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A Look Ahead

Here’s a preview of the stories we’re working on for Daily Variety tomorrow. These stories will be available on the Variety Web site after midnight Pacific Time. Sign up now to have the top stories emailed to you each day.

DIGITAL: Major Hollywood studios are still split as to whether digital broadcasting should be protected, or cable only. Warner and Sony say they are getting ready to cut their own deal with electronics manufacturers, saying it’s not feasible to copy protect over-the-air digital TV. Disney and Fox are pushing the battle to protect broadcasting as well as cable. Various sides appear at congressional hearing on digital TV, where lawmakers tell all sides to figure things out — fast!

SAG: Though it has made no official decision, the Screen Actors Guild will probably wait until May to start contract negotiations with studios and networks, leaving next month open for the Writers Guild of America to resume their talks.

DISH: An impatient Rupert Murdoch has asked to meet with GM/Hughes boards for a last shot at a deal and is talking with Echostar as an alternate U.S. satellite partner.

ROACH: Jay Roach (“Austin Powers, ” “Meet the Parents”) has struck a first-look deal with Fox.

DAVIS: Former prexy of Davis Entertainment Teddy Zee has ankled to go to Overbrook Entertainment. Wyck Godfrey has been upped to prexy, and Brian Manis has left Peters Entertainment to fill Godfrey’s former role as exec veep of production.

GUSINSKY: Spain’s public prosecutor has supported the extradition request served by the Russian government on Media Most topper Vladimir Gusinsky for alleged fraud.

MEASURE: Billy Crudup goes into “Measure for Measure” in Central Park this summer, with Mary Zimmerman directing. Zimmerman’s Metamorphosis goes to Second Stage next season, with the Goodman Theatre commissioning a Philip Glass opera for her to direct.

TNT: TNT has commissioned “King of Texas” from Hallmark, an original movie that transplants Shakespeare’s “King Lear” to the Texas of the 1840s; pic stars Patrick Stewart, Marcia Gay Hardin, Lauren Holly and Roy Scheider. Stewart is co-exec producer with Robert Halmi Sr.

ESPN: ESPN will produce a four-hour Sunday-night block of programming in Spanish. Lineup includes full seasons of “Sunday Night Baseball” and “Sunday Night NFL, ” plus boxing and a Spanish-language version of ESPN Sportscenter. Cable systems would run the Spanish programming simultaneously with the English-language ESPN on a separate, local-origination channel, at no extra cost.

RATES: ABC’s “The Job” shows some promise in its debut, but CBS’ “Big Apple” was a big bomb in a special post-“Survivor” Wednesday tryout.

GREY: Lawrence Grey has ankled Zucker Netter Prods. to take a veep role at Fox Searchlight.

HAMLET: The heretofore homeless Royal National Theatre production of “Hamlet, ” directed by John Caird and toplining Simon Russell Beale, has unexpectedly found a New York house at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for an exclusive five-performance run, May 30-June 2. Production was going to have to bypass N.Y. entirely for lack of a venue.

BUSTED: Temporarily shifting its attention from Napster to old-fashioned physical counterfeiting, the RIAA and the Secret Service broke open a Gotham CD pirating ring, seizing 1,200 CD masters and 20,000 recorded CD-Rs. Pirated artists included the Beatles, Jay-Z and J.Lo.

NAPSTER: As Napster begins to block music files from its service in compliance with a court injunction, the number of files available for swapping on the service has been reduced by more than half, according to research firm Webnoize.

REEL: Reel Life column from the yukmeister himself, Timothy M. Gray.

BUSINESS

J2: J2 Communications, parent company to the National Lampoon entertainment franchise, Thursday posted a fiscal second-quarter loss of $343,890 as revenue plunged 90%, leading up to a change of ownership in the Los Angeles-based company.

ITV: The ITV network has committed itself to satellite broadcasting in a £100 million ($145 million) capacity deal with Societe Europeenne des Satellites, the group behind the Astra satellites, and a renewal of carriage talks with satcaster BSkyB.

WORLD

M6: M6, France’s No. 2 private free TV web is demanding more ad time from France’s broadcasting authority, the Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA).

TIGER: Working Title Films, Granada and Endemol Entertainment are among several suitors which are reportedly in talks to buy Tiger Aspect, producer of “Billy Elliot. ” A report in the Financial Times identified Working Title as the leading candidate.

OZCINEMA: The new prexy of the Cinema Owners’ Assn. of Australia has vowed to fight for a change in the rules governing exhibitors and distributors. Neil Pentecost, CEO of U.S.-owned Reading Entertainment, claims COAA members are unfairly squeezed out by the big boys.

REVIEWS

FILM: “Exit Wounds”; “Gabriela”; “Journey Into Amazing Caves”

LEGIT: “Design for Living” (B’way); “If It Was Easy… ” (Off B’way); “Fifth & Spring”; “Lex”

MUSIC: Backstreet Boys, Staples; Los Super Seven, HoB; Idlewild, Knitting Factory LA; Jane Monheit, Algonquin

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