News Articles

Fast Track

2/24/2006 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Levin's New Content Venture

Development company targets young audience

After almost two years off the television radar, Jordan Levin, former CEO of The WB, is back in business with Generate, a new development and |talent-management firm.

The company will create content aimed at younger audiences on various platforms, including television, broadband and mobile devices. Formed by Levin as a partnership with production veterans Pete Aronson and Mike Karz and talent managers Dave Rath and Kara Welker, the company has already inked a deal with MTV Networks to develop content for the company's myriad distribution platforms.

Generate's goal is to be a “media-neutral company” that lets producers start with a concept, develop it and then decide on the best distribution platform, says Levin, who has consulted with new-media and broadband firms.

“The power of the idea is becoming paramount,” he says. “What you supply matters more than how you supply it.”

Generate will develop content exclusively for MTV's mobile, broadband and basic-cable platforms and has to give MTV a first look at television projects. If MTV takes a pass, the firm can take the project to broadcast or pay TV but not to another basic-cable network. Considering the breadth of cable properties under the MTV Networks umbrella, Levin says, Generate should be able to hit “the audience we want to reach,” which is young adults and family households.

“The chokehold used to be distribution,” he says. “I think the chokehold's back on talent.”—Glen Dickson

Burnett Looking at Game Shows, News

He's known for reality shows featuring adventure, business, music and boxing, and now Mark Burnett is looking at branching out into game shows and news.

The man behind hits like Survivor and The Apprentice this week will begin pitching a game-show project to networks for prime time.

“It's a classic-type game show, along the lines of Jeopardy! or Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” he says.

Burnett believes the market is ripe for another game-show entrant, even as NBC brings back Deal or No Deal and CBS readies its Game Show Marathon of classic formats with celebrity contestants.

Deal or No Deal proves there is room for more revisiting of the Millionaire-type show in prime time,” Burnett says.

He also has a news project in development. Citing the success of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, he is developing an idea for a newsmagazine show targeting a young, hip audience.

“I do believe there is a vacuum and a big opportunity in news,” he says. “The network news business still requires advertising, but their viewers are very old. Young people are interested in watching some form of news, if presented in the right way.”

Burnett said that, while plans are in the early stages, he is targeting the networks, as opposed to syndication, and is currently putting out feelers for talent.

And in his spare time, Burnett has become a de facto moderator of the Apprentice-inspired rivalry between Donald Trump and Martha Stewart. Burnett laughs when asked if Trump might appear soon on Stewart's daytime talk show, which Burnett is also behind: “That would be a good rating, wouldn't it? Maybe that's the plan. Those two are a reality show themselves right now.”—Ben Grossman

Fox Acquires Turner South

After months of deep discussions, Time Warner has sold Atlanta-based regional cable channel Turner South to Fox. Seven-year-old Turner South reaches about 8 million subscribers across six states with mainly sports programming, including Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers games. Fox also inherits the long-term TV-rights deals Turner South had with those teams.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but industry analysts have estimated Turner South to be worth about $200 million. With the addition of Turner South, Fox Cable Networks now owns 15 regional cable nets and partners with 44 MLB, NBA and NHL franchises. FCN already owns Atlanta-based FSN South, the country's largest regional sports network with more than 11 million subscribers. Fox operates two separate regional sports networks in Los Angeles.—Anne Becker

Former Lifetime, WB Execs Join The CW

Mitch Nedick has been tapped as executive VP/CFO for new network The CW, and Michael Ross has been named executive VP of business affairs. Rick Haskins becomes executive VP of marketing and brand strategy.

Both Nedick and Ross will report to CEO John Maatta.

In his new role, Nedick will handle The CW's financial affairs and daily administration. He comes to The CW from the soon-to-be-defunct WB, where he was executive VP, finance and operations, since 2000.

Ross will oversee business affairs for the network and deal with all network talent, programming development and license-fee negotiations. He was previously executive VP of business affairs for The WB.

The CW, formed by Warner Bros. and CBS Corp., launches in the fall.

