In the Loop


This Ar-Dog Will Surely Hunt

After months bickering with IT and tech types over ways to stop illegal Internet distribution of digital programming content, Hollywood and broadcasters are hoping a similar problem can be handled more cooperatively. To stop viewers from circumventing copy protections by reconverting digital content to analog and back to digital, the various industries have formed the Analog Reconversion Discussion Group.

One negotiating success already: Tired of snickers generated by calls to "plug the analog hole," the group decided "reconversion" is a better term. Dubbed "Ar-dog", a reference to its acronym, the group is modeled on the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group that agreed to disagree over the broadcast flag copy-protection scheme.—B.M.

Eyeballs Beat Suspense

Buena Vista TV had its first million-dollar winner on the syndicated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
last week. Not surprisingly, the show—taped weeks ago—was scheduled for the February sweeps. But how to get people to watch without killing the suspense? Answer: Kill some of the suspense and hope to drive sampling. Promos touted a winner, but stopped short of saying who and when.

BVT publicity people went further, however, sending a tape of the show to TV writers, but only embargoing it until the Monday before the Tuesday, Feb. 18, episode. Buena Vista didn't mind if some of those Tuesday columns revealed the millionaire winner that night; several did.

Sal Sardo, executive VP of marketing for Buena Vista TV, suggested that strategy won't be repeated for future winners. "Part of the magic is that you could have a winner any day on any given show."—J.E.

March Money Madness

CBS will announce this week a handful of sponsors investing (combined) hundreds of millions in multiyear marketing programs tied to the net's National Collegiate Athletic Association franchise. This is the first year in a new $6 billion NCAA deal that extends to 2013, in which CBS, for the first time, is selling both ad time and corporate sponsorships. Coke will be a "Corporate Champion," sponsoring CBS's NCAA package for 11 years. Additional marketing partners include Kraft and The men's basketball tournament, which begins March 20, is the crown jewel. Sources say CBS has sold 90% of available inventory at high single-digit to low double-digit percentage increases over last year. The total ad take from the tournament is expected to be $400 million. The above sponsors and GM are among the tourney's big media spenders.—S.M.

Dessert Storm

They say an army travels on its stomach. Well, a journalistic army apparently does too. According to our scouts, ABC's Washington news bureau ordered up a whopping 459 boxes of Girl Scout cookies during the recent annual drive, with Nightline taking the lion's share at 146 boxes. World News Tonight came in second with 121 boxes, followed by a 'miscellaneous' category (desk assistants, security guards, couriers) with 93 boxes; This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 78; and 20/20 and Primetime Live, 21.

Another 15 boxes were donated to a "send them off to our sailors [in the Gulf]" category, plus there were some impulse buyers, pushing the total closer to 500. The most popular cookie: Thin Mints at 143 boxes.—J.E.

Adelphia Boosts Bar Bill

Los Angeles bars and restaurants with Adelphia cable service are facing stiff rate hikes for sports nets, which "have mandated that Adelphia adhere to their standard commercial rates," the MSO told commercial customers. That rate is much higher than the residential rate Adelphia had been charging. The MSO will now offer the sports nets on an a la carte basis.

Beginning next month, bars will pay $24.95 each for ESPN and ESPN2 and another $12.95 each for ESPN News and ESPN Classic. Fox Sports World will run $38.95 per month, Fox Sports Net regional service will cost $69.95. That's on top of $39.78 for basic. "Larger bars and restaurants can absorb the costs," said one cable industry executive, "the little guys can't pass the costs on."—A.R.