Briefly Noted

Sep 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Leavitt named ATAS president
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has formally named veteran network and studio executive Todd Leavitt president and chief operating officer, responsible for the organization’s day-to-day activities. He fills the post vacated in December by Jim Chabin. Mr. Leavitt is scheduled to assume his full-time duties Oct. 14 after a brief part-time transitional period from his previous post as managing director of Tulip Media Ltd., a film financing and television packaging boutique.
Before that, he was chairman of Alliance Television Group (now Alliance Atlantis Communications). He was also executive VP of NBC Productions (now NBC Studios), and he served as vice chairman of the American Film Marketing Association and founder of the organization’s television committee. Mr. Leavitt will be based at the Academy’s North Hollywood, Calif., headquarters.
NAB supports AMBER legislation
National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Eddie Fritts told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last week that the organization supports the National AMBER Alert Network Act of 2002. The AMBER Plan coordinates the efforts 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.
NBC plans Telemundo station in Boston
NBC plans to use WPXB-TV, the Merrimack, N.H., station for which it has agreed to pay Paxson Communications $26 million in cash, to give the Boston market its first full-power owned-and-operated Telemundo station. “Increasing Telemundo’s presence in top Hispanic markets is a high priority for NBC,” said Jay Ireland, president of NBC Television Stations Division. Boston is the sixth-largest TV market in the country, and its Hispanic population is estimated at 100,000 and growing. The station currently carries ShopNBC, the home-shopping service in which NBC has a 40 percent stake.
Charter meeting produces little news
In a lackluster meeting with investors and industry analysts last week, Charter Communications officials offered little new insight into how the company will dig itself out of a period of slower-than-expected growth, higher debt and a record-low stock price (down 80 percent this year). Charter CEO Carl Vogel vowed to reduce the company’s nearly $18 billion debt, related mostly to system acquisitions and upgrades, but did not outline how. The company continues to shop around some unclustered, non-core systems. Bill Savoy, president of Vulcan Inc., the company through which Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen continues to expand his majority ownership of Charter, shed no new light on the possibility that Mr. Allen is preparing to take Charter private.
Hearst-Argyle beats ad targets
Signaling further turnaround in local television advertising, Hearst-Argyle Television 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 comparisons to last year, when advertising ceased and sputtered after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mr. Barrett said, “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.