news digest


DirecTV ad sales consolidates

NEW YORK — Satellite TV giant DirecTV Group is aggressively pushing to expand its fast-growing advertising business. The company, controlled by News Corp., said Tuesday that its DirecTV service is streamlining its advertising sales operations by bringing it in house via the combination of its ad sales team with account executives from its former ad sales vendor, Twentieth Television, which is part of News Corp. In a statement, DirecTV said the move signals "an aggressive new strategy to generate more national ad sales and revenue." The newly combined DirecTV Advertising Sales team will operate out of company offices in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago and focus on, among other things, attracting new national advertisers as well as creating partnerships and revenue sources. Bob Riordan will head the new group as senior vp advertising sales, based in New York. He reports to Shanks.

Santa Barbara fest to honor Whitaker

Forest Whitaker will be honored with the American Riviera Award — recognizing an actor who has had a strong influence on American cinema — at the 22nd annual Santa Barbara Film Festival, which runs Jan. 25-Feb. 4 in Santa Barbara, Calif. The fest also will fete Al Gore and director Davis Guggenheim for their documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," presenting them with the Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking, named in honor of David Attenborough. The Attenborough Award will be given out Feb. 2; the Whitaker tribute is set for Feb. 3.

Cowan exiting as Winkler Films president

Producer Rob Cowan is stepping down as president of Winkler Films after 15 years to set up an independent production company. He will continue to work on MGM's Dec. 15 release of "Home of the Brave," on which both he and Winkler served as producers. He also will continue his involvement with Winkler Films on the Sci Fi miniseries "Chariots of the Gods," based on the Erich von Daniken books. Winkler and Cowan have collaborated on such films as "Betrayed," "The Net," "The Juror," "Enough," "Life as a House" and "De-Lovely."

MySpace launches in Japan with Softbank

NEW YORK — MySpace made its expected move into Japan official Tuesday, unveiling a 50-50 joint venture with Softbank Corp. to launch MySpace Japan. It is the News Corp. social networking site's first foray into the Asian market (HR 11/7). The company also has entered other foreign territories as of late, mainly in Europe, with News Corp. executives saying it also is eyeing a move into China. Based in Tokyo, MySpace Japan will run largely as a separate company, with MySpace U.S. teams playing significant roles, the company said. Makoto Kouyama will function as CEO of MySpace Japan and will sit on its board. The beta version of MySpace Japan launched Tuesday.

Bravo books Parker for reality series

Bravo said Tuesday that it has given a series pickup to the tentatively titled "Welcome to the Parker," a docu series set in the luxurious Parker Palm Springs hotel. Each one-hour episode will follow the lives, relationships and drama of the hotel staff and their guests. Viewers will see "the work that goes into keeping the Parker's sterling reputation intact," Bravo said. Production begins this month, with the series set to air next year. Bravo did not indicate how many episodes were ordered. In addition, the network has signed production company Snackaholic (Bravo's "Tabloid Wars") to produce the series.