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Feb 13, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 8:40 a.m. (PT); last updated at 5:05 p.m.

Valentine settles with UPN

Former UPN President Dean Valentine was unavailable late Wednesday to comment on reports that he and Viacom had settled the lawsuit he’d filed against his own network, claiming he was owed as much as $22 million under a contract he said was never finalized but was nonetheless breached. Mr. Valentine’s settlement is in the neighborhood of $11 million.

Mr. Valentine stunned Hollywood last fall when he filed the suit and when he was not immediately fired. He left the network he headed for four years in January, days before CBS President Les Moonves assumed control of UPN.

House kills provisions for lowering political ad rates: Television broadcasters scored a key victory Wednesday evening when the U.S. House of Representatives killed controversial provisions in the Shays-Meehan election reform bill that lower the already reduced rates federal candidates pay to run TV ads. In a 327 to 101 vote, House lawmakers overwhelmingly passed an amendment by Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, Rep. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that strips the language from the bill.

“I do not have the arrogance to vote for a [political ad] proposal of this kind or to say it’s in the public interest,” Rep. Dingell said on the floor.

He and other critics said reducing ad rates would spawn more political spots and force local advertisers and TV stations to subsidize them. House Energy & Commerce Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., said the approach amounts to “preferential treatment” for federal candidates. But supporters said the language is needed to curb skyrocketing campaign costs.

“Big money will always have an advantage as long as we leave the broadcasters in charge,” Rep. Major Owens, D-N.Y., said.

The development is certain to shake up the legislative landscape by forcing Shays-Meehan — if passed by the House — to go into so-called conference negotiations with the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill already passed by the Senate. McCain-Feingold contains the TV ad rate language. Conference negotiations could leave the legislation vulnerable to further changes or scuttle it altogether.

House lawmakers have been debating campaign finance reform since this morning, with the rhetoric often heated and emotional, and the deliberations are expected to continue late into the night, possibly spilling over into Thursday. Earlier today they agreed that Shays-Meehan, rather than two alternative bills, would be the one they’d consider.

Strong 2002 upfront possible, says Karmazin: Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin fielded questions from about 150 analysts and investors who dined with them for about two hours at the St. Regis Hotel in New York Wednesday night.

When asked if he would seek to extend his contract, Mr. Karmazin said he would, if it were expiring right now. (His “no cut” contract does not expire until the end of 2003.) He told the crowd that so much of his personal wealth is tied up in Viacom, he would want to make sure the company was “in good hands” if he chose not to stay on.

No one asked Mr. Redstone if he would seek to extend Mr. Karmazin’s current contract and existing terms-something that has been a point of contention and much press speculation. “They sat up in front of the crowd and looked like they are jointly running the company,” said an executive in attendance. Contrary to speculation, it was not the hottest dinner ticket in New York Wednesday night. There were some empty seats.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Karmazin said second-quarter scatter advertising looks to be up 5 percent to 15 percent over upfront pricing with lower than normal cancellations. The uptick is spurred by growing advertiser demand for tight inventory due to the lack of available ad time at ABC and Fox, which are steeped in make-goods. The trend, if it continues, would “bode well for a strong upfront” and stronger Viacom balance sheet, since 80 percent of every $1 million in additional advertiser spending will fall to the company’s bottom line, he said. The comments, made to analysts during an earnings call, spiked Viacom stock up 2 points to $44 Wednesday morning. Mr. Karmazin also said Viacom is negotiating five pre-upfront cross-platform deals with major advertisers.

He said the lesson learned from the 2001 upfront is, “The money shows up.” Mr. Karmazin and Mr. Redstone presented a unified front for Wall Street, reiterating their support for each other and stressing the strength of the company’s overall management team and branded assets in attempts to calm concerns about their well-publicized rift. “The mood here is great. Mel and I get along great,” Mr. Redstone told analysts.

ABC renews ‘NYPD Blue’ for tenth season: ABC has re-ordered Steven Bochco’s “NYPD Blue” to walk the prime time TV beat for a tenth year next season. The long-time ABC drama staple, which was moved into the 9 to 10 p.m. (ET) Tuesday time slot this season, has remained a consistent tentpole for the network.

Marking her first major renewal deal since taking over as president of ABC Entertainment to start this year, Susan Lyne is said to be seriously mulling a similar reupping of Mr. Bochco’s freshman “Philly” drama, which runs as lead-out from “NYPD Blue.” With “Philly” (starring Kim Delaney) beginning to show growth, tying CBS’s “Judging Amy” with an 11 share average in adults 18 to 49 last week (Feb. 5), ABC sources said the odds are improving on a renewal order forthcoming for the 2002-03 season.

Meanwhile, since premiering in the 9 p.m. Tuesday slot last September, “NYPD Blue” has remained the top-ranked drama on the night among adults 18 to 49, averaging a 5.0 rating/12 share this season. In the hour, “Blue” leads CBS’ “The Guardian” by 48 percent and Fox’s “24” by 14 percent in the key adult demographic.

Earlier, Mr. Bochco expressed considerable concern over “Blue’s” having originally being slated to move from its 10 p.m. Tuesday slot last season to 10 p.m. Wednesday this season (in a shared time period arrangement with “20/20”), then having ABC later changing its mind with a 9 p.m. Tuesday start to support “Philly’s” 10 p.m. launch.

