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Apr 1, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Oscars, pre-show numbers up in L.A.
In spite of his recent thyroid cancer surgery, Roger Ebert was back in full force at his annual live gig co-hosting the pre- and post-Oscars show, “An Evening at the Academy Awards.” Produced in Los Angeles by KABC-TV, it was syndicated in 25 markets and 17 foreign countries. With the Oscars being held at Hollywood’s new Kodak Theatre, KABC rented the El Capitan Theatre across the street so fans in the bleachers could watch the arrivals and participate with Mr. Ebert and KABC’s George Pennacchio, Marc Brown and Laura Diaz during the postshow. KABC’s pre-show earned a 9.3 Nielsen Media Research rating and 17 share, up from 6.7/14 last year. WB affiliate KTLA-TV was the only other Los Angeles station to have an Oscar pre-show, with which it pulled down a 5.7/11, up from 3.7/8 last year. Although the network awards telecast was one of the lowest-rated nationally, KABC’s Oscar numbers were up from a year ago with a 37.2/53, up from last year’s 36.7/53. In the movie industry’s company town, the Oscars have outperformed the Super Bowl each year for the past 10 years.
Seattle’s KING of Olympics
The February demos came in last week, and the Olympics on Seattle’s NBC affiliate KING-TV drew some of the highest ratings in the country for key age groups in a major metered market. Over the 17 nights of the Olympics in prime time, including opening and closing ceremonies, KING averaged an 18.5 Nielsen Media Research rating and 47 share in the 25 to 54 demo. In the coveted 18 to 49 demo, KING averaged a 15.7/43. The Seattle market also benefited in March from freak snowstorms that spiked ratings. A major snowstorm hit the night of March 7, and KING’s 6 a.m. news on March 8 doubled its February average for that slot to a 9.0/36. Rival CBS affiliate KIRO-TV posted a respectable 5.1/21, and ABC affiliate KOMO-TV drew a 4.8/19. KING Program Director Jay Cascio said some parts of the market got no snow while others got six inches, adding that it has been 40 years since Seattle had snow so late in the year.
Time Warner Cable more the Wiser
Time Warner Cable promoted Elliott Wiser to vice president of news programming for all of the company’s 24-hour local news channels. Mr. Wiser was general manager at Bay News 9, Time Warner’s 24-hour news channel in Tampa, which garnered national attention in March for hiring Charisse Strawberry as a host.
Benedek files for bankruptcy
Benedek Communications Corp. filed for Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware on March 22, under the name of its holding company, Stations Holding Inc. There are 22 stations in the company founded by Chairman and CEO Richard Benedek in 1979.
But don’t count Benedek out of the broadcasting business just yet. Stations Holding Inc. Treasurer Mary Flodin told Electronic Media that since the holding company filed Chapter 11, Benedek vendors and employees will not be affected. Although it is a privately held company, the company’s bonds are publicly traded. The holding company missed a $10.3 million interest payment to the bondholders on Nov. 15, and because of that it is blocked from making any payment for 180 days, Ms. Flodin said. “Obviously our proposal was to delay payment,” Ms. Flodin said. “Nor would they allow us to borrow additional funds to make the payments. We think it’s a timing and liquidity issue. We couldn’t get the various constituents to agree.”
Partly due to the decline in earnings as a result of the 2001 ad recession, in December Benedek sold WTRF-TV, Wheeling, W.Va., to West Virginia Media Partners. That deal is expected to close in the second quarter. “What we think will happen is that all the debtors of Stations Holding Inc. will be paid in full,” Ms. Flodin said. “I truly believe that we will emerge as a stronger company as a result of this. We believe in the end all those constituencies will eventually have to come to an agreement. We intend to remain a strong force in broadcasting.”
Stations pull plug on news
Scanlan Television-owned ABC affiliate WBKP-TV, Marquette, Mich., closed its news department last week, leaving about 15 people without a job. The station posted a press release on March 28 stating that local news broadcasts were canceled as of that date. Staffers can still use the station to prepare resumes and tapes to look for other jobs. Earlier in the week Capitol Broadcasting-owned WB affiliate WWWB-TV, Charlotte, N.C., pulled the plug on its 10 p.m. newscast, with the last newscast scheduled for March 31.