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Apr 22, 2003  •  Post A Comment

‘7th Heaven’ Rates High With Teens

7th Heaven ranked No. 2 in its 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) time slot last night in adults 18 to 34, with a 2.9 rating and a 9 share, behind only Fox’s American Idol. The show pulled in 8.3 million viewers, beating out NBC’s repeat Fear Factor and ABC’s John Stossel Special, and scored a 3.1/9 in adults 18 to 49. Heaven, which aired its 150th episode featuring the wedding of Lucy Camden, was also the No. 1 rated show for the night among teens with a 5.4/17. Combined with Everwood from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., The WB ranked No. 2 for the night in its key demo of persons 12 to 34 with a 2.9/9.

Koonin to Head TNT and TBS: Steve Koonin, the former Coca-Cola marketing executive who’s widely credited with instituting the successful We Know Drama campaign at Turner Network Television, will now head Turner Broadcasting System Superstation as well as TNT.

It’s the latest executive management consolidation at TBS in the new Philip Kent era, with Mr. Koonin becoming executive VP and chief operating officer of both big TBS general entertainment cable networks.

Mr. Kent, who replaced Jamie Kellner as chairman and CEO of TBS, has moved quickly to adapt the general structure of Turner International, which he formerly headed, to the Atlanta-based AOL Time Warner company, creating three large groups – Entertainment, News and Animation – in which functions from advertising to program production and acquisition are all centralized under one senior executive.

Much like Mark Lazarus, the newly named president of Turner Entertainment Group, on the larger TBS stage, Mr. Koonin will be responsible for a broad array of functions at the two top-rated basic cable networks, including all programming, on-air promotion, marketing and day-to-day operations, although both Sports and ad sales will continue to be headed by David Levy, who will report directly to Mr. Lazarus.

Mr. Lazarus called the appointment of Mr. Koonin to head both networks a “further embodiment” of the new structure put into place by Mr. Kent.

Mr. Koonin said by this time next year TBS would have a new positioning and new brand identity analogous to the We Know Drama brand at TNT, and that it would be something that would create an “instant image” in the mind of the viewer. He cautioned, however, that it would be too simplistic to say that TBS, with its varied programming slate, will become a We Know Comedy network. But of course, “I reserve the right to change my mind in six months,” Mr. Koonin joked.

Dennis Quinn, who had been executive VP and general manager of TBS Superstation since 1999, is expected to join the company’s Operations & Strategy unit as an executive VP. That unit charts the company’s strategic course in matters of technology, products and operations.

Mr. Koonin, whose new responsibilities are to a large degree a reflection of the success of his branding and positioning efforts at TNT, will continue to report to Mr.Lazarus.

Superstation has also lately carved out an identity as the home of a powerful comedy block, which includes Friends, Drew Carey and Seinfeld, as well as the Dinner & a Movie and Movies for Guys Who Like Movies franchises.

Mr. Koonin, who joined TBS in 2000, was formerly Coca-Cola’s VP of consumer marketing.

Gemstar Request Denied by Federal Judge: A federal judge rejected a request by Gemstar-TV Guide International’s former CEO and chief financial officer to access a $29.5 billion severance package that has been frozen while the company awaits the results of a federal investigation into accounting irregularities at the company.

Former CEO Henry Yuen and ex-CFO Elsie Ma Leung requested a judge order Pasadena, Calif.-based Gemstar to release the funds, claiming the company, which publishes programming guides as well as the TV Guide print publication, was forced by the Securities Exchange Commission to withhold the funds.

The judge’s ruling is the latest in a string of events plaguing the company since a probe into the company’s accounting practices has forced it to revise downward its revenue and cash flow.

Mr. Yuen and Ms. Leung agreed to step down from their posts in November, but Mr. Yuen was fired outright April 18 after he failed to appear before the SEC for questioning. The SEC is seeking jail time for Mr. Yuen’s refusal to face questioning.

Comcast Expanding Cable Interconnects: Comcast Cable’s Ad Sales division is continuing its massive project to consolidate its markets and simplify cable ad buys by expanding cable interconnects.

