NBC WARMS TO WEATHER CHANNEL

NBC Universal, along with investment groups Bain Capital and Blackstone Group, have agreed to acquire The Weather Channel from Landmark Communications for a reported $3.5 billion. The Weather Channel is one of the most widely distributed basic cable networks, available in more than 97 percent of cable-TV homes. Since 2004, NBC and its affiliates have also operated their own weather network, NBC Weather Plus. In an interview with today's (Monday) New York Times, NBC chief Jeff Zucker said that the fate of Weather Plus is currently "undetermined." Another apparently unresolved issue is how NBC intends to treat contracts between TWC and non-NBC affiliates. The NBC/TWC deal comes at a time when all networks are devoting increased time and resources to weather coverage. Only last Friday, the entire hour of NBC's Dateline news magazine was devoted to "The Year of the Tornado," and featured a first-time appearance by NBC Weather Plus Chief Meteorologist Bill Karins.

AD BUYERS LIKELY TO CUT BUDGETS FOR BROADCAST TV

Thirty percent of ad buyers expect to reduce their budgets in broadcast television over the next six months, while 14 percent expect to increase them, according to a survey by market-research firm Advertising Perceptions and reported today (Monday) by Advertising Age. However, in the case of cable TV, 28 percent of buyers said that they intend to increase their ad budgets, while 20 percent said they intend to reduce them. While the survey results "can hardly come as a shock," AdAge commented, "it's far from welcome news for a shaky media economy teetering into the second half."

NBC TO PROVIDE PLENTY OF RATINGS DATA DURING OLYMPICS

NBC is planning a massive research effort to apprise advertisers of how effective they have been in reaching viewers during the Olympics via broadcast TV, cable, online, mobile, and video-on-demand platforms, the company's top researcher, Alan Wurtzel, said over the weekend. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Wurtzel said, "We need to demonstrate [to advertisers] that money spent on the Olympics was money well spent. ... Management said to me we have to figure out a way to go beyond Nielsen to measure this stuff." Data will include the first ever overnight ratings of streaming video coverage, provided by Quantcast. In addition, some 8,500 persons are being lined up by Knowledge Networks to keep a media diary to record which medium they are using to watch the games, where they are using it, and for how long.

PROTESTERS TARGETING EDGIER NETWORK PROGRAMMING

Network executives trying to attract younger viewers with edgier fare have been stymied by protests directed at the show's advertisers, Advertising Age observed today (Monday), pointing out that North American Philips recently withdrew ads for Norelco products from CBS's Swingtown after receiving five complaints from viewers. "It is a shame," one media buyer told the trade publication. "When the networks try to push the envelope a little and try to be more like HBO, the advertisers run away." The Parents Television Council, which takes credit for the FCC's crackdown on allegedly indecent broadcasts, is urging CBS affiliates not to air the drama. All of which, according to AdAge, has forced CBS to use time on the program for "make-goods" and "bonus units" -- essentially free ads that the network gives away when one of its programs does not deliver a guaranteed number of viewers or when it enhances a sales package with extra ads to attract advertisers.

MILLIONS OF EMERGENCY BATTERY-POWERED TV SETS TO GO BLACK

In planning for the switch from analog to digital TV broadcasting, officials appear to have ignored millions of owners of portable battery-powered analog TVs, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Monday). The tiny sets are often used in case of power failures (or at sports events) and cannot be attached to converter boxes because the boxes themselves require a power source. According to the Consumer Electronics Assn., eight million homes rely on hand-held TVs in case of emergency, all of which will become obsolete on February 18. However, the Times noted, one converter box maker, Winegard Co., plans to offer a $20-25 battery pack for its models next month.

AUSTRALIAN TV NETWORK PLAGUED BY RADIOACTIVITY

The Australian Broadcasting Corp., which has been without a headquarters in Queensland for a year and a half after abandoning it following reports of an unusual number of breast cancer cases among its staff, has now been forced to abandon plans to build a new headquarters after the discovery of possible radioactive contamination at the proposed site. The ABC had been in the process of conducting due diligence on a deal to acquire 42,000 square feet of land in Newstead but said it had canceled the contract after the discovery of elevated levels of radiation there.

WIMBLEDON FINAL PRODUCES RECORD

Some 12.7 million BBC viewers on Sunday tuned in to watch Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in the longest men's final tennis match in the tournament's history.

Brian B.