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Jun 3, 2002  •  Post A Comment

USA Interactive considering buy of subsidiary shares

USA Interactive has proposed spending $4.5 billion to reign in the shares of its publicly traded subsidiaries — Ticketmaster, Hotels.com and Expedia — it doesn’t already own to strengthen its stock and company structure. “We in no way regard our action today as ‘hostile.’ … USA Interactive has potential for dramatic growth, which would only be enhanced by the realignment we propose,” said USA Interactive Chairman and CEO Barry Diller in a prepared statement.

Analysts generally approved of the move, although it initially will shave as much as $5 off of Prudential Securities’ 12-month target price of $40 per share for the company, according to analyst Katherine Styponias. Mr. Diller is expected to use the stock as deal currency.

PPV fastest growing media category: Pay-per-view (including video-on-demand) will be the fastest growing media category, growing at a 20 percent compound annual rate over the next five years, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual Global Entertainment and Media Outlook due out Tuesday. The category has grown by 40 percent in the past two years, the report says.

The report also concludes that advertising is not expected to be restored to a completely healthy state until 2004. It identifies the consolidation and growth of direct broadcast satellite, consolidation of TV station groups, a slower-than-expected economic recovery and “central casting” efforts by NBC (to centralize back-office and other core operations of its owned TV stations) as major drivers of future media economics. A more complex global media spending picture, which barely hit the $1 trillion mark in 2001, will take even longer to get on track, the report states.

Broadcast upfront could hit $7.7 billion: In this year’s fast and furious upfront, the six broadcast networks have taken in approximately $1 billion more than last year.

NBC did $2.7 billion worth of business in last weekend’s blistering sales marathon, selling 83 percent of its inventory for the new season, compared to 78 percent last year, according to Jeff Zucker, the Peacock Network’s senior programmer, who said the network’s take will be a full $1 billion above CBS’s.

The word from CBS, however, was that it was still selling, with a strategy of making its deals last. ABC, too, said it was still selling.

Mr. Zucker pegged ABC’s take at $1.3 billion, Fox’s at $1.1 billion (a figure disputed by a senior Fox ad sales executive who said it would be $1.3 billion, compared to $1.25 billion last year), The WB’s at between $500 million and $550 million and UPN at between $220 million and $250 million.

A WB spokesman said that the network was still selling and expected its final tally to be higher than NBC’s projection. A UPN spokeswoman declined comment.

The entire broadcast upfront market will total $7.5 billion, well up from last year’s $6.5 billion, according to NBC’s data. By comparison, 2000’s record take was approximately $8.1 billion.

This year’s broadcast-network upfront take will be as much as $7.7 billion, according to other sources, which also put last year’s upfront total at as much as $6.8 billion.

Regardless of last year’s baseline figure, though, the developing general consensus is that this year’s upfront will be up $ 1 billion over last year.

According to a competitor, NBC finished its upfront late Friday, then Fox finished early Saturday, around dawn. “We’re gratified by how the upfront broke,” Mr. Zucker said.

“It was bigger than any of us thought,” said a senior network ad-sales executive. “In the pre-upfront posturing, the buyers were saying the money wasn’t there. I don’t think they really believed that.”NBC “can blow away everybody across the board” in the younger demos, a competitor said, noting that strong demand for the younger demographics, particularly the 18- to 34-year-olds, was also benefiting Fox and The WB. Movies, autos and retail were the top three categories at NBC; telecommunications, financial and computers were also up. Those were the same categories that the other networks were reporting generally led in their own upfronts.

“We thought it would be a good marketplace, but it turned into something of an exceptional one,” said Jon Nesvig, Fox’s ad sales president, summarizing the prevailing sellers’ view.

CNBC unveils prime-time lineup: “The News With Brian Williams” will become a CNBC-only newscast at 7 p.m. July 15. On the same night, CNBC will unveil a new prime-time lineup that will move CNBC regulars around without canceling any shows. “The News” also will continue to repeat on CNBC at 10 o’clock weeknights.

