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Jul 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, July 16

Karmazin blasts corporate fraud

“I truly believe that these bad people ought to go to jail,” Viacom President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin said of corporate officers who are found to have committed fraud or other illegal acts. “And they shouldn’t go to one of these country club jails, they ought to go to Sing Sing, if it still exists.”

Asked whether he believes John Rigas, Adelphia’s founder, should go to jail, too, Mr. Karmazin replied, “I don’t know enough about whether he committed fraud. That’s called innocent until proven guilty, but I think that anybody who has been found guilty should go to jail.”

Mr. Karmazin, sometimes outspoken and always quotable, was interviewed Tuesday during a session at CTAM, cable’s annual marketing and educational convention, now under way in Boston. On other subjects, he said:

His contract calls for him to stay with Viacom through the end of 2003. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen after 2003. It’s much too soon to focus [on what happens after the contract expires].” Of his relationship with Sumner Redstone, Viacom’s chairman and CEO, Mr. Karmazin said they had “even sat at the same table” at Paramount’s recent 90th anniversary celebration, albeit at the table’s opposite ends.

In the recent upfront, advertisers “spent far more money than we anticipated,” Mr. Karmazin said. “We assumed that a lot of the upfront money is also scatter money that’s being pushed up into the upfront. Still, factoring that in, [the marketplace] still is very robust.”

The reason for the robust upfront, he said, is advertisers’ belief that 2003 will be a “strong year,” and if they wait for scatter they will pay more. Spot television, spot radio, broadcast television, cable television-“all the businesses that we compete in”-are all seeing “up revenues,” he said.

Mr. Karmazin noted that NBC’s Thursday shows are aging (“ER”) or going off the air after another season (“Friends”). “Into the next few years, we like our hand a whole lot better [than NBC’s],” he said. One reason that CBS is a strong No. 2 in adults 18 to 49, Mr. Karmazin said, is the promotional opportunities offered by Viacom’s cable networks, particularly the MTV Networks and BET, which reach younger audiences.

That was “one of the important issues” that kept David Letterman at CBS. “It wasn’t about money, it was about David wanting to win,” he said, noting that the younger-skewing cable networks are being used to make up for the ratings disadvantages that the news lead-ins at many of CBS’s owned-and-operated stations in the bigger markets have in relation to their ABC competitors.

The recent surprise hiring of WNBC-TV executive Dennis Swanson to run the Viacom station group is aimed at bolstering the stations’ news lead-ins and driving more viewers to late-night, Mr. Karmazin added.

Surratt to produce CNN’s ‘Morning’: CNN has found its senior executive producer for “American Morning With Paula Zahn” in Wil Surratt, the Emmy-winning executive producer of the successful local morning show on Tribune-owned WPIX-TV in New York. Mr. Surratt, who takes the post July 29, worked at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles for several years before taking the helm of “The WB11 Morning News,” which launched three years ago. WPIX is said to be looking at several possibilities for a successor to Mr. Surratt.

Women, minorities in leadership roles increase: The number of women working in television news may be down slightly from a year ago, but the number of women running local television newsrooms is up, according to the 2002 Women & Minorities Survey conducted for the Radio-Television News Directors Association by Ball State University Prof. Bob Papper and colleague Michael Gerhard.

The survey showed the presence of minorities in TV news in general has decreased since last year but the proportion of news directors who are minorities is up since last year. Minorities represent 20.6 percent of the work force in TV news overall and 19 percent of the work force at English-language news operations. Those figures are down from 24.6 percent and 21.8 percent, respectively, a year ago.

Women represent 38.6 percent of the TV news work force overall (down from 39.7 percent last year) and 25.9 percent of the ranks of news directors (up from 20.2 percent last year).

‘Donahue’ boosts MSNBC viewership: Phil Donahue returned to the TV scene as the linchpin of MSNBC’s new prime-time lineup and attracted 1.108 million viewers, enough to beat “Connie Chung Tonight” (801,000 viewers, which is above average for Ms. Chung) on CNN Monday night. But Fox News Channel kingpin Bill O’Reilly drew more viewers (2.329 million) than both MSNBC and CNN did from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Donahue’s” viewership for the hour was up 213 percent compared with time slot performance in the second quarter and up 423 percent compared with the same Monday in 2001.

Those big increases for “Donahue” helped boost MSNBC’s prime-time viewership to an average 639,000 viewers, a 100 percent increase over second quarter.

At 9 p.m., “Hardball” averaged 468,000 viewers, up 45 percent for the time period compared with second quarter. In its new time slot at 10 p.m., “Ashleigh Banfield on Location” also improved, averaging 343,000 viewers.

But at 7 p.m., MSNBC executive and host Gerry Nachman suffered in comparison with his time slot successor “Hardball,” which has reigned as MSNBC’s highest-rated show. “Nachman” averaged 261,000 viewers, finishing a deep third to Shepard Smith’s “The Pulse” on Fox (1.037 million) and “Crossfire” on CNN (679,000 viewers).

Adelstein sails through hearing: If any lawmakers have substantive problems with Jonathan Adelstein’s nomination to a Democratic seat on the Federal Communications Commission, those lawmakers didn’t make it to his confirmation hearings today before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Indeed, the handful of lawmakers who dropped by appeared more intent on outdoing each other complimenting the 39-year-old aide to Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., than on probing him for his positions.

“It’s going to be a breath of fresh air to have you there,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. In one of his few substantive remarks on a media-related topic, Mr. Adelstein allowed that, as a new father, he is concerned about some of what he sees on TV. “On hours that children watch, broadcasters ought to be real vigilant about what goes out,” he said.

He subsequently told reporters that he is holding his cards close to his vest on other issues, at least until he gets the Senate’s nod.

A Senate aide said the committee will vote on the confirmation as soon as possible. But at deadline it remained unclear when Mr. Adelstein would be scheduled for a Senate floor vote because Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is trying to block votes on all nominations in an effort to get a Democratic candidate he favors installed at the Federal Elections Commission.

Premiere, William Morris link: Premier Retail Networks and William Morris Consulting, a retail marketing division of the William Morris Agency, have formed a partnership to deliver entertainment- and sports-related programming content to PRN’s in-store television and interactive TV networks.

San Francisco-based PRN’s networks, which broadcast retail product information and advertising in 5,000 stores nationwide, claim to reach more than 120 million customers per month at such major retailers as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City and Sears. Through this new partnership, William Morris Consulting will work with PRN to augment its customized in-store programming with entertainment and sports content in addition to creating advertising and distribution opportunities for the PRN network. William Morris Consulting provides and designs entertainment-based marketing strategies for Anheuser-Busch, General Motors, the NFL and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Universal TV signs Paiges: Universal Television has signed writing and producing team Dan and Sue Paige to a development deal for comedy and drama. Sarah Timberman, president of Universal Television’s programming unit, closed the negotiation with the Paiges’ agent, Ann B
lanchard of the William Morris Agency, and attorney Craig Jacobsen. The husband-and-wife team mostly served as co-executive producers on ABC’s “Once and Again” and created and were supervising producers of The WB sitcom, “Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane.”#