He's got game
Columbia TriStar Television Distribution is bringing out a new version of Pyramid
for fall 2002, joining a growing field that will likely include syndicated versions of Weakest Link and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Donny Osmond, who co-hosted the studio's Donny and Marie from 1998-2000, has been tapped to fill Dick Clark's penny loafers. The studio taped a pilot with Osmond late last year and considered bringing Pyramid out for the fall. A crowded marketplace prompted CTTD to hold off for a season. Now they say they will be in the marketplace as soon as this week in search of a combination of access and fringe time periods for the strip. The top dollar number will likely be $100,000 this go-round.
Tracker may cross over
New syndicated action hour, Tracker, is looking to land a dual run on the Sci Fi Channel. Unlike the soon-to-be dual run of Studios USA's Crossing Over with John Edward, which debuts in syndication in the fall while continuing its run on co-owned Sci Fi, Tracker's producer, Lion's Gate, and distributor, Mercury, are outside the USA family. A Sci Fi source said the show "is definitely in the mix," but that talks have been on the back burner while executives waited out Hollywood strike negotiations—the writers' strike is effectively settled, while the actors' strike is likely. Set to star is Highlander's Adrian Paul doing battle with aliens, but Tracker's honchos weren't commenting.
Even though a potential marriage of DBS companies DirecTV and EchoStar is being heralded by analysts as an efficient use of spectrum and a boon to competition, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) isn't so sure. "Billy has spent most of his career in Washington trying to create more choice for consumers, not less," says Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson. "Clearly, if EchoStar acquires DirecTV, there would be one less competitor in the marketplace. From that standpoint alone, the proposed deal creates some concerns for us." Scrutiny from Tauzin could put a crimp in the deal, although the real gauntlet would be antitrust authorities.
Man of Steel
WebTV creator Steve Perlman's new venture, Rearden Steel Technologies, has quietly bought up the intellectual property for datacasting applications from defunct Geocast Networks for approximately $2 million. Perlman tried to buy Geocast in mid-December of last year, but Geocast's board said no—the company subsequently folded Feb.28. Perlman has assembled about 300 people in Palo Alto, Calif. (including a number of ex-Geocast engineers) and accumulated nearly $67 million in funding to build an "all-in-one" set-top box. The company is actively seeking resumes on its Web site (www.ReardenSteel.com) for positions in business development, marketing, software and hardware engineering and operations. Cisco, EchoStar, Mayfield venture capital and the Washington Post Co. have all taken a stake in the company. Perlman sold WebTV to Microsoft for $425 million in 1997.
Lowdown in Chi-town
Chicago is one town that is still letting WBBM-TV down. The CBS O&O dropped its no-frills 10 p.m. newscast with Carol Marin last fall in the wake of sinking ratings. It didn't help. Nielsen ratings show the late news was down 13% in May sweeps from a low-rated February. Given its frequent changes recently, an overhaul isn't likely before the next sweeps period, but on the plus side, the station's 4:30 newscast is improving.