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Split Prediction On Political Ads

Up 10%? Down 10%? Depends on whom you believe

By John M. Higgins

Ad buyer MagnaGlobal and Wall Street's Bear Stearns took separate but equal directions in gauging the size of TV stations' take in the biannual political ad bonanza: One predicts a 10% drop in spending from the 2004 cycle, the other a 10% increase.

Bear Stearns broadcasting analyst Victor Miller is pessimistic. He expects political spending on TV to drop 10% to about $1.25 billion for the upcoming election cycle. He sees an increase in hot Senate races (16 versus 13 in 2004) and contentious gubernatorial fights (35 versus 13 in 2004). But the absence of the $350 million in 2004 presidential campaign spending should cut TV's take the most.

Brian Weiser, MagnaGlobal's director of industry analysis, takes an upbeat view. Those hot governors' races fill the gaps of the absent presidential campaign, increasing TV spending 10% to $1.6 billion. He monitors surging fundraising by parties and campaigns. “We expect virtually all of the 5% growth in fundraising to be allocated to media expenditures,” he says, “resulting in our forecast for 10% political advertising growth.”

Stations that will benefit the most are in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Washington, Weiser says. According to Miller, station groups that will see the biggest gains include CBS, LIN TV and Nexstar. Those facing a decline in revenue include Hearst-Argyle, Belo and Gannett.

B&C News

It is with great pleasure we announce two important appointments at Broadcasting & Cable. First is the promotion of Forest Evashevski as art director. He joined the magazine as assistant art director in October 2004 from POZ magazine. He has been serving as acting art director since August 2005. “Forest has been doing a superb job ever since he arrived,” says B&C Editor in Chief J. Max Robins. “It's a pleasure to have him leading our design efforts.”

In addition, Joel Topcik joins as deputy editor. Most recently, he was at The New York Times and is a contributor to such publications as GQ and Harpers magazine. “Joel brings both a keen understanding of the television industry and sharp editorial eye to B&C,” says Robins. “We couldn't be happier to have him as part of our senior team.”

DIY Delivers Home Improvement

Scripps' do-it-yourself digital network DIY is blowing out its old multiple-genre schedule and replacing it with one heavy on home improvement in preparation for becoming Nielsen-rated in the fourth quarter. The goal is to refine DIY's brand, playing to a female audience during the day and targeting couples during prime time.

Beginning in the second quarter, DIY, currently in 35 million homes, will strip DIY to the Rescue seven nights a week at 8 and 8:30 p.m. ET. The show has had very limited play on DIY so far, but viewers have embraced it on Scripps' flagship HGTV, which has been running episodes on Saturday mornings.

DIY will also expand its own Saturday-morning home-improvement block; it will devote Monday through Wednesday nights to home-improvement shows and strip evening series Kitchen Renovations and Bathroom Renovations on weekdays. Of DIY's programming genres, including gardening, crafts and automotive, home improvement generates some of the highest Web traffic.—Anne Becker

NBC, Cowell Team On Talent Show

Looking to catch American Idol lightning in its own ratings-challenged prime bottle, NBC struck a deal with Simon Cowell and Idol producer FremantleMedia for its own TV talent show.

The series, yet to be named, will let viewers, with the help of celebrity judges, decide who should headline a Las Vegas show.

NBC is looking at nine episodes, likely an hour long. Cowell will not be one of the judges or appear on camera but will be executive producer.

“Simon has his finger on the pulse of pop culture,” says NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. “This show will be a shot of adrenaline to the variety format with Simon's gift of discovering untapped talent, both great and uniquely not so great.”

For his part, Cowell says he is hoping to find the next Siegfried & Roy.

The series is targeted for summer, when NBC U is also launching an online-only talent-contest series, StarTomorrow.

The amateur performers—who could be singers, dancers, or comedians (Idol is strictly singers)—will perform for judges for a chance to advance.—John Eggerton

FTC OK's Adelphia Deal

The Federal Trade Commission last week approved the approximately $12.7 billion purchase of bankrupt Adelphia by Time Warner and Comcast without any conditions attached.

The two companies plan to split Adelphia's 5.2 million subscribers between them and to swap some of their own existing subscribers.

Even so, the commission said that its investigation “does not suggest that the proposed transactions are likely to substantially lessen competition in any region of the U.S.”

The commission said that it was not persuaded that the deal would harm consumers by affecting the terms of contracts for regional sports networks, as some critics of the deal have argued.

But two of the five commissioners dissented in part, saying they think the new companies could tie up sports-programming contracts to the detriment of consumers and would have preferred conditions on the merger guarding against that.

The FCC still has to sign off on the deal.—J.E.

'Monk,' 'Raw' Boost USA to the Top

WWE Raw wrestling programming and Monk helped USA earn the most viewers of any cable network in prime time during January, according to Nielsen Media Research, measuring programs Dec. 26-Jan. 29.

USA averaged 2.76 million viewers, up 15% from the same period last year. It was followed by non–ad-supported Disney Channel with 2.55 million, TNT with 2.34 million (down 10% from last year) and ESPN at 2.12 million (up 8%).

For the month, both Fox News and CNN saw drops in total viewers from the year-ago period and double-digit declines in news' target demo, 25-54.

Meanwhile, MSNBC, CNBC and Headline News all saw double-digit gains in both categories. Fox News and CNN had both seen bumps a year ago due to tsunami coverage.—A.B.

RTNDF To Recognize Katrina Coverage

The Radio-Television News Directors Foundation will give its First Amendment Leadership Award to seven TV stations in Louisiana and Mississippi for their public-service efforts to keep residents informed during Hurricane Katrina. The awards also cite 11 area radio stations.

Also being honored at the group's 16th annual First Amendment Awards Dinner March 9 will be NewsHour With Jim Lehrer senior correspondent Gwen Ifill, who will receive the Len Zeidenberg Award, named after the late Broadcasting & Cable correspondent.

Retired NBC News Executive VP Bill Wheatley will receive the First Amendment Service Award, which goes to an executive in an off-air, management position.

The awards will be given out at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington.—J.E.

'Idol Rewind' Clearances Top 80%

While Fox's new season of American Idol continues to dominate the television landscape, the syndicated version of the show, due out in the fall, looks strong too.

Tribune Entertainment (TEC) says it has cleared weekly hour American Idol Rewind, reconfigured episodes of the hit music show's first season, in 96 markets representing more than 80% of the country.

The weekend series, from Fremantle­Media North America and 19 Entertainment, will debut in September. Several Fox-owned stations have signed on for the show, with Tribune Broadcasting serving as the flagship group after TEC landed the rights just before Christmas, despite the fact that the Fremantle show is so closely associated with Fox.

Tribune has repackaged the episodes, even adding new material, to get around the fact that the winner is widely known.—Ben Grossman

Corrections

ABC's Dancing With the Stars is produced by BBC Worldwide Productions. “We Want Their Shows, They Want Ours” (1/23, p. 16) incorrectly attributed its production to another BBC unit.

Dr. Keith Ablow is distributed by Warner Bros. A table titled “Sales Report” (“The Era of Good Dealing, 1/30, p. 10) incorrectly identified the distributor.

CBS Paramount Domestic Television concentrated its syndication efforts at NATPE on selling its talk, court and magazine shows. “The Era of Good Dealing” (1/30, p. 10) said Paramount TV was also selling movie packages. Those are sold by the part of Paramount now run by Viacom.

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