In the Loop


Chuck vs. Charlie

Chuck Dolan's Cablevision last week sneaked into the bidding on spectrum slated for a new pay-TV/broadband service that will compete with cable and DBS. On the eve of the Jan. 14 opening bids, Cablevision quietly told the FCC it will join DTV Norwich, which is led by former U.K. cable magnate George Blumenthal. Through eight auction rounds Friday, Blumenthal and Cablevision's $27 million in bids were besting the $13.5 million of leading rival, which is backed by Charlie Ergen's EchoStar.—J.M.H.

An All-Nighter With MTVU

MTV Networks' new college cable network MTVU, which relaunches Tuesday beamed into dorm rooms, cafeterias and student centers at more than 730 college campuses, figures that its prime time is 11 p.m-2 a.m., because—you may recall—that's when everything happens on campus.

MTVU may borrow from sister nets Spike TV, Comedy Central and BET to fill its prime time. But the channel, formerly known as College Television Network, will also offer music and reality shows. "We want to be the ultimate resource for college kids," said GM Stephen Friedman, who wants to tap into another 120 colleges and universities and then go after those young minds living off campus.

Some of the first advertisers: Procter & Gamble, General Motors, KFC, Avon cosmetics, Bugle Boy and the U.S. Army. Under its deal with colleges and universities, the channel turns over a 15-second spot every 15 minutes for school messaging.—A.R.

Faster, Tech TV!

The adults running video game network G4 are getting accustomed to the lightning reflexes of their male-teen audience, but they're having a tough time coping with the slower responses from the folks running the sale of Tech TV.

G4 and parent Comcast have been angling for months to buy the ailing channel from zillionaire Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures and seem to have squeezed past rival suitor Sony Television. For weeks, G4 and TechTV execs have thought they were on the cusp of a
$300 million deal, but Comcast and Vulcan can't bring it home. The rumor mill blames weak cable- operator deals at TechTV, but industry execs familiar with the deal dismiss that, saying the deal is snagged in a bureaucracy at Vulcan. "It's not at Comcast's end," said one exec.

Star Lite

The NATPE conference once was a major stop for paparazzi, but, at this year's show, it's not too likely you'll run into Your Favorite Actor posing. The biggest draw is the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond, which shows up at the CBS/King World booth from noon to 3 p.m. today. Also, NBC Enterprises has Pat O'Brien and Nancy O'Dell from Access Hollywood
and Jane Pauley, who will host her own talk show come fall. And, in its suite, Warner Bros. is expected to have Ellen DeGeneres on board. The biggest events are just for people who know somebody: Sony hosts a private Jerry Seinfeld performance for execs whose stations carry the off-net sitcom (left) and advertisers; CBS/King World, which once threw huge parties, has a performance by Fleetwood Mac just for clients only.—P.J.B.

The Politics of Multicasting

The logjam blocking DTV cable carriage rules is getting tougher to break. A three-vote coalition of Commissioners Kathleen Abernathy, Michael Copps and Kevin Martin appears willing grant broadcasters carriage rights for multicasts. But Copps is likely to withhold his vote until Chairman Michael Powell pledges to expedite a separate proposal spelling out broadcasters' DTV public-interest obligations. Powell, who still says a multicast mandate violates cable's First Amendment rights, has told commissioners he won't exercise a prerogative to block the vote if it goes against him. But letting Copps dictate part of the commission's agenda isn't going over well with the chairman. Consequently, a vote once thought possible in February is more likely to be in the spring, if then.—B.M.