“In moving ‘NYPD Blue’ to 9 p.m. this season, we asked a lot of Steven and his team,” Ms. Lyne said in a statement. “But in one of the most competitive time slots of the week, ‘Blue’ remains a powerful draw. Steven, Dennis [Franz, an original series star] and the rest of the amazingly talented cast and crew continue to produce one of the most compelling and riveting dramas on television today, and we couldn’t be happier knowing the show will be back for another season.”

Co-created by Mr. Bochco and David Milch, “NYPD Blue” broke a record with 27 Emmy nominations in its first season (1993-94). Since its network debut on September 21, 1993, “Blue” had won the outstanding drama series Emmy in its sophomore year and received Emmy Awards for writing and directing in its fourth and fifth seasons. The show has received a total of 82 Emmy nominations and has won 19 Emmy trophies over its nine-year run.

Viacom confirms KCAL purchase: Viacom confirmed its $650 million cash acquisition of Young Broadcasting’s Los Angeles station KCAL-TV, which will be operated as an independent. L.A., where Viacom already owns KCBS-TV, becomes the company’s eighth duopoly market.

Viacom officials say the company will buy more TV stations with its $3 billion-plus annual free cash flow, which has more than doubled from 2001. The company expects the purchase to immediately add to earnings as a result of an estimated $25 million in synergistic cost cuts and $100 million in tax benefits, which will result in a 12 times first full-year cash flow multiple for the station, according to Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin.

The company is expected to convert KCAL to a UPN affiliate over time. The station purchase gives Viacom more than a combined 16 percent share of the $1.6 billion Los Angeles advertising market.

Young, which acquired KCAL from Walt Disney Co. for $368 million in 19
96, will use the proceeds to pay down about half of its strapping $1.2 billion debt. Young recently said it expects to sell its San Francisco independent KRON-TV for more than the $800 million it paid for the station several years ago. That station recently lost its NBC affiliation to San Jose’s KNTV, which NBC is in the process of purchasing from Granite Broadcasting.

‘Ricki Lake,’ ‘Judge Hatchett’ renewed: Fans of “Ricki Lake” and “Judge Hatchett” need not worry about missing their shows next year. Columbia TriStar Domestic Television has renewed “Ricki Lake” for a 10th season with a new executive producer. Michael Rourke, who launched and has served as executive producer of the CTDT series “Judge Hatchett,” has been named the new executive producer of “Ricki,” replacing Gail Steinberg, who will move on to creating new programming after serving as EP since the show’s debut. Rourke will also remain as executive producer of “Hatchett,” which CTDT is now renewing in two-year deals for the third and fourth seasons of the strip.

CBS announces ‘Amazing Race 2’ contestants: Utilizing its “Early Show” as a morning promotional unveiling Wednesday, CBS announced the 11 couples who are participating the second run of “The Amazing Race,” set to debut Monday, March 11 (10 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET). The participants — grouped into pairs — for “Amazing Race 2,” which moves into its regular 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. Wednesday time slot on March 13, are:

Married parents Hope Davis, 38, a real estate agent, and Norm Davis, 39, a sales representative, from Clinton, Tenn.; sisters Mary Lenig, 38, and Peach Krebs, 33, co-owners of a hair salon, from Sunbury, Pa., and Paxinos, Pa.; best friends Oswald Mendez, 31, a consultant for a Latin American ad agency, and Danny Jimenez, 35, a real estate investor and property manager, both originally from Cuba and now residing in Miami; former college roommates Gary Rosen, 33, a writer from New York City, and Dave Lepeska, 28, a writer from Brooklyn, N.Y.; mother and daughter, Deidre Washington, 51, a financial adviser from Miami, and Hillary Washington, 23, a nude art school model from Brooklyn, N.Y.; separated couple Tara Lynch, 31, and Will Steger, 36, both home furniture designers from Los Angeles; twin brothers Shola Richards, 27 and Doyin Richards, 27, both independent contractors from Albany, N.Y.; lifelong friends Chris Luca, 25, and Alex Boylan, 24, night-club bouncers from Jacksonville, Fla.; friends, also proclaimed as the “Gutsy Grannies” Peggy Kuhn, 63, a resort concierge from Truckee, Calif, and Claire Jinks, 65, retired, from Los Gatos, Calif.; brother and sister, Blake Mycoskie, 25, owner of an advertising firm from Nashville, Tenn., and Paige Mycoskie, 21, college student from Arlington, Texas; and pastors/married parents Russell Kalenberg, 46, and Cyndi Kalenberg, 45, from East Gulf Lake, Minn.

Unlike the first “Amazing Race,” which started in New York’s Central Park and ended in Queens, the second race around the world — taped in 30 days in January through early February — starts in the desert in Las Vegas and ends in an undisclosed location in the United States. The 11 teams will again be competing for a $1 million grand prize.

The inaugural version of “Amazing Race” averaged a 5.9 rating/9 share household average and 8.8 million viewers over its regular Sept. 26-Dec. 5, 2001 run, according to Nielsen Media Research national data. In the key adult demos, the hour-long travel adventure posted 45 percent growth in adults 18 to 34 (3.2 rating) and 19 percent in adults 18 to 49 (3.7 rating) over what CBS’s Wednesday night movie showcase averaged in the year-ago time period.

“Amazing Race 2” is executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Bertram van Munster (who co-created the series along with Elise Doganieri) for Bruckheimer Films and Earthview in association with Touchstone Television and CBS Productions. Hayma Screech Washington and Scott Einziger are co-executive producers.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications