In the Loop

'Fine' Time for DTV

Beginning this week, the 71 commercial TV stations admonished by the FCC for failing to launch digital service must be on the air with DTV or face the possibility of fines.

This past spring, the FCC reprimanded the stations for not justifying their failure to offer digital as of the May 1, 2002, deadline. Another 772 of the 1,315 commercial stations got six-month extensions that have now expired. A second extension has been requested by 507, with 62 so far given the additional half-year. The rest are under review. Any of the 71 admonished stations that failed to go digital by Dec. 1 can be issued notices of apparent liability for fines and required to meet a series of 30-day construction milestones. Any of those stations still without a digital signal six months from now could have their construction permits yanked.—B.M.

Ultra HD: Just 2 Decades Away

If you think HDTV offers a "wow" factor, get ready for "wow" times a factor of four. But you'll have to make plans to visit the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan. NHK will demonstrate Ultra HD, with 4,000 lines of resolution (compared with today's limit of 1080i).

"The resolution is three or four times the resolution of 75mm film," explains Katsuji Ebisawa, president of Japanese public broadcaster NHK, which is developing the technology. "Of course, it may take two decades or more to put it on the market, but at least we can put it on display at exhibitions." —K.K.

More Yawn Than Yippee! for CBS

After a month on the air, the morning has yet to become electric for CBS. The new Early Show anchor team hasn't had much effect on the ratings either way. After four weeks (Oct. 28-Nov. 22), the show is still third and hovering at a 2.1 rating/8 share of audience, which translates to about 2.6 million viewers, about what it has been doing all season. The competition, though, is basically flat as well. For the same period, NBC's Today still leads with an average 5.1/19 (6.4 million viewers), and ABC's Good Morning America is at a 3.8/14 (4.7 million viewers).

Not surprisingly, CBS can put a positive spin on the results. Early-morning viewing habits, a CBS booster notes, are deeply engrained and tend to change very slowly so the show's overhaul was a big change that risked alienating current viewers. But the revamp hasn't done that, at least.—S.M.

Click-and-Drag TV Shopping

NATPE and other TV-programming markets could be getting some online competition. Geneva-based is trying to drum up clients for its online programming marketplace. It bills itself as a platform for "searching, viewing and buying TV content of any language, category, duration, format, source, genre, theme or style." All for an annual fee of about $675, at the current exchange rate. launched its alternative to traditional TV-program marketplaces "because the national or commercial networks, independent producers and distribution agencies need a virtual version of the existing 'real' marketplace where they can search, sell/buy content ... without spending important amounts on promotion budgets, distribution or travel expenses." —J.E.

Chopping at Charter

Charter employees are bracing for a big restructuring that's going to trigger widespread layoffs. Workers in the cable operator's Midwestern division expect the company to ax more than 1,000 workers by year's end (figure a 6%-8% cut of 17,000 employees). The layoffs will target corporate and division management more than system-level employees like installers and customer-service reps. CEO Carl Vogel has long expressed unhappiness over the management structure he inherited last year, which currently is organized with systems reporting to six divisions that report into three regional chiefs. Too many layers. The divisional structure will be scrapped, and at least one more region created. That means, however, that one of the existing regional chiefs will be shuffled out.—J.M.H.