Breaking News Archives

Oct 1, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, October 1

FCC says media outlets are plentiful

In good news for deregulation buffs, a Federal Communications Commission study released this afternoon contends that the number of media outlets available to consumers is up 195 percent since 1960, and the number of independent owners of the outlets is up 139 percent over the same time period. Other agency-sponsored studies contend the Internet is a substitute for broadcast TV and the financial interest and syndication rules did not improve program diversity. Comment on the studies is due Dec. 2 and is supposed to serve as the basis for any agency moves to loosen its ownership restrictions.

DeVarona back on the job at ABC Sports: Donna DeVarona is going back to work for ABC Sports, which she sued for $50 million, charging age and gender discrimination after ABC Sports had let her go in 1998. Ms. DeVarona, the Olympic gold medal swimmer who in 1965 became ABC Sports’ first female fulltime TV sportscaster, will work as a commentator and a reporter. She will also work with ABC Sports and ABC Television in dealing with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee and international sports federations.

Though the details of their settlement were not released, ABC Sports President Howard Katz declared himself “very pleased that she has returned to her broadcast home,” and Ms. DeVarona said she was “happy we have settled our differences.” The date of her first on-air assignment is unknown.

Colee to manage WPEC-TV: Donn Colee has been promoted to station manager of WPEC-TV, the Freedom Broadcasting-owned CBS affiliate in West Palm Beach, Fla., whose general manager, Doreen Wade, was named Freedom Broadcasting president in early September. Mr. Colee joined the station in 1989 after 18 years in advertising and public relations.

Fox News Channel grows in Q3: The third quarter ended with Fox News Channel the only news network able to tout year-to-year viewership growth-up 23 percent for total day for the quarter to an average 626,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. CNN and CNN Headline News noted that their second-quarter to third-quarter growth rated was highest of the three news channels. Compared with the second quarter, CNN was up 3 percent in total day viewership to an average 516,000. Headline was up 15 percent to 226,000 viewers.

Headline News is gaining on MSNBC, which averaged 250,000 viewers for total day in the third quarter, up 1 percent compared with the second quarter and down 35 percent compared with third quarter 2001.

MSNBC, which re-launched with a Phil Donahue-driven prime-time lineup in mid-July, hopes people will focus only on Monday-Friday prime time, where, despite precipitous declines by “Donahue” after its debut, MSNBC can claim an average of 370,000 viewers, a 16 percent increase, since its re-launch, compared with the second quarter.

MSNBC noted that during the same timeframe, CNN Headline News averaged 247,000 viewers in prime-time weeknights. That’s up 14 percent compared to the second quarter.

Case promises new services, content for AOL users: Steve Case, the embattled chairman of AOL Time Warner, stuck to what he knows and loves best: talking about the AOL service and its revival by focusing on consumer needs. The Tuesday lunchtime speaker at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia XI media conference in New York steered clear of questions about board maneuvers to oust him and those about internal management strife. Instead he promised to “empower” America Online’s combined 35 million online customers with new services and content, such as the new video games demo service it announced today and a “sales engine for digital music” and other e-commerce applications being developed. When asked while exiting the conference whether his job was in jeopardy, Mr. Case was overheard saying, “No.”

Diller striving to protect USA Interactive: Barry Diller says he is working amicably with Vivendi Universal management to resolve its liquidity issues so that they have no adverse impact on his USA Interactive, and he is relying on the conditions of his entertainment asset sale to Vivendi earlier in the year to protect USA’s value. Stopping short of commenting on his intentions to be part of a spinoff and expansion of the Vivendi Universal Entertainment assets over which he also presides as chairman, Mr. Diller said he is not out to block any deals. The USA Interactive chairman and chief executive was a presenter at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia XI conference in New York Tuesday.

Premiere week boom for CBS, WB: CBS, counting five shows ranked among the top 10 most-viewed programs for the opening week of the 2002-03 season (Sept. 23 to 29), came out with a competitive second ranking in adults 18 to 49 (4.6 rating/12 share)-in addition to winning the week in total viewers (13.8 million) and households (9.1/15). According to final Nielsen Media Research data, NBC won the week in adults 18 to 49 (5.4/15) but was down 4 percent from year-ago premiere week (5.6/15), while CBS’s demo score marked an 18 percent jump (from a 3.9/10).

