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Oct 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Cablevision slashes 2001 forecasts

Citing lower than expected advertising revenues, Cablevision Systems on Friday lowered is 2001 earnings forecast, sending its stock down 10 percent to $40 a share in midday trading. It also said it is evaluating financing requirements for 2002 — which could require asset sales, borrowing under existing bank facilities, reducing capital expenditures or issuing more debt — to bolster its overall balance sheet.

Cablevision also cancelled plans to sell $1 billion of convertible preferred stock. But it said AT&T still has the right — and still is expected to exercise that right — to sell up to $1 billion of Cablevision Class A common stock. Cablevision cut its 2001 pro forma cash flow growth estimates to 6 percent to 8 percent — below the 7 percent to 9 percent growth original expected.

The company that services 3 million New York area subscribers also said pro forma cash flow growth for high-speed data and telephony will come in at 10 percent to 12 percent — less than the 11 percent to 13 percent originally expected. Cash flow from Madison Square Garden operations will be down to about $80 million for the year — from an earlier forecast of $120 million.

In a statement, Cablevision President Jim Dolan said despite the advertising challenges, the company’s core businesses, including new digital cable services, “continue to perform well.” Cablevision officials were not immediately available to elaborate.

Turner may leave AOL TW payroll: Reportedly, Ted Turner could become more vocal about AOL Time Warner’s sprawling businesses as a continuing member of the board of directors who is not on the company payroll. Mr. Turner and the company declined comment on speculation, in today’s Wall Street Journal, that he may not opt for or be asked to renew his current employment contract as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner when that contract expires at year’s end. Mr. Turner’s role in the merged company has been uncertain this year, although he remains one of its largest shareholders with a 4 percent stake.

Court TV, Granada make production deal: Court TV and Granada International have reached a new six-figure co-production and distribution deal under which Granada acquires world distribution rights for up to 10 hours of Court TV programming in the first year of the deal. The deal excludes the North American territory, with the exception of French Canada. Court TV will also give Granada International first look on all completed half-hour, hour or multipart documentaries. In addition, Granada will have first option on Court TV trial footage.

Report may encourage Sen. Lieberman to ease off on media violence charges: Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., may drop legislation that penalizes the movie, video game and music industries for marketing violent, sexually explicit and profane content to kids if an upcoming Federal Trade Commission report documents substantial improvement in the marketing practices of these industries, said Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein on Friday. The FTC is expected to issue the report-its third on the subject in just over a year-late this month or in early November. At deadline, FTC officials did not return phone calls. A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the agency continues to have concerns about the way music and movies, and to a lesser extent video games, are marketed but may also cite improvements that have been made, as it did in its last report. Media marketers have toned down or pulled some violent ads in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but those steps may be temporary.

Gray to host syndicated ‘Link’: Appearing like a softer, kinder and more jovial version of Anne Robinson in a recently produced test pilot, George Gray was introduced last week by NBC Enterprises as the new host of the syndicated version of “Weakest Link.”

“Call him son of Anne,” joked NBC Enterprises’ Senior VP of Programming Linda Finnell, who was making a subtle reference to Mr. Gray’s quick-comeback comic style vs. the snarky, somewhat abrasive edge of Ms. Robinson.

Ed Wilson, president of NBC Enterprises, said Mr. Gray-formerly a host of The Learning Channel’s cultish “Junkyard Wars” battle of techno-geeks-exhibited “off the chart appeal” among the key young women and teen demos in focus group research with 600 respondents. Those demos, including adult men, who Mr. Wilson said will be core viewers of the stripped “Weakest Link” in prime-access and early-fringe time periods starting Jan. 7, 2002.

“George did a wonderful job [in the pilot test] and just nailed it in terms of his appeal, wit, interaction with the contestants and philosophical understanding of the game,” said Mr. Wilson, who signed Mr. Gray Oct. 3 after doing test pilots with two other unnamed candidates. “Going into this, we did a lot of research and found that we have to be a bit more viewer-friendly for early fringe and prime access.”

The selection of Mr. Gray, an improvisational comic, also appears to be a younger-skewing counterpunch against the industry perception of TV game shows as typically skewing toward 50-plus demos.

To date, “Weakest Link” has been sold in more than 65 percent of the country, but Mr. Wilson predicted that mop up sales in other markets could push “Link” up to 75 percent to 85 percent U.S. broadcast coverage by its launch in January. NBC Enterprises rolled off to an early start, joining the likes of “Millionaire” and Columbia TriStar Television Distribution’s “$100,000 Pyramid” as well-cleared contenders for the early 2002 season.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications