News in Brief

Discovery and NBC strike a deal for Saturday mornings; A&E and ZDF partner to produce new doc series; Robert De Niro launches a film fest in TriBeCa.
December 6, 2001

On the heels of a Washington Post report that said NBC and Discovery Communications had considered a potential merger this past summer, the two companies broke news of a smaller collaborative effort. NBC will lease a two-and-a-half to three-hour block on Saturday mornings to Discovery, which will fill the space with kids’ programming over the course of three years, starting in fall 2002. The programming block will be jointly branded Discovery/NBC. ‘This is not the first partnership we’ve had with Discovery,’ said Scott Sassa, president of NBC West Coast, who cited mutual collaborations for NBC’s Dateline as well as Discovery’s The Crocodile Hunter. ‘This is just another step towards us working together.’
When asked about the earlier merger talks, Johnathan Rogers, president of Discovery Networks U.S., said, ‘Those conversations were concluded this past summer. They are no longer ongoing… This is not a precursor to a big deal.’

The Banff Television Festival (June 9 to 14, 2002) is now accepting entries for its 2002 competition. Four cash prizes ranging from CDN$20,000 to $50,000 are available to productions made for television or webcast that have not had a theatrical release. Entry deadline is February 22, 2002; the fee for each entry is $250. For more details log onto:

Sundance has unveiled the films that will screen in the festival’s Short program. Of the 71 shorts chosen, six are factual. They are: 2+2, directed by Benita Raphan and Clayton Hemmert; Beneath the Borqa in Afghanistan, by director Iara Lee; Family Values, from Eva Saks; Naming Prairie, directed by Alexandra Juhasz; No Dumb Questions, directed by Melissa Regan; and The Quest for Length, by director Gene B. Rhee.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week refused to consider reinstating government restrictions on the size of cable companies, despite pleas from several consumer groups who fear a cable monopoly. Under present regulations, the consumer groups argue, one or two companies could control programming into most American homes. The Supreme Court reiterated an appellate court decision from earlier this year that deemed the restrictions unconstitutional.

The IMAX Corporation is taking to the racetrack for its next project. The Toronto-based large-format film company has signed an exclusive pact with the National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) to develop and produce a film about the behind-the-wheel action during competitions. IMAX will begin production in 2002 and plans to release the film worldwide in 2003.

New York-based A&E Television Networks has struck a coproduction deal with Germany’s ZDF Enterprises for 27 hours of new programming, which will air on A&E’s History Channel. The deal includes series such as Hitler’s War and The SS from producer Guido Knopp.

The Discovery Channel has found a home in the Republic of Korea, courtesy of a distribution partnership between Discovery Networks Asia and Korean cable system operator C&M Co. Subtitled in Korean, the 24-hour Discovery Channel will launch in Seoul on 10 cable systems at the end of November, and will continue to roll out throughout 2002.

The National Geographic Channel launched a day-part programming block in Japan on the SkyPerfect TV! platform on December 1. The channel airs Monday to Friday from 8p.m. to midnight and on weekends from 1p.m. to 9p.m.

Canada’s Alliance Atlantis is promoting its seven fledgling digital channels with a simulcast of the National Geographic Channel special Supercroc. On December 9, between 7p.m. and 9p.m., cable and satellite distributors (including Bell ExpressVu, Rogers and Shaw) will replace a national NBC feed to most major markets with Alliance Atlantis’ digi, National Geographic Channel. All of the company’s digital channels will be promoted during commercial breaks. The free preview period for digital channels ends in January 2002. Other Alliance Atlantis digital channels include The Independent Film Channel, Discovery Health Channel, BBC Canada, BBC Kids, Showcase Action, and Showcase Diva.

The winter line-up on BBC One will include the natural history program Weird Nature, which employs a new film technology that allows animal movement to be shown in 3-D. The program was three years in the making and sees producer John Downer determine whether man or animal is the weirdest community on Earth.

Actor Robert De Niro and film producer Jane Rosenthal announced they will start a film festival in TriBeCa, their neighborhood located at the south end of New York City. The festival will run for four days – beginning May 1, 2002 -showcasing about 40 feature-length films and 20 original shorts, as well as documentary and student-produced projects. The festival line-up, chosen from submissions accepted as of March 1, will be determined by a jury of New York-based professionals. Panel discussions and free outdoor screenings are also under consideration. The festival will be open to the public and is to be helmed by executive director Trina Wyatt, also chief executive of TriBeCa Entertainment. Plans for the festival have been in the works for some time, but were hurried along by the events of September 11. It’s hoped the festival will help revive the economic and emotional state of TriBeCa, which has suffered from its proximity to Ground Zero.

CNN Newsroom, CNN‘s daily news program for use in the classroom, and educational publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston are supplying high schools in the U.S. with a free video about the September 11 terrorist attacks. September 11, 2001: A Turning Point in History – the First 30 Days will be mailed to social studies departments or media specialists at more than 16,000 public high schools.

Ten networks, including MSNBC, USA Network, Discovery Networks U.S.’ Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and Discovery Health Channel have donated more than US$2 million in airtime to the ‘Miracle of New York’ ad campaign. The campaign was created to increase tourism to New York City in the wake of September 11 and will be shown on the networks three times a day until the end of the year.

On Sunday December 9, more than 2,000 international broadcasters will air programming by, for and about children to commemorate UNICEF‘s International Children’s Day of Broadcasting. Participating broadcasters include Australia’s ABC, SABC in South Africa, TV2 in Denmark and Germany’s ZDF.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.