Fast Track

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Foul-Mouthed Reporter Lands A New Job

WPIX New York has hired Arthur Chi’en, the reporter who was fired in May after he cursed at pranksters who disrupted his live news report.

Chi’en will join the Tribune Broadcasting-owned station effective Aug. 22. On May 19, he was delivering a live report about subway-fare scams when two men sneaked up behind him waving signs for the Opie & Anthony XM radio show (and a middle finger) in view of the camera.

After delivering his report, Chi’en turned to the men and said, “What the f*** is your problem, man?” The expletive went out over the air; Chi’en later apologized, but WCBS fired him, citing a zero- tolerance policy.—Joel Meyer

Lopez for Creative Arts Emmys Host

Comedian George Lopez, star of his self-titled ABC sitcom, has been named host of the 2005 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Sept. 11.

The event, to be held at the Shrine Auditorium, will be televised as a two-hour special by E! at 7 p.m. ET Sept. 17—the night before the Primetime Emmys—for the fourth consecutive year.—Jim Benson

OLN Prepares For Puck To Drop

After beating out ESPN for TV rights to National Hockey League games last week, the lightly viewed OLN channel will seek higher license fees from cable and DBS operators when many of the Comcast network’s carriage deals come up for renewal at the end of the year.

Comcast COO Steve Burke says the cable operator will likely expand the number of homes where OLN is available and charge more, too. “I think, when you add something like the NHL, it’s fair to assume your affiliate fee will go up.”

Burke declines to provide specifics about which deals will expire or how much Comcast will seek to increase subscription rates.

Under a deal finalized Aug. 16, OLN agreed to pay some $65 million to telecast hockey’s upcoming season, according to sources, with $70 million for the second year and an option for a third year at $72.5 million.

Also, Comcast agreed to start and carry a 24/7 NHL channel, which it expects to have up on a digital tier within two years.

ESPN’s previous deal was $60 million per year. It passed on the option to match Comcast’s offer for the low-rated league.

George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN Inc. and ABC Sports, says he’d like to keep hockey, but “given the prolonged work stoppage and the league’s TV-ratings history, no financial model even remotely supports the contract terms offered.”

OLN will run the first of the 58 regular-season games on Oct. 5 and exclusive national games on Monday and Tuesday. But OLN’s reach is far less than ESPN’s. It is available in 64 million homes, versus ESPN’s 90 million. Ten percent of OLN’s systems offer it only on a digital tier.

OLN, best-known for its coverage of the Tour de France, has been stockpiling bigger acquisitions in recent months, looking to branch out beyond its core audience of outdoor-sports enthusiasts, especially now that fan favorite Lance Armstrong has likely competed in his final Tour.—Anne Becker, Ben Grossman and John M. Higgins

'Martha’ Cleared In 98% of U.S.

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution has sold how-to series Martha, one of three strips debuting this fall, in more than 98% of the U.S., including 98 of the top 100 markets, for its national syndication debut on Sept. 12.

Beyond the NBC owned stations, the show has been cleared by several major station groups, including Hearst-Argyle, Gannett, Scripps, Allbritton, Belo, Freedom, Viacom, Young, Clear Channel, Meredith and Journal Communications.

Last week, among many staffing announcements, Laurie Rich was named executive in charge of production.

The daytime show is executive-produced by Mark Burnett, as is Stewart’s upcoming prime time gig, The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.

Last week, that show named its first 16 candidates, who range in age from 22 to 42 and include an ad exec, publisher and a newscaster. It premieres on NBC Sept. 21.—J.B.

Shapiro To Leave ESPN

ESPN Executive VP of Programming and Production Mark Shapiro, who vaulted up the ranks in 12 years with the sports network, will leave Oct. 1 to become CEO of private investment firm Red Zone.

Red Zone was founded by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, whose holdings include a minority interest in Six Flags Amusement Parks. One of Shapiro’s high points was growing the ESPN Original Entertainment division. —B.G.

Ludwin Gets EVP Nod at NBC

NBC’s Rick Ludwin will mark a quarter century with the network by getting executive VP stripes over his late-night and prime time series domain, plus a five-year contract extension.

Ludwin previously served as senior VP, overseeing the development and production of NBC’s top-rated late-night lineup.

He also oversaw development and production of Seinfeld during its nine-year run. Ludwin also will continue to develop new prime time sitcoms and prime time specials. —J.B.

Software To Aid Nielsen VOD-Viewer Measurement

Nielsen took a technological step forward last week in its march to measure video-on-demand (VOD) viewership, announcing a collaboration with software company Anystream.