The new lineup will position “Kudlow & Cramer” from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and will split the hour on Friday between “Kudlow & Cramer” and “Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street.”

Rotating through the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. hour will be “Market Week With Maria Bartiromo” on Monday, “Capital Report With Alan Murray and Tyler Mathisen” on Tuesday through Thursday and “WSJ Editorial Board With Stuart Varney” on Friday.

There was no word about what would take Mr. Williams’ place at 7 p.m. on MSNBC, where a prime-time rearrangement is scheduled to coincide with the mid-July debut of the new Phil Donahue show.

Colaco takes president, GM post at Radio Disney: Jean-Paul Colaco’s successes as the VP and general manager of Radio Disney have led to a promotion to the newly created position of president and general manager of the fast-growing network. He will report to ABC Radio Division John Hare.

Ripken to appear in Fox pre-baseball game vignettes: Former Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken and his brother Billy will appear in a series of “instructional vignettes” airing during 23 baseball pre-game shows throughout the summer on Fox Sports Net. August, which is “Instructional Month” on FSN, will peak with the Aug. 25 third annual broadcast of the Cal Ripken World Series championship game on FSN.

Advertisers shift $1.4 billion in May: The month of May saw 13 advertisers shift a combined $1.4 billion in media accounts, triple the pace of account turnovers in April, according to data compiled by MediaAnalysisPlus.

General Motors’ shift of $800 million in local media budgets from Universal McCann’s LCI unit to GM Mediaworks in Interpublic Group, topped the MAP list.

Hershey Food Corp. reassigned $175 million in spending from Mindshare and Initiative to OMD, a unit of Omnicom Group. Another triple-digit media spender, Sun Microsystems, moved its account to Starcom from Initiative Media North America, according to MAP, which pegged the April ad shifts at $445 million.

Comedy Central passes 80 million sub mark: Add Comedy Central to the 80-million subscribers club. The network passed the milestone by adding over 500,000 subscribers in May and more than 8 million in the past year. Nielsen now pegs the network’s universe at 80,100,000. The network projects 82 million subscribers by the end of 2002.

Oxygen to televise WNBA games: Oxygen Media will telecast weekly Women’s National Basketball Association games as part of a two-year agreement with the WNBA that will bring a minimum of 11 WNBA games to the cable channel in 2002. First up on the regular Tuesday night schedule: the Minnesota Lynx at the Seattle Storm, set for Tuesday.

Beth Mowins, a play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s WNBA telecasts, and Debbie Antonelli, the color analyst for the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting, will be the announcing team.

Oxygen, which joins NBC, ESPN and ESPN2 in televising WNBA games this season, also telecasts various Ladies Professional Golf Association, Women’s Tennis Association and women’s Association of Volleyball Professionals events.

McCastle to lead ad sales, marketing efforts for Weather Channel: Greg McCastle has been named to the newly created position of president, advertising sales and marketing for The Weather Channel, effective July 8. His responsibilities will include both the channel and Weather.com.

Boomerang adds nine series to schedule: Boomerang, Cartoon Network’s classic-cartoon sister network, has added nine series from the animation vaults to its sc
hedule. They are:

“The Bullwinkle Show,” one of the network iterations of “Rocky & Bullwinkle”; “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales,” starring the wisecracking penguin (voiced by Don Adams of “Get Smart”); “Underdog,” voiced by Wally Cox (“Mr. Peepers”); “The Dudley Do-Right Show,” another repackaging of Moose and Squirrel, this time focusing on the squared-jawed, pea-brained Mountie; “Mr. T,” a cartoon version of “The A-Team’s” gold-chain-bedecked tough guy; “Dragon’s Lair,” animated sword-and-sorcery from the mid-’80s; “Chuck Norris’ Karate Kommandos,” more action animation from the ’80s, voiced by the veteran martial artist best known as “Walker, Texas Ranger”; “The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley,” voiced by Martin Short; and “Young Robin Hood,” the animated prequel to the classic adventure tale.

All nine are set to debut July 1.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications