Fast Track - Broadcasting & Cable

Fast Track

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Rosenblum Tops WB TV Group

Nineteen-year Warner Bros. Entertainment veteran Bruce Rosenblum, the studio's executive VP since 1999, has officially taken control of The WB Network. He takes over as president of the newly formed Warner Bros. Television Group.

Rosenblum was already overseeing The WB and the studio's other TV businesses, including worldwide production and distribution. The WB has been struggling in the ratings the past few years and, entering its 11th season, is looking to skew more toward 18- to 34-year-olds than to teens. The WB network Chairman Garth Ancier, who previously reported to studio Chairman Barry Meyer, will now report to Rosenblum.

“Bruce is one of the most talented and forward-thinking executives working in television today,” Meyer says. “We're going to rely on his intelligence, instincts and unparalleled experience to create dynamic new business models under the banner of the Warner Bros. Television Group." Adds Rosenblum, “Our tremendous scale, both from current production and our library, provides us with a material competitive advantage.”

The executive was one of the founders of The WB Network and was an architect of the record-setting license-fee negotiations for some of the studio's leading hits in their heydays, including Friends and The West Wing.—Jim Benson

TVB: Spot TV To Jump 6%-8% In 2006

The Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) predicts that spot-TV revenues will grow 6.1%-7.9% next year, with key market factors being the impact of oil prices on spending, the automovie and political categories, new technologies, and audience-measurement and accountability issues.

TVB predicted broadcast-network sales will grow between 3% and 5%, syndication between 2.5% and 4%, network cable between 4% and 6%. Local-cable ad sales will grow between 6% and 8%.

TVB President Chris Rohrs says that the impact of Hurricane Katrina remains a “wild card.”

TVB looks at two-year cycles because odd-year comparisons take a hit from the absence of Olympics or big political dollars. —John Eggerton

ABC To Go Digital With Weather

The 10 ABC owned-and-operated TV stations plan to debut digital weather services later this year, powered by weather-data provider AccuWeather. WABC New York, KABC Los Angeles and WLS Chicago are among the outlets that will broadcast the service as a secondary digital channel.

The new service will compete with NBC's Weather Plus, a local and national forecasting channel carried in more than 30 markets. —Allison Romano

NCTA Show in New Orleans May Be 'Impossible'

In the wake of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association is slowing plans for its annual convention, scheduled to be held in New Orleans next May.

The association says, “As the nation continues to focus its attention on the relief and recovery efforts in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast, NCTA is informing exhibitors that have reserved space for the 2006 National Show, scheduled for May 21-23 in New Orleans, that it is postponing assignment of exhibit space.”

With around 14,000 attendees, the National Show is a rather large convention. The area around the convention center and the French Quarter sustained less flood damage than other parts of New Orleans, but it's unclear what shape the facility or the thousands of hotel rooms required will be in by next May. NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow says he doesn't have to make a decision on pulling the plug for at least a month and is focusing for now on helping hurricane victims. —John M. Higgins

Capus Fills Shapiro's Shoes

In the least-surprising exit in media, Neal Shapiro is stepping down as president of NBC News. Senior VP Steve Capus has been named acting president.

No plans for hiring a permanent replacement have been announced.

Shapiro asked to be released from the gig last May, although network executives believed that NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker was poised to swing the ax. Shapiro is ultimately responsible for the fate of one of NBC's major profit centers, the Today show, whose executive producer, Tom Touchet, was ousted in May.

Shapiro is also in charge of MSNBC, which has stumbled for years. He did successfully manage the transition from retiring NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw to replacement Brian Williams, a shift that many industry executives expected would crunch the No. 1 evening newscast.

Shapiro was named president in 2001, a reward for his success in running the news division's prime time magazine, Dateline, which has faded in the ratings.

Capus spent four years as executive producer of the NBC Nightly News. He was promoted to the No. 2 slot for the entire news division last June, replacing retiring Senior VP Bill Wheatley. —J.M.H.

Cable TV's “Hell Week”

This week marks the annual confluence of cable's biggest events and gatherings:

The National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications will hold its annual conference Sept. 11-13 at the Westin New York at Times Square. On Sept. 14 at 8 a.m., CTAM's New York chapter presents its annual Blue Ribbon Breakfast with a panel of cable executives at the New York Grand Hyatt. Later that day, the New York chapter of Women in Cable & Telecommunications meets at the Pierre Hotel. At 6 p.m., the Walter Kaitz Foundation holds its annual fundraising dinner at the Hilton New York.

New to this year's dinner: Four “diversity champions” from the industry will be honored for encouraging diversity: Time Warner Cable Chairman/CEO Glenn A. Britt and Cox's Mae A. Douglas (senior VP and chief people officer), James A. Hatcher (senior VP, legal and regulatory affairs), and Sherryl D. Love (VP of materials management). The dinner once was a black-tie affair; business attire is appropriate this year.—Anne Becker

TCTA Sues Over State Franchises

The ink had hardly dried on a new telcom law—Texas Gov. Rick Perry had signed it Wednesday—when the Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association (TCTA) filed suit against it.

The law encourages broadband competition by allowing new entrants to get statewide video franchises rather than seeking them from individual cities and towns, as cable has been required to do.

Verizon and SBC have pushed for such legislation on both the national and local levels, arguing that it will speed their competition to cable and satellite. In its suit, TCTA responded that not holding the Bells to the same franchise process is discriminatory and will allow redlining—dividing communities into the 'haves' and 'have nots' of advanced technologies by not serving areas with lower return on investment.—J.E.

Jennings Remembered

Peter Jennings, who died Aug. 7 at the age of 67, will be memorialized Sept. 20 at 11 a.m. The late ABC World News Tonight anchor's life will be celebrated at New York's Carnegie Hall. At press time, the family was still selecting speakers and guests.—J.E.

NCTA: Must-Carry To Cost Billions

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association sent a letter to members of Congress arguing that any law requiring them to carry all of a broadcaster's digital signals would be doubly unconstitutional.

NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow cited a legal analysis from former Assistant Attorney General Charles Cooper that argued such a law would violate the First and Fifth Amendments, calling it speech regulation that does not advance a compelling government interest and a “taking” of cable property.

That “taking” could make the government liable for compensating the cable industry billions of dollars, said McSlarrow, arguing that the $100 billion the industry has spent to upgrade its plant would be substantially devalued if they had to give over a large block of channels to broadcasters.

Moreover, he said, “[that] liability would offset—and could far outweigh—the $10 billion the government is counting on from the recapture and sale of the broadcasters' analog spectrum.”

McSlarrow estimates the value of the spectrum to be $4 billion-$5 billion, based on leased-access value, and more than $100 billion on an opportunity-cost basis, which includes all potential services.

The must-carry battle has been heating up as the House and Senate prepare a bill that would set a hard date for the return of analog spectrum and the switch to all-digital broadcasting.

Consumer groups believe that multi­casting must-carry is a bad idea. Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Digital Democracy and Free Press have all weighed in with the House and Senate Commerce Committees against the issue.—J.E.

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