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6/10/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern

NBC KO'd The Contender after the boxing reality series' first season, and the sport of boxing itself is in a sad state, but Contender creator Mark Burnett is willing to go a few rounds on behalf of both. “We are looking not just for a TV partner but for a partner overall to help really relaunch the sport,” Burnett says. “This relationship will be as much about the overall opportunity of rebuilding boxing as it will be about a TV show. If we just wanted a TV deal, we'd be done already.”

Though Burnett would only acknowledge talking with “a number of outlets” about reviving The Contender, industry insiders say ESPN or HBO would be the most likely new venue, though Spike TV, FX and even Fox (which decided last season's The Next Great Champ was a chump) would also qualify as a prospective partner. Burnett says he expects, within weeks, to announce “big fight night” televised events that would be a prelude to the series' return, possibly by January 2006.

Burnett's partners on the show—Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard—would remain with the project, he says.

The Contender averaged a mediocre 6.2 million viewers for the season but did draw nearly 8 million for the finale bout of the elimination series. Those numbers obviously didn't impress NBC, but some other stats made Yahoo! perk up: a lightly promoted afternoon Webcast of three fights prior to NBC's May 24 Contender season finale prompted 516,000 video streams, according to the company. Jim Moloshok, Yahoo! senior VP of branded entertainment, says, “If the program were to come back, we'd love to be involved.” Rematch!

Wedding Tax

Christine Kurth, telecom aide to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, last week withdrew her name from consideration for an FCC seat. Kurth was a leading candidate for one of two commission openings but dropped out of the running after “extensive discussions” with the White House.

It seems that Bush Administration honchos vetting for FCC posts decided Kurth had too many potential conflicts of interest because her husband, Timothy, is a lobbyist for Lundquist, Nethercutt & Griles, which works for several clients (Motorola, Sprint, U.S. Telecom Association) with business before the commission. Kurth, they decided, would have spent too much time recusing herself from FCC business.

Given how many interconnected D.C. couples there are, it's amazing that anybody ever lands a high-powered job. In the media/telecom regulatory sector alone, these potentially tricky marital alliances come to mind:

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's wife, Catherine, is a White House deputy communications director.

FTC Chairman and antitrust regulator Deborah Majoras' husband, John, is a corporate antitrust lawyer.

NCTA President and top cable lobbyist Kyle McSlarrow's wife, Alison, is a former Microsoft lobbyist.

NAB General Counsel and ex-FCC official Jane Mago's husband, Robert Blau, is BellSouth's regulatory counsel.

FCC Media Bureau spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher's husband, Robert, is a Clear Channel lobbyist.

A 'Desperate' Bidding War

How much would you bid at auction for a visit to Los Angeles that included a Desperate Housewives walk-on role and dinner with Teri Hatcher? Oh, your dinner mates would also include ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson and talent-management company The Firm Chairman Rich Frank. And Frank would sweeten the deal with five bottles of wine from his Frank Family Vineyards and the first case of a yet-to-be-released wine called Promise.

That was the offering at a charitable auction June 5 in Napa Valley, and it brought in more than half a million bucks.

According to Frank, the night began with Jay Leno doing about 30 minutes of material that the Tonight Show host clearly wasn't just mailing in. When the package that Frank had put together came up for auction, the bidding ramped up to more than $100,000, then stalled—until Teri Hatcher took the stage. Then, Frank says, “the bidding went a little crazy.”

Stratton Sclavos, CEO of the Internet company VeriSign, outlasted rival bidder Tatiana Copeland, owner of Bouchaine Vineyards, with Sclavos agreeing to pay $300,000. Frank, Hatcher and McPherson huddled for a moment and offered the same package to Copeland, who signed on for $280,000. The event, Auction Napa Valley 25, raised more than $10 million for non-profit health care, affordable housing and other local needs. Nice.

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