Previous ratings for Farscape:


8/23 Unrealized Reality 1.5
8/16 Coup by Clam 1.1
8/09 A Prefect Murder 1.2
8/02 I Shrink 1.1
7/26 John Quixote 1.1
7/19 Natural Election 1.2
7/12 Promises 1.1


6/28 Lava 1.4
6/21 Redemption 1.1
6/14 Sacrifice 1.3
6/7 Crichton Kicks 1.6


4/24 DwTB 1.2
4/17 ItLD2 1.2
4/12 ItLD1 1.0
4/05 IYYY 1.3
4/05 Undressed 1.1
3/29 Fractures 0.9


November 7, 2002 FROM VARIETY: The BBC has secured the rights for TAKEN, Steven Spielberg's $41m alien abduction miniseries, trumping Channel 4 with an offer of £2m, about $3.5m. 


The next wave of reality TV will be lighter and more fun than the previous bunch. Reality producer Scott Sternberg is currently working with Jim Henson Television on a virtual reality game project called "The World." Chances are pretty good that "The World"  will be nothing like "Fear Factor."


August 27, 2002: For its first 10 episodes on SciFi, Stargate SG-1 averaged the best series ratings in the history of the network, 1.32 million households or a 1.7 rating which represents a 42% improvement over the previous time-period. Last Friday's Stargate summer finale episode earned a whopping 2.0.  

For its first 10 episodes of Season Four, Farscape has been averaging only 958,000 households, 1.2 rating, but its sought-after adults 18-49 group number is an excellent 913,000

In addition to the weekly slot, Sci Fi has also bought rerun rights to the first five years of Stargate, and the network will schedule those in a four-hour block every Monday night at 7 p.m., beginning Sept. 30.


September 24, 2002: Now we know why SciFi can't afford another season of Farscape.

The Sci Fi Channel will mark its 10th anniversary with a fall slate of promotions driven by filmmaker Steven Spielberg's December miniseries Taken, with the cable channel also using the promotional strength of its new owner, Vivendi Universal, and hidden photos of UFOs.

In a stunt rare for cable, a theatrical trailer for Steven Spielberg Presents Taken will run in the top 30 markets before fall/holiday screenings of Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, New Line Cinema's Lord of the Rings sequel and MGM's James Bond film Die Another Day.

"In terms of cable, this is the biggest promotion," said Dave Howe, Sci Fi's svp of marketing/creative. "It's the biggest miniseries: 20 hours, 10 nights. This is our first opportunity to really talk to a new Sci Fi audience and the Spielberg name allows us to talk in a more broadly appealing way."

Bantam is publishing a Taken book. RadioShack this week starts running trailers on its in-store monitors. "Radio-Shack's a great audience for us," Howe said.

In keeping with Taken's alien abduction themes, a promotion with online digital photo processing site will insert pictures of fake UFOs into about 700,000 packets of photos.

Howe said a typical customer would get back Snapfish's pro-cessed pics and, "There you are, having been to Cancun—and you see a photo of a family at the beach and see a UFO in the background. And when you turn it over it's a promotion for Taken. It is the thing that people just think is really cool."

In the four weeks before Taken's Dec. 2 debut, Sci Fi sign-age will engulf New York's Grand Central Station in a massive billboard spend.

The Spielberg epic also will be visible on New York bus shelters, subways, commuter rail cards, phone kiosks and taxi tops. In addition, signage will appear on the sides of buildings in Los Angeles.

Vivendi's Universal Studios' Hollywood and Florida theme parks will have Taken signage on six tour soundstages starting next month.

Stephanie Testa, Universal senior director for synergy/licensed partnerships, said tour trams will run the trailer, and two park-branded customer e-mails about Taken will be mailed out this fall to 500,000 people. Other Taken awareness events are scheduled for Halloween.

In Philadelphia last weekend, the Sci Fi Channel commenced an eight-city "Taken Experience" interactive tour with sponsors IBM and T-Mobile. The tour's November stops include CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood.


December 24, 2002 From Reuters: EM.TV, a German developer of children's programming, said on Tuesday it will sell 49.9 percent of Jim Henson Co. to an investment group led by a former media executive, helping it to pay down debt while retaining majority control of the renowned Muppet maker.  
Thanks to Bill & Mary Ann for passing this along!


