue or innuendo” on top of that.

PTC compared that with its study of broadcast prime time programming, where it found an average 5.8 instances of sexual content in the 10 p.m. hour, when indecency is protected on broadcast TV.

The study found that MTV’s reality shows had more sex than the music videos and that the winner of most sexual segments was Spring Break Fantasies, at 32 per hour. PTC was pitching the study as ammunition for requiring cable companies to give consumers more control over their cable lineups, including offering their channels à la carte.

Said MTV spokeswoman Jeannie Kedas, “We follow the same industrywide standards that broadcast nets follow. We don’t have any obscenities on our air. We may even have stricter language standards than many radio stations.”—J.E.

'Apprentice’, Stewart-Style

Once Martha Stewart is out of jail, NBC will launch The Apprentice: Martha Stewart in prime time in the same format it uses for the Donald Trump version of the NBC hit. NBC Universal TV Group President Jeff Zucker, executive producer Mark Burnett and Trump announced the show in a joint press conference last week.

Stewart’s show, like the Trump version, will be looking for an executive to work for her company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia.

Zucker says work could start on the show while Stewart is still under house arrest (convicted for lying to federal investigators about a stock trade, she is in prison until March, then on house arrest through August). A 27-city casting tour for Trump and Stewart is under way.—P.J.B.

Corrections

“Ad Sales Made Easy” (1/31, page 28) contained several misstatements. The Strata Marketing software allows orders, not contracts, to be sent to rep firms, not television stations. The assertion that 70%-80% of all TV-spot invoices are discrepant is an industry estimate, not TVB’s. Currently, sales orders are sent via either fax or e-mail, not fax or regular mail. It is Donovan Data Systems (DDS), not Donovan Advertising and Marketing Services. TVB Executive Vice President Abby Auerbach said 10 of the 11 major agencies use DARE (Direct Agency Rep Exchange); she did not say they use Donovan. Also, the Strata capability comes as a result of the work done by the TVB tech-standards task force, including DDS, Harris and Strata.

FX’s The Shield makes its fourth season debut at 10 p.m. on March 15. A chart on page 12, which for production reasons was printed in advance, has the wrong time.

March