Fast Track4/06/2007 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Sprout Springs Branding Campaign
Effort will push programming with “We Share” message
By Michael Malone
PBS Kids Sprout is mounting a multi-year, multimillion-dollar branding campaign it hopes will make the network top of mind for preschoolers and their parents.
Sprout, which launched on-demand two years ago before becoming a linear channel, is preparing four TV spots, 10 print ads in national magazines, and an array of outdoor and grass-roots marketing, such as branding on bus shelters and coffee cups, that will roll in late April.
Network executives are hoping the campaign will drive home a couple key points: That Sprout is on 24/7 and that it promotes interaction between wee ones and their guardians, reinforced with the slogan “We Share.” “It’s our first big branding campaign,” says VP of Marketing Eileen Diskin. “We feel it does a good job of differentiating us from the competition.”
Another goal is to push parents to pester their cable or satellite operator for carriage. “We hope to increase distribution and grow advertising revenue [through the campaign],” Diskin says.
Sprout is a joint venture between Comcast, HIT Entertainment, PBS and Sesame Workshop. The network reaches 20 million homes on digital cable and satellite, and features original programs like The Good Night Show and acquired fare like Bob the Builder and Barney & Friends.
Cheatwood Bolts CNN for Fox
In a blow to CNN, Joel Cheatwood has joined Fox News as VP of development, shaping programming for Fox News Channel (FNC) and the upcoming Fox Business Channel (FBC).
Prior to joining Fox News, Cheatwood served as the executive director of program and talent development at CNN, where he launched both Glenn Beck’s program and Showbiz Tonight for Headline News.
“Joel has a strong reputation in the industry for his good ideas and the ability to execute them. He also possesses a wealth of experience he can share with us,” Roger Ailes, chairman/CEO, Fox News, said in a statement. Cheatwood will report jointly to Ailes and the heads of programming for FNC and FBC, working closely with editorial executives of both networks.
To some, Cheatwood is renowned for his tabloid style. A reputation mainly gained during the six years he spent as senior VP at Sunbeam Television, where he was responsible for both news and promotion at NBC affiliate WHDH Boston and Fox outlet WSVN Miami. Cheatwood created the “WSVN format,” featuring 7.5 hours of daily news fueled by his emphasis on aggressive reporting and a fast-paced presentation.
He also was VP of news and promotion at NBC-owned WMAQ Chicago and station manager at CBS-owned KYW Philadelphia.
“The first decade of Fox News represents one of the industry’s all-time success stories, and there’s every indication the best is yet to come,” says Cheatwood. “I am thrilled to be a part of a network that is synonymous with innovation, creativity and risk-taking. It’s a television producer’s dream.”—B&C staff
Gamers Name Commissioner
Championship Gaming Series (CGS), Los Angeles-based professional videogame-playing league, named Andy Reif its commissioner and chief executive. Reif, former COO of AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, vowed to broaden the league’s TV presence.
The Championship Gaming Series was formed in May 2006 by DirecTV and IGN Entertainment (a unit of Fox Interactive Media) with Mountain Dew, Best Buy and Microsoft Xbox as founding partners.
“The opportunity to start a major sports league, with global television coverage in more than 100 million homes through DirecTV (North America and Latin America), BSkyB (UK) and STAR (Asia and Australia) has never happened before,” he stated. “No other major sport started with such an arsenal of media. We have been assembling the very best talent from the gaming and broadcast worlds, and CGS will change sports entertainment forever.”
Discovery Debuts Shows Online
Starting in the third quarter, Discovery Networks will premiere full-length episodes of its shows on discovery.com, the company says.
Two episodes a week will be put on the site in the ad-supported venture called Discovery iPremieres. Shows slated to appear online before airing include Discovery’s Dirty Jobs, TLC’s American Chopper and Discovery Kids’ Bindi: The Jungle Girl. The iPremieres will be packaged and sold to advertisers with bonus materials ranging from outtakes to interviews with hosts, producers and crews.
