In the Loop
Is Brian Roberts (below) really off his acquisition binge? The Comcast CEO insists he is. Meeting with a small group of investors assembled by Bank of America media analyst Doug Shapiro last Thursday, Roberts contended that he doesn't see the need for either system or programming acquisitions. Wasn't it just two months ago that Comcast was looking at Vivendi Universal's movie studio and cable networks? Whatever. Roberts said he's now intent on building content or possibly buying under-distributed networks to leverage against his 22 million-subscriber cable-system operation.—J.M.H.
Analysts predict that Voom's HD advantage in terms of number of channels will probably last only until the middle or end of next year. But even after DirecTV and EchoStar match the number of channels, Voom will have a trump card for at least an additional year or two: naked women. The Playboy Channel in HD is expected to launch in January, and original HD productions are already under way in the network's Glendale, Calif., studios for programs like Fallen One, Night Calls
and Private Calls. Cablevision has picked up the cost of the new production gear in exchange for exclusive rights to the service for two years. Given that Voom doesn't carry ESPN in either SD or HD format, inclusion of a channel with naked women will most likely have an important role in attracting male subscribers.—K.K.
It wasn't CBS's biggest crisis last week—that would be The Reagans—but, watching the network's CBS at 75
live special, we noticed an embarrassing editing flub early in the show, when a photo identified as the network's legendary founder William Paley popped up on the screen. Oops, the image was actually Robert Sarnoff (above), the one-time chairman of RCA, which at the time owned CBS's arch-rival NBC. (While we're on the subject of RCA, the special also noted that Paley "ordered the development of color TV" but didn't mention that it was RCA's color technology that ultimately became the industry standard.) CBS didn't have a response to the photo flub at deadline.—S.M.
To prevent partisan bias, CPB may need more control over the programming it helps fund, two board nominees for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting told the Senate Commerce Committee. Their comments were made during an exchange with Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and other Republicans, who criticized Bill Moyers' Now (left) during the nominees' confirmation hearing. "I personally think he's the most partisan and unbalanced person in media," said Lott. Noting that CPB isn't permitted to interfere with the production of shows after it doles out development grants, nominee Cheryl Feldman Halperin suggested, "Perhaps CPB should have more clout." Added fellow candidate Elizabeth Courtney. "I'm an old-school journalist. But we have a situation today where a lot of people [reporting news] have opinions."
October Moon Productions is shopping a half-hour strip for fall 2004 titled Video Funnies. Compiled from the vast video clip library of America's Funniest Home Videos producer Vin Di Bona, the hidden-camera and performance show will be hosted by Rondell Sheridan, a standup comedian who was one of the hosts of short-lived Sony syndicated show Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and who recently had a part on Disney Channel's That's So Raven.—P.A.