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More PPC Deals

Fresh on the heals of its deal for Twentieth Television's Ryan Seacrest (below), the Raycom-led Program Purchase Consortium is close to wrapping up rights for five more programs, says Raycom VP Mary Carole McDonnell. She's reluctant to identify the shows before the deals are signed but says they're a mix of cash, barter and cash-plus-barter deals and that they should be done in the next two weeks. But the consortium is also passing on some shows, including one off-network program that one of the studios is now marketing second-cycle rights to. Meanwhile, the list of PPC stations continues to grow and at last count totaled 240, McDonnell reports.—S.M.

Kids Using Their Noggin

You'll have to use your head on this one: What kids network just published its first Nielsen ratings and scored a better household rating than cable nets CNBC, Oxygen and BBC America? It was Nickelodeon's Noggin/The N channel, which posted a 0.3 rating in prime, according to Nielsen data for the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 3. Noggin programs for preschoolers during the day, and The N goes for tweens and teens at night. With about 40 million subscribers, the rating translates to about 115,000 viewers, making the N's audience one of cable's smallest. More than half of the viewers, though, were the N's target demo kids 9-14. In total day, the N averaged a 0.2 rating.—A.R.

Iger: Cox Could Lose a Billion

Would dropping ESPN cost Cox $1 billion? That's what Disney President Bob Iger wants Wall Street to believe. Iger worked last week to scare Cox investors with the prospect of subscriber losses. In an Orlando, Fla., meeting to tout Disney's ailing theme parks, Iger speculated that dropping ESPN could send 5%-10% of Cox's 6 million subscribers scurrying to DBS. At $2,000-$3,000 per, he said, Cox "could easily lose $1 billion in value. If you're an investor in Cox, I don't think that's going to make you particularly happy." He added that what Cox President Jim Robbins "ultimately is doing is creating a huge amount of damage and he's going to alienate his customers." Asked to respond, Robbins said it's surging programming costs and, hence, cable bills that risk alienating Cox's customers. "This is really trying to solve a business problem," he said. "I hate to see it get personal, because they shouldn't take it personally."—J.M.H.

Hearing on NBC/Vivendi

When the NBC/Vivendi Universal deal was struck last week, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent out a joint statement expressing their concern about its effect on the "diversity of viewpoints available to all Americans. They said they "expect to hold a hearing shortly." Within 10 minutes, a new, "updated" version of the statement had been sent, with the language changed to "considering holding a hearing shortly." Cold feet? No, says DeWine's office: Full calendar. "It was a matter of not promising a hearing until we're sure there's actually going to be enough time to schedule one," said a staffer. They already have three media hearings set for later this month, including one on Clear Channel and radio, another on the impact of sports programming on cable prices and another examining the NCAA's bowl championship series.—J.E./B.M.

New York: Ad Town, USA

The American Association of Advertising Agencies is planning a November press conference to outline its first annual Advertising Week event in New York, set for next September. Word is that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will give it the city's official blessing. Emulating Fashion Week, the event is designed to both celebrate and demonstrate the impact of the ad biz on the city's culture and economy. The AAAA has hired Matthew Scheckner, a sports and entertainment marketer/promoter to run the event. He is credited with assembling the city's winning bid for the 1998 Goodwill Games.—S.M.