December 30, 2002 From the Jan 3 issue of Entertainment Weekly:

Dragon Fighter:
Now I'm not gonna sit here and tell you this Sci Fi Channel premiere is a
good movie.  The story (about a group of scientists who clone a dragon and
then watch it run amok) is weak, the acting is weaker, and the effects are
mediocre at best.  On the plus side, you do get to watch Dean Cain (as chief
of security, above) get chased by a fire-breathing dragon, and who hasn't
begged to see that at some point in their lives?  But wait, there's even
more unintentional fun to be had:  Director Phillip Roth tries to get all
arty on us by using split-screen shots to show different angles of the same
scene, which would have been cool had the action actually matched up instead
of always showing the same actors standing in completely different
positions.  It's like one big two-hour blooper reel. D+

Thanks to E B for passing this one along!


December 24, 2002 From Reuters: EM.TV, a German developer of children's programming, said on Tuesday it will sell 49.9 percent of Jim Henson Co. to an investment group led by a former media executive, helping it to pay down debt while retaining majority control of the renowned Muppet maker.

Dean Valentine, the former chief executive of United Paramount Network, heads the group that won the stake in Henson, the creator of Big Bird and Kermit the Frog. Europlay Capital Advisors, a private equity shop that specializes in media and entertainment, provided financial backing. 

Terms of the proposed transaction, which is expected to close in January 2003, were not disclosed. 

Valentine, who served a stint at Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone TV unit overseeing the creation of hit shows "Home Improvement" and "Ellen," expects to build the Henson brand, which has suffered under EM.TV. 

"We feel there is enormous potential for growth, not merely from Kermit and the Muppets, but from the expansion of the Henson brand into all areas of family entertainment," Valentine said in a statement. 

Valentine will run Henson's operations. His management team includes Mort Marcus, the former chairman of Miramax Television and Video, a Disney subsidiary, and Nick Van Dyk, former executive vice president of Artisan Entertainment.

EM.TV paid $680 million for Jim Henson Co. in March 2000, purchasing it from the Henson family. It began trying to sell it less than two years later.

Walt Disney Co. DIS.N was recently believed to be planning a $135 million bid for all of Henson, people familiar with the situation said. But it was unclear whether that offer was submitted, or whether EM.TV simply opted to sell a minority stake instead. 

At least three other suitors had been interested in buying Jim Henson Co., sources said. 

EM.TV had a 64 million euro ($64 million) loan coming due at year's end, but it got an extension from its lenders over the weekend.


News_Kermit.jpg (13385 bytes)December 19, 2002: Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog could soon be new best friends.

Walt Disney Co. is preparing to offer about $135 million for Jim Henson (news) Co., a bid that likely would position it to win the assets of the renowned Muppet maker more than a decade after it walked away from the chance, according to people familiar with the situation.

Although Disney's bid would be a steep discount from the $680 million German children's programming giant EM.TV paid for Henson in March 2000, it is still far too rich a price, people familiar with Henson's assets said. They put the value at no more than $80 million.

Four other suitors also are considering bids for the creators of such famed puppet characters as Miss Piggy and Big Bird, but none is likely to pay as much as Burbank, California-based Disney, sources say.

They said the other parties mulling bids are London-based Entertainment Rights Plc ; privately held Classic Media; billionaire investor Haim Saban; and Dean Valentine, the former chief executive of United Paramount Network.

"EM.TV is in parallel talks with several parties and this means more than two," said an EM.TV spokesman in Munich who declined to comment about specific bidders. A Henson spokesman in New York also declined to comment.

A Disney spokesman said that as a matter of policy the company does not comment on speculation regarding acquisitions, while a spokesman for Entertainment Rights, which develops and licenses children's programming, declined to comment. None of the other potential bidders could be reached.

Disney shares fell almost 3 percent, or 49 cents, to $16.04 on the New York Stock Exchange (news - web sites) in Thursday afternoon trading.


Henson's business includes the rights to its world renowned Muppets characters, the Creature Shop that creates special effects for movies, and about 650 hours of programming.

Under EM.TV's ownership Henson divested its stake in Crown Media Holdings Inc. for $100 million and sold the Sesame Street Muppets characters to the Sesame Workshop for $180 million.

Sesame Workshop still owes about $70 million on the deal, which is to be paid over time, giving Henson a steady cash flow stream, people familiar with that agreement said. However, some of the licensing arrangements at Henson are messy, the company's staff is bloated and it needs an infusion of capital to restore the brand to its former glory, sources said.

