Bigwigs Get Promax Pass

Jim Chabin, the once and current executive director of Promax-BDA, has hit on a novel way to boost attendance at this year's show (June 4-6 in Los Angeles). "A lot of general managers think these marketing conferences are a waste of time, a big party," he said. "So, you know what, we'll let them in free and let them see for themselves." That deal holds true for the presidents of cable networks. Just bring a business card and a photo ID, and you'll be comped.

That's a considerable saving over the $695 discount rate for Promax. (And, frankly, there usually is at least one really good party, and some darned good marketing-strategy sessions, too.)

Also new this year: Promax has eliminated its exhibition hall, small as that space usually was. But it is also likely to expand its popular regional seminars from four (New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas) by adding three more: Seattle, Denver and either San Francisco or Las Vegas.—P.J.B.

Fox Goes Wide on the Turns

Fox Sports was scheduled to cap its widescreen football offerings Sunday with the NFC Championship game. With its football season ending, the network will turn its widescreen, 480p production machine toward the next big sport on its docket: NASCAR.

The Daytona 500 will be broadcast in widescreen Feb. 16, and a Fox executive says the network is committed to scheduling more 480p, widescreen productions, which probably means baseball is in the mix as well. Fox wouldn't comment on whether there is any chance of stepping up to 720p for next year's NFL season?—K.K.

Isaacson on the Spot

Outgoing CNN chief Walter Isaacson was the unwitting star of a new CNBC promotional spot that proclaims, "While he was breaking the news to his staff, we broke it to the world." CNBC says its Maria Bartiromo reported Isaacson's departure minutes before the announcement hit CNN's own air.

CNN contends its own business news net, CNNfn, was first, reporting the Isaacson news on its air before CNBC.

Last year, co-owned MSNBC also poked some promotional fun at CNN. After CNN's promo declaring anchor Paula Zahn "just a little bit sexy," MSNBC ran ads for its own host Chris Matthews, touting him as everything but sexy.—A.R.

No Cold Front-al Nudity

WSVN-TV Miami's meteorologist Jackie Johnson sure got temperatures rising on the Internet last week. The weather anchor was voted sexiest meteorologist on Playboy.com.

Johnson, who got 65% of the votes, also got a boost from WZTA(FM) Miami Beach, Fla., morning hosts Paul Castronovo and Rob Brewer, who urged their listeners to log on and vote. More than 419,000 Floridians heeded the call.

"I'm very happy that the people of South Florida came together and voted for me," says Johnson. "I'm really flattered."

Though obviously buoyed by the attention, she declined Playboy's offer to do a nude pictorial, reportedly passing on a six-figure paycheck.—P.A.

My Flag's Bigger

FCC Chairman Michael Powell might have exagerated last week in touting his efforts to slow the radio-merger wave. "Under my leadership, we have moved to block a number of radio transactions [seven], and previous commissions never moved to block a single one," he told senators.

Technically true, but it was his predecessor, William Kennard, who established the policy of "flagging" deals that create heavy ad-revenue concentration in local markets. Using that policy, Powell's staff recommended blocking seven mergers and ordered them to undergo judicial review. But Kennard's FCC arguably was much tougher, because it stalled more than 100 mergers by flagging those deals and subjecting them to a lengthy round of public comment and review.—B.M.

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