Briefly Noted

Aug 20, 2001  •  Post A Comment

NAACP again threatens network boycott
The NAACP last week released its own report on diversity in network television and again threatened to boycott one of the Big 4. “It appears increasingly likely that the NAACP may vote soon to employ a massive targeted and sustained economic boycott aimed at one of the four networks and their major advertisers,” said NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume. “We envision that such a boycott would last indefinitely, particularly during sweeps periods.” At a press conference in Los Angeles, Mr. Mfume said the networks’ progress on diversity initiatives signed 18 months ago was moving at a “snail’s pace” and was “discouraging.” He said the lack of progress was most evident in the news, public affairs and sports departments. He also said the corporate boards at the networks and their parent companies are still “virtually all white.” The NAACP’s board is expected to meet in October on potential actions to take against the networks.
Ad market drags News Corp. down
Despite profit growth in News Corp.’s cable, film and book-publishing divisions, the company’s fiscal year ended with a fourth-quarter slump that largely reflected the suffering ad market’s drag on Fox’s TV unit. Still, in a conference call after the company’s 2001 earnings report was posted, Chairman Rupert Murdoch declared himself “happy” with analysts’ predictions suggesting the multimedia empire’s operating profits will rise between 20 percent and 25 percent in fiscal 2002, coming in between $2 billion and $2.1 billion.
“We’re bullish about our growth,” said News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, who cited expectations of efficiency-driven improvements in the TV stations that are part of duopolies in seven major markets, thanks to the acquisition of the Chris-Craft Industries stations and station swaps; continued “significant” growth in Fox’s cable properties, especially Fox News and FX; and continued earnings by successful summer theatricals such as “Dr. Dolittle 2” and “Planet of the Apes.” Mr. Murdoch said the low end of the 2002 projections presumes little or no growth in the ad market, which some forecasters now expect to remain in a slump through much of next year. News Corp. finished fiscal 2001 with profits of $1.67 billion. In the fourth quarter, a profit of $145 million, which works out to 12 cents per American Depositary Receipt excluding one-time write-downs and gains, was down from $184 million, or 18 cents per ADR, in fourth quarter 2000. The cause of much of the fourth-quarter pain was the year-to-year drop shown by the unit that includes the Fox Broadcasting Co. and the owned stations. Operating income dropped to $185 million from $241 million.
Speedvision names Liberatore president
Jim Liberatore was named president of Stamford, Conn.-based Speedvision Networks. One of his first responsibilities will be the analysis and development of a potential relocation and relaunch of the popular motorsports network to capitalize on Fox Television’s association with NASCAR. Mr. Liberatore is the former vice president and general manager of Orlando-based Sunshine Network, which is partially owned by Fox Cable Networks Group. Before joining Sunshine in 1995, Mr. Liberatore served as vice president of advertising sales for Madison Square Garden and Madison Square Garden Network.
Cox’s VOD picking up steam in San Diego
Cox Communications is wrapping up a trial of iN Demand’s video-on-demand service in San Diego, said an executive familiar with the situation. Concurrent Computer provided digital video servers for the test. Although the trial included only 2,000 Cox digital subscribers, the multiple system operator is planning to soon offer VOD to all its approximately 120,000 digital cable customers in that city, the executive said.
Gemstar-TV Guide signs three new advertisers to roster
Electronic programming guide licensor Gemstar-TV Guide has signed three new advertisers-Clorox, MasterCard and online job search service HotJobs-to its electronic programming guide roster. “Our overall media sales strategy is to make it easy for clients to do advertising deals across all of Gemstar-TV Guide’s media-TV Guide magazine, TV Guide Channel, TVGuide.com and the IPGs,” said Jeffrey Mahl, president of media sales at Gemstar-TV Guide.
CBS, Fox Cable get CART racing rights
Racing fans throughout the United States will be seeing a lot more television broadcasts of the Championship Auto Racing Teams FedEx Championship Series as a result of a deal CART has finalized with the CBS Television Network and Fox Cable Networks Group. CART officials said they have signed an agreement that will begin with the 2002 season and run through 2004. The amount of airtime featuring CART’s Champ Car racing will increase by nearly two-thirds next season with Friday, Saturday and Sunday event coverage as well as supplemental programs airing on Fox’s Speedvision network and its sister Fox Cable Networks. CBS Sports’ portion of the package will find it carrying CART races during the heart of the 2002 FedEx Championship Series schedule.