Critics say Disney pays too high a premium on its acquisitions. While that idea can be debated, the company is widely seen by analysts to have overpaid for Fox Family Worldwide last year, on which it spent $5.2 billion, including $2.2 billion of debt. Earlier this year, Disney cut about half the work force at renamed ABC Family.

Disney, which already has some partnership arrangements with Henson, was set to buy the company in 1990, but when namesake Jim Henson died suddenly, it pulled out of the deal. Henson's son, Brian, took over the empire founded in 1958.

EM.TV, which has been shopping Henson for more than a year, had been looking to close a deal soon to cover a 64 million euro ($66 million) loan due at year's end.

The company could, however, get an extension from its lenders, who are being apprised of the Henson auction, and push the sale into the first quarter of 2003, sources said.

Privately owned Classic Media, which holds the rights to children's characters including Casper the Friendly Ghost, only wants to buy a half stake in Henson's character licenses and programming, sources said.

Saban, who made his fortune selling his stake in Fox Family to Disney, bid about $128 million for Henson with Evercore Partners Inc. in October. His partner dropped out, but Saban remains interested, these people said.

Valentine is seeking partners, they added, but his financial backing remains unclear at this point.


December 6, 2002 UPDATED From Multichannel News: The Sci Fi Channel said Thursday that the third episode of "maxiseries" Taken averaged a 4.3 household rating Wednesday night - up from Tuesday's 4.1 but down from Monday's 4.9 for the premiere,

December 4, 2002: From Media Week: Sci Fi Channel's premiere of the Steven Spielberg miniseries Taken on Dec. 2 broke ratings records with a 4.9 household rating (3.9 million households). The performance made Sci Fi the No. 1 cable network that night.

The first installment of Taken surpassed Sci Fi's production two years ago of Frank Herbert's Dune, Part 1, by 28 percent. Taken scored a 3.1 among viewers 18-49 and a 4.0 with the adult 25-54 demographic. The Dec. 2 episode, the first of a 10-part series, generated more than 6 million unique viewers.

"It is simply an incredible testament to everyone involved in this project, all of whom lent support to what was an unparalleled creative risk," said Sci Fi president Bonnie Hammer.


December 18, 2002 FROM MULTICHANNEL NEWS: For the second week in a row, Sci Fi Channel's Taken miniseries propelled the network to a primetime ratings win among all ad-supported networks during the week of Dec. 9 through 15.

Four of the last five episodes of the 10-part, Steven Spielberg-produced vehicle finished among the highest-rated programs for the week, helping Sci Fi to average an overall 2.5 primetime rating, besting ESPN’s and Turner Network Television's 1.9 ratings, according to Turner Entertainment Research from Nielsen Media Research data.

Overall, Taken averaged a 4.1 rating for its two-week run, Sci Fi said.

Lifetime Television managed a fourth-place primetime finish for the week with a 1.8 rating, while Nickelodeon, USA Network (tied with a 1.6), Cartoon Network (1.5), TBS Superstation (1.3), Fox News Channel (1.1) and A&E Network (1.0) rounded out the top 10.

Sci Fi also finished first among adults 18 through 49 and 25 through 54 in primetime. ESPN, on the strength of its top-rated Dec. 15 Arizona Cardinals-St. Louis Rams National Football League telecast, finished first among adults 18 through 34.

Over a 24-hour basis, ESPN was tops among 18-through-34 viewers, while sister services TBS and TNT finished first among adults 18 through 49 and 25 through 54, respectively.

Nickelodeon once again had the highest total-day rating for the week, averaging a 1.5, slightly better than Lifetime and TNT (tied at 1.1).


December 16, 2002 FROM MULTICHANNEL NEWSDAY: The premiere of Stargate SG-1's new companion show, Tremors: The Series, has been delayed until March, Sci Fi Channel announced Monday. The series -- starring Michael "Steven Keaton" Gross -- was originally scheduled to kick off in January along with new episodes of SG-1.

Sci-Fi blamed the delay on the show's special effects taking longer than anticipated.  Now, the show will premiere alongside the season six finale of Stargate, which the network also confirmed will run in March, as expected. Also taking center-stage on Sci-fi that month is the mini-series Children of Dune and the final episode of Farscape.

