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Mar 15, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Emmis to cut 120 jobs in consolidation

Emmis Communications will eliminate 120 positions across its 15 television stations. Most will occur at the television stations Emmis bought from Lee Enterprises in October, which include outlets in Portland, Ore., Tucson, Ariz., Honolulu, Albuquerque, N.M., and Charleston, W. Va.

Emmis will begin what it calls “central casting,” which will consolidate the stations’ technical operations into regional locations.

“The move today comes after much deliberation and, while personally painful, [is] necessary for Emmis to be ready for a dynamic marketplace,” Emmis Television President Randy Bongarten said.

News Corp. presses on DirecTV deal: News Corp. is growing impatient. ELECTRONIC MEDIA has learned that the media giant has asked for a meeting with the boards of General Motors and its Hughes Electronics subsidiary in order to present the unchanged details of its plans to merge its satellite holdings with Hughes’ DirecTV.

If that doesn’t occur, News Corp.-which has rejected Hughes’s request to alter its proposed merger terms-is prepared to walk away from the deal, sources say. As an alternative, News Corp. has intensified its talks with satellite rival EchoStar about merging their complementary operations. News Corp., Hughes and other companies involved decline comment on their talks.

Sources say News is increasingly “fed up” with GM’s efforts to stall the negotiations by stirring up counter bids from previously interested parties such as General Electric’s NBC, Microsoft Corp. and SBC Communications.

Hughes management wants to retain control of any newly created satellite entity. News Corp. is proposing to manage the new satellite company it would create with DirecTV.

Powerful institutional shareholders such as State Street Capital have gone public with their appeals to GM and Hughes to do the satellite deal with News Corp. Investors, who stand to lose if no value-creating deal occurs, are taking the chaos to heart. Hughes’ tracking stock has traded down about 7 percent Thursday to below $20 a share.

Hart vice president at Paramount: Brad Hart has been promoted to vice president of production and programming for Paramount Domestic Television, where he will oversee “Entertainment Tonight,” The Montel Williams Show” and “Maximum Exposure,” among others, managing all physical production for current and developing programs produced by the studio. He will also supervise the launch of upcoming programs “Rendez-View” and “Hot Ticket.”

NASCAR success pays off for stations: NASCAR continues to outperform expectations with Fox Sports, which is paying off not just in ratings but with a present of four additional 30-second ad spots being given by the network to local stations each weekend.

Though Fox Sports is said to be commanding per-spot prices in the neighborhood of $120,000-quadruple the average last season on cable-the soft economy has meant some spots have gone begging for advertisers. Stations will get the additional spots starting this weekend.

Since Fox Sports has been considering raising the advertiser guarantee of a 6 household rating, it didn’t want to discount scatter prices.The spots were more valuable as a gesture to local stations, where their worth could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars each weekend.

The network benefits from making nice to affiliates, with whom relations are testy these days, and by bringing in bonus revenue from the network’s 22 owned-and-operated stations through June. (NBC and TBS share the second half of the racing package staring in July.)

“Fox made it very clear and understandably, that this offer is for the balance of the season only,” said Cullie Tarleton, senior vice president for television and cable for Bahakel Communications and chairman of Fox’s affiliates board.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta 500 on Sunday averaged a 6.7 rating/17 share, up 18 percent compared with a year ago on ABC, bringing Fox’s average for the five-week season to date to 7.5/18, up 32 percent year to year. The key demos are up 60 percent in men 18 to 34, 52 percent in men 18 to 49 and up 44 percent in men 25 to 54.

Moonves: Four or five freshman coming back: CBS President and CEO Les Moonves on Thursday packed David Letterman’s Ed Sullivan Theatre with advertisers for the annual ritual by which he whets their appetites for fall development prospects and then lets them gorge on lunch and the network’s opening day of NCAA coverage.

Mr. Moonves said four or five of CBS’s seven 2000-01 freshman shows will return for sophomore seasons-“That’s Life” and “The Fugitive” are chief among the question marks-and added, “Neither of our major competitors can even come close to that statistic.”

He declined to discuss reality projects in the pipeline except for the around-the-world competition being developed by Jerry Bruckheimer (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”) and Bert Van Munster (“Cops”), which has been retitled “The Amazing Race,” and to say that “We have some terrific ones in development, with plenty of time to get them ready for the fall” if there is a writers strike this spring.

“The great thing about reality programming is the quick turnaround time,” said Mr. Moonves, who assured advertisers that by stockpiling original TV movies and first-run theatricals and by being able to expand CBS’s three newsmagazine franchises, “We are very prepared.”

“Beyond that, we have some unique scheduling strategies,” said Mr. Moonves, who nonetheless said CBS is “hopeful and even semi-optimistic that everything will be resolved.”

‘Survivor’ thrives, ‘Apple’ bites: CBS’s special Wednesday airing of “Survivor: The Australian Outback” at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) last night largely held consistent with its Thursday ratings, but it also helped CBS to an adults 18 to 49 win and a tie with NBC in households for the night.

Conversely, NBC’s original episode of “The West Wing” put the kibosh on CBS’s fading freshman cop show “Big Apple” in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time period, while ABC’s new Denis Leary sitcom “The Job” had a capable debut in the 9:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. slot.

“Survivor’s” 11.8 rating/33 share in adults 18 to 49, 16.5 /27 in households and 28.0 million total viewers dropped 2 percent, 7 percent and 2 percent, respectively, from its previous week’s Thursday performance, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data.

