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Fast Track

AP, MSN Roll Out Video Service

The AP and MSN on March 1 launched a breaking-news video service to 450 member Web sites that have signed on so far.

The service debuted with great fanfare, feeding a 90-second report on AP’s scoop video of a meeting at which the president and emergency-management officials talked about the possibility of levee breaks in New Orleans.

The ad-supported AP Online Video Network will supply potentially as many as 4,000 AP broadcast and newspaper members with about 40 video clips per day of national and international news. MSN is working on adding local content and advertising to allow members to further brand and monetize the service.—John Eggerton

NBC Soaps Up

It’s telenovela fever. NBC Universal Television Group has signed a two-year, first-look development deal with Galan Entertainment for production of telenovelas and other Spanish- language formats in English across its networks, starting with NBC, USA and Bravo, according to CEO Jeff Zucker.

Seeking to separate this announcement from all the others, NBC U, Galan Entertainment and Telemundo noted they will leverage the existing assets of NBC-owned Telemundo—the second-largest Spanish-language content producer—for the Hispanic market.

Telemundo will license all its formats, in addition to other acquired formats, to Galan Entertainment to redevelop into English.—J.B.

Nielsen Decides Against PPMs

Nielsen has decided not to go into business with Arbitron to deploy the portable people meter (PPM).

Arbitron has had operational oversight of the new system, which is being tested in Houston, while Nielsen has invested, by its count, “tens of millions” in the technology but had not committed to joining the venture.

Unlike diaries, which viewers have to fill out, or local people meters (LPMs), which viewers have to log in to, PPMs automatically register radio and TV signals within a given range of the subject.

In announcing the decision last week, Nielsen said that, instead of entering into a joint venture on the portable people meter, it will take a “portfolio” approach to TV ratings, combining its LPMs with added measurement of time-shifted viewing and video-on-demand, as well as the expansion of its national sample to include out-of-home viewing by college students.

Nielsen said the decision does not affect Arbitron and Nielsen’s joint participation in Project Apollo, a new PPM-based service to integrate viewership with product-purchasing information.—J.E.

Canadian Imports Clear 70% of the U.S.

Program PartnersCrime Watch block has been cleared for fall in more than 70% of the U.S., including Los Angeles (KCOP/KTTV), Boston (WCVB) and Washington (WDCA/WTTG), pushing coverage to 18 of the top 20 and 40 of the top 50 markets.

Featuring the Canadian procedural- drama imports Cold Squad and Stone Undercover, the block is aimed at prime time, late night or weekend time periods. Two episodes of Cold Squad and one of Stone Undercover will be available each week.

Program Partners has had success this season importing another Canadian series, Da Vinci’s Inquest, to the U.S. market.—J.B.

Moonves Sees Nine-Figure Retrans Pot

CBS will, eventually, get “hundreds | of millions of dollars” from retransmission-consent deals covering the total 60 million households reached by the CBS and soon-to-be CW stations that it owns, President/CEO Leslie Moonves predicted at the annual Bear Stearns Media Conference last week.

Although most of its bigger deals are down the road—2008 and 2009—Moonves said to look for one new retransmission deal within six weeks. The stations, he said, will also eventually be getting a cut of the new cash-and-carry regime.—J.E.

Bochco Out at 'Commander’

ABC’s Commander in Chief is on the third showrunner of its rookie season.

Executive producer Dee Johnson is sliding into the role while Stephen Bochco is away on pre-production of his drama pilot Hollis and Rae.

But sources close to the show said Thursday that Bochco and Commander may have split over a “bad fit” between the show and the veteran producer.

Although ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson is a fan, the show is currently on the sidelines, and it remains unclear whether Commander will return to ABC’s schedule, as promised, on April 18 with seven straight episodes through the end of the season.

After original showrunner Rod Lurie left in the fall (reportedly because of behind-schedule scripts), Bochco took over on the heels of his new deal with Commander studio Touchstone Television. But the show never got its ratings groove back.

Now, one source close to the situation says Bochco and ABC clashed over the number of notes the network was giving on the show, which ABC denies. “Bochco just wasn’t about to take notes from them,” the source says.

Both the network and the studio denied that Bochco has been pushed out, maintaining that the plan for Johnson to take over in Bochco’s absence was always in place. Commander in Chief, which stars Geena Davis as the first female U.S. president, had a relatively strong fall before sagging as the season wore on. It was pulled off the schedule last month. A Bochco press rep did not respond by press time. —Ben Grossman