Thanks to e b for passing this along!

Seagram's Owners Are Preparing Its Art Collection for Auction

December 12, 2002 FROM THE NY TIMES: Vivendi Universal , the troubled French entertainment conglomerate, has asked the three leading auction houses for proposals to sell off the prized modern art collection that has long been the hallmark of the Seagram Building on Park Avenue.

The collection, amassed over decades by the Bronfman family, which sold Seagram to Vivendi two years ago, includes paintings by Miró, Rothko and Larry Rivers, hundreds of photographs by Stieglitz, Steichen and other masters, and scores of drawings by world-class sculptors. Most prominent is a 22-foot-high curtain visible from Park Avenue that Picasso painted in 1919 for Diaghilev's ballet "Le Tricorne," which has hung between the two rooms of the Four Seasons restaurant since the landmark building was completed in 1958-59.

Anita Larsen, a spokeswoman for Vivendi, confirmed that plans to sell the collection, which had been talked about since the company undertook a drastic retrenchment earlier this year, were solidifying. "The company has defined assets it no longer considers strategic in its portfolio," she said. "And the art collection fits into that category along with planes and real estate." The art, amassed over 30 years, has appreciated in value significantly, she added. It is estimated at $15 million.

But the sale of the art only hints at how deep Vivendi's break is with the Bronfmans and their efforts to burnish the image of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons through the development of the vast collection. Some of the works are on display in the Four Seasons, and others are on the executive floors of the sleek headquarters, which was designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson and is one of the great icons of modernist architecture.

Vivendi is moving all of its offices from to cheaper quarters on Third Avenue.

"This is part of a whole Greek tragedy," Phyllis Lambert, the daughter of Samuel Bronfman, the Seagram patriarch, said of the unraveling of the family legacy. She was involved in the building's design and the formation of the art collection. "I'm heartbroken," she said. "These collections are really part of the heritage of New York."

Ms. Lambert isn't alone in that sentiment. Mr. Johnson said he was horrified that anyone would think of selling the Seagram art collection, especially the works like the Picasso that are on public view. "When Alfred Barr found the Picasso for us it fit perfectly," he said, referring to the legendary director of the Museum of Modern Art. "I consider it an integral part of the architecture. It's also very delicate and could get damaged if it were moved."

Architects like Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, had a strong reaction, too. "My heart is in my mouth I'm so upset," Mr. Stern said. "These works are absolutely essential to the character of the space. It would be like taking the ceiling off the Sistine Chapel. It would be a different building."

Officials at Sotheby's and Christie's, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Vivendi had asked them to submit proposals for a sale. As of now no decisions have been made whether to hold one sale of the entire Seagram collection or to split the works up and put them in different auctions.

Named a New York City landmark in October 1989, the 38-story Seagram Building at 52nd Street and Park Avenue was the most expensive skyscraper of its day, costing $41 million. It was also the first glass-walled office tower in Manhattan with a bronze exterior. A constructivist-inspired sculpture designed by Richard Lippold that was commissioned to hang over the Four Seasons bar in its Grill Room has been designated part of the landmark interior and cannot be sold, said Sherida E. Paulsen, chairwoman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. But the art that is removable cannot be protected.

During various times in the building's history, sculptures by artists like Henry Moore, Jean Dubuffet and Roy Lichtenstein have temporarily been installed there. Inside the entrance to the Four Seasons hang three Miró rugs, each labeled property of the Seagram art collection.

Over the years, artworks by Frank Stella, James Rosenquist and Jackson Pollock have hung in the restaurant, too. At the time the building was being designed, Mark Rothko was asked to paint of series of works for the upper dining rooms of the Four Seasons. Ms. Lambert says she remembers standing in the Pool Room with the artist. "He suddenly realized this was to be art for a well-to-do place," she said. "The problem was that he only wanted his art to be in a destination like a museum, not where people eat." Over the course of two years Rothko produced about 40 paintings consisting of three series, though only seven were intended for the restaurant. After their completion, Rothko said he found the restaurant setting inappropriate, and they never hung there. Several have ended up at the Tate in London.

In addition to the art there are also some 300 drinking vessels as well as various containers dating from the 16th century through the 19th, collected between 1957 and 1961 at Ms. Lambert's direction by Olga Raggio, then the assistant curator of Western European art at the Metropolitan Museum.