The WB, though, scored the largest year-to-year increases among the six broadcast networks; up 58 percent in adults 18 to 49 (1.9/5 vs. 1.2/3), 50 percent in total viewers (4.5 million vs. 3.0 million) and 40 percent in households (2.8/5 vs. 2.0/3). Fox, with early preseason rollouts of its Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday lineups, was down only 4 percent year to year in adults 18 to 49 (3.1/9 vs. 3.2/9) and moved up 4 percent in total viewers (7.1 million vs. 6.8 million) last week.

ABC’s third-ranked score in adults 18 to 49 marked a 19 percent decrease year to year (3.8/10 vs. 4.7/13), though it was down 16 percent in total viewers (9.8 million vs. 11.7 million). ABC’s researchers added their spin, however, claiming it was the network’s best demo ratings since the March 24 airing of the Academy Awards’ Oscar telecast and highest compared with regular series programming since Jan. 28.

UPN suffered the largest across-the-board decreases year to year; moving down 36 percent in adults 18 to 49 (1.7/5 vs. 2.6/9) and 35 percent in total viewers (4.2 million vs. 5.7 million). UPN’s precipitous declines came in large part to unfavorable comparisons with the spiked year-ago ratings for the premieres of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Enterprise.”

CBS ‘Standing’ strong on Monday’: In a tighter Monday race, it was CBS’s series premiere of “Still Standing” and strong second-week numbers for “CSI: Miami” that contributed to the Eye networking sweeping wins of adults 18 to 49, adults 25 to 54, total viewers and households last night. Depending on how final Nielsen Media Research averages fully tabulate last night’s “Monday Night Football” telecast, it would still appear CBS held comfortable winning margins in the all key ratings measures. NBC is appearing to have made gains year-to-year on the night, despite “Crossing Jordan” still slipping in the 10 p.m. hour opposite “CSI: Miami.”

CBS won the night in adults 18 to 49 (6.4 rating/16 share), scoring year to year improvement of 14 percent-although it was down 10 percent from last week’s Monday season openers (7.1/17), according to Nielsen’s comparable fast national data. At 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., though, “Everybody Loves Raymond” turned an evening-high 7.7/19 in adults 18 to 49 (up 1 percent from last week’s 7.6/17 score. But it was last night’s 9:30 p.m. debut of “Still Standing” that scored a second-ranked 6.4/15 in adults 18 to 49, marking a 7 percent improvement over the year-ago season opener of “Becker” (6.0/14) and a healthier 83 percent retention of “Raymond’s” demo average.

“Still Standing” similarly came in second in adults 25 to 54 to “MNF” (7.8/15 vs. 8.0/17) for the frame, but it also 5 percent improvement from “Becker’s” old score (7.4/15). Overall, “Still Standing’s” top-ranked 18.1 million total viewers and 12.1/18 household averages were about on par with year-ago time period averages.

The 9 p.m. hour also turned out well for NBC’s fourth-season opener of “Third Watch,” which improved the time period by 24 percent in adults 18 to 49 (4.6/11) compa
red to a year-ago airing of “Dateline NBC” (3.7/9) in the slot. NBC researchers also said “Third Watch’s” adults 18 to 49 score marked a 28 percent jump from its Oct. 15, 2001 season opener last year (3.6/9).

At 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., CBS’s “CSI: Miami” again swept up wins for its second week out among adults 18 to 49 (7.4/19), adults 25 to 54 (8.7/21), total viewers (19.5 million) and households (13.1/21). Although “CSI: Miami” settled a bit from typically larger premiere ratings last week in adults 18 to 49 (8.5/21) and adults 25 to 54 (10.4/23), it still beat “Crossing Jordan” by a healthy 106 percent margin in the younger demo (3.6/9). Of some potential concern, “Jordan” is off 32 percent from its year-ago week average in adults 18 to 49 (5.3/13)-due in large part to new competition from “CSI: Miami.”

