Briefly Noted

Jul 16, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Senate OKs DTV funding for public TV
Four senators last week added digital television transition funding for public broadcasting to a supplemental budget bill that passed the upper chamber. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C.; Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont. It provides public TV and radio with a $20 million authorization for fiscal year 2001 and an unspecified amount-whatever Congress deems necessary-for fiscal 2002.
But Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, may rain on the parade. The amendment requires his approval because the provisions are not in a counterpart bill under his jurisdiction that already passed the House. At deadline, he was leaning against approval, a source said.
“We are baffled by his reluctance to embrace this opportunity because he’s made it clear that the digital television transition is one of his top priorities,” said John Lawson, president and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations. Public TV stations must convert by May 2003, but many will miss the deadline because of financial constraints.
`Sopranos’ leads Emmy pack with 22 nominations
HBO’s Mafia drama “The Sopranos” garnered 22 prime-time Emmy nominations, beating out NBC’s “The West Wing,” which scored 18 nods. Other outstanding drama nominees were “Law & Order” (NBC), “The Practice” (ABC) and “ER” (NBC). The outstanding comedy nominees were led by NBC’s “Will & Grace” (12 nominations total) and “Frasier” (11 nods), and included Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and HBO’s “Sex and the City.”
HBO led all networks with 94 nominations. The closest competitor was NBC’s 76 nominations, followed by ABC (63), CBS (46), Fox (40), PBS (16), and A&E and Showtime with 10 each. Among the weblets, UPN snared 10 nominations (eight of which came from the departing “Star Trek: Voyager”) while The WB was shut out entirely.
NBC slumps in second quarter
The NBC Television Network posted a 22 percent decline in operating profits on a 10 percent decline in revenues in the second quarter, reflecting a weak advertising market and $50 million in losses from its defunct XFL. The NBC-owned TV stations also suffered with a 14 percent decline in operating profits on a 12 percent decline in revenues. NBC’s cable revenues and profits were flat in the period.
Overall, NBC, a General Electric Co. subsidiary, reported a 15 percent decline in second-quarter profits to $541 million, from $635 million in the same period a year earlier, on a 6 percent decline in revenues to $1.83 billion from $1.95 billion a year earlier. For the first half of the year, NBC profits are down 14 percent to $887 million, compared with more than $1 billion the first six months of 2000. Six-month revenues are off 5 percent to $3.2 billion, compared with $3.34 billion in revenues for the first half of last year.
Overall, GE met analysts’ expectations, reporting second-quarter earnings from ongoing operations of $3.9 billion, or 39 cents per share, compared with $3.38 billion, or 34 cents per share, a year ago. Revenues fell for the first time in decades to $32 billion, down 3 percent from a year ago, due primarily to losses from businesses being sold. The company said its chairman, Jack Welch, will retire Sept. 7.
Yahoo! head says no major mergers ahead
Yahoo! Chairman and CEO Terry Semel told analysts last week not to expect a major merger or transforming acquisition. “There will not be one deal that turns around Yahoo! but a series of deals,” said the former Warner Bros. co-chairman. He acknowledged discussions with a number of major media companies such as Viacom and The Walt Disney Co. about partnerships “to help us grow in key verticals,” he said. Yahoo! surprised Wall Street by slightly beating analysts’ second-quarter estimates, reporting $182 million in revenues and 1-cent earnings per share.
GM-News Corp.’s DirecTV talks progressing
General Motors confirmed it is close to completing discussions with News Corp. that would result in the sale of the automaker’s Hughes Electronics and DirecTV units to Rupert Murdoch as the cornerstone for the creation of his Sky Global enterprise. GM spokeswoman Toni Simonetti would only say,“Talks are going well” and are “rounding the corner.” Andrew Butcher, a spokesman for News Corp., also acknowledged that the talks are “progressing nicely,” but declined to comment on whether an agreement is imminent-given that persistent rumors of a pending News Corp.-Hughes deal date back more than a year.
“There also is a process of due diligence and dealing with some pretty complex sets of assets to negotiate through on a transaction this big” as it pertains to DirecTV and its various satellite holdings, said a News Corp. source, who requested anonymity. No definitive action on a sale is expected until August.