In the Seagram offices, photographs, including work by Steichen, Stieglitz, Walker Evans and Garry Winogrand, line the walls. At last count its photography holdings numbered around 700, and all of them are destined for the auction block. Ms. Lambert helped put the collection together. "I wanted something for the offices that people who were not involved in the art world could connect to," she recalled. So she began buying a group of photographs that fell under the theme of American urban life. "I hoped that they would help people look at cities in a different way," she said.

But everyone agrees that the biggest loss to the Seagram Building would be the Picasso curtain. John Richardson, the writer and the Picasso biographer, called the mural important. "It was painted as a small panel in the center of a huge cloth which Diaghilev cut out when he needed money," he said. "Picasso finished it in three weeks." Using a studio next door to the Covent Garden opera house in London, Picasso, clad in carpet slippers, laid out the canvas on the floor and painted it with a brush attached to a broom handle and a toothbrush for the more detailed work. "He wanted to evoke Goya's tapestries," Mr. Richardson said, referring to the artist's subject matter, bull fighting.

"Losing it would be regrettable," Mr. Richardson added. "It would be like losing the Maxfield Parrish in the bar of the St. Regis hotel. Both are so much a part of New York."


Many thanks to Mike for passing this along.

December 10, 2002 FROM VARIETY: Viacom Inc. chief operating officer Mel Karmazin is busy exploring the launch of a sci-fi cable channel, hunting for bargain acquisitions, continuing to beef up CBS and pressuring Washington to loosen station ownership regulations.

At a media conference Monday in Gotham, he also threatened to make CBS a pay network down the line, if TiVo (news - web sites) really catches on and viewers zap commercials.

"We give you all this great content for free, and all we ask is for you to watch our commercials. If the time comes when you don't watch our commercials, then we will have to make our money some other way," he said.

Karmazin, who has butted heads with Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone in the recent past, said there's "so much noise" about his future at the company that he'd like closure "sooner rather than later."

Clarifying his position, Karmazin told hundreds of investors at the Credit Suisse First Boston confab that he prefers not to be locked into a long-term contract. He insisted an agreement with Viacom and Redstone doesn't hinge on compensation or title, but on "whether in 2004 and beyond I can add more value here and have fun."

Karmazin's contract expires at the end of 2003. Negotiations started in earnest this fall, and speculation on the outcome has been a favorite pastime on Wall Street.


Karmazin said Viacom won't bid for Vivendi Universal, although he'd love to add the Sci Fi Channel to Viacom's stable if someone else bought the French media giant and wanted to unload the fast-growing cable network. Marvin Davis and a group of financial partners have bid about $20 billion for Universal's U.S. entertainment business.

Since that's a long shot, Viacom is considering creating its own sci-fi network, where it could repurpose all its "Star Trek" programming. Karmazin said the concept of a gay network is still simmering.

He's not looking at the USA cable network, which he called too "general-interest." He wanted Bravo but couldn't match the offer made by NBC -- which had a tax advantage in that $1.25 billion transaction since it already owned a chunk of Bravo's parent, Cablevision. AMC, which Cablevision may put on the block, isn't growing fast enough to meet Viacom's acquisition criteria.

"We generate a tremendous amount of cash flow. You can assume that anything you can think of, we have thought about and sat down at the table."


On the studio side, Karmazin said Paramount will continue to churn out low-cost, high-profit pictures. "I love what we've done with 'Jackass' -- it's Mel's quintessential movie," he joked.

"You'll never hear from us that we lowered numbers because of what happened at the studio," he promised. (Disney restated earnings recently after "Treasure Planet" tanked -- and Karmazin rarely misses a chance to a needle a competitor.)

He's still crusading to pull CBS to the top. He said network chief Les Moonves has done a fantastic job turning the broadcaster around, but still, "There's a huge difference between NBC and CBS. So I believe there's a great opportunity ... for us to gain market share."

Another battle is in D.C., where Karmazin is pushing regulators to allow "triopolies" -- owning three TV stations in one market. The FCC (news - web sites) only recently approved duopolies under certain conditions. If the rule is relaxed, he said, Viacom would be more likely to swap stations with ABC or NBC than buy stations or station groups.


December 06, 2002 From The Hollywood Reporter: Former UPN president and CEO Dean Valentine has emerged as the latest suitor to field an offer for the Jim Henson Co. 