Of concern to CBS, though, is 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. comedies-“King of Queens” (4.4/13 vs. 5.5/16) and “Yes, Dear” (4.8/13 vs. 5.9/16)–being down by about 20 percent margins from their year-ago week averages in adults 18 to 49. NBC’s gross-out reality hour “Fear Factor” shot up 31 percent in adults 18 to 49 from the 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. frames (3.9/11 vs. 5.1/14), also improving NBC’s hourly performance (4.5/13) by 32 percent from year-ago airings of “Weakest Link” in the slots (3.4/9).

In addition to posting healthy adults 18 to 49 growth on the night, CBS also saw its winning Monday total viewer (17.8 million) and household (11.9/19) exhibit over 16 percent growth year to year. NBC’s third-ranked 4.2/11 in adults 18 to 49 marked a 2 percent increase year to year, but it was also down 9 percent compared to the previous week’s Monday average. Fox’s special 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. airing of “Celebrity Boot Camp” rendered the network a 19 percent year to year drop in adults 18 to 49 (2.6/7) for the night.

ABC came in second among adults 18 to 49 (5.8/15), up 9 percent year to year, but the live event nature of “MNF” and delayed airings of “Drew Carey” and “Whose Line is it Anway?” make the preliminary measurement unreliable. Nielsen will release final national ratings this afternoon.

Disney pursuing integrated television plan: In an effort to lift its fortunes, The Walt Disney Co. is pursuing a new “national duopoly” strategy in which it will integrate its ABC TV Network dayparts and corresponding niche cable operations to achieve improved use, amortization and cost of programs.

Without quantifying the expected savings, Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner told attendees at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia XI media conference this morning in New York that the strategy is part of a five-year plan the company’s board approved last week. “The whole point of our strategy is the marriage of dual revenue cable services with a 110 million-home broadcast network — being run together with the same management, sharing creativity and research and development,” Mr. Eisner said.

“A national duopoly on dayparts means we no longer think about the ABC Television Network alone. We think of ABC Sports and ESPN in the same breath. We think of ABC prime time and ABC Family in the same breath. We think of ABC daytime and SoapNet in the same breath.” Despite contractual, union and other challenges of moving to the new business model, Mr. Eisner said he is “convinced it is the way to go.”

Confirming continuing merger talks between ABC News and CNN, Mr. Eisner said, “Ted Turner has done such a fantastic job of inventing that whole business, and has such a keen spirit as to what it should be, would it (a merger) happen with us, we would be thrilled.”

Karmazin comments add intrigue to Viacom picture: Mel Karmazin raised a few eyebrows at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia XI media conference this morning in New York after he was asked whether investors should place their bets on Viacom despite not knowing whether he will remain as CEO considering ongoing contract negotiations with Chairman Sumner Redstone and the board of directors.

“They ought not to be investing in a company because of one individual no matter who that individual is, because that individual might take the wrong airplane this afternoon,” Mr. Karmazin told attendees. “You should be an investor in Viacom because of our strong assets and strong division people. If I were not at this company … this company would continue to do well. A lot of us who are blessed to have the position I have, when things are going well — and they are going well for us — get more credit for what’s good than we probably deserve.”

Sources close to Mr. Karmazin say talks continue, and that his noncommittal comments should not be taken as signaling any new problems. Although his contract expires late in 2003, the matter likely will be decided this year.

News Corp. still eyeing DirecTV: News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch says he still is interested in DirecTV and will look at it “very carefully” if EchoStar Communications’ proposed acquisition of the dominant U.S. satellite service is nixed by regulators. Addressing the Communacopia XI media conference today in New York, Mr. Murdoch also said News Corp. will pay closer to 300 million euros for the struggling Italian pay-TV service Telepiu, backing out debt assumption and other considerations from the 900 million-euro sale price announced today. After an estimated $550 million investment to buy and transform it into a robust Sky Italia platform, Mr. Murdoch said News and its partner, Telecom Italia, will launch the new service next summer with at least 1.9 million subscribers with all of Fox’s fledgling niche cable offerings. It will break even by 2004 in the absence of cable competition, he said.