Corn yes, tuners no
The American Corn Growers Association came out last week against the digital-tuner mandate, one of the "prominent public-interest groups" whose opposition was cited by CEA. What with pesticide and genetic modification to worry about, how did DTV tuners wind up on corn farmers' plates? The president of the association, Keith Dittrich, didn't know and wasn't familiar with the issue but said ACGA monitors some telecom issues; it founded the Rural Telecommunications Alliance to lobby for open markets and competitive pricing. Dittrich referred the tuner conundrum to ACGA CEO Larry Mitchell, who said he had "no idea" why they were opposing the mandate, but "was trying to find out."—J.E.
No free ride at Western Show
The price tag to attend the Western Show is back up for major MSO execs. Last year, to boost turnout, the California Cable Telecommunications Association picked up their T&E. But not this year. Show organizers are focusing on technology and broadband services. Cable still isn't in the show's name. It's called the New BroadbandPlus Western Show.—A.R.
CBS parent Viacom has taken the lead in the newly formed News and Sports Production Coalition, which aims to ensure that the spectrum crunch doesn't flatten TV. Networks already have to give up some of the "backhaul" ENG spectrum they use to send coverage of news and sports to their studios. But spectrum-hungry events such as golf, NASCAR and major news are particularly problematic. Proliferation of news channels and innovations such as driver cams often require "borrowing" spectrum from other services. Demand for wireless and other non-TV uses has made that search a lot harder. The coalition is asking the FCC to make sure temporary news and sports needs are accommodated. Members include broadcast networks, Turner Sports, C-SPAN, ESPN and Golf Channel.—B.M.
Hallmark's 'very best' for less
Hallmark Channel brags it is just about the fastest-growing cable channel since its relaunch a year ago, hitting 47 million subs. But when parent Crown Media posted earnings, it showed zero growth in cable license fees in the past 12 months. Why? Most of
those sign-ups have been deep-discount deals. "We're not getting subscriber revenue out of most of these deals in the early years," Crown Chairman David Evans acknowledged. In the 10-year contracts Hallmark has been signing, fees don't kick in for four
to six years, even when the network is paying a launch fee that industry execs say tops out at $7 per sub. Evans points out that some competing start-ups are signing 10-year deals with no license fees, leaving those nets totally dependent on ads: "That makes it a one-revenue-stream business."
Wayne Brady debuts in Rosie O'Donnell's
time periods on the ABC-owned TV stations Sept. 2. But come January, the stations will have to decide if he's earned it. The station group has a 50% stake in Warner Bros.' Caroline Rhea Show, also debuting this fall, which the ABC group will debut in late night. Essentially, Rhea
is a back-up show if Brady
doesn't deliver. But there's a catch: A source close to the show says, if the ABC stations don't upgrade Rhea
out of late night by January, Warner Bros. recaptures 100% ownership. Makes sense, observers say. After all, Warner gave the ABC stations the stake as an incentive to give Rhea
maximum exposure. "There's little advantage to Warner Bros.' having the show in late night in the big markets," says one executive.—S.M.
Traffic jam at ground zero
About 100 TV stations and perhaps a third as many international broadcasters are expected to send anchors/reporters to the sites of the 9/11 attacks—most to Ground Zero in New York. New York officials say they have not yet had many outside requests for press credentials but expect a rush in the next few weeks. Network affiliate services, particularly news feeds, will provide facilities for the out-of-town journalists.—D.T.