Sources said Valentine has eyed Kermit and Co. as the foundation for a children's programming venture that he's considering launching in partnership with Mort Marcus, formerly a top TV executive at Buena Vista Television and Miramax. Valentine became familiar with Henson this year after he was hired by investment advisory firm Europlay Capital Advisors to help Henson's troubled German parent company EM.TV evaluate its options for selling Henson. It's now understood that Europlay could play a part in helping Valentine acquire the company. 

Sources said Valentine, who ended his four-year run at UPN in January, sees the Henson assets as the basis for a start-up production venture whose initial focus would be on direct-to-video releases. Valentine's competition in the Henson bidding, which appears to be getting close to the finish line after more than a year of false starts, includes billionaire Haim Saban and a separate group led by members of Henson's current management team. Valentine, Marcus and Europlay declined comment


November 24, 2002 FROM IMDB NEWS: Liberty Media mogul John Malone may be looking to team up with Barry Diller to buy Vivendi Universal's entertainment operations in the U.S. and with Rupert Murdoch to buy Hughes Electronics' DirecTV unit and some AOL assets, Business Week magazine reported today (Friday), citing Martin Sass of investment management company MD Sass Group. 

Today's New York Post said that, preliminary to a deal with Liberty, Diller may buy DreamWorks for stock, so that the eventual company would bring the dream team of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen into the fold. 

For DreamWorks, the possible deal would give the company a film library and access to much-needed capital. It would also provide a handy exit strategy for the company's founders and billionaire investor Paul Allen. Under the scenario being floated, VUE would buy DreamWorks for stock that could later be cashed out in a public offering.

Word of Malone's interest in the French-owned entertainment companies came just one day after billionaire Marvin Davis (who once hired Diller to run 20th Century Fox when he owned the studio in the 1980s but later had a falling-out with him) confirmed that he made a $15-billion cash offer for VU's entertainment assets and would likely continue his discussions with VU Chairman Jean-René Fourtou after the beginning of the year. Shares in Vivendi Universal shot up $2.28 to $14, a 19 percent leap, on the news.


November 22, 2002: It disappeared for a while, but it's back - the popup from SciFi. Could it be that they're experiencing another surge of email, snail-mail and phone calls urging them to renew Farscape? 

In case you haven't seen the pop-up, read the text below. 

Dear Scapers:

Thank you for your tremendous efforts in support of Farscape. We have received the many phone messages, e-mails, faxes, letters and flowers that you have been sending. And they are appreciated. (Unfortunately, we will have to return the check for $60 that was sent to help pay for a new season.) Your dedication and devotion to the series make us all proud to have worked on such a beloved show.

We request that you direct all your e-mails to so we can keep track of how much Farscape mail we receive. This mailbox is checked throughout every business day by SCI FI staff members. Also, SCIFI.COM staff members monitor the BBoards every day, so messages posted there will be read. We request that you refrain from sending your comments directly to individual employees, either by e-mail or by phone.

If you'd like to call, you can leave a message on our Viewer Line (212) 413-5679. Although many other numbers have been posted, this is the one to use to ensure that your voice is heard. If the mailbox is full, please try again later, as we listen to the messages every few hours.

You can also read the F.A.Q on Farscape's cancellation at

Thanks again.

SCI FI Channel


November 20, 2002: 

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a formal investigation of Vivendi Universal, the Paris-based media conglomerate confirmed late Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Vivendi acknowledged that the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York had opened a preliminary criminal investigation in conjunction with the SEC. At that time, the commission’s inquiry was informal.

Earlier this year, the Paris prosecutor’s officer and the French equivalent to the SEC, the Commission des Operations de Bourse (COB), launched their own criminal investigations into Vivendi in connection with possible misleading information released by the company during the tenure of embattled former chairman Jean Marie Messier.

Messier resigned in July and was replaced by Jean-Rene Fourtou, a well-respected French executive and vice chairman of the supervisory board of Franco-German drug giant Aventis Group.

In a press release late Tuesday, Vivendi said it intends to cooperate fully with the SEC investigation.


November 14, 2002 FROM THE NY POST Vivendi, the company that owns the SciFi Channel, has decided to spin off it's US entertainment assets. An initial public offering is expected in the next four to six months. 

