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Apr 23, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Brokaw Lands Exclusive President Bush Interview

Tom Brokaw has scored the first exclusive TV interview with President Bush since the start of the war in Iraq. The NBC Nightly News anchor is to spend Thursday, April 24, with the president, traveling aboard Air Force One and taking in two events in the Midwest. Reports from that day will air during Friday’s Today show and Nightly News, and as an hour-long special, Commander in Chief: Inside the White House at War, scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday. The topics are expected to range from the war and the rebuilding of Iraq to the president’s economic strategy and re-election campaign.

Feldman Named NATPE President: Former USA Broadcasting executive Rick Feldman has been named president and CEO of the National Association of Television Program Executives, effective Monday, April 28. Mr. Feldman succeeds Bruce Johansen, who announced in January that his run was ending after 10 years at the helm. The organization has been trying to redefine itself and revitalize its annual convention even as the consolidated syndication business wraps up more of its business before the January convention, and as more of the attendance comes from other countries and is driven by technological exhibits.

The announcement was made by Peggy Kelly, chairperson of NATPE and senior VP of global client services, Universal McCann; and Lew Klein, co-founder of NATPE and chairperson of the organization’s search committee.

Ms. Kelly pointed out Mr. Feldman’s “breadth of experience,” included media buying for Ted Bates Advertising; executive positions at several TV stations, including 16 years at KCOP-TV in Los Angeles; and most recently as executive VP and chief operating officer of USA Broadcasting, a position in which he launched three independent stations.

Stewart’s New Pet Project: Martha Stewart showed up in person Wednesday at a press conference held in the Central Park Boathouse in New York to talk about Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s new pet project: Turning the 2-year-old The Pet Shop With Marc Morrone into a Martha Stewart-quality multimedia brand and business model now known as Petkeeping With Marc Morrone.

Hearst Entertainment will continue to distribute the weekly half-hour, which is cleared in more than 130 markets that represent 90 percent of the U.S. TV universe. Fox owned-and-operated stations were described as “the anchor” group by Sharon Patrick, president and chief operating officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

The 22 episodes already produced for the 2002-2003 season include some original segments and some segments repackaged from appearances Mr. Morrone and a veritable menagerie of pets have made since the late ’90s on Martha Stewart Living.

“We get lots of mail about Marc Morrone, all of it positive,” said Ms. Stewart, who promised the show has been “beautifully produced.”

Fox News Engineer faces Theft Charge: A Fox News Channel satellite truck engineer who had been assigned to Iraq has been charged with smuggling 12 Iraqi paintings said to have been stolen from a palace belonging to Uday Hussein; he also tried to smuggle Iraqi monetary bonds and other items. Benjamin James Johnson, 27, was fired by Fox News, which issued a statement saying, “This is an unfortunate incident and his supervisor took the appropriate action for this transgression.”

Customs agents at Dulles International Airport found the items last Thursday in a cardboard box.

‘Idol,’ ’24’ Power Duo for Fox: Fox won last night by a 150 percent margin in adults 18 to 49, thanks to its powerful combo of American Idol and 24. Idol pulled a 9.3 rating and 26 share in the demo, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. 24 won its time slot with a 5.7/14 in the demo. Idol also won its time slot in total viewers with 20.1 million. The second airing of NBC’s Watching Ellie tied for third place in its 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. time period with a 2.8/7. That’s down from the 3.5/9 it debuted to last week.

For the night, Fox won in adults 18 to 49 with a 7.5/20, followed by CBS (3/8), NBC (2.9/8) and ABC (2.9/6). In total viewers, Fox won the night with 16 million, followed by CBS (13.2 million), NBC (7.6 million) and ABC (7.4 million).

AOL Reports First Quarter Profit: AOL Time Warner, coming off a year rocked by management turmoil, billions of dollars in red ink and a mountain of debt, Wednesday appeared to be righting its course, reporting a first-quarter profit of $396 million-in part due to strong performance at its cable and online units.

Revenue climbed 6 percent to $10 million, driven largely by a 10 percent rise to $4.9 billion in subscription revenue at AOL’s cable and online businesses-the latter of which surprised even AOL executives-and by content revenue, which rose 11 percent to $3.3 billion. Advertising revenue fell 5 percent to $1.3 billion, as the cable and online businesses reported a slowdown in ad sales.

Cash flow, defined as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), advanced 14 percent to $2.0 billion from $1.7 billion a year earlier, led strong results at the company’s filmed entertainment, networks and cable divisions. The gain in cash flow was also the result of restructuring charges that came in at $24 million this past quarter versus a charge of $107 million a year ago.

The profit number, which amounted to nine cents a share-compared with the 2002 first quarter’s massive loss of $54.2 billion, or $12.25 a share-was due to a series of charges related to the AOL-Time Warner merger as well as a series of investments.

CEO Richard Parsons said the 2003 quarterly numbers signaled that “we are on a good track” to make good on guidance provided earlier this year of mid-single-digit revenue growth and low- to mid-single digit EBITDA by the close of 2003. Parsons also said management is “very comfortable where we are on our debt-reduction program,” with the goal still in place to cut the company’s debt to $20 billion by year-end from the first-quarter level of $26.3 billion.