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In the Loop

Turning Point

Ted Turner is on a whirlwind tour. He has kept a relatively low profile since being eased out of Time Warner. No more. The CNN founder's byline appears on an excellent piece in Washington Monthly, and Media Man, a breezy new biography by New Yorker
media writer Ken Auletta, is coming out next month.

(Favorite fact we learned in the book: The seemingly combative Turner hates in-person confrontations. After finding out—by phone—that then-CEO Gerald Levin was squeezing him out of the soon-to-be AOL Time Warner, he jetted off to his New Mexico ranch. Once there, he "went white" when he was faxed a press release listing him as a "senior adviser.")

But the best Ted Turner sighting was his hour-long appearance on PBS's The Charlie Rose Show,
July 24, which will be rebroadcast Aug 2. (See editorial, page 22.) Of course, it's always fun to listen to him attack Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News Channel has bested Ted's baby, CNN. Turner calls Murdoch "a bad journalist" and "a frightening person" who dreams of world domination.

"He literally has control of Britain," Turner says. "I talked to Tony Blair many years ago. I said, 'Tony, why don't you crack down on Rupert a little? He's got too much control of Britain.' He said, 'Ted, I wouldn't have been elected. I wouldn't be in my job without Rupert. I can't go after him.' What about that?"

Frankly, we like it best when Turner turns introspective. "Losing my job, losing my fortune and having other personal problems of quite significant magnitude, humbled me," says the former mogul. "[They] brought me down off my high horse."


The latest Hollywood show to bite the dust: On Air With Ryan Seacrest. While Twentieth Television is making it available until Sept. 17, some stations aren't waiting for funeral rites. Last week, the Sinclair Broadcast Group pulled Seacrest
from 20 markets. Many Fox O&Os, including KTTV Los Angeles, followed suit.

Rest assured, plenty of syndicated shows are on hand to fill the void. On San Diego's XETV, On Air
will remain till its contract runs out, then back-to-back episodes of Cops
will fill the slot. Philadelphia's WTXF has tapped a second run of Judge Judy
and an upgraded Judge Joe Brown.

Not that Seacrest is disappearing. He's under contract to Twentieth, which hopes to develop another project with the ubiquitous American Idol


When your parent network doesn't include you in head count, it's time to worry. So fans of cult cable network Trio will shudder at NBC Universal's new sweeping carriage deal with DirecTV. NBC proudly added newly acquired USA Network and Sci Fi Channels, plus Bravo HD and the HD feeds of 10 NBC O&O stations into the mix. But Trio is missing in action.

That's a bad sign, as NBC execs consider whether the channel should live or die.

DirecTV accounts for 15 million of the pop-culture network's 18 million subscribers. If DirecTV isn't carrying it, kiss Trio goodbye.

NBC Cable President David Zaslav says he's evaluating all options and a decision should be made soon. But an industry exec familiar with the deal says that, while DirecTV will listen to any new NBC pitch, the DBS executives expect to drop the culture channel.

Trio aside, Zaslav is happy with the DirecTV deal. He went into negotiations looking for better terms and long-term carriage of Sci Fi and USA. DirecTV, in turn, wanted the right to carry NBC's HD feed throughout the country, since it doesn't have the capacity to air the local NBC station in each market. Now both NBC and DirecTV have reason to celebrate.

Meanwhile, Trio President Lauren Zalaznick saw this coming. Trio's parent division registered Web site last December. Currently, it asks fans to lobby DirecTV to save the network.