TV Notes: WQEX to become ShopNBC

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WQEX, sister-station of WQED, was set to lose its home shopping programming on April 3; instead, it will simply switch home shopping affiliations on Monday.

WQEX will become a ShopNBC channel under a two-year agreement with ValueVision Media Inc., which operates the channel as an affiliate of NBC. The Peacock network owns about 27 percent of ValueVision, which is based in Eden Prairie, Minn.

ShopNBC won't be new to fans of home shopping television. The channel is already carried locally on Comcast cable systems on digital channel 280. Former WPXI traffic reporter Katina Forte is one of the ShopNBC hosts.

WQEX previously aired the Home Shopping Network's America's Store channel, but that will be discontinued nationwide early next month.

ShopNBC will air on WQEX 24 hours a day with no commercial interruptions. As America's Store, WQEX had some commercial breaks during which WQED sold ad time. WQED Multimedia president George Miles said despite the lack of ad time to sell, "this deal will work out better.

"I can't tell you specifics, but, overall, it's a better deal," Miles said yesterday, declining to say how much money WQED will receive from ValueVision. "It's a big number for us, and we're able to use those monies to help with expenses of other parts of our operations."

The exception to home shopping on WQEX will be two 2-hour programming blocks to fulfill the Federal Communications Commission requirement for children's programming, 6 to 8 a.m. Monday and 7 to 9 a.m. Tuesday. Three hours will be the mandated children's shows, one hour will be public affairs programming, including episodes of "On Q."

Miles said the two-year deal will give WQED the option to revisit its use of WQEX when it has to give back the analog channel to the government in the transition to all-digital TV, currently set for February 2009. (WQEX has not yet been outfitted for digital transmission.)

Miles said after he learned America's Store would cease, he thought it would be difficult to find a new company to rent WQEX, but that wasn't the case.

"I was surprised at the number of options we had," he said, "including the possible sale [of WQEX], but the [amount] offered was too low."

WQEX ceased original programming and began to simulcast WQED in November 1997, in anticipation of a sale of WQEX, which fell through. The station's license was successfully changed from noncommercial/educational to a commercial license in 2004.

When WQEX began simulcasting the WQED signal, there were protests from some quarters, but Miles said the move into digital, which has come closer to reality in the intervening years, will give WQED four channels for WQED and four for WQEX.

"Does this market need eight channels for distribution in the 22nd television market [in the country]?" Miles asked rhetorically.

WQED will announce "a whole multicasting strategy" in the coming weeks, Miles said, which is in addition to more than 1,500 hours of programming online at WQED.org. (The station will rebroadcast its recent documentary, "Stone Soldiers: Saving the Gettysburg Monuments," at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on WQED-TV and at WQED.org.) (Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor)

'Law' to do Anna Nicole story

Law & Order franchise creator Dick Wolf is losing no time in planting NBC's flag in telling the story of Anna Nicole Smith's untimely death, before it gets grabbed by Discovery Channel, or ABC News.

Wolf will feature the subject when his "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" gives it the old ripped-from-the-headlines treatment, just in time for the May ratings race.

Yes, some license is sure to be taken in the telling, for the sake of art (Fox News Channel's online gossip column says Larry Birkhead will vanish and Anna Nicole's sister and mom are being merged into one glorious character) but no more than in, say, Discovery's documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." (Lisa de Moraes, The Washington Post)

'Jane' brings pain to Sci Fi

On the next Friday the 13th, in April, science fiction fans are in luck.

The Sci Fi Channel's latest original series, "Painkiller Jane," will make its debut that day at 10 p.m., on the heels of the mid-season returns of "Stargate SG-1" -- the final episodes in the long-running series -- and "Stargate Atlantis."

DEA Agent Jane Vasco (Kristanna Loken) gets hired by a covert government agent to hunt down and capture "Neuros," genetically enhanced individuals with superhuman mind powers. But on her first foray, she suddenly discovers that she's somewhat out of the ordinary as well. She has incredible regenerative powers that will heal any injury, no matter how large. Unfortunately, she still feels the pain associated with those injuries. Somehow, her strange ability is connected to the Neuros themselves. (Zap2it.com)



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