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TV Note: 4/23/02

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

'Osbournes' rocks MTV

"The Osbournes," the reality sitcom about rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his colorful family life, is officially the biggest hit series in MTV's 21-year history.

Just under 6.3 million people watched last Tuesday's episode, up from 6 million the week before as the series continues to grow.

No MTV series -- even cultural touchstones such as "Beavis & Butt-Head" and "Real World" -- has reached such heights. MTV has been trying to take advantage of the hit, playing series episodes 15 times a week.

"The Osbournes" has pushed aside professional wrestling as cable television's biggest show, according to Nielsen Media Research.

(Associated Press)

Oxygen barely breathing

Oxygen, the cable television network for women that began with great fanfare two years ago, is barely being seen.

During March, the first month that Nielsen Media Research has measured Oxygen's ratings, the network was watched by an average of 63,000 people during prime time. That compares to the 2.4 million people watching Lifetime, its chief competition, during the same period, according to Nielsen.

Oxygen, the brainchild of former Nickelodeon executive Geraldine Laybourne and backed by investors such as Oprah Winfrey, initially had trouble finding cable systems to carry it. It's now available in 40 million of the nation's 100 million television households.

"We grew from 14 million to 40 million in less than a year," spokeswoman Laura Nelson said yesterday. "There's just no way that ratings can follow that kind of explosive growth."

There's usually a lag between when networks show up on cable or satellite systems and when viewers get used to watching it, she said.

Nelson said the unusually low ratings won't cause Oxygen to change its programming plans.

(Associated Press)

Credits protest

A television industry trade group is speaking out against the disappearance of credits at the end of TV shows.

The listings that traditionally conclude shows have been sped up and shrunken over the past decade to where they are frequently illegible, and now the 11 Discovery-owned cable channels plan to eliminate them entirely.

But the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences board voted unanimously to urge networks not to get rid of them. The board's vote carries no force of law.

"I think people want to stand up for the right to be credited for the work that they do," academy Chairman Bryce Zabel said.

Discovery Communications, whose cable channels include Discovery, the Travel Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and BBC America, said it's likely to eliminate end credits within the next month. Discovery says it will direct viewers who want to see them to a Web site.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

Swapping antennas

WQEX-TV will go off the air tomorrow to allow for the removal of its analog antenna. It will be replaced by an antenna that can broadcast the WQEX analog and digital signals and the digital signal for WQED-TV.

Viewers who watch WQEX on cable won't notice any difference, as cable systems have been alerted and are expected to patch through the WQED signal. WQEX currently simulcasts WQED programming.

The antenna replacement process will involve a helicopter, which will remove the old antenna and fly in the new antenna as workers climb to the top of the tower to unbolt the old antenna and secure the new one in place.

If weather permits the project to go as planned, WQEX will be back on the air May 4.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

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