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ABC Rethinks 'Ugly Betty’

Telenovela could end up as a summer ’07
strip

When ABC commissioned Touchstone’s Ugly Betty as a once-a-week pilot for
falloriginally slated as a weekly strip—it seemed the network’s
interest had waned.

But ABC Entertainment President Stephen
McPherson
says he still hasn’t ruled out the idea of turning
the English-language adaptation of Colombia’s Betty la Fea into a
five-day-a-week summer series.

First, he says, the network must figure out a way to economically
produce a telenovela strip and still make it work creatively.

“It could be transformed into that situation,” he says.
“It was initially considered for the summer, and I think it would be
great there.”

ABC could also choose to develop a telenovela format of its own for
summer 2007 or beyond. “We may do one that is not Hispanic,”
McPherson says.

Ugly Betty, about an efficient yet
unattractive secretary at a fashion magazine, is executive-produced by
Salma Hayek, Jose
Tamez
, Ben Silverman and writer
Silvio Horta. The cast includes
Vanessa Williams (Wilhelmina) and
America Ferrera (Betty).

After dominating prime time Latin American and U.S. Spanish-language
TV viewing for years, telenovelas have spurred the interest of American
television networks. They are racing to capture a rapidly growing market
consisting of younger, second- and third-generation Hispanics who are bilingual
or speak English as their primary language.

NBC Universal is developing a number
of concepts for its broadcast and cable networks derived from its
Telemundo network, including
Body of
Desire
.

CBS, meanwhile, has several potential
original telenovela-like limited series in development that would run twice
weekly. And Twentieth Television is producing
Desire and
Secret
Obsessions
as five-day, hour-long strips with 13-week
seasons to launch Fox’s
My Network TV in September.

Service Offers Clips From Station Sites

As local broadcasters hunt for ways to grow their online business, a
new video-syndication service offers a model to turn stations’ news
archives into a revenue stream.

ClipSyndicate, scheduled to be
launched April 24 by broadcast-monitoring company Critical Mention, will distribute stations’ video
to non-media Web sites. So far, Clear Channel
Television
has signed on to the service, which allows Web sites to
access free video—which comes with ads—or subscribe and insert
their own advertising. Critical Mention and stations will split the
revenue.

TV stations are trying “to find ways to monetize clips in the
Internet,” says Sean Morgan,
founder/CEO of Critical Mention. The appeal for clients, he adds, is
“Web sites with or without budgets are jockeying to find a great, simple
solution to rebroadcast clips.”

On Clear Channel’s Web sites, users watch about 4 million
streams per month, says Jason Gould, regional
VP for the Internet division, Inergize. But to
grow, he says, “we have to look beyond our distribution model.”
For example, ClipSyndicate will target non-profits and professional
associations’ Web sites. “That’s not our area of
expertise.”

Clear Channel sees some of its stories as having national appeal. For
instance, around St. Patrick’s Day, its Mobile, Ala., station’s
Web site offered a news story about residents’ seeing a leprechaun and
notched 800,000 video streams. If the piece went on ClipSyndicate, “it
probably would have seen millions of streams,” Gould says.

So far, ClipSyndicate has signed several subscription clients,
including firehouse.com, an online community
for firefighters. The service will take relevant clips, which can be found in a
simple, text-based search. (Critical Mention will use voice-to-text software to
create a transcript of clips for easier searches.) Subscription customers, such
as firehouse.com, will be able to insert their own banner ads and pre-roll
video. When a Web site takes free video, it will come loaded with ads inserted
by Critical Mention.

But the service will not be available to other media companies.
ClipSyndicate stations, Morgan says, “are not going to want to watch
their clips on other broadcasters’ or newspapers’ Web
sites.”—A.R.

Sci Fi Plans Online Encyclopedia

In an effort to increase online ad revenue, NBC
Universal
’s Sci Fi Channel
this week is launching Scifipedia, a
user-generated online encyclopedia of science-fiction facts, definitions and
terminology. Located on the SciFi.com
homepage, the site will begin with 1,000 starter entries, which fans can add to
or change. Hardcore fans of the network’s programs, for example, can
elaborate upon episode reviews with minute details.