Meanwhile, Barry Diller has taken an expanded role in the company on an interim basis to prepare for the spinoff, sources said. Vivendi has added the music and games divisions to Vivendi Universal Entertainment, which is overseen by Diller.

Jean-Rene Fourtou, who became CEO in July, will focus on reducing the company's debt and other strategic initiatives.

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that Diller had been elevated to co-CEO of the entire company, but a Vivendi spokesperson said that's not the case. The only change is that now music and games have been added to Diller's responsibilities.

The decision to go forward with an IPO - hopefully in the first half of next year - suggests that Fourtou is seeking to distance himself faster from the entertainment assets than he previously indicated. In September, Fourtou detailed plans for asset sales and - despite much speculation to the contrary - said the company would keep the entertainment businesses for perhaps two years.

The company does not plan to make an official announcement about Diller's new role. A spokesperson declined to comment on when, or if, the company plans to spin off the entertainment business.

Diller's expanded role was described by one source as "primarily a Wall Street move" to buck up the company's credibility among investors as it plans for the IPO. Diller is worshipped on Wall Street, while Vivendi is slowly trying to restore some of its luster after coming close to bankruptcy last summer.

All of the entertainment assets - including film, music, theme parks, games and television - have been placed under one roof, with all the division heads reporting to Diller. Previously, the music and games divisions had been separate and reported to Fourtou in Paris.

Under the current scenario being discussed, Vivendi would keep roughly 40 percent of a stand-alone Vivendi Universal Entertainment, Diller and the various division heads would get equity stakes, and the rest would be sold to the public.

Diller has been chairman of Vivendi's entertainment division since Vivendi bought his USA Networks last year for more than $10 billion, a price that many observers say was steep. And Diller is set to cash in again once the IPO happens.

In addition to a personal equity stake that he would receive, his e-commerce company, USA Interactive, holds 5.44 percent of Vivendi Universal Entertainment.



November 10, 2002: Media Kitchen is aiming for close encounters in an unusual campaign for the Sci-Fi Channel's upcoming $40 million abduction miniseries, Taken.

The ad effort begins next week and is set to hit its peak during Thanksgiving weekend. The New York media shop's buy includes placing UFO-like images into packages of photos developed by Snapfish, a San Francisco-based digital photo developer.

As part of the estimated $25 million campaign, 700,000 photos that show a couple and what could be a UFO will be inserted into the packages--which consumers may get at Snapfish stores or at other photo shops that use Snapfish technology--during the next few weeks. The photos' reverse sides feature Taken's logo and air dates.

The effort also includes a traveling interactive exhibition on UFOs and a 45-second trailer that will run in movie theaters starting Thanksgiving weekend. Besides Sci-Fi's on-air promotional spots, TV commercials for Taken will run during programs like The Late Show With David Letterman (news - Y! TV). Creative was done in-house.

"We're combining fact and fiction in very subtle, interactive ways," said Media Kitchen chairman and CEO Paul Woolmington of the effort.

Taken, produced by Steven Spielberg (news) and DreamWorks SKG, debuts on Dec. 2. It focuses on three families affected by alien abductions, incorporating key events in American history


November 7, 2002 As has become typical for the SciFi channel, they first lied about whether rumors were true, then issued a press release confirming them. (Read following story)


The SCI FI Channel renewed its original series Stargate SG-1 for a full seventh season, the network announced. SCI FI ordered 22 new episodes from MGM. Richard Dean Anderson will stay in his role as both the series' star and executive producer.

"Stargate fans are everywhere," SCI FI president Bonnie Hammer said in a statement. "The ratings prove it. We are delighted to renew SG-1 for a new season. Clearly the show has done phenomenally well for SCI FI, both with original and acquired episodes, and we look forward to another record-breaking year."

SCI FI began airing the series in June, starting with its sixth season, and Stargate SG-1 broke a channel record with its summer finale episode (2.0 rating, 1.6 million households). In October, SCI FI began airing earlier Stargate SG-1 episodes as a Monday-night block, which delivered the biggest average monthly 8-11 p.m. audience for the time period in the network's history.

Production on the new season is slated to begin in Vancouver, B.C., early next year, for a summer 2003 launch. The remaining original sixth-season episodes will resume on SCI FI in January 2003.