In the first quarter of the year Comcast completed interconnects in Seattle; Salt Lake City; Flint and Lansing, Mich.; Fort Wayne and South Bend, Ind.; Richmond, Va.; Salisbury, Md.; and Miami and Jacksonville, Fla.

In addition, Comcast worked with Adelphia to interconnect West Palm Beach, Fla., and Time Warner Cable, Charter, MediaCom and U.S. Cable to interconnect Minneapolis.

Comcast Ad Sales is headed by Charlie Thurston, whose oft-said goal is to have interconnects in all 54 Comcast-owned markets.

Interactive TV Ads to Air in 2004: Interactive television advertising will cross the 10 million-home threshold in the United States early in 2004, at which point it is expected to become a viable option for national advertisers, according to a study about to be released by BrightLine Partners, a newly formed company focusing on digital media technologies.

Sparking the coming interactive ad boom will be Rupert Murdoch’s expected acquisition of DirecTV. Under Mr. Murdoch, DirecTV will likely soon begin to offer the same advanced interactive services that Mr. Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting makes available to subscribers in the United Kingdom. The Dish Network, DirecTV’s main competitor, already has some 5 million advanced set-top boxes that can easily be adapted to advertising interactivity, too, according to a BrightLine official. The continuing rollout of digital cable and its battle for ad dollars and subscribers with the big satellite providers also will fuel the expected boom in interactivity, according to the BrightLine official.

“We predict that over the next year and a half there will be a dramatic increase in the number of advertisers that are actively integrating various advanced television advertising opportunities into their marketing strategies,” BrightLine said in a statement.

NBC Sports Sweeps Sports Emmy: NBC Sports swept the well-attended 24th Annual Sports Emmy Awards ceremony staged Monday night in New York, taking home a network-best 13 Emmys, 11 of them for the network’s coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics. This is in addition to the six Primetime Emmys for the opening ceremony of the Salt Lake City events. NBC Sports’ previous Emmy highs were 12 each in 1996 and 1988, also Olympics years for the network.

One of the emotional highlights of the evening was a lifetime achievement award to the late ABC Sports and News President Roone Arledge that was accepted by his son Roone Arledge Jr.

ESPN collected six Emmys and ESPN2 won four.

HBO took home five Emmys, including Bob Costas’ 14th gold statue and one for Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel. CBS Sports and ABC Sports claimed two each.

Fox Sports walked away with four Emmys, including one for Fox baseball play-by-play man Joe Buck, the evening’s emcee, who took jokey jabs at everyone from activist-actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and the Chicago White Sox to himself and Tom Arnold, host of Fox Sports Net’s Best Damn Sports Show Period. Best will run two hours of highlights from the three-hour events, which will be the first time the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences gala has been televised.

A complete list of winners, chosen from nearly 700 entries in 27 categories, can be found at www.emmyonline.org.

‘Nightly News’ Up in Viewers: NBC Nightly News racked up its widest viewership margin over the competition in 14 months the week of April 14-18, when data from Nielsen Media Research showed Nightly averaged 9.805 million viewers, up 5 percent from the comparable week in 2002.

ABC World News Tonight averaged 8.596 million viewers, down 4 percent year-to-year, whil
e CBS Evening News averaged 7.101 million viewers, also down 4 percent year-to-year.

Nightly led among 25 to 54-year-old viewers but was flat in the demo year-to-year, while World News was up 6 percent and Evening News was down 2 percent.

For all three flagship newscasts, week-to-week drops seemed to reflect the turn for less dramatic action in Iraq. Nightly was down 1 million viewers from the week of April 7-11; World was down 1.117 million; and Evening was down 795,000 viewers.

Fox News Ratings Continue to Soar: Though interest in coverage of the war in Iraq continues to subside, Fox News Channel still was riding highest for the week of April 14-20, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

Fox averaged 1.821 million viewers for total day (up 165 percent from the comparable week in 2002) and 3.108 million in primetime (up 148 percent year-to-year).

CNN averaged 1.114 million viewers for total day (up 90 percent year-to-year) and 1.769 million in primetime (up 56 percent year-to-year).