“It gives our viewers a place to vent their enthusiasm,”
says Craig Engler, senior VP of SciFi.com and
Sci Fi
magazine. “We have viewers who often know more about our shows than we
do.” As part of its upfront negotiations, Sci Fi is pitching Scifipedia
to advertisers in movies and gaming, two categories popular on its TV
channel.

The network also recently launched a tech blog and revamped its online
magazine.—Anne Becker

Lewd Language OK For Sitcom Writers

It’s perfectly legal for things to get a little off-color in a
sitcom writers’ room. So says the California
Supreme Court
, which on Thursday jettisoned a sexual-harassment
lawsuit filed against Warner Bros. Television
by a former writers’ assistant on the hit comedy Friends.

In the court’s judgment, Judge Marvin
Baxter
writes that, while there was often lewd language in the
workplace on the show, “the record discloses that most of the sexually
coarse and vulgar language at issue did not involve and was not aimed at
plaintiff or other women in the workplace.”

The suit filed by Amaanu Lyle alleges
that, six years ago, she was forced to deal with harassment based on the
sexually charged language that was often used in the writers’ room. She
filed the suit after she was let go from her position, allegedly for problems
with her typing and transcription.

The judgment also points out that Lyle had been
“forewarned” that she would be in the presence of “sexual
jokes and discussions about sex” before she was hired. Among her
complaints were male writers’ talking about their sexual fantasies
involving the female stars of the show and writers’ giving graphic
depictions of their own sexual experiences.

But the court’s ruling points out that such discussion was in
an effort to come up with storylines and jokes for a show that “revolved
around a group of young, sexually active adults, featured adult-oriented sexual
humor, and typically relied on sexual and anatomical language, innuendo,
wordplay, and physical gestures to convey its humor.”—Ben Grossman

HBO Shows 'Big Love’ Some Love

HBO picked up Big Love for a second season. The
polygamy dramedy premiered March 12 to an audience of some 4.6 million, holding
onto about half of its Sopranos lead-in.

That’s about on par with what Deadwood earned for its series premiere
coming out of The Sopranos
season-five premiere in 2004.—A.B.

Quoth Raven: $500M for Shows

A&E Television Networks (AETN)
plans to spend more than $500 million on programming for its network, including
A&E and the History
Channel
, this year.

That was the message to advertisers from AETN President/CEO
Abbe Raven at A&E’s New York
upfront presentation last week, a star-studded event held in conjunction with
co-owned History Channel at Lincoln Center. The company said it hopes to strike
an iTunes deal with A&E and History
programming.

The network is developing The Beach, a reality pilot about Southern
California lifeguards, and just greenlighted Sons of Hollywood, a series about
second-generation Hollywood offspring, including Aaron
Spelling
’s son Randy and
Rod Stewart’s Sean. Coming this summer are new reality shows
Gene Simmons Family
Jewels
, featuring the KISS front man and his family, and
Driving Force, about
champion drag racer John Force and his
brood.—A.B.

'Celebrity Cooking’: Stick a Fork in
It

NBC has pulled Celebrity Cooking Showdown off the
air after three airings when the unscripted special failed to sizzle.

The show was scheduled to air every night last week but got off to a
sluggish start Monday with a 2.8 rating/7 share in the 18-49 demo at 9-10 p.m.
ET.

Matters got worse for the show when it aired Tuesday night at 8
against American Idol and
averaged just a 1.1/3 in the demo.

NBC says it will make the final two episodes available online at
NBC.com.—B.G.

Analysts Bullish On Political Dollars

Political advertising on television is expected to exceed $1 billion
this year on spending for federal, state and local races. Some analysts project
that the political monies could exceed the record $1.7 billion spent on TV ads
in the 2004 presidential election year.

Political advertising consultant Evan
Tracey
made the projections at the Television
Bureau of Advertising
’s (TVB) conference last Thursday in New
York.

Broadcast television is expected to get the largest chunk of the
dollars. In 2004, TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG
notes, only 9% of political and issue ad spending went to non-TV media.

In the first quarter of this year, political advertisers have spent
$160 million, with about $100 million going to issue-oriented ads. Locally, the
hot spots are Texas, New York, California, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, Vermont
and Rhode Island, where more than $57 million was spent, mostly by early
primary campaigning.—A.R.

