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Turner To Pay Boston for Trouble

Company apologizes for guerilla campaign

The office of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino confirms that Turner Broadcasting has agreed to pay for the costs associated with its guerilla-marketing campaign gone wrong. “We are working on a resolution. It is a very active and fluid process,” says a spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Local costs could reach $1 million, according to Boston officials.

In the marketing campaign, digital lightboxes promoting characters from The Cartoon Network's show Aqua Teen Hunger Force were placed in public areas of 10 cities, including Boston. The boxes there caused an uproar when they were thought to be bombs, and the following investigation shut down bridges, streets and a stretch of the Charles River. Two of the guerilla marketers, who were hired by a third party, New York-based Interference Inc., face charges of disorderly conduct and placing a hoax device. In addition to local authorities, the Department of Homeland Security has registered its displeasure. Turner, a Time Warner company, has apologized, saying it recognizes the seriousness of the incident.—John Eggerton

DirecTV: Rocket Failure Won't Stop HD Expansion

Satellite operator DirecTV says plans to dramatically expand its high-definition programming remain on track, despite a catastrophic rocket failure that damaged the Sea Launch platform it selected for one of two new satellites needed to beam HDTV signals.

On Jan. 30, a rocket carrying a new satellite for SES Global subsidiary SES New Skies exploded, destroying the Boeing-built satellite NSS-8 and damaging the Odyssey platform owned by Sea Launch, a multinational firm that counts Boeing as its biggest investor. The failure, currently under investigation, has indefinitely delayed launches on the ocean-going platform.

One of the satellites scheduled to go up on Sea Launch was DirecTV's D11 satellite, due for a July launch. That satellite was intended to help DirecTV expand its high-definition offerings to over 100 channels in the third quarter, including networks such as CNN, MTV and TBS.

DirecTV notes that its D10 satellite is still scheduled to launch in June from a land-based platform in Kazakhstan. “We're moving forward with our plans to roll out more HD channels this year,” the company says, adding that it is “too early to predict” how long the Sea Launch rocket failure will delay D11's launch.—Glen Dickson

Tennis Channel Nets Deal With ESPN

The Tennis Channel (TTC) and ESPN entered into a multi-year, multimedia programming partnership for Grand Slam coverage. ESPN will share a portion of both the live-window, delayed telecasts and new-media coverage of the French Open with The Tennis Channel, continuing its five-year coverage run.

The Tennis Channel acquired U.S. broadcast and new media rights to the event last August from the French Tennis Federation. The networks announced they will also share coverage of the Australian Open beginning in January 2008, with TTC adding 100 hours of live and prerecorded coverage to ESPN's already extensive offering. Both tournaments will receive unprecedented coverage on American TV for the duration of the two-week Grand Slam events through 2011.—B&C Staff

Doctors Criticize DTC Drug Ads

In the most recent issue of the Annals of Family Medicine, a study of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising for prescription drugs concludes that the ads are not particularly educational and may not be good for public health.

“Despite claims that ads serve an educational purpose,” say a quintet of doctors, “[direct-to-consumer prescription drug TV ads] provide limited information about the causes of a disease or who may be at risk; they show characters that have lost control over their social, emotional, or physical lives without the medication; and they minimize the value of health promotion through lifestyle changes.”

They conclude, “The ads have limited educational value and may oversell the benefits of drugs in ways that might conflict with promoting population health.”

In an editorial in the same publication, Dr. David Kessler, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 1990 until 1997, seconded that conclusion. “One fact is unquestionable: DTC ads do not effectively or consistently convey important information about product risks and benefits,” he said.

In response, Dan Jaffe, executive VP of the Association of National Advertisers, pointed to “very tight” FDA restrictions on ads and industry self-regulatory efforts.—John Eggerton

PGA Tour Adds Online Coverage

In its first move since taking over production and sales for the official Website of golf's PGA Tour in September, Turner Sports will roll out an enhanced three-channel broadband player for at least 10 tournaments this year, beginning with this weekend's event at Pebble Beach.

The coverage, which is dubbed “LIVE@,” uses the same technology as corporate cousin CNN Pipeline. The first channel will include a live stream from each event's signature par-3 hole, the second a behind-the-scenes look at press conferences and course flyover views, and the third golf tips from PGA players.

The new initiative expands an increasing movement in golf to put limited coverage online. Turner Sports debuted the Pipeline technology for golf at last year's PGA Championship, attracting 412,000 unique users for the tournament's first round. And last year, CBS and the Masters paired to offer online coverage for the first time of three holes, the famed “Amen Corner,” at the prestigious tournament.

The events this year on PGATour.com include the PGA Championship and the new PGA Tour playoff series. The advertiser-supported service is free for users. —Ben Grossman

Corrections

The Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts were the teams in Super Bowl XLI, and the Colts defeated the Baltimore Ravens in their divisional playoff. The teams were incorrectly identified in “No Trick Plays” (1/29, p. 19).

That '70s Show tied Seinfeld as the top off-net sitcom in adults 18-34 for the week ended Dec. 31, 2006 (Syndication Ratings chart, 1/15, p. 21).

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