Fast Track

Viacom Out of the Closet

A memo leaked to an Internet site last week provided clues, including Outlet as the name for the gay network Viacom's Showtime
and MTV
have been talking about since last spring. The memo said Showtime would manage the channel and MTV would help program it. But the note came from an outside consultant, not the networks. "It's really too premature for us to talk about this," said a Showtime rep, but B&C has learned demo tapes have been produced and at one point, a favored name was Purple. It isn't now.

DBS Pioneer Dies in Crash

H. Taylor Howard, 70, the "father" of DBS and founding chairman of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, was killed Nov. 13 when the plane he was piloting crashed after takeoff, near San Francisco. His stepson was also killed.

A Stanford University professor and a NASA scientist who worked on interplanetary probes, Howard started a DBS revolution in 1976 when he built the first American direct-to-home satellite system from spare parts in his garage. Howard's system picked up the HBO feed to cable operators. By 1980, publication of The Howard Terminal Manual
sparked an industry.

CEO Eddy Hartenstein
called him a "pioneer," and on a conference call with analysts, EchoStar
Chairman Charlie Ergen
said that if he sounded down, it wasn't because of the financials, but because of Taylor's death. He called Taylor "the father of the industry," who got him started in the business.

But You Knew That

We predict a dramatic drop in TV ads for Miss Cleo's psychic hotlines. That's because it will be discontinuing its pay-per-call operation, forgiving $500 million in outstanding charges and bills and paying a $5 million fine. Access Resource Services
and Psychic Readers Network
agreed to the terms to settle FTC's claims of deceptive advertising and billing. "I'm no psychic, but I can foresee this: If you make deceptive claims, there is an FTC action in your future," said FTC
Chairman J. Howard Beales.

What's on TV

has placed full-season orders for new hour dramas Fastlane and John Doe and the sitcom Cedric the Entertainer. …

As a network, ESPN
took the top spot in prime time with a 2.3 average last week. Its Sunday Night Football matchup scored a 7.6 rating, the top show on cable last week. Election coverage boosted Fox News Channel
to a 1.5 rating and CNN
to a 1.0 rating. …

Kids' WB!
has placed new orders for five animated series: Ozzy & Drix, Mucha Lucha!
and What's New Scooby-Doo? (all produced by co-owned Warner Bros. Animation) and Yu-Gi-Oh!
and Pokemon, from 4Kids Productions
. So far this year, Kids' WB has repeatedly beaten kids' powerhouse Nickelodeon
in boys 6-11, tweens 9-14 and male tweens 9-14.

People Meeter

Rob Burnett
and Jon Beckerman, the execs and writers behind NBC's Ed, have signed a two-year deal with the network to develop prime time drama and comedy series. …

NBC veteran Linda Mancuso
is the new senior veep of programming at ABC Family, under President Angela Shapiro. Mancuso had been COO of Peter Engel Productions/NBC Enterprises. ...

Greg Brennan, who most recently was EVP of programming and content for E! and co-owned Style, is joining Tech TV
as new senior VP of programming.

SpongeBob Square Dance

Nickelodeon's, SpongeBob SquarePants, was all over the cable Nielsen ratings last week, with 12 spots in the top 50 cable shows chart. The highest rating was a 3.8 for a morning play on Nov. 10.