The CW, My Network TV Add More Affils

The CW network secured distribution
deals with two major station owners last week, while Fox’s My Network
TV
added nine affiliates of its own.

Clear Channel Television is
committing three of its stations to carry The CW: WKRC Cincinnati (CBS affiliate in Nielsen market No.
34), which will carry The CW on one of its digital channels;
KUWB Salt Lake City (market 36); and
KASN Little Rock, Ark., (57).

LIN Television will air The CW on its
WWHO Columbus, Ohio; WNLO Buffalo, N.Y.; KNVA Austin, Texas; and WBPG Mobile, Ala. The latest deals bring The CW’s
distribution to more than 83% of the country.

Meanwhile, My Network TV signed deals last week to increase its
coverage to 65% of the country. The newest stations include four
Pappas Telecasting-owned affiliates:
KDMI Des Moines; KKAZ/KPTM Omaha; KDBC
El Paso, Texas; and KPTH Sioux City, Iowa. All
four Pappas affiliates will be carried on digital broadcast channels.

Both The CW, co-owned by CBS Corp.
and Time Warner, and My Network TV will launch
in September.—A.R.

ABC Slates Fall Dance

ABC has tentatively slotted the
return of its hit reality show Dancing With the
Stars
, for Wednesdays and Thursdays this fall beginning Sept. 13,
according to an offer made to a potential contestant.

On The Howard Stern
Show
on Sirius Satellite
Radio
Tuesday morning, Stern read on-air an offer made to his
girlfriend, model Beth Ostrosky, to appear as
a contestant on the show.

According to the document read by Stern, Ostrosky would earn a minimum
of $125,000 for appearing on the show; that figure could grow to
$245,000—$295,000 if she were to advance to later stages of the
competition.

Stern said the ABC show would send a dance trainer to tutor Ostrosky
for six weeks prior to the September launch of the third cycle, which is
tentatively slated to run into early November.

An ABC spokesperson declined to comment.—B.G.

New Chief Lobbyist For NAB

National Association of Broadcasters
President David Rehr has named
Douglas Wiley as the association’s
point person with Capitol Hill and the administration, a key job as
broadcasters work to secure multicast must-carry legislation and work out the
issues surrounding the transition to digital.

Wiley begins as executive VP of government relations on May 15.

John Orlando, who had headed up the
NAB’s government-relations department under former President
Eddie Fritts, joined CBS in December as senior VP in Washington.

Wiley comes from high-tech trade group the Electronic Industries Alliance, where he was senior VP
of government relations. Before that, he was director of government relations
for telecommunications company Alcatel. He
helped draft the 1996 Telecommunications Act while director of legislative
affairs for Comptel.

Wiley is also former VP of the Telecommunications Industry Association and was a
special assistant at the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration,
working under then NTIA head and former
FCC Chairman Al
Sikes
.

He is the son of Dick Wiley, another
former FCC chairman and current top communications lawyer at
Wiley, Rein & Fielding. The firm has done
some work for NAB, says the senior Wiley. It also represents numerous
individual broadcasters.—J.E.

Fox’s Lewis Expands PR Purview

Fox News’ top PR executive,
Brian Lewis, is expanding his portfolio
alongside that of boss Roger Ailes.

Lewis will add Fox’s TV-station and syndication group to his
responsibilities. He was named executive VP, corporate communications, for
Fox Television Stations, which includes
syndication unit Twentieth Television, and
Fox News.

That puts Lewis in charge of communications for the cable news
network, start-up programming service My Network
TV
, and the industry’s second-largest broadcast-station
group. He’ll continue to report directly to Ailes.

Lewis will also be responsible for Fox News’ proposed business
channel “if launched,” according to a Fox statement.

Lewis had been senior VP, corporate communications, for Fox News since
2000. He had worked with Ailes at CNBC and was
brought over to Fox News in 1996, seven months before its launch.—John
M. Higgins

OLN To Change Name

OLN will change its name to
Versus in September. The Comcast-owned channel—formerly the
Outdoor Life Network—is aiming to
disassociate itself from its outdoor roots, says President
Gavin Harvey.

