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Fast Track

Bush Won't Pay for Digital Boxes

The White House says it opposes using money raised by FCC analog spectrum auctions to purchase digital converter boxes for Americans who can't afford DTV sets. Instead of moving the DTV transition forward, the White House wants to light a fire under broadcasters. President Bush proposes an analog-spectrum fee that would tax them every year they keep their old analog channels. The idea of adding a tax to broadcasters has surfaced in every presidential budget since Clinton. Industry lobbying has always killed the fee, but Bush is hoping lawmakers' desire to reclaim analog spectrum soon will change those odds. That message came in a letter to Capitol Hill leaders on a wide-ranging national security bill that includes provisions for speeding the return of analog chs. 62-69 for emergency communications use.

New Kids' Digital Network

Comcast, PBS, Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment will team up on an ad-supported digital cable network for preschoolers that will launch in fall 2005. A companion VOD service will kick off even earlier, providing 50 hours of on-demand programming per week starting in early 2005. Programming, which will be drawn from the combined 4,000-episode library of the companies, will include HIT shows Bob the Builder, Barney and Thomas & Friends. Sesame Workshop execs were not revealing which of its shows would be available, but Sesame Street is expected to be part of the mix. Viacom (Noggin) currently has the rights to those shows through September 2005. Sesame Workshop's other titles include Dragon Tales, Sagwa and 3-2-1 Contact. The channel is expected to be partially ad-supported (primarily funded by license fees), though the spots would not be in the body of the shows.

Earnhardt May Split GOP Support

Could an indecency complaint against NBC pit two key GOP constituencies against each other? NASCAR dads and the religious right could cause a minor split in the GOP, thanks to the Parents Television Council, which filed an FCC complaint over Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s S-word expletive following his win at the Oct. 3 EA Sports 500 in Alabama. The race and his comments aired on NBC stations; the PTC says they should be fined for failing to install a five-second delay of the live broadcast. "NBC knows that NASCAR has a huge family audience," says L. Brent Bozell, PTC president. The PTC campaign to clean the airwaves of sex and bathroom humor has many fans in the religious community, but the FCC says it won't play favorites among the GOP base.

President Nixes BET Appearance

President Bush declined an invitation to appear on BET to discuss issues relevant to the African-American community. Instead, he said he might make time after the election. Undeterred, founder and CEO Robert Johnson sent letters to key black Bush supporters and administration members, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, asking them to persuade Bush to reconsider. Sen. John Kerry was interviewed Oct. 7.

Mindshare Tracks Product Plugs

IAG Research has signed the first agency client to its IPP product-placement tracking service for prime time TV. Mindshare, which ranks No. 3 on B&C's exclusive list of the top 10 media buyers, at $3.3 billion in billings [B&C, Oct. 18], will track product placement for its clients, which include Kodak, Bristol-Myers, American Express and Mattel. Among the data it collects are brand recall, fit (whether a placement was seamless or intrusive) and changes to brand opinions.

Syndicated TV Scores With Holiday Shoppers

According to a Syndicated Network Television Association study, syndicated TV is the best way for advertisers to reach 11th-hour gift givers come December. A National Retail Federation spending study concludes consumers shelled out $220 billion in holiday spending last year, 70% of which was spent in December. Though pushing syndication is the association's stock in trade, it culled research from Nielsen and consumer-spending studies to support its claim. SNTA found that last-minute consumers tend to be young adult males who buy closer to the holiday season, and syndication tends to skew younger and hold its ratings during December.