MGM, which produces the SCI FI Channel's original series Stargate SG-1, issued a statement denying rumors that a decision has been made on whether to renew the show for a seventh season. "Regretfully, it was incorrectly stated at an event in the [United Kingdom] that Stargate SG-1 was a firm go for a seventh season," Hank Cohen, president of MGM Television Entertainment, said in a statement. "Both MGM and SCI FI have been in discussions regarding such a possibility; however, discussions are still ongoing."

Cohen added, "It is unfortunate and a disservice to our loyal fans to prematurely make an announcement that is not based on fact.We understand how important the future of this show is to the millions of loyal viewers. When the time is appropriate MGM and SCI FI will issue an announcement regarding the future of Stargate SG-1."

SCI FI is airing repeats of Stargate SG-1 on Mondays, beginning at 7 p.m. ET/PT. New episodes of Stargate SG-1 will resume on SCI FI Fridays, starting Jan. 10, 2003


September 25, 2002

"Incubus" stars a pre-"Star Trek" William Shatner and is the first (and last) film ever shot in Esperanto, the "universal language" developed in 1887 by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof. All Esperanto words are spelled as pronounced. All nouns end in -o, all adjectives end in -a, and all verbs have only one form for each tense or mood. 

But the film appears to be cursed. After its release in France in 1965, the art house film experiment was lost for 30 years. In that span of time, the movie's cast and crew experienced several murders, a suicide and a kidnapping. 

Directed by "The Outer Limits" creator Leslie Stevens, "Incubus" is set on the mysterious island of Nomen Tuumm. Inhabited by succubi, female demons who lure corrupt men to an untimely death, the island is thrown into turmoil when one of the women falls for Shatner's noble character. The leader of the succubi, the Incubus, is summoned to end the affair. 

"Incubus" will make its world television debut on Sci Fi on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 1 a.m. ET, immediately following "William Shatner's Full Moon Fright Night." 


September 6, 2002:The Jim Henson Company, Yoram Gross-EM.TV and the Seven Network announced a strategic alliance to co-produce 65 half-hour segments of live-action pre-school series Bambaloo

Bambaloo's cast will have both human and Muppet-style amimal characters that will "help children explore the world through story, song and games, while singing and dancing to the latest Bambaloo hits."

The Jim Henson Company will handle international distribution of the series and Yoram Gross-EM.TV and the Seven Network will look after Australian and pan-Asian territories. 

Yoram Gross is the company that produced the cartoon segments of Farscape's season three episode Revenging Angel


September 1, 2002: According to the NY Times, Vivendi's CEO, Jean-René Fourtou, would like to separate their entire American entertainment division from the rest of the company. 

Here's what the article by Suzanne Kapner had to say:

LONDON, Aug. 30 — When Jean-René Fourtou, the chief executive of Vivendi Universal, meets with board members in a few weeks, he plans to outline a new strategy that calls for separating the American entertainment division from the rest of the company, a person close to the company said today.

Though no formal decision has been made and the details of such a move might take months to work out, Mr. Fourtou is increasingly convinced that breaking off the American entertainment business, including the Universal film studio and music company, USA Networks and the Sci-Fi Channel, is the right way forward, this person said.

Options under consideration include selling these businesses piecemeal and spinning them off to shareholders, people involved in the discussions said.  

Any strategic changes would be subject to approval by Vivendi's board, which is scheduled to meet on Sept. 25. A Vivendi spokeswoman in New York declined to comment on the agenda for the board meeting or the company's future strategy.  

Mr. Fourtou is scheduled to meet on Sept. 12 and 13 in New York and Burbank, Calif., with senior American executives in the entertainment division, including Doug Morris, the chairman of the Universal Music Group, and Barry Diller, who runs Vivendi Universal Entertainment, a person briefed on the itinerary said.  

Unraveling Vivendi's entertainment assets would be an acknowledgment that Jean-Marie Messier, the former chief executive who was ousted in June, failed to build an enduring global media player out of an old-fashioned water company. Vivendi amassed 19 billion euros ($18.6 billion) in debt in the effort under Mr. Messier. 

Since he succeeded Mr. Messier on July 3, Mr. Fourtou has been poring over the company trying to forge a more focused strategy. Though he told shareholders in a recent letter that Vivendi had "a number of scattered assets that are of little or even no use to its core strategy," it has not been a foregone conclusion that he would decide to sell off the American entertainment division. 

For the rest of the story, go to the NY Times Business News Section


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