Haskins most recently was executive VP and general manager for Lifetime Television, where CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff was executive VP of entertainment before joining UPN as entertainment president in 2002.—Rebecca Stropoli

Turner Leaving Time Warner Board

Completing his fade from Time Warner, Ted Turner will not stand for reelection to the company's board of directors. Turner is Time Warner's biggest individual shareholder, a stake that came when he sold Turner Broadcasting System to the company in 1996. He was initially active as vice chairman but became increasingly marginalized, particularly after the sale of the company to America Online.

Carla Hills, a former U.S. trade representative, will also stand down, freeing up the two seats Chairman Richard Parsons has pledged to fill with independent directors to help settle his battle with investor Carl Icahn.—John M. Higgins

FCC Set To OK Jackson Fine

The FCC is planning to uphold the Janet Jackson fine in a package of TV-related indecency actions that could be released in the next few days, according to people familiar with the matter.

Originally, the reconsideration of decisions concerning Jackson and, separately, rocker Bono—requested by CBS and NBC Universal—were expected to be released separately.

Together, the cases are the centerpieces of the FCC's promise to Congress that it is serious about indecency enforcement. Three of the four sitting commissioners supported both decisions, and the fourth, Republican Deborah Tate, is on the record saying that content needs a cleanup.

Upholding the Jackson fine would set the stage for a likely court challenge.

It has been two years since the Jackson reveal at the Super Bowl. CBS immediately apologized, but the uproar in Washington and an effective e-mail complaint campaign ensued, and the FCC proposed fining CBS $550,000.

CBS chief Leslie Moonves told TV critics in 2004 that the fine was “patently ridiculous” and the company was “not going to stand for it.”

CBS told the FCC it shouldn't have to pay, as have First Amendment lawyers, and the procedural back-and-forth has ended up in the FCC's court.

If CBS does sue, it has enlisted top First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere for the task. He helped PlayboyChannel end a partial ban on its programming, winning a Supreme Court decision that a ban on adult cable content was overly broad when blocking technology was available .

The broadcast networks have standardized their ratings information and gotten behind the V-chip blocking technology, which could set the stage for arguing that, like cable, indecent-speech regulations are overly broad in an age when technology allows broadcast-content control similar to cable's.—J.E.

Comedy Plans Series For Cellphones

Comedy Central has created its first original animated series for cellphones, Samurai Love God.

The show, about an erotic land full of sex-crazed inhabitants, will launch in the first quarter across various mobile providers with eight 2½-minute episodes. It will star Daily Show correspondent Ed Helms, porn actress Jenna Jameson, and comedians Lisa Lampanelli and Christian Finnegan. The animated shorts were created by Eric Mahoney. The TV-14–rated series will be free to service subscribers.

Comedy Central, an MTV network, announced deals in January to bring clips of South Park and Chappelle's Show to cellphones, the first such mobile deals for its two biggest series.

AT&T Is Top Upton Donor

With network neutrality, telco video, and a rewrite of the Communications Act on Washington's agenda, it should probably come as no surprise that AT&T shows up as the top contributor to the 2006 campaign of the chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, with other communications companies well-represented.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, AT&T's PAC contributions combined with those of individual executives or employees and family members, top the list of contributors to Fred Upton (R-Mich.) at $12,000.

But telcos are not the only interested parties. Comcast is at No. 3 with $10,000, tied with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and followed by the National Association of Broadcasters at $9,250. The figures are from Federal Elections Commission filings as of Jan. 23, according to the Center's opensecrets.org Web site.—John Eggerton

Correction

WJXT Jacksonville, Fla., had a 24.2% share of market revenue in 2004. A number in a table titled “Independently Wealthy?” (`2/20, p. 9) was incorrect.

The photo of panelists at the National Television Summit (photo 4, 2/20, p. 12) should have been credited to Louis Raynor.

Magna Global's Steve Sternberg is executive VP of audience analysis. He is incorrectly identified on p. 13 of this week's issue.

 

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