OLYMPICS TO BE "SIGNATURE MOMENT" FOR HDTV, SAYS NBC EXEC

NBC Sports executive producer David Neal said Wednesday that he expects sales of high-definition television sets to soar worldwide in advance of next summer's Olympic Games coverage from Beijing. Speaking to the HD World conference in New York, Neal observed that NBC plans to deliver 756 hours of HD programming from the Summer Olympics -- nearly twice the 399 hours that it produced for the 2004 Games in Athens. Calling the planned Olympics coverage a "signature moment" for HDTV, Neal predicted that it will help "get HD out of the niche and fully into the mainstream." By the time it's over, he suggested, fully half of U.S. households will have HDTV sets. He thanked the Chinese hosts for "making it happen" by covering many of the costs involved in wiring the Olympic venues with the expensive fiber-optic cables required to carry the HD signals from more than 1,000 cameras covering the events. Reporting on the importance of the Games coverage to NBC and its corporate parent, G.E., the London Financial Times observed today (Thursday): "The Olympics are expected to provide NBC ... with a windfall in extra advertising revenues as well as a chance to display its technological and journalistic prowess. The games also allow G.E. to boost sales of its aviation, medical technology and other businesses in China. G.E. is forecasting $500 million in extra sales from Olympics-related contracts, excluding NBC."

DEAL OR NO DEAL IS BIG DEAL ON WEB

Of all the broadcast network TV shows that sported websites during the first week of the new season, NBC's Deal or No Deal was the one that drew the most traffic. In fact, according to Internet usage analyst Hitwise, the NBC game show was responsible for 15.46 percent of all traffic to the TV show websites mounted by the broadcast networks. Others on the top-five list included: 2. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 11.23 percent; 3. Heroes, NBC, 9.71 percent; 4. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 3.51 percent; 5. America's Most Wanted, Fox, 2.7 percent.

ESPN FILMS EXHUMATION OF "THE GIPPER'S" REMAINS

ESPN on Wednesday denied that it had anything to do with the decision to exhume the remains of former Notre Dame football star George Gipp, who was portrayed in the 1940 movie Knute Rockne, All American by Ronald Reagan. (The movie produced one of the most memorable lines in movie history, "Win one for the Gipper," which later became Reagan's slogan when he entered politics.) ESPN filmed the exhumation for an upcoming documentary. According to news reports, DNA tests had been sought by members of the Gipp family, who declined to discuss the reasons for their decision to exhume the body, calling it "a very sensitive family matter."

NBC MOVING FROM BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN BURBANK

Burbank, California, made famous by announcer Gary Owens when he referred to it as "beautiful downtown Burbank" in his weekly introduction of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In in the late '60s, will be losing the TV network that put it on the map. NBC is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it plans to sell its studio site and move to the nearby Universal Studios lot in Universal City, an area of Los Angeles. "It's a sad day for Burbank," city manager Mary Alvord told today's Los Angeles Times. NBC is expected to construct new studio space for its West Coast news operations and local stations KNBC-TV and Spanish-language KVEA-TV at what is now the parking lot serving a subway station near the Universal Studios entrance. It is also planning to upgrade Studio One, a soundstage on the studio lot, as the new home of the Tonight show. After selling the Burbank property, it is also likely to lease back studio space at its old facility, according to the Times.

U.S. SPENDS $600M ON CUBAN TV STATION -- DOWN THE DRAIN?

Despite spending $600 million to get its propaganda message to the people of Cuba, the U.S. has failed to find an effective way to counter the Communist country's technical blockage of TV Marti and Radio Marti, according to NBC's Mark Potter. Although the channel is now carried by the DirecTV satellite service and is beamed over the island from aircraft flying north of the Cuban coast, Potter noted in a report on MSNBC.com, a report to Congress indicated that fewer than one percent of Cuban households watched TV Marti during the past year. (Satellite dishes are forbidden in Cuba.) Penn State professor of communications John Nichols told NBC, "They're getting zero bang for their buck. It's counterproductive to U.S. foreign-policy interests. It's embarrassing ourselves to the rest of the world, and we're in violation of international law." He added that the station often focuses on Cuban-exile politics in South Florida and that its real purpose is "to curry favor with a very important U.S. domestic political constituency." Arizona Republican Congressman Jeff Flake agreed. "It's a mess. ... Republicans have used it lately, but Democrats have used this issue as well to mine for voters." But Alberto Mascaro, head of the government office that oversees TV Marti, insisted, "We are giving a service to people who don't have the freedom and democracy that we all enjoy."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.