“Big Apple,” also making the temporary move from 10 p.m. Thursday to 9 p.m. Wednesday to accommodate NCAA basketball tourney airings, saw its 3.1/8 average in adults 18 to 49 drop 74 percent from its top-ranked “Survivor” lead-in. In its third outing, “Big Apple” also dropped 23 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 15 percent in households (6.6/10) compared with the previous Thursday outing.

Also, at 9:30 p.m., ABC’s “The Job” had a hopeful opening, scoring a second-ranked 5.0/13 average in adults 18 to 49, marking a 98 percent retention from 9 p.m. lead-in, “The Drew Carey Show” (5.1/13). “The Job” also improved the 9:30 p.m. time slot by 9 percent in adults 18 to 49 compared with a repeat of “Spin City ” the previous week. However, “The Job” remained flat week -to week in households (6.9/11) and dropped 3 percent in total viewers (9.9 million).

Back with original episodes in the 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours, NBC’s “West Wing” (6.2/16) and “Law & Order” (7.2/21) easily won their slots in adults 18 to 49, improving 22 percent and 31 percent, respectively, from their previous week’s repeats.

But thanks to “Survivor’s” robust ratings, CBS won the night in adults 18 to 49 (6.1/17) and tied NBC in households (both at 10.1/17), though the Peacock Network is normally a Wednesday winner across the board in the ratings. While CBS improved 144 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 63 percent in households week -to week, NBC was also up 13 percent in the key demo (5.4/15) and 15 percent in households as well.

ABC took 29 percent and 41 percent slides in adults 18 to 49 (3.6/10) and households (5.6/9) compared with last week. Fox, which ran repeats all night, including special 9 to 10 p.m. double runs of “The Simpsons,” tied ABC in adults 18 to 49 (3.6/10) and finishe
d fourth in households (4.9/8).

ESPN plans telecasts in Spanish: ESPN is launching “ESPN Deportes,” a 52-week block of exclusive Spanish-language sports telecasts that will run Sunday night starting April 1.

The block, which will run between four and six hours each Sunday night, will feature full seasons of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” and “Sunday Night NFL,” along with boxing matches, and, for the first time, a Spanish-language version of ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” ESPN is making “ESPN Deportes” available to its cable affiliates at no charge.

Strong ratings for ‘ICON’: MTV’s musical special “mtv:ICON” with Janet Jackson was cable’s highest-rated prime-time program March 13, posting a 3.5 rating in its cable universe, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Bochco gets court date: Veteran TV series producer Steven Bochco is finally getting his day in court, April 9, in his long-running lawsuit against 20th Century Fox Television over the back-end license fees and profits for his ABC drama, “NYPD Blue.” A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Wednesday denied the studio’s motion for a summary judgment and set a jury trial date.

Mr. Bochco’s suit alleges that TV rights for “NYPD Blue”-which he co-created with David Milch-were sold to Fox’s cable network, FX, at fees substantially below fair-market value. His suit claims that the series was sold for about $400,000 per episode when its alleged market value was at least $700,000 per episode-more on par with similar major cable sales of “ER” ($800,000 per episode to TNT) and “The X-Files” ($600,000 an episode to FX). Last week, Warner Bros.’ “The West Wing” went at a record $1.2 million per episode to Bravo.

At 200 episodes, Mr. Bochco’s claims “NYPD Blue” should add up in value to $140 million, leading to $60 million in damages he is looking to recoup in alleged lost revenue.

If Mr. Bochco’s case is not quickly settled and proceeds to trial, the case will be the first suit to allege a vertically integrated entertainment company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., with having wrongfully made a sweetheart inside sale to its FX cable network.

A few years ago, director Ron Shelton won a $10 million verdict against 20th Century Fox over film profits from “White Men Can’t Jump.”

On earlier motions, Fox was able to dismiss Mr. Bochco’s fraud claims, but with Wednesday’s ruling, Mr. Bochco can proceed on breach of contract claims during the trial. Mr. Bochco’s suit was filed in L.A. Superior Court in September 1999, coming on the heels of “X-Files” star David Duchovny’s filing a similar action, which he later settled.

Oscar goes interactive: Walt Disney Internet Group and ABC are embarking on the first-ever interactive presentation of the 73rd Annual Academy Awards when it telecasts on March 25 (starting at 9 p.m. ET). As part of WDIG’s broad-based Enhanced TV platform, the telecast of the Academy Awards will be accessible via www.oscar.com, official site of the Oscars presentation.

The enhanced TV component of the Academy Awards presentation will enable viewers who are PC users to simultaneously interact in real time with the awards telecast. Components of the coverage include:

–“Predict the Winner” game: Users collect points for correctly predicting the winner in each award category. The top scorers are eligible for prizes.

–Interactive polls

–A “push channel” of synchronized enhanced graphics, live polls and movie trivia automatically appears on the users’ computer screens, relating specifically to what is taking place during the awards ceremony.#

BRIEFLY NOTED

FX’s weekly NASCAR coverage so far is averaging a 1.7 rating in its cable universe, representing 1.0 million households, according to Nielsen Media Research. It represents an 88 percent jump in FX’s viewership for the Saturday afternoon time slot. … MTV is launching a new weekly one-hour music travelogue series titled “Music in High Places,” which features a rock musician performing in exotic world locales. The series, which airs at midnight (ET), launches with a week-long program block April 23. … USA Network will air a two-hour reality crime special titled “Aphrodite Jones” in June. Produced by Buena Vista Productions the series features best-selling true-crime author Aphrodite Jones, who takes her forensic crime team into the field.#