The WB and 21 affiliates threw a back-lot party for more than 400 local advertisers flown to Los Angeles to hang out with WB stars. Participating affiliates kicked in $300 per advertiser, in addition to paying their expenses. The WB supplied the back lot and the stars, including Nikki Cox (Nikki), Bob Saget (Raising Dad), Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek) and David Boreanaz (Angel). The party also included a fly-over by the Goodyear Blimp billboarding WB shows. "Instead of throwing a party for 60 advertisers in their home community, they'll find the top five or six advertisers and say, 'You've been a big supporter, we'd like you to come to L.A. [for] this big network party,'" says Ken Werner, The WB's EVP, network distribution. The party was co-hosted by KTLA-TV Los Angeles.—J.S.
ABC's new fall lines
ABC is stepping up with some additional HDTV programming this fall.
ABC officials won't say how much, but affiliates have heard that the HD schedule will include at least three new dramas—Alias, Philly and Thieves— as well as Saturday-night movies. Last season, ABC's HD output was limited to NYPD Blue and occasional movies. How much the network broadcasts this season will depend on its success finding sponsors. In any event, by December, ABC DTV stations expect to be airing five to 10 hours of HD programming each week. NBC may also expand its HD schedule beyond the Tonight Show but first must finish upgrading its satellite distribution system. It's hoping to offer some Olympics coverage in HD if it can find a sponsor (see item, this page). CBS is the unchallenged HD leader. With the backing of Samsung and Mitsubishi, it's planning another big HD season: 26 hours per week, including college football for the first time. Fox isn't doing HD but hopes to offer some wide-screen programming this season.—M.G.
Carrying torch for HDTV
NBC plans to shoot a small amount of HD video at several indoor events for its Winter Olympics coverage in Salt Lake City in February. But it is desperately seeking a sponsor to foot the bill for more. There's even talk of broadcasting some events live if the right deal is struck. A source at a major consumer electronics company told B&C it was approached with a proposal: Give/loan the network $1 million in production equipment and pay $1 million cash in exchange for a few on-air credits and the right to promote its gear in press releases and publicity events. The company respectfully declined, and, according to NBC (which would not confirm the dollar amounts), the search goes on.—M.G.
The FCC is on track to propose changes to the broadcast/newspaper crossownership restrictions and the cap on cable subs at its Sept. 13 meeting. Last week, the cable and mass media bureaus sent their recommendations to the commissioners' offices. FCC Chairman Michael Powell has insisted the commission not appear to prejudge the issues given the panel's Republican majority.
Consequently, the bureaus' proposals are little more than broad requests for public/industry comment on how to proceed. Still, neither item is assured of making the final agenda. August vacations may make commissioners reluctant to tackle high-profile issues quickly, and deregulation faces stronger opposition from the Senate's new Democratic leadership.—B.M.