Skip to main content

Discovering America

Senators backing a new terrestrially based pay-TV service appeared taken aback that more than one company is vying for the spectrum. "I think they were surprised to discover we exist," said Harold Kirkpatrick, head of MDS America, whose company has built systems overseas. One co-sponsor of legislation, which requires the spectrum to be issued free rather than via a planned FCC auction, asked Kirkpatrick for a one-on-one meeting.

Still, most lawmakers at a hearing on the bill last week voiced continued support for Northpoint, which instigated the FCC's authorization of the new service. MDS America is Northpoint's prime rival for the spectrum and, believing it would win the spectrum in an open bid, wants the frequencies auctioned. Sens. Conrad Burns and John Sununu, both backers of the bill, criticized the DBS industry for its opposition to the terrestrial service.—B.M.

Unlucky 13?

FX's Lucky
hasn't lived up to its name when it comes to the ratings game. More than halfway through its 13-episode run, the half-hour dark comedy continues to slide. Last week, Lucky
dropped to a 0.7 household rating, well below FX's recent 1.1 prime time average, according to Nielsen data. The series, with a hefty $1.5 million per-episode price tag, debuted to an encouraging 2.2 rating but now averages a 1.3. FX blames heavy cable news competition during the Iraq war and more competition in the May sweeps.

After spending millions to market Lucky's
debut, FX has cut back on the promotional budget. Post-sweeps, though, FX says it will spend more. "We have six episodes left; we'll see how it does," a spokesman said.

Entertainment President Kevin Reilly has also said he'll consider re-airing Lucky
later this summer as a companion to his new drama about plastic surgery, Nip/Tuck, which bows July 22.—A.R.

Disney/OMD Loses Magic

Media buyer OMD and Disney/ABC have decided not to renew a cross-platform deal they negotiated last year valued at about $1 billion.

The deal still has another four months to run, and both sides stressed that the decision not to renew was mutual and amicable. It simply made more sense to let it run its course and continue to do business through more-traditional channels, such as the upfront and scatter markets, sources said.

Meanwhile, OMD has struck a deal to spend $250 million with MTV Networks, and talks reportedly are ongoing between OMD and MTVN parent Viacom's cross-platform sales department, Viacom Plus, that could see the deal expanded to additional Viacom outlets.—S.M.

More HD Olympics?

NBC is contemplating creating a separate high-definition service for its coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics. This week, the company is hoping to nail down the lineup for Bravo HD (the network launches in July). And it is also trying to decide whether it wants to offer the HD Olympics coverage over Bravo HD or create a separate service. That decision would impact Bravo HD cable deals, so expect a decision sooner rather than later.

"The cost of doing the Olympics in HD is a huge hurdle," says NBC Cable President David Zaslav. "But, given the amount of demand that we sense from the DBS and cable distributors, we're looking real hard at green-lighting an effort."—K.K.

Try, Try Again

The FCC May 28 will try to auction 256 new licenses that did not sell in September, when the agency originally put frequencies currently used for ch. 54, 55 and 59 on the block. The channels, using frequencies reclaimed from broadcasters, make up the so-called C and D blocks of the 700 MHz band. Other portions of the 700 MHz band—ch. 52, 53, 56-58 and 60-69—will be sold later.

The government is reclaiming channels on the 700 MHz band as part of its effort to convert broadcasters to digital transmissions and offering their old analog channels for new uses.—B.M.