Its Official: ACEs Are History


New York -- After a 19-year run, the National CableACE
Awards have been canceled.

Last week, cable-network executives on the board of
governors of the National Academy of Cable Programming, as well as on the National Cable
Television Association's Satellite Network Committee, pulled the plug on the
CableACEs with a majority vote.

The tally was reportedly 30-10 in a meeting here, with
officials at smaller networks in favor of keeping the CableACEs -- a venue where they feel
that they have a real shot at winning accolades.

Essentially, executives at the large cable-programming
services believed that cable has finally achieved the recognition that it deserves in
other, more prestigious award arenas, such as the Emmys, Peabody Awards and Golden Globes,
making the CableACEs moot.

"We just felt that we're secure in our creative
talents," said John Hendricks, NACP chairman and chairman of Discovery Communications
Inc. "We really have had a banner year, winning Peabodys and Emmys. Cable is the
creative force in television."

Matthew Blank, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks Inc.,
said that at the time when the CableACEs were started, cable had a "stigma" in
Hollywood that made directors and actors shy away from working in the medium. The
CableACEs were envisioned as a way to remove that taint and to win press attention for
cable programming.

"Those goals have been 100 percent accomplished,"
Blank said. "The fact of the matter is that we are playing with the big boys.
It's a step backward to put time and effort behind a cable-specific awards vehicle
...We don't need the ACE awards to get Tom Hanks to do From the Earth to the Moon
for HBO [Home Box Office]."

A spokesman for HBO, which has dominated some categories
with Emmy wins recently, said, "Obviously, we support the Cable Academy's
decision. We're pleased that the acknowledged success of cable programming across the
dial makes it unnecessary to have a separate award competition."

The CableACE Awards ceremony, held in November and
televised by Turner Network Television, has never done well in the ratings. And it was
costly for cable networks to enter and attend. In recent years, MSO programming officials
have not attended the event in much force.

The decision to discontinue the National CableACEs this
year won't affect the Local CableACEs, which will be presented as scheduled during
the National Show in Atlanta May 5. The Local CableACEs will remain under the jurisdiction
of the NCTA board, which may review the awards later this year -- deciding whether to keep
or end them -- as part of its current strategic-review process.

Officials at the big cable networks argued that all cable
programmers, from established to emerging, have a fair shot at winning Emmys, since there
are many categories beyond just the primetime Emmys, including daytime, sports and news.

But officials at some of the newer cable outlets challenged
that notion.

"We are very disappointed that the CableACE Awards
have been discontinued," the Rev. Bob Bonnot, interim president and senior vice
president for religious affairs at The Odyssey Channel, said in a prepared statement.
"Emerging networks that do not meet the size requirements for other industry awards,
such as the Emmys, will not have a place to compete and showcase their best work. However,
we will support the industry's decision."

At Jones Education Networks' Knowledge TV, vice
president of programming Bob Jones said, "It's tragic that an industry award
like that isn't being continued ... I can see why it happened, but it's a shame
that it happened. Awards, when properly administrated, can really drive competition for
better television."

But for his part, Blank said Showtime had backed the
CableACEs financially in order to promote cable programming as a whole, and not potential

"I never felt that it was my civic duty to promote a
new network that I compete with for distribution," he said.

Without the CableACEs, emerging networks may be able to get
boosts in new ways, Hendricks asserted. He said the SNC is still exploring ways to bestow
special recognition on emerging networks, and this discussion will continue at the
National Show. The options, he said, include letting emerging networks participate in the
Television Critics Association tour.

Ironically, squabbling about this year's Emmys has
already started. USA Network and several broadcast networks are already campaigning to
prevent HBO from submitting From the Earth to the Moon as an outstanding
miniseries, claiming that it is a series or a documentary.

HBO disagreed, with a spokesman saying, "It's
pretty clear on its face" that From the Earth to the Moon classifies as a
miniseries under the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' guidelines.