What About Two Caps?
Instead of a per-company cap on TV-station ownership, why not a per-network cap? Thus, Viacom could own CBS outlets covering 45% of U.S. homes and also own UPN stations reaching some additional amount of coverage. Same would hold true for NBC and its NBC, Telemundo and Paxson stations. And it works for affiliate group owners: For example, Tribune Co. could have WB affiliations in 45% of the nation and another group of Trib stations affiliated with some other network.
That was one idea being floated last week. But it didn't seem to have much traction. "It's time we put that proposal to rest," said a well-placed source. To what extent the cap gets raised, we'll see soon. Details of FCC Chairman Michael Powell's plan were to be revealed to fellow commissioners today.—S.M., B.M.
They Could Be Jackasses
Imagine NBC Chairman Bob Wright on Fear Factor, Disney chief Michael Eisner as the next Bachelor or Viacom bigwigs Sumner Redstone and Mel Karmazin in Jackass the Movie. Well, you don't have to imagine that last one because it actually happened last week at the MTV Networks upfront, when Sumner and Mel, clad in matching ties and wearing giant, plush panda heads, joined MTVN execs in a video spoof of the gross-out movie that once was an MTV hit show, too.
In another scene, the MTVN brass—including Van Toffler, president of MTV and MTV2, made to look like a midget and Nickelodeon President Herb Scannell in a muscle suit—careened down a New York street in an oversized shopping cart and plowed into a fruit stand. MTVN's dapper Chairman Tom Freston sailed alongside in his own shopping cart straight into Madison Square Garden, the site of MTVN's first joint upfront. (Well, it was actually a stunt double flying in live on stage.)
Quipped Freston on his arrival, "A bunch of morons just ran over a fruit stand on 34th Street."—A.R.
The Book On Fox Vs. CNN
Hollywood Reporter L.A.-based journalist Scott Collins scored a low-six-figure advance from the Viking imprint of Penguin Group for a book on the cable news wars. Collins covers the broadcast networks primarily but wrote a number of stories on the cable news nets when he was at the defunct Inside.com.
"There are great characters and a great scene here," he says, including the likes of Fox's Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly and former CNN chief Walter Isaacson. The working title in his initial proposal was Right Turn, a reference to Fox News' seizure of the conservative mantle, but that has been scrapped. He's on a tight schedule, facing an October deadline. "It looks like a rush job," said one network executive. Collins said he's finding the players fairly cooperative. He'll report; we'll decide.—J.M.H.
Can't Find Pax?
Pax TV won't take the podium during this week's upfronts in New York. Instead, it will share in NBC's presentation. In March, Pax held four days of pre-upfront sessions with 150 buyers in West Palm Beach, Fla. NBC, which owns a stake in Paxson. also sells Pax TV's time, so it made sense to combine forces in New York.—P.A.
Sub the C for the K and…
When MTV Networks execs unveiled their new logo for Spike TV at their big upfront show last Tuesday, we were a little surprised. First, Spike—the rechristened TNN—is supposed to be "the first network for men." We're talking strippers and wrestlers here (both are on the schedule). But cursive script of the logo seems a little girlish, better-suited for a Lifetime spinoff.
"It seems a little nelly," said an exec at another network, who was definitely not referring to the rapper. At the same time, though, it evokes the logo of a network that is definitely aimed at men: "adult" network Spice, which is owned by Playboy. A Spice executive said the similarity has been noted, but would comment no further. A Spike spokesman helpfully noted: "It's not the size of the font that matters. It's what you do with the brand and programming."—J.M.H.