MSNBC averaged 616,000 for total day (up 130 percent from a year ago) and 933,000 in primetime (up 154 percent).

Fox Gets ‘Personality’ Boost: Fox’s Mr. Personality debuted to strong numbers last night, winning its 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time period in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.6 rating and a 14 share, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. It also came in second in total viewers, with 12.1 million viewers. Personality’s debut did better than the first episode of Fox’s last reality series in the time slot, Married By America, which scored a 4.1/10 in adults 18 to 49 and an average 8.6 million viewers in its two-hour debut. Personality was helped by an American Idol: Halfway There special, which won the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. hour with a 6.1/17, as a lead-in. Personality retained 92 percent of that audience and gained viewers from the first half-hour to the second.

For the night, Fox won in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.9/15, followed by CBS (4.2/11), NBC (3.8/10) and ABC (2.5/6). In total viewers, Fox won with 13 million, followed by CBS (12.8 million), NBC (9.8 million) and ABC (7.3 million).

Summer Lovin’ for Fox: Fox continues to shore up its summer programming schedule adding the reality relationship show Anything for Love to its Monday night schedule starting June 16. Fox will air back-to-back episodes from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. leading into another new reality show Paradise Hotel. Love, which will be hosted by Mark Walberg and Claudia DiFolco, will be produced by Endemol USA and executive produced by Paul Buccieri.

Fox will rejigger its Thursday night lineup starting May 29, with the additions of Stupid Behavior Caught on Tape from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and 30 Seconds to Fame from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Pulse will continue to air from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The two-hour live special Test the Nation will air Monday, June 9, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Leeza Gibbons will host the show, which will be produced by The Gurin Co. Executive producers are Phil Gurin and Marc Jansen.’90210′ Reunion Special to Air in May: A Beverly Hills, 90210: 10-Year High School Reunion special will air on Fox Sunday, May 11, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., falling within the May sweeps period.

The special will include interviews with series stars Jason Priestley, Luke Perry, Jennie Garth, Shannen Doherty and Gabrielle Carteris along with favorite clips from the series.

Midseason sitcoms Oliver Beene and The Pitts will be pre-empted that night to make room for the special.

A rerun of The Simpsons kicks off the night at 7 p.m., followed by King of the Hill at 7:30 p.m., an original The Simpsons at 8:30 p.m. and Malcolm in the Middle at 8:30 p.m.

‘On the Record’ Third Season Opens With Sarandon, Robbins: It’s not Cooperstown, it’s HBO. More specifically, it’s On the Record With Bob Costas, the HBO sports show that will launch its third season May 2 with guests Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Ms. Sarandon and Mr. Robbins were recently “disinvited” from an event commemorating the 15th anniversary of their Bull Durham baseball movie at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., because of their anti-war views. Also appearing on the Costas show to discuss the film will be actor Robert Wuhl and writer-director Ron Shelton.

Viacom Wants Comedy Central: Viacom on Tuesday said it would pay $1.225 billion to acquire from AOL Time Warner the 50 percent of cable channel Comedy Central it doesn’t already own in a cash deal the company expects will contribute to the bottom line in the first year of operations.

The deal, which Viacom hopes to close by the end of the second quarter, helps AOL off-load some debt and at the same time strengthens Viacom’s stable of cable assets and further diversifying the company’s revenue streams.

“After we close [the sale] we are going to look at how we can best integrate Comedy Central, aiming for long-term value and making it accretive,” said Viacom President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin during the company’s first-quarter earnings call Tuesday morning. “There are opportunities in virtually every single area. This is a great brand, and we bring a great deal to the table.”

Though he refused to provide details, Mr. Karmazin said that with Comedy Central’s being now wholly owned by Viacom, he anticipates growth in revenue and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization as well as cost savings. He said he also wants to leverage off of Comedy Central’s reach into 82 million households.

Larry Divney, Comedy Central’s president, will remain in his current position, Viacom said.

The sale will also be a boon to AOL, which is lumbering under $29 billion in debt, and whose CEO, Richard Parsons, has a goal to cut AOL’s debt load to $20 billion by year-end to avoid a credit-rating downgrade.