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Sep 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Sept. 4

Paxson sells WPXB

Paxson Communications plans to sell WPXB-TV, its station in Merrimack, N.H., to NBC for $26 million cash, more than eight times what Paxson paid for the station. NBC, which has a stake in Pax, had right of first refusal when the station was made available. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and could close by the end of the year.

Lund to sales VP at WNBC: Mark Lund has been named VP of sales for WNBC-TV in New York, effective Sept. 16. Mr. Lund has been sales manager for Viacom WBZ-TV and WSBK-TV, Boston, for the past two years.

His sales career started at WSBK in 1985 and has included stops at WFSB-TV in Hartford, Conn., Harrington Righter & Parsons Television Sales and Gillette Television/Storer Broadcasting. He returned to WSBK in 1992.

At WNBC Mr. Lund will report to general manager Frank Comerford.

Also, Kathryn Scheetshas been promoted to VP for business development, marketing and sports and Olympics sales at WNBC. She had been the NBC-owned flagship station’s marketing manager for the past two years.

Hearst-Argyle says it will beat ad targets: Signaling further turnaround in local television advertising, Hearst-Argyle Television today raised its third-quarter revenue and earnings guidance since the company says it now knows it will exceed its previous targets for the period ending Sept. 30.

“Current ad pacings and pending activity indicate that net operating revenues will be 18 percent to 20 percent higher than last year’s third quarter,” putting earnings per share in the 23 cents- to 25 cents-per-share range, said David Barrett, Hearst-Argyle Television president and CEO.

Firm cost controls will allow the company to convert 85 percent of its ad revenue gains into broadcast cash flow. Net income and free cash flow also will be better than expected. Although many media companies are expected to benefit from year-ago comparisons to when advertising ceased and sputtered after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Barrett noted, “The TV ad sector is showing strength and meaningful signs of recovery.” He cited across-the-board spending increases in key categories such as automotive, movies and financials.

NAB supports ‘AMBER’ legislation: National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Eddie Fritts discussed the organization’s support of the National AMBER Alert Network Act of 2002 before of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today. The AMBER Plan coordinates the aid of local TV and radio stations and law enforcement to find abducted children. The role of broadcasters in the plan is to disseminate information about the abduction to the community.

“We stand ready to work with you closely as this legislation moves through committee and the entire Congress,” Mr. Fritts said in his speech.

The AMBER Alert program has helped to recover 30 abducted children to date.

‘Idol’ crescendos as it nears tonight’s finale: As Fox builds up “American Idol” to its series finale frenzy tonight, last night’s airing of the summer hit talent search reached new ratings heights. For the third time in four weeks “Idol” turned in personal-best ratings in adults 18 to 49, households and total viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data.

“Idol” posted a 9.2 rating/23 share among adults 18 to 49, improving 14 percent on its previous weeks score in the key demographic (7.4/20). Better yet was “Idol’s” scores among adults 18 to 34 (10.1/28), women 18 to 34 (13.2/34) and women 18 to 49 (11.4/28).

In the broadest measures, the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Tuesday airing of “Idol” was up 22 percent week to week in total viewers (18.2 million vs. 14.8 million) and 19 percent in households (10.2/16 vs. 8.6/14), both of which are also records for the show.

Tonight’s special two-hour finale (8 p.m. to 10 p.m., ET) will announce the final tally of phone-in votes from viewers choosing either of the aspiring singers Justin Guarini or Kelly Clarkson as the winner. Since its debut on June 11, the Wednesday edition of “Idol” has generally come in slightly lower than the Tuesday airings, but tonight will likely be the exception-given the extraordinary media hype and build up leading to the big finale.

For both night’s airings this summer, “Idol” has averaged a 5.8/16 in adults 18 to 49, 6.6/20 in adults 18 to 34, 6.9/12 in households and 11.6 million total viewers-making the British import the highest rated reality series of the summer on TV.

The addition of “Idol” to its schedule has also placed Fox in the position of being second only to NBC in adults 18 to 49 (2.6/9 vs. 3.1/10) and tied for first in adults 18 to 49 (both at 2.8/10 averages) for the summer-to-date period (May 27-Sept. 1). Fox is also the only broadcast network to grow in adults 18 to 49 (up 4 percent) and adults 18 to 34 (up 12 percent) this summer.

Showtime plans post-Sept. 11 documentary: Showtime will telecast “Trust Me,” a documentary that follows 32 children, ages 9 to 13, as they attend the Elk Shoals Interfaith Camp in North Carolina and deal with the post-Sept. 11 tensions that arise.

Participants in the camp included children from the Islamic Center of Greensboro, N.C., which received threatening phone calls, and Charlotte’s Temple Israel, which was the target of anti-Semitic vandalism.

“Trust Me,” a film by Rob Fruchtman (“Kronos: Music of Our Time,” among other documentaries), will air in 2003 as part of the “Showtime Original Pictures for All Ages” franchise.

TBS launches ‘Movie Break’: TBS Superstation is launching “The Movie Break,” its latest weekly hosted movie franchise. “TMB,” which debuts Oct. 3 with “Disclosure,” the 1991 drama starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore, will feature the entertainment news and will be hosted by Mike Siegel (“Payback,” “24”) and Lesley Ann Machado (“Latin Access,” “Noticias 41” in New York).

TNN’s ‘Taboo’ gets 40 more: The New TNN has picked up 40 episodes of “Taboo,” a half-hour game show set to premiere in first quarter 2003. The show, based on the Hasbro board game, is produced by Radio … With Pictures. Brian Hersch, creator of the board game, will serve as an executive producer.