Premiering programming online is becoming increasingly commonplace. Showtime and FX recently premiered new shows online to strong results. NBC went one step further and put all six episodes of its midseason comedy Andy Barker, P.I. online before its debut.
MTV Renews 'Hills’
MTV’s The Hills will run for a third season. Ten new episodes are scheduled for this summer.
The Laguna Beach spinoff is the network’s top-rated show. Season two, which wrapped Monday night, was up 9% over season one in total viewers (to 2.7 million) and 15% in viewers 12-24 (to 1.7 million), according to Nielsen Media Research.—Anne Becker
Time Warner, Disney Strike Retrans Deal
Time Warner Cable and Walt Disney Co. announced a multi-year distribution agreement to extend retransmission consent for the ABC-owned television stations. The deal also provides for carriage of several Disney networks, including ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2.
Time Warner Cable will launch ESPN2 HD and ESPNU later this year, as well as hi-def versions of ABC Family, Disney Channel and ESPNEWS when they become available next year. The companies also agreed to make certain shows available on Time Warner’s “Start Over” platform, which allows the restarting of programs in progress.
Monetary details of the agreement were not disclosed.
Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney called it a “milestone agreement” that “combines Disney’s world-renowned brands with Time Warner Cable’s outstanding distribution platforms throughout the country.”
Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt added, “This agreement will give our customers access to an even wider array of sports and high-definition programming.”—Michael Malone
Peabody Awards Cite Series, HBO
The Peabody Awards, considered by some the most distinguished television and radio prize, named 35 winners last week.
The leader board for TV networks went like this: HBO (5), NBC (4) ABC (3) and eight with one each. Four TV stations also were awarded Peabodys for local documentaries.
Four broadcast-network series won awards. NBC was lauded for three of them: Scrubs, The Office and Friday Night Lights. (A day later, NBC said it is renewing comedy 30 Rock for another season, and NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly all but said the same for the ratings-bereft Friday Night Lights.)
WTNH New Haven, Conn., KMOV St. Louis, and WTHR and WISH both Indianapolis were honored (see Flash, p. 6).
The Peabody Awards, which also laud radio broadcasts, are administered by the University of Georgia. They are different from most awards in that there are no categories nor a set number of recipients.
They will be presented June 4 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. A full list of winners is at www.broadcastingcable.com.—P.J. Bednarski
'Jury Duty’ Crosses Borders
International format deal is in negotiation
By Jim Benson
America’s brand of daytime TV justice could soon get some international flavor.
Independent producer Radar Entertainment is in advanced negotiations to sell the format for its new fall 2007 syndicated series Jury Duty to broadcasters in at least three international territories. They would produce their own foreign-language versions of the court show, which has a trio of celebrities deciding litigants’ cases.
Radar Principal Vincent Dymon declines to identify the territories but says he will disclose them after the contracts are signed in July.
Jury Duty would become the only court show to license its format outside of the U.S., according to Dymon. Buyers would be able to produce versions with local cases, celebrity jurors and a well-known judge along the lines of attorney Bruce Cutler. The New York lawyer famous for defending mob boss John Gotti will preside over the American edition.
Radar was able to interest foreign buyers in Jury Duty because it differs from other personality-driven court shows like Judge Judy, which are dubbed into other languages.
Meanwhile, Radar is seeking a cable network to give it an additional platform as station clearances for the show have surpassed 75% of the U.S. It has rounded out the top 10 markets with the recent additions of KCAL Los Angeles, KTXA Dallas and WUPA Atlanta.
The momentum, which should provide a boost to Trifecta Media’s national barter sales efforts, comes as Dymon has waged an uphill battle to gain clearances for Jury Duty.
Aside from the usual difficulties in launching a show, Dymon last November filed a Los Angeles Superior Court suit against Warner Bros., alleging it stole his idea for a daily, first-run court show featuring a celebrity jury.
Warner Bros. subsequently pulled Telepictures’ Celebrity Jury off the market after it received a lukewarm greeting from stations (B&C, Feb. 26).