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Mar 26, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, March 26, at 9:40 a.m. (PT); last updated at 3:45 p.m.

Cablevision offers channel to YES network

Cablevision Systems is offering to make one of its channels available to the new YES Network on all its East Coast cable systems. In a letter today to YES Chairman Leo Hindery, Cablevision President and CEO Jim Dolan made the offer in the hope of settling the public tussle that has left Cablevision subscribers without televised Yankees baseball games this season.

“YES will set the retail price. We will give the YES Network all the revenues generated by the channel,” the letter read. “If this offer is acceptable, we can iron out the details and add the YES Network to all our cable systems in time for opening day.”

Mr. Hindery, has been adamant about Cablevision not offering YES as a premium service but as a basic-tier offering for $2 per subscriber per month, as with other cable operators. “It is Cablevision’s desire to preserve customer choice, present all the Yankee games to those who want to see them and avoid having to raise rates for all of our customers,” Mr. Dolan’s letter read. Cablevision offered no further comment.

This afternoon, YES Network chairman and chief executive Leo Hindery responded to the letter by complaining that it was released to the press before Mr. Hindery saw it.

“This is not a matter that can or should be negotiated in the press, and for months we have asked Cablevision to simply treat YES Network similarly to the treatment we are receiving from, among others, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, RCN, Cox, Charter and DirecTV,” Mr. Hindery said in a prepared statement late Tuesday.

“For years and years Cablevision has contractually insisted that other cable operators carry its own owned sports services, MSG and Fox Sports New York, in basic,” Mr. Hindery said. “… It is outrageous that Cablevision, without any prior discussion with YES, proposes a discriminatory form of carriage, which differs from that afforded, literally, every other basic service.”

Smith leaving ABC Family post: Maureen Smith has resigned her position as ABC Family Channel president, effective immediately.

The change had been expected since Disney’s acquisition of what previously had been the Fox Family Channel. Announcement of a replacement for Ms. Smith is expected as early as this week.

Ms. Smith, a veteran Fox executive, was previously president of Fox Kids Network. She also served as executive VP, Fox Family Channel, and general manager, Fox Kids Network. Prior to joining Fox Kids in 1996, Ms. Smith was VP, children’s research, for Fox Broadcasting.

Ogden named NBC affiliate board chairman: Roger Ogden, president and general manager of KUSA-TV, the Gannett-owned NBC affiliate in Denver, has assumed the chairmanship of the NBC affiliate board from Jack Sander, executive VP of media operations for Belo. Mr. Ogden will represent a group that includes 10 NBC affiliates. Previously, he worked for NBC as president of then-network-owned KCNC-TV in Denver for 14 years and was in charge of NBC operations overseas for two years before returning to Denver to run KUSA in 1997.

Oscars telecast scores record-low household ratings: As expected, ABC’s broadcast of the “74th Annual Academy Awards” on Sunday propelled the network to only its second weekly win of the season in the adults 18 to 49 demographic, households and total viewers (for the week ending March 24) — although it was the lowest-rated telecast in the Oscars’ 52-year TV history in terms of households and adults 18 to 49.

The Academy Awards took the top rankings among all network programs for the week, but the record-long broadcast (8:30 p.m. to 12:51 a.m., ET) posted a 25.4 rating/42 share average in households — representing a 3 percent drop from last year’s previous all-time low Oscarcast (26.2/40). Additionally, the 2002 Academy Awards’ 16.1/40 among the key adults 18 to 49 demographic represented a 9 percent drop from the 2001 Oscars (17.8/40).

Although last Sunday’s nearly 4 1/2-hour Oscars show was down 3 percent year to year in total viewers (41.78 million vs. 42.94 million), it is still 12 percent ahead of the all-time low 37.18 million total viewers tallied for the 1987 Academy Awards. The pull of the Academy Awards is still healthy, with the 2002 edition’s head count beating the combined total viewership for this year’s Grammy Awards (19.0 million) and Emmy Awards (17.1 million), both of which aired on CBS.

For the 26th week of the 2002-03 season, ABC’s winning 4.5/12 average in adults 18 to 49 represented a 32 percent jump from its previous week’s score (3.4/9). It also marked ABC’s second win of the season in adults 18 to 49, the last time being the week of Dec. 31, 2001, when the network had the rights to the college football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS).

ABC also won the week in households (8.4/14) and in total viewers (12.9 million).

Viacom estimates lowered: Veteran Morgan Stanley Dean Witter analyst Richard Bilotti has lowered his estimates for Viacom’s first quarter earnings and revenues due to what he believes will be a slower than expected advertising recovery. “While there are signs of an advertising recovery at broadcast television, we believe that daytime and news advertising is still weak … our growth forecast for CBS is predicated on a recovery in all broadcast dayparts,” Mr. Bilotti said in a report to clients. “If daytime and news do not firm up, our forecast for the network will be in jeopardy.” Mr. Bilotti expects Viacom’s first-quarter earnings will decline 10 percent to $1.05 billion on a 5 percent decline in revenues to $5.46 billion. He expects the company’s 2002 television revenues to decline 1 percent to 2 percent on as much as a three percent decline at the CBS TV Network.

