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Briefly Noted

Oct 28, 2002  •  Post A Comment

In an unprecedented show of unity, the 11 publicly reporting cable operators signed off on voluntary guidelines to provide more consistent details of industry operating metrics. The move comes in response to growing concerns and confusion among investors amid accounting-related probes, scandals and growing service complexities, which have helped drive down cable stock prices 70 percent this year. But the guidelines do not alter or impact standard accounting procedures.
The announcement came last week during a New York meeting of chief executives and other top officials of the 11 cable companies, working with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Among the particulars: uniformly detailing capital expenditures and redefining customer relationships and revenue-generating units correlating to new businesses. Comcast will reflect the details in its third-quarter earnings report next week, although companies do not have to comply until first quarter 2003. “There has been increased scrutiny of capital expenditures,” said Comcast President Brian Roberts, whose company will become the largest cable operator when it acquires AT&T Broadband. “The business is more complicated than ever before, and therefore, giving more of a breakout allows people to make their own judgments.”
Sniper coverage registers ratings record
The stunning turn of events in the Washington sniper case last Wednesday night helped the all-news networks, which already were registering ratings boosts due to interest in the dramatic story, soar to 24-hour ratings highs for the year. Fox News Channel, which had averaged 901,000 viewers for total day since the sniper story broke in early October, averaged 1.674 million viewers for the day, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. CNN, which had averaged 767,000 on sniper-coverage days, attracted an average 1.349 million viewers Wednesday. MSNBC, which had averaged 434,000 viewers since the first sniper shooting, averaged 676,000 Wednesday. Prime-time viewership spiked to an average of 3.188 million viewers for Fox (peaking with Greta Van Susteren’s 3.798 million from 11 p.m. to midnight ET), 2.762 million for CNN and 1.436 million for MSNBC.
Reality on Food’s spring menu
Food Network is cooking up several reality series for spring, including “Date Plate,” its first-ever dating show; “Food Fight,” a culinary team contest; and “Cooking School Stories,” a look at nine culinary students at the Art Institute of California. The new shows were unveiled by Eileen Opatut, the network’s senior VP, programming and production. “Reality is a natural progression for us based on the popularity of our cooking competitions like `Iron Chef.’ … This is clearly the kind of programming our audience craves,” Ms. Opatut said.
Raven, Davids switch at A&E
Abbe Raven will become executive VP and general manager of A&E Network, and Dan Davids will become executive VP and general manager of the History Channel. The two executives are essentially trading positions. Mr. Davids, formerly the History Channel’s GM, has been EVP and GM at A&E since 2000. Ms. Raven, formerly head of programming at the History Channel, has been the History Channel’s EVP and GM since 2000.
The executive switch was announced by Nick Davatzes, president and CEO of A&E Television Networks, who told Electronic Media that one purpose of the executive rotation was to put an experienced programmer into position at A&E as program planning season for 2003-04 gets under way. A&E has been without a seasoned program developer since Allen Sabinson’s abrupt resignation this past summer. “Abbe has spent her life in the programming production world,” Mr. Davatzes said. “This allows us to … move ahead while we continue the search [for Mr. Sabinson’s replacement].”
In related moves, Michael Mohamad will join Mr. Davids at the History Channel as the senior VP of marketing. Mr. Mohamad has spent the past six years in a similar capacity at A&E Network. Artie Scheff will join Ms. Raven at A&E Network as the senior VP of marketing. For the past seven years, Mr. Scheff was the History Channel’s senior VP of marketing.
Short takes
Andrew Fessel has been named senior VP of research for ABC Television Network. His recent positions include heading up research for DreamWorks Television and serving as director of marketing database and research for Microsoft Interactive Media Group. … At Game Show Network Tim Duffy has been promoted to director of development from manager of development, and Michael Bevan, formerly a consultant to GSN, has been named director of development. … Comedy Central has acquired off-network rights to “Mad TV” from Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution. The deal is for the first nine seasons of the sketch comedy series, totaling 223 one-hour episodes. “Mad TV” will debut Jan. 1, 2004. … Sears, Roebuck and Co. will serve as the exclusive retail sponsor of the “Hallmark Hall of Fame Collection” on Hallmark Channel. The multimillion-dollar deal includes opening billboards adjacent to the Sunday night airing and tagged tune-in promos.