BC Beat


With Glen Dickson, John Eggerton and Ben Grossman

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Brian Williams Wants a Hi-Def Bonus

The bevy of high-end gadgets at the annual Consumer Electronics Show can elicit pangs of digital envy from even well-heeled journalists like NBC anchor Brian Williams.

Williams was at the show in Las Vegas last week, where Nightly News With Brian Williams broadcast live Wednesday night from the exhibition floor and showed off a handful of the latest gadgets.

But he lamented that the visit left him too little time to peruse the wares at the massive show.

"Coming to CES for only two hours is tough," Williams told B&C, adding that he planned to "power-walk the floor and see all the new plasma sets and the super-thin displays."

When told he might want to check out Panasonic's new 150-inch plasma set, Williams said he was a "man of modest means" and would be perfectly happy with the same type of 103-inch Panasonic plasma displayed in NBCU's booth and routinely used on its "Football Night in America" NFL pre-game show.

Couldn't NBC hook him up with a corporate discount for the 103-incher, which sells through Panasonic's professional arm and lists for $70,000?

"How about a 100% discount?" Williams quipped. "I think my company owes me one, for working so hard and flying all over the place."

But apparently, Williams was keeping his eye on the bigger picture: Nightly News' new Website has video of him marching down to the Panasonic booth, where he gazed longingly at the 150-inch plasma.

Boxed Out

As if American Samoa didn't already suffer from mainlanders' outta-sight-outta-mind worldview, it appears the South Pacific island nearly got short shrift in the coming DTV transition.

That's because all residents of the U.S. territory, some 57,663 at last count, receive their mail in Post Office boxes, making them ineligible for the digital-to-analog converter box subsidy coupons issued by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration. (The NTIA requires applicants to have a household address so as to avoid fraud.)

Happily, though, the agency has extended a waiver to the entire territory—no surprise given that the Hawaiian and Alaskan senators who co-chair the powerful Senate Energy & Commerce Committee have urged the NTIA to ensure that its coupon program will reach far-flung populations.

According to the NTIA, a handful of Samoan residents have applied already. Unfortunately, retailers on the island have yet to be certified to carry the boxes, an NTIA source says, so residents will have to wait or order them online.

And in the irony department, the address to send your coupon application form: P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208.

Trebek Talks Trash

A couple of hundred invitees to Sony Pictures Television's event at CES last Monday were treated to private performances by comedian Jerry Seinfeld and crooner Tony Bennett.

But perhaps no one was happier to be there than Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, who recovered from a minor heart attack in December.

"The way 2007 ended, I'm delighted to be anywhere," Trebek joked.

With Trebek at his side, Sony Pictures Television president Steve Mosko outlined his company's extensive content library and distribution initiatives, and announced that Jeopardy!'s "Tournament of Champions" will be taped live from the floor at next year's CES.

At one point, Mosko noted that SPT's Wheel of Fortune was the top show in syndication.

"Time slots, time slots," Trebek interjected by way of explaining why his own show isn't tops. "Vanna and Pat. I work alone."

"You get paid for both," Mosko fired back.

But the SPT chief corrected himself when Trebek admitted later that he'd recently watched an L.A. Lakers game in lieu of the premiere of the studio's Cashmere Mafia on ABC.

"You were paid more than Pat and Vanna," he joked.