news digest


A&E has hit on its hands with 'Sopranos'

A&E Network's big off-net acquisition paid off Wednesday night as "The Sopranos" averaged 4.3 million viewers in its basic-cable premiere. The network said Thursday that the viewership tally makes the 9 p.m. debut of "Sopranos" the most-watched off-network series premiere ever on cable. The episode also drew 1.8 million viewers 18-49 (216% above A&E's 2006 primetime average) and 1.9 million 25-54 (228% above the average). A second episode that aired immediately after averaged 3.5 million total viewers. "The way the show performed last night was solidly within our expectations," said Bob DeBitetto, A&E executive vp and general manager.

'Dead Zone,' 'Martha' among syndie deals

PASADENA — Debmar-Mercury said Thursday that it has cleared the off-cable drama "The Dead Zone" in 85% of the country, including the top 10 markets, for a fall launch in syndication, with Twentieth Television coming on board to handle ad sales on the Lionsgate show. Debmar-Mercury also said it has cleared "Family Feud" in 85% of the country for the 2007-08 season. Meanwhile, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution said it has renewed its syndicated how-to series "The Martha Stewart Show" in more than 80% of the U.S., and Atlas Worldwide Syndications & Distributions said it is moving forward with a fourth season of the courtroom series "Eye for an Eye" and that it has acquired distribution rights to the action-adventure series "Acapulco H.E.A.T." and "Tarzan."

CBS brands new sports subdivision

NEW YORK — CBS has started a unit within CBS Sports to help sell the brand across its platforms, from the TV network and CBS Sportsline to outdoor, radio and Westwood One. The eye also said that veteran executive Chris Simko will become senior vp sports sales and marketing and director of the unit, the CBS Sports Properties Group. Simko, who already had been senior vp sports sales and marketing, will continue to report to John Bogusz, executive vp CBS sales and marketing.

Here! wraps 'Shelter' for '07 bow

NEW YORK — Gay TV network Here! has completed production on the same-sex surfer romance "Shelter." In writer-director Jonah Markowitz's first feature, set for a North American theatrical release in the fall through Regent Media's Here! Films label, a California art-school hopeful (Trevor Wright) falls for a surfing buddy (Brad Rowe). "Shelter" will be shown on the cable network late this year.

EBay bids $310 mil for StubHub

Online auctioneer eBay Inc. said Wednesday that it plans to buy sports and concert ticket reseller StubHub for about $310 million in cash (HR 11/7). The deal is expected to close in the current quarter, subject to approvals by regulators and StubHub shareholders. In other ticket news, Sean Moriarty has been promoted to president and CEO of AC/InterActiveCorp-owned Ticketmaster. He was president and chief operating officer. taps Ververs and Montopoli

NEW YORK — CBS News has named Vaughn Ververs to the new position of senior political editor of and promoted Brian Montopoli to succeed Ververs as editor of the site's Public Eye blog. CBS News also appointed Steve Chaggaris as deputy political director of the network. Ververs has been editor of Public Eye, the network's transparency and media blog, since it started in fall 2005.
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