OLN is currently developing another logo and will introduce the name
and branding to consumers next fall, the start of the 2006-07 NHL season. It
considered name suggestions from five different agencies, as well as viewers,
Harvey says.—A.B.

NAB 2006 Agenda

As more than 100,000 TV and technology types descend on Las Vegas for
the National Association of Broadcasters convention, B&C offers some highlights:

Monday, April 24

New NAB President/CEO
David Rehr delivers his “State of the
Industry” speech at 9 a.m. (Sadly, his former employer, the National
Beer Wholesalers Association, isn’t donating freebies). Following Rehr,
anchors Tom Brokaw, Dan
Rather
and the late Peter Jennings
will be awarded the NAB’s Distinguished Service
Award
. ... And with hurricane season approaching, media execs and
safety consultants weigh in at the Broadcast Engineering
Disaster Preparedness
sessions, running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ...
For a brighter forecast, visit the Winning in the
Internet Broadcast Era
panel from 10:30 a.m. to noon. ... After
lunch, NBC News anchor John Seigenthaler polls other anchors on what their jobs
may be like in 2010 (prediction for Anderson
Cooper
: gray hair), and, heading into the Day 1 home stretch,
station executives reveal their strategies with My
Network TV
, The CW or going
independent at 4 p.m. ... Over at the Radio-Television
News Directors Association
gathering at the Hilton, new-media execs
help neophytes sort out Internet trends ranging from podcasting to RSS feeds.
... Before hitting the blackjack tables, head over to the RTNDA’s
Paul White Awards at 7 p.m., where
ABC News anchor Charlie
Gibson
will be feted.

Tuesday, April 25

Shake off the cobwebs for a 7:30 a.m. breakfast with
FCC Chairman Kevin
Martin
and NAB boss Rehr at the
Hilton. ... Station owners take note: sessions from 9 a.m. to 11:45 dish on
generating new revenue from retransmission consent, local ad sales and
multicasting. At RTNDA, producers from the BBC, Current and
Yahoo! contemplate harnessing the
“citizen-journalist” craze (hey, it’s cheap labor) for
mainstream news outlets. ... At noon, Anne
Sweeney
, president of ABC-Disney Television
Group
, kicks off B&C’s
TV Masters Lunch, where she’s sure to
talk about the Internet and iTunes
(what’s on your iPod, Anne?),
followed by a panel of top station-group news execs. ... Siegfried & Roy
they’re not, but finish off the afternoon with an entertaining trio of
FCC Commissioners when Michael Copps,
Jonathan Adelstein and Deborah Taylor Tate delve into the regulatory
topics—indecency! digital must-carry!—on the minds of every local
broadcaster.

Wednesday, April 26

The roster of panels thins out, so this would be your window of
opportunity to troll the show floor for the latest technology trends. But
quality events still remain. The RTNDA
releases its study on what viewers want out of news at 9: 30 a.m. ... At 10,
execs from Fox Entertainment and
Walt Disney Co. join a trio of technology
representatives on the New Technologies for Digital Media
Distribution
panel. ... And with disaster coverage on the minds of
many news directors, the RTNDA hosts Department of
Homeland Security
Secretary Michael
Chertoff
for its closing lunch.

NBC, Affils’ Broadband Plan

NBC and its affiliates unveiled plans
last week to launch a co-owned broadband venture stocked with video from the
stations. Executives stressed that the portal will be different from
video-sharing sites like YouTube.com and goes
beyond streaming NBC shows online.

The venture, dubbed The National Broadband
Company
and due later this year, will aggregate video from
NBC’s 230 affiliates, such as clips on health, consumer news and
entertainment.

Plans could include user-contributed content and clips from
NBC Universal’s library. The video
would likely be ad-supported. It represents an early model of how local
stations could make money from their rich library of video.

The news came after a meeting of NBC affiliates in New York. The
NBC Affiliates Futures Committee, which
includes representatives from stations and the network, has been developing the
new business for about six months, and affiliates voted unanimously to move
ahead.

Like digital weather channel NBC Weather
Plus
, launched in December 2004, the new broadband channel will be
co-owned by NBC and its affiliates and managed by the network. Weather Plus is
now available on stations covering 75% of the country. An online version,
nbcweatherplus.com, recently launched and
includes streaming video of the TV network.—A.R.

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