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The week that was

The late-night hype

At press time, the flap over ABC's interest in David Letterman
and disinterest—or, at least, decreased interest—in Nightline, continued to draw criticism and comment, including from Ted Koppel
himself, journalist watchdogs Tom Rosenstiel
and Bill Kovach, and columnists William Safire
(The New York Times) and E.J. Dionne
(The Washington Post).

The pieces were in response to a New York Times
article quoting unnamed ABC executives calling Koppel's program "irrelevant" (by way of justifying the network's pursuit of David Letterman). Since then, word is that CBS has countered with an offer for Letterman that would include much more on-air promotion, that Howard Stern
has been mentioned as a replacement for Lettermen if he goes to ABC, and that CNN
would like to have Koppel if ABC gets Letterman. Reportedly, ABC also prepared documentation that said, even in this, its bad year, it is a better place for Letterman; CBS prepared solid evidence that, even if late-news lead-ins stink, its prime time drags in viewers to late-night shows.

We should also note that ABC President Robert A. Iger
personally apologized to Koppel for working to land Letterman behind his back but also said that ABC was still working to land Letterman.

At press time, Koppel was still on ABC, Letterman was still on CBS, and surely another pundit was penning a column about the issue.

At the FCC

temporarily halted its review of the EchoStar/ DirecTV
merger and harshly rebuked company officials for not promptly providing documents the agency needs to review the deal. The 180-day clock will remain at 77 days until the documentation is provided. …

This week, the commission is slated to propose rules for cable-modem service. The commissioners are expected to tentatively define it as an "information service," giving them authority but not the obligation to order cable companies to carry rival ISPs on their broadband network. …

Lingering disputes between FCC commissioners over Northpoint Technology's request to launch a terrestrially delivered pay-TV service squelched plans to settle the issue at the commission's meeting Thursday. Northpoint is vying against MDS America
and others for spectrum now used solely for satellite-TV companies. Northpoint says it is entitled to the spectrum for free whereas MDS says the spectrum should be auctioned. …

The merger of the Mass Media
and Cable Services
bureaus goes into effect March 25 as the Media Bureau, headed by Ken Ferree, who named former cable competition division chief Deborah Klein
as his chief of staff. Former Mass Media Bureau Chief Roy Stewart
heads the broadcast licensing office.

Talking tech

Broadband VOD company Intertainer
introduced Demand E.S.P., which it says will allow a cable operator, broadband provider or content owner to build a complete VOD system based on seven modular components: asset management and production, programming and scheduling, distribution management, usage reporting, royalty management, IP VOD services, and professional services. Price varies with modules selected. Canadian telecommunications provider Aliant Telecom
will use it to provide VOD to nearly 70,000 DSL subscribers. …

Thomson Multimedia
officially closed its acquisition of Grass Valley Group
for approximately $172 million last week after getting approval from regulators in Europe (it received Justice Department
approval two weeks ago).

Much more news

Julia Louis-Dreyfus's new NBC comedy, Watching Ellie, dropped off from its debut episode. In its second week, ratings fell 27% in adults 18-49 and by more than 4 million viewers from its premiere, But it improved on its 8 p.m. lead-in by 44% in adults 18-49. …

MTV's new series documenting outrageous rocker Ozzy Osbourne's home life nabbed a 2.8 rating in its premiere Tuesday, the highest-ever debut Nielsen number for a new MTV show. The Osbournes
notched a 3.4 rating in MTV's target audience, 12- to 34-year-olds. The Real World 11
provided a strong lead-in, posting a 3.4 rating. …

Turner Broadcasting's Jamie Kellner
keynotes the PROMAX/BDA
confab in Los Angeles June 26-29. Also, for the first time, PROMAX plans sessions about marketing Hispanic TV.