Fox appeals dismissal of N.S. Bienstock-Zahn lawsuit: Fox News is appealing the dismissal of its lawsuit against N.S. Bienstock, the agency that represents anchor Paula Zahn, who was terminated by Fox after she got an offer from CNN.

Fox had charged the agency with interfering with Ms. Zahn’s contract after the CNN offer was presented last August. Rather than counter the offer within five business days, as the contract specified, Fox abruptly dropped Ms. Zahn, saying her contract agreement with the network had been breached.

But a New York State Supreme Court judge on Monday dismissed the suit, saying that the contract had not been breached because while Fox was guaranteed right of first refusal the network was not guaranteed right of first negotiation.

Fox News issued a statement that said, “Fox News disagrees with the judge’s decision and believes Ms. Zahn’s agency, N.S. Bienstock, tortiously interfered with her contract and acted in an unethical and dishonest manner. Fox News will file a notice of appeal Tuesday [March 26], and plans to vigorously pursue this appeal.”

Ms. Zahn had originally intended to join CNN this month. Instead, she became the signature anchor of CNN’s morning lineup after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

MSNBC downsizes long-form unit: As had been feared, the long-form unit at MSNBC has been downsized for the second time since Sept. 11. Two dozen people have been cut from the unit, according to The Wall Street Journal, which said on Tuesday that the number of people still assigned to long-form is unknown. About a dozen people were laid off and an equal number are to be absorbed into the live programming operation, a source said.

‘The Bachelor’ gives ABC a boost in Monday time slot: Much in need of good news, ABC got it Monday in the form of its new midseason reality series, “The Bachelor,” which came in a surprising second in adults 18 to 49.

“The Bachelor” turned in a 3.9 rating/9 share average in the key adults 18 to 49 demographic from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET) Monday, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data. The romance reality series improved the 9 p.m. time slot by 39 percent over what bottom-ranked “Before They Were Stars” (2.5/6) did in the time period last week.

Another encouraging sign was “The Bachelor’s” adults 18 to 49 score improving 19 percent on its lead-in, a repea
t of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.8/8) airing from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Audience migration also played a role, as “The Bachelor” increased 13 percent from the 9 p.m. frame to the 9:30 p.m. frame (9.2 million total viewers to 10.3 million).

Scoring its best numbers in adults 18 to 34 (4.2/11), a young-adult demo most often attracted to dating/romance-based shows, “The Bachelor” improved ABC’s position in the demo by 83 percent from last week (2.3/6).

Still, “The Bachelor” came in a somewhat distant second during the 9 p.m. hour to CBS’s established comedies “Everybody Loves Raymond” (7.9/19) and “Yes, Dear” (6.4/15), which were up 10 percent and 8 percent week to week. In its third weekly outing in the 9 p.m. time slot, Fox’s “American Embassy” (2.4/6) broke up two weeks of growth, dropping 33 percent from last week’s 3.6/9 score-although it maintained 89 percent ratings retention from a limp repeat of “Boston Public” (2.7/7) in the opening 8 p.m. hour.

CBS ended up winning the night in adults 18 to 49 (5.3/13), up 8 percent week to week. NBC dropped to second in adults 18 to 49 (5.0/12), slipping 6 percent from last Monday. ABC jumped 20 percent to a third-ranked score (3.5/9) while Fox (2.6/6) slid 36 percent in the key demo.

AOL Time Warner in danger of losing cable subs: AOL Time Warner is straining to resolve its differences with the Newhouse family before Sunday, when it could lose more than 2 million cable subscribers, or 20 percent of the cable systems in its Time Warner Entertainment-Advance/Newhouse partnership. The situation could cause the dissolution of the long-troubled TWE entity, a 25 percent stake of which is held by AT&T’s Broadband unit, which is being acquired by Comcast.

The revelations came in the AOL Time Warner annual report filed late Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Among other things, the filing confirmed the company will take a $54 billion first-quarter write-down, representing the lost value of assets acquired in its year-ago merger. The filing also confirmed that John Malone and his Liberty Media Group are seeking to convert their 4 percent stake in AOL Time Warner into standard voting shares, which could win Mr. Malone a seat on the company’s board. The stake still carries restrictions imposed when Mr. Malone owned and sold TCI Cable.

Stossel cancels fund-raiser appearance: ABC News correspondent John Stossel is canceling his appearance at a fund-raiser in support of an April 8 walkout of Rio Grande Valley doctors protesting frivolous lawsuits and their effect on the cost of malpractice insurance.

The Brownsville (Texas) Herald had mentioned that Mr. Stossel was scheduled to host a fund-raiser in a March 22 story about a three-month marketing campaign organized by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse in support of the one-day walkout. The story said doctors in the area are being asked to contribute $500 to $1,000 each to help pay for the marketing blitz.

Mr. Stossel’s representative said the correspondent had only been asked to make a speech, which he is allowed to do for no pay. He later decided to cancel his appearance. There was no immediate comment from the CALA chapter in Weslaco, Texas, where the news of Mr. Stossel’s withdrawal came as a surprise Tuesday.

Benedek files for bankruptcy: Benedek Communications Corp. filed for Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware under the name Stations Holding Inc. last Friday afternoon. There are 22 stations in the company, which was founded by Richard Benedek in 1979. Mr. Benedek is chairman and CEO.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications