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Oct 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, October 8

Corbi among Hallmark layoff casualties

Send your sympathy cards to the Hallmark Channel, where the layoff ax has fallen. Gone, or on the way out, are approximately 130 staffers, representing 30 percent of the work force, including Lana Corbi, who for the past 12 months has been president and CEO of Crown Media United States, which operates the channel.

Approximately 80 staffers were cut in Greenwood Village, Colo., and the remainder are being cut from the company’s international staffs in New York and Los Angeles, according to an insider.

David Evans, president and CEO of Crown Media Holdings, the channel’s corporate parent, is assuming the responsibilities formerly held by Ms. Corbi, who will be a consultant through the end of the year.

Crown called the cuts a “major restructuring of the operation of its channels broadcast in the U.S. and in over 110 international markets in order to concentrate its efforts on the U.S. market and its most successful international territories.” The purpose of the cuts, according to Crown, is to “facilitate its plan to achieve EBITDA break-even in the second half of 2003.”

On completion of the restructuring in the first quarter of 2003, Crown said it expects a net reduction in its work force of approximately 30 percent or 130 positions, although most of those staff cuts have already occurred.

Crown will take a cash charge of approximately $5 million for severance costs, part of a $20 million fourth-quarter charge that will include a $15 million write-down related to “satellites and facilities impairments and exit costs.”

Also in the fourth quarter, Crown Media said it plans to record a non-cash charge of $55 million to $60 million related to programming strategy.

Crown forecast that next year’s operating costs will be reduced by approximately $25 million compared with 2002. Those reductions will consist of decreases in amortization and expenditures for overhead, satellite leasing, marketing and programming.

Comedy Central acquires five series: Animated clerks, slackers and office workers join struggling undergrads and a cult ensemble sketch troupe are the elements of a five-series acquisition at Comedy Central. “Undergrads” and “Gary & Mike” will premiere Nov. 3, “Clerks” and “The Ben Stiller Show” are scheduled to premiere in late December and “Dilbert” will be in his cubicle beginning on Feb. 3, 2003.

“Gary & Mike,” a 13-episode stop-motion animation, follows two 20-something slackers as they travel across the country. The series aired originally on UPN in 2001.

“Undergrads,” a 13-episode acquisition, follows four high school friends who try to stay connected as college freshmen. The series aired originally on MTV in 2001.

“Clerks,” a six-episode acquisition, is an animated adaptation of the theatrical feature. The series aired originally aired on ABC in 2000, and Comedy Central will telecast four episodes that have never been seen.

“Dilbert,” a 30-episode acquisition, is the droll office-life satire that is based on the Scott Adams cartoon. The series aired originally on UPN in 1999-2000.

“The Ben Stiller Show,” a 13-episode acquisition, is an ensemble sketch series, featuring Ben Stiller, Janeane Garafalo and Andy Dick, among others. The series aired originally on Fox in 1992-93.

NBC wins week two in adults 18 to 49: NBC won its second consecutive week of the 2002-03 season (Sept. 30-Oct. 6) in prime time, but CBS and The WB continued to chip away at the Peacock in the demos and total viewers. En route to winning week two in total viewers and households, CBS split with NBC in each category, posting five of the 10 most-watched shows last week, according to final national Nielsen Media Research data.

NBC won the week in adults 18 to 49 (5.1 rating/14 share) by a 25 percent margin over second-ranked CBS (4.1/11). But the Peacock has seen 4 percent erosion year to year and was down 6 percent compared with premiere week. With expected settling after heightened viewer sampling on premiere week, CBS had second-week erosion of 10 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 4 percent in total viewers (13.3 million). But it is up 17 percent and 22 percent year to year in those categories, respectively. CBS won in households (8.8/15), up 17 percent from the year-ago week.

Aside from the 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. (ET) Monday run of “CSI: Miami” remaining the top-rated freshman drama in adults 18 to 49 (7.5/19) and total viewers (19.8 million), CBS also has the other two promising rookie dramas-Thursday’s “Without A Trace” (5.2/13) and Friday’s “Hack” (3.4/10)-giving it growing momentum in the young-adult demographics.

Although NBC is down marginally year to year in adults 18 to 49 and 4 percent in total viewers (12.6 million vs. 13.1 million), the Peacock’s rookie Sunday 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. dramas-“American Dreams” (4.9/12) and “Boomtown” (4.2/10)-have firmed up the night with year-to-year growth of 58 percent and 19 percent in adults 18 to 49. Typical to form, NBC won Wednesday through Friday evenings in adults 18 to 49 and turned in competitive second-ranked scores on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.

ABC showed signs of stemming erosion by pulling even year to year in adults 18 to 49 (3.7/10) while moving up 7 percent in adults 18 to 34 (3.2/10 vs. 3.0/9) and moving up 3 percent in women 18 to 49 (4.0/11 vs. 3.9/10). Much of that young-adult demo growth has been attributable to five comedies-“8 Simple Rules,” “According to Jim,” “Life With Bonnie,” “My Wife and Kids” and “George Lopez”-winning their time periods in adults 18 to 49 at midweek.

Meanwhile, The WB went into its second week with best-ever ratings in adults 18 to 34 (2.7/8, up 50 percent from the year-ago week) and women 18 to 34 (3.4/10, up 48 percent), backed by “Smallville’s” unusually large, winning scores in males 12 to 34 (5.1/15), male teens (5.7/17) and men 18 to 34 (4.9/14). Among its core demo of females 12 to 34, “Gilmore Girls” (5.5/17), “7th Heaven” (5.3/16) and “Everwood” (4.0/11) all won their time periods. For all of last week, The WB ranked second among the broadcast networks in women 18 to 34 (3.4/10) and females 12 to 34 (3.6/11).

Fox, which aired baseball playoffs on four nights of its schedule, was down 6 percent year to year in adults 18 to 49 (3.0/8 vs. 3.2/9) but was up 18 percent in total viewers (8.03 million vs. 6.85 million). UPN, though down 31 percent year to year in adults 18 to 49 (1.8/5 vs. 2.6/7), did manage to improve 1 percent over its similarly sixth-ranked premiere week score in the demo (1.7/5).

Hispanic TV audience still growing: More fuel for the Hispanic heat wave in TV advertising comes from the startling fact that, for Nielsen Media Research’s 2003 universe estimate, U.S. Hispanics accounted for 84 percent of growth in the total U.S. adult 18-34 and adult 18-49 demographics. That’s according to a Univision Communications analysis of the Nielsen data that also found that those two Hispanic population groups grew by 40 percent and 24 percent, respectively, compared to 2001. Hispanics now account for 18 percent of the U.S. adult 18-34 television population and 15 percent of the U.S. adult 18-49 television population, according to the data.