News in Brief

Sundance Doc Channel to debut this year; Nat Geo TV adds film to its title; Discovery turns down another interested buyer.
January 17, 2002

The Sundance Channel will launch a digital station devoted to independent non-fiction film, tentatively called the Sundance Documentary Channel, later this year. Robert Redford, founder of both the Sundance Channel and the Sundance Film Festival, announced the news on Sunday during this year’s Park City event.

Alliance Atlantis Communications confirms that seven positions will be eliminated from AAC Fact‘s Edmonton office as part of the company-wide downsizing announced last week, but contends that factual remains a growth area for AAC.

National Geographic Television has rebranded itself National Geographic Television & Film, to reflect its expansion into feature and large format production.

Discovery Communications keeps insisting its not for sale, but the Liberty Media-backed company has no shortage of suitors. At a conference last week, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone confirmed that he had approached Liberty chief John Malone about a deal, but Malone said he isn’t ready to sell. Discovery was also approached by NBC, last summer.

In other Discovery news, the Bethesda, U.S.-based company has partnered with Eastern European Merchandising Corp. to market Discovery Channel-branded products such as clothing, educational toys and stationery in countries including Poland, Hungary, Russia, Romania and the Czech Republic. Initial product launches are planned for the fall.

Channel 4 has taken to the streets of London to market its upcoming three-part documentary series Andy Warhol: The Complete Picture. Fifty billboard reproductions of the artist’s work – including images of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Onassis – are scattered throughout the city and will remain up until February 4. The series will air on consecutive Sundays from January 27.

E! Networks has announced plans to launch E! International Network – a 24-hour English-language digital channel – within the next three months. So far, New Zealand’s Sky Network Television has signed on to distribute the channel on the basic tier of its digital platform.

Court TV received a scolding but no fine from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission over allegations that it failed to provide enough captioned programming (for the hearing impaired) in early 2000. A Court TV spokesperson said it was a simple miscalculation, adding that the cablecaster now offers 1,100 hours of captioned programming per quarter, 200 hours more than is required.

The U.S. Film Festivals Circuit – a promotion and marketing platform that aims to link national sponsors and U.S. film festivals – will kick off in April with the Washington (DC) International Film Festival, the first of 10 events planned for 2002. At each festival, the Circuit will award the most popular film with a cash Audience Award linked to the title sponsor. The organization is a joint venture of International Media Resources in New York and L.A.-based firm Golya Corp.

MTV, the cablecaster behind such original reality shows as Real World and Road Rules, will add another non-fiction series on March 5 with the debut of The Osbournes. The new weekly one-hour show will feature the family of rocker Ozzy Osbourne as they move into a new house in southern California.

PBS is a sure winner of a Writers Guild of America Award. All of the nominations in the two documentary categories (‘Current Events’ and Other than Current Events’) are programs produced for the U.S. public broadcasting system. The WGA award ceremony will take place on March 2.

Chicago-based plane manufacturer Boeing is branching into film with a direct-to-cinema movie delivery system called Boeing Digital Cinema, according to an Associated Press report. Beverly Hills-based Creative Artists Agency has said it will team with Boeing to market the technology.

According to a report in the Washington Post, French filmmaker Jules Naudet plans to use the video footage he captured of the attacks on the World Trade Center to make a doc for the victims’ families. Naudet had been following a New York firefighter for three months prior to September 11.

French critics gave France’s first reality show, Loft Story, two thumbs up in cinema magazine Cahiers du Cinema, awarding the program 10th place on a list of top-10 films of 2001. The program inspired riots and picketing earlier in the year, but also grabbed audiences of up to 10 million.

Executives at U.S. broadcaster ABC acknowledged in a New York Times article that they goofed at least twice last year – in over-programming Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (which ran four nights per week last season) and in passing on the idea of a 25th anniversary special for landmark miniseries Roots. ABC originally ran the series in 1977, but competitor NBC will air the anniversary show, Roots – Celebrating 25 Years – this Friday. Susan Lyne, ABC Entertainment president, reportedly said, ‘I just didn’t think of it.’

CNN has signed talkshow host Larry King to a four-year contract extension, reportedly valued at US$7 million per year in base salary alone.

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