Nielsen “watermarking” technology will be built in to Anystream’s Agility software, allowing cable operators, content providers and distributors to encode audio cues into VOD programming. The programming can then be tracked by the ratings company’s “active/passive” meters, which detect the codes.

In May, Nielsen announced it will incorporate VOD viewership into its television-ratings service from national and metered market samples, starting in second quarter 2006.

The company will measure the viewership of VOD programming in a seven-day window after the programming airs on traditional television. Nielsen plans to measure VOD viewership of movies, pay-per-view events and older TV shows by the end of next year.—J.M.

E/I Bug Is Due on Kids Programming By Sept. 19

As the summer draws to a close in September, the bugs will come out: broadcasters’ informational/educational bugs.

The FCC has announced Monday, Sept. 19 as the deadline for broadcasters to begin displaying an on-screen “educational/informational,” or E/I, bug. The bug must air on-screen through the entirety of a show for broadcasters to get credit toward the FCC’s mandated three-hour weekly minimum of educational children’s programming.

The E/I bug requirement applies to commercial and non-commercial broadcasters alike. Earlier this month, the Office of Management and Budget approved the FCC’s decision to require broadcasters to display it. The OMB had to approve the bug because it is considered an information- collection obligation and is subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act.

The FCC adopted the on-screen obligation as part of its rewrite of children’s-programming rules last November.—J.M.

Voom Boom for Dish

Voom HD, the high-definition satellite service from Rainbow Media that seemed to generate more headlines than subscribers, is back with 10 channels (which will eventually grow to 21) on the HD tier of EchoStar’s Dish Network. It is also now making its suite of channels available to other cable operators and satellite providers. The current offerings include a monster-movie channel, an extreme-sports channel, and a news channel along with seven other niche offerings. Voom HD also acquired HD rights to 17 James Bond films and will begin showing them in 2006.

“HD viewers will now have the ability to surf from channel to channel with many different kinds of offerings that are designed to, collectively, serve every member of the household and demographic,” says Nora Ryan, Voom HD. Co-General Manager Greg Moyer says the service will expand to 21 channels when EchoStar deploys next-generation HD set-top boxes that use less bandwidth next year.

—Ken Kerschbaumer

CBS Viewers Land on 'Mars’

Repeating UPN’s Veronica Mars on CBS in late July and early August was an experiment that achieved what it set out to do: raise awareness of the drama.

According to UPN, 93% of the 13.5 million viewers who saw all or part of the four episodes on CBS had never seen them—and presumably the series—before.

UPN and CBS commissioned a special study from Nielsen Media Research comparing audience composition on both networks. Since those CBS airings, Mars viewership on UPN on Wednesdays has improved 14% in adults 18-34, 33% in adults 18-49 and 20% in total viewers.—P.J. Bednarski

Broadcast Indecency Complaints Down, FCC Says

The FCC received about half as many broadcast indecency and obscenity complaints in the first quarter of 2005 compared with the previous quarter, according to a new quarterly report released this week by the commission.

The number of television and radio indecency and obscenity complaints dropped from 317,833 in fourth quarter 2004 to 157,016 in the first quarter of this year.

The FCC attributed the drop to “the decline in the number of complaints received in connection with e-mail or write-in campaigns directed at specific radio and television broadcasts.”

The first quarter 2005 total pales in comparison with the 693,080 indecency and obscenity complaints filed during the year-ago period, when CBS aired Janet Jackson’s live “nipple flash” at the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, cable- and satellite-related complaints are up, increasing from 132 in fourth quarter 2004 to 718 in first quarter 2005.

Among the categories used to classify pay-TV complaints, the biggest jump was in programming, which increased from 39 complaints in fourth quarter 2004 to 502 in first quarter 2005. The programming category is where the commission files objections to pay-TV content, as well as consumer complaints about channel choice or program availability.

The FCC does not regulate cable and satellite for obscenity and indecency the way it does for broadcasters, although Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has led a push to apply such standards to pay TV.—J.M.

HBO’s 'Extras’ Gets Extra Season

HBO has picked up a second season of Ricky Gervais’ entertainment-industry spoof, Extras, before even airing the first season of the BBC co-production.

That’s not unprecedented: In 2001, HBO reupped Six Feet Under before its series debut.

The pay-cable network’s move follows a second-season nod for the show last week from the BBC in England, where its first season has been airing on BBC2 to positive reviews and an average audience of 3 million viewers through four episodes.

The show features Gervais, who starred in and co-produced BBC’s The Office, as a wannabe actor who can’t land a big gig after leaving his day job, and features cameos from actors including Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Stiller and Kate Winslet.

Extras debuts Sept. 25 at 10:30 p.m. ET, after the fifth-season premiere of fellow showbiz parody Curb Your Enthusiasm.—A.B.

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