Fast Track


Sony Pictures Plans Splash at CES

Content will be touted next to parent's electronics

Moving away from traditional sales customs, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) plans to be a major presence at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas, where it will feature content alongside its parent company’s electronics offerings.

As first reported in B&C (1/22, p. 5), the company is shifting more resources to the CES show in January and is launching a trade-ad campaign to announce the move.

“It is a huge initiative for us and Sony in general,” says SPT chief Steve Mosko. “We want to take a leadership role and let people know we are going to be talking about content at CES next January.”

While plans are still being finalized, SPT wants to kick off the event Monday morning, Jan. 7, with a major presentation. It is considering entertainment acts to make a splash, whether a major musical performance or something like a standup routine by Jerry Seinfeld.

Mosko says the move fits into Sony CEO Howard Stringer’s desire to get more efficiencies from the company, which he calls “Sony United.” Internally, Sony is focused on creating content for such platforms as its PlayStation gaming console and Bravia televisions.

“We are not just a syndication company,” Mosko says. “We are not just producing television shows for cable and network. We are much bigger and broader, and it gives us a chance to show that.”

But in addition to corporate synergies, Mosko also believes there are deals to be made at CES.

“You go where your buyers are, and our buyers are going to be at CES,” he says. “If you go through the list of attendees, in my experience—walking the floor and a quick survey—all major advertisers and agencies attend CES, as well as mobile guys, all the pay-cable networks, broadcast networks, all of our Internet clients.”

Although Mosko believes there is still plenty of business to be done at the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) conference, SPT is going ahead with plans to leave the floor of that convention and do business from a suite, a move that could save about $3 million. Sony will have a 25,000-square-foot presence at CES.

Mosko expects more content companies to end up at CES: “It’s kind of becoming the convention you don’t want to miss. Everyone wants to know what is going on in the tech space and the new platforms, and content creators are looking at that as well. I think you will see a lot more content companies find a way to this convention.”

Hearst Hires Allred For Reality Show

Hearst Entertainment says it has signed attorney Gloria Allred for an hour reality series, No Guts No Glory, a kind of “Arbitrator Allred” take on the judge-show genre.

The series is described as teaming Allred with aggrieved parties who are “angry and out for justice.” She will help them with a game plan, then “use her negotiating skills to find a fair resolution for both parties.”

Hearst had not returned a call at press time about whether the show would be for cable or first-run syndication, but the reality producer has a number of cable credits, including Modern Marvels on History Channel, Tabloid Wars on Bravo and Garden Police on Discovery.

Allred, a civil-rights attorney and partner in the law firm of Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, is a familiar face as a legal commentator on KABC Los Angeles and on cable news shows. She was also one of the legal eagles fronting a Twentieth TV syndicated show, Power of Attorney, several years back.

She is also author of the book Fight Back and Win: My Thirty-Year Fight Against Injustice—And How You Can Win Your Own Battles.—John Eggerton

Hallmark To Snuff Smoking in Shows

Hallmark Channel said Thursday it will follow Disney’s lead and work to eliminate smoking from its original films.

Hallmark President Henry Schleiff took the same route as Disney in declaring his intentions, sending a letter to House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and echoing Disney President Bob Iger’s pledge the day before. During a recent hearing on the impact of media images on kids, Markey had asked Hollywood studios to cut back on smoking depictions.

“It is our decision to make a commitment to you that we will discourage and, in fact, seek to eliminate any further depiction of cigarette smoking in our original movies,” said Schleiff.

Markey praised the move and called on other cable operators to follow Hallmark’s lead.

Hallmark has made a concerted effort to impress Washington with its family-friendliness, looking to capitalize on Congress’ and the FCC’s concern about content issues like violence and indecency and hoping to translate that family-friendliness into higher fees for its top-10–rated network.—John Eggerton

Rehr Outlines DTV PSA Campaign

Broadcasters have spent $5 billion on the transition to digital television (DTV), and 92% of stations are now broadcasting in digital.

That’s according to National Association of Broadcasters President David Rehr, who outlined broadcasters’ transition efforts in a letter to Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) on the eve of the July 26 hearing on the DTV transition.

Rehr told Inouye that 40% of Americans are totally unaware of the transition but broadcasters have already launched a “massive” education campaign.

Rehr was anticipating legislators’ concern that the PSA portion of that campaign had yet to hit the airwaves, with less than 19 months to go before the Feb. 17 transition date. The campaign will launch in December, NAB said last week.

He also outlined the size of the PSA campaign. The PSA package, at a minimum, would include: four to six 30-second spots and at least one 60-second spot for “all 1,169” member station; a couple of 30-second donut spots (no, not plugging the new Simpsons movie) with a hole in the middle for a sound bite from an official or anchor; “teaser” copy to plug the transition in newscasts and send viewers to; B-roll footage of towers, converter boxes and more to illustrate stories about DTV; a 25-minute special; and foreign language spots.

Rehr also said NAB will work with networks to agree on the use of crawls during programs to give viewers a heads-up.—John Eggerton

Court Says AT&T Is A Cable Operator

A Connecticut U.S. District Court has ruled that AT&T’s Lightspeed IPTV video service is a cable service subject to local franchising laws.

The summary judgment was a victory for the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association and for the cable industry at large.

It was a defeat for the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC), which had ruled that AT&T’s service was an information service, like other data services.

Central to the DPUC’s conclusion was the way AT&T delivers its service, which is to deliver a channel when the subscriber’s set-top box requests it, rather than constantly delivering all the channels. That, said DPUC, was a level of interaction that made the service a two-way data exchange.

The FCC defines cable service as one-way, although it includes video-on-demand (VOD) in that definition, so the DPUC concluded that AT&T’s service did not meet that definition.

The court saw it differently, concluding that DPUC’s determination that AT&T’s was a two-way system was a legal conclusion—on the appropriate definition of “cable service”—rather than a factual finding, and a wrong legal conclusion at that.

AT&T is a cable operator, its service is a cable service, and its network is a cable network, said the court.

The cable industry has argued that AT&T’s service should be subject to the same franchise restrictions as its operators, but the DPUC had ruled differently.

—John Eggerton