Fast Track

Affiliates Squawk at Fox

Affiliates told the FCC last week that the Big Four networks have agreed to important changes in their affiliation contracts, but there are still issues that require FCC action. Most surround the ability to reject network programming. A few involve Fox and the amended affiliation agreement it filed with the commission last month. In it, says Network Affiliated Stations Alliance (NASA), Fox requires stations to carry any digital programming or data the network puts in the pipeline, in addition to traditional programming. On the other hand, Fox deleted the requirement that it supply sufficient shows to affiliates for the traditional hours it currently programs. The FCC is expected to rule on the NASA petition soon.

FCC: Copps vs. Powell

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said last week that the FCC should quickly start rewriting its broadcast-ownership rules, even though a new lineup of commissioners could be in place by the time they are ready. "It's time to get serious around this place," he told reporters during a press briefing. Copps called for the first in a series of hearings on media consolidation to be held outside Washington within 30 days.

Top Dog

There is a new chief at Animal Planet. Former Fox Family head Maureen Smith (left) is joining Discovery Networks to be Animal Planet's executive vice president and general manager. She takes over from former GM Michael Cascio. Animal Planet needs a "little shot of energy and a new perspective," Smith says. She wants to mix in more genres, such as celebrity-hosted shows. She also likes theme nights. Smith, who stayed with Fox Family for a short time after it was acquired by Walt Disney Co. and renamed ABC Family, starts her new gig July 15.

Comcast Takes Page From MagRack

Comcast is planning to launch a slate of specialty "channels" created specifically for its video-on-demand service. The idea is described as similar to Cablevision's faltering MagRack, only cheaper, and will focus on niches too narrow to support a 24-hour network. Matt Strauss, formerly of MagRack, will program the venture.

Freedom Limits

According to a study from think tank The Freedom Forum, a majority of Americans accept government regulation of media content, cable and broadcast—except nighttime cable. Although a vast majority said parents should do the media screening themselves, they still wanted an assist from the feds. The largest majority (65%) was for continuing to regulate broadcast TV during the day, followed by radio during the day (63%), cable during the day (55%), radio at night (50%), TV at night (49%) and cable at night (45%).

Fox, FX Snare Web Flick

Spider-Man 2 hadn't even opened in theaters when the deal was revealed: Fox and FX have already wrapped up the TV rights. The two co-owned networks and Sony Pictures TV struck a 10-year deal said to be worth $50 million. When the deal triggers in December 2006, Fox will get three plays in the first three years. Then the movie goes to FX.

MTV Tests Reality Drama

Just think of it as a combination of Beverly Hills 90210 and The Real World. MTV is trying to remake the mold with its latest original series, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, slated for a fall launch. The series is billed as a "reality drama," featuring seven real Orange County teens but produced as though it were scripted.