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Jan 29, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Turner quits as AOL Time Warner vice chairman

Ted Turner today resigned his post as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner, effective at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in May, although he will continue to serve on the board of directors as AOL Time Warner’s largest and most vocal individual shareholder.

Mr. Turner was not immediately available for comment, but in a prepared statement was quoted as telling AOL Time Warner CEO and Chairman-elect Richard Parsons, “I have not come to this decision lightly. As you know, this company has been a significant part of my life for over 50 years. I have the deepest respect for you, the senior management and my fellow members of the board. With this team in place, I am optimistic that the company will be able to move forward and reach its true potential.

“As you know, I have devoted much of my life to philanthropic interests and, more recently, to several socially responsible business efforts. Over the last five years, it has become even clearer to me how much personal satisfaction I derive from these activities. Therefore, I would like to now devote even more time, effort and resources to them.”

Mr. Turner follows Steve Case, who recently agreed to resign his post as AOL Time Warner chairman also as of the May meeting. Mr. Parsons may have encouraged Mr. Turner to resign his executive role at the company to pave the way for a more ameliorating management of the troubled media giant, sources said. In a prepared statement, Mr. Parsons thanked Mr. Turner and Mr. Case for their executive contributions.

Mr. Turner’s resignation also paves the way for Mr. Parsons to realign top management, perhaps bringing in a new executive from the outside. Among the possibilities is Viacom Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin, who is embroiled in a dispute regarding renegotiation of his current contract that expires at year’s end and may be looking for a new home. Although there would be management style and other differences to overcome, some sources said Mr. Karmazin could add focus and financial discipline to many of AOL Time Warner’s operations. AOL Time Warner has said it is not in discussions with Mr. Karmazin.

Fisher selling two Georgia stations: Cash-strapped and debt-ridden Fisher Communications has agreed to sell two of its Georgia stations, both Fox affiliates, to Southeastern Media Holdings for $40 million. Kalil & Co. brokered the transaction that will transfer WFXG-TV in Augusta and WXTX-TV in Columbus to Southeastern Media, a North Carolina-based company that has no other broadcast interests.

Seattle-based Fisher had announced its intention to sell the stations last August and Southwestern Media stepped up when a previous deal fell apart in October. Fisher already had disclosed it will recognize an after-tax loss of approximately $17 million on the sale.

Fisher had retained Goldman, Sachs & Co. in November to assist in reviewing its strategic alternatives. The sale will leave Fisher with 10 network-affiliated stations, which are said to have attracted bids from LIN TV, which owns or operates 26 stations, and Sonoran Capital, a media-investment firm funded by former billboard magnates William Levin and Arturo Moreno.

State of Union most-watched in 10 years: President Bush’s State of the Union address Tuesday was the most-watched in a decade, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.Some 62.1 million people watched the speech on eight broadcast and cable networks. That’s up from Mr. Bush’s first State of the Union speech a year ago (51.8 million) and the biggest audience since former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 speech attracted 66.9 million. (The least-watched speech in the past 10 years was Mr. Clinton’s last State of the Union talk in 2000, which attracted 31.5 million.)

NBC was the most popular choice for viewers between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. (16.350 million viewers), followed by ABC (13.540 million) and CBS (11.770 million). Despite a lead-in of 24.107 million viewers from “American Idol,” Fox coverage of the State of the Union was viewed by only 9.510 million.However, Fox News Channel attracted the biggest cable audience, 5.856 million viewers, from 9:05 p.m. to 10:06 p.m., up 17 percent from State of the Union night in 2002. CNN’s viewership of 3.593 million Tuesday night was up 30 percent year to year. MSNBC attracted 960,000, up 48 percent from a year ago.

Emmys to air on Fox: Fox will air the 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sept. 21. The show will air live from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET) from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. This year’s broadcast is the first year covered by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ new eight-year licensing agreement that rotates the telecast among ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

Campaigns nomed for CTAM Hall of Fame: The marketing campaigns nominated for Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s Hall of Fame are HBO’s “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO”; Showtime’s “No Limits”; Turner Classic Movies’ “31 Days of Oscar”; the TV Land affiliate launch campaign; and VH1’s “Save the Music.”

The CTAM Hall of Fame award, established in 1997, honors the best marketing campaigns in cable. This year’s honoree will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony held at the CTAM Summit convention, scheduled for July 20 to 23 in Seattle.

O’Grady takes Weather Channel sales post: Deirdre O’Grady has been named VP, pricing and operations, TWC Media Solutions, the sales division of The Weather Channel. Ms. O’Grady will oversee television pricing, inventory management and commercial scheduling of TWC. She will report to Lyn Andrews, president, TWC Media Solutions.MTV greenlights ‘Game’: MTV has given the green light to “Who’s Got Game,” the streetball reality competition executive produced by former L.A. Laker Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

The summer series will follow 12 street basketball players from across the country as they move to New York City to face-off for $100,000. The winner will also have the honor of having his hometown court named after him. Casting for “Who’s Got Game” will begin Feb. 8 in Atlanta, with Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, New York and Washington tryouts to follow later.

Marmet moves up at TLC: Roger Marmet has been named senior VP and general manager of The Learning Channel, the Discovery cable network whose “Trading Spaces” has become a cult hit. Mr. Marmet has been the network’s acting general manager since April 2002, as well as its VP of programming. He will report to Billy Campbell, president, Discovery Networks U.S.

Bloom moves to CBS: Barbara Bloom was named senior VP of daytime and children’s programming at CBS Entertainment. Ms. Bloom comes to CBS from ABC Entertainment, where she was co-head writer of the soap opera “Port Charles.” In her new position Ms. Bloom will oversee CBS’s daytime lineup, including soaps and the game show “The Price is Right,” and the Saturday morning Nick on CBS kids lineup. Ms. Bloom was VP of ABC Daytime from 1996 to 2000. She replaces Lucy Johnson, who left the network earlier this month.#