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May 2, 2003  •  Post A Comment

AOL TW Makes Deal to Sell Atlanta Thrashers, Hawks

AOL Time Warner has signed a letter of intent to hold exclusive negotiations with Atlanta auto dealer David McDavid to sell him the Atlanta Thrashers professional hockey team and the Atlanta Hawks professional basketball team as the media giant continues to sell off assets to help pay down debt.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but reports have pegged the value of the deal at between $350 million and $400 million. A sale, which could be completed in June, covers the Thrashers, which play in the National Hockey League, the Hawks, which play in the National Basketball Association, and the rights for both teams to compete in Phillips Arena in Atlanta.

A sale would come just weeks after AOL unloaded its 50 percent stake in cable channel Comedy Central for more than $1.2 billion and moves the company closer to CEO Richard Parsons’ goal of trimming the company’s debt to $20 billion by the end of the year.

‘Friends’ Gives NBC an Edge: On a night interrupted by an address by President Bush, NBC won Thursday in adults 18 to 49 with an 8.3/23, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. Because President Bush’s address was live, the figures may change later in the day when final national numbers are released.

NBC’s combo of Friends and a Friends rerun (8.0/24) beat out CBS’s Survivor: Amazon (6.2/18) from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. in adults 18 to 49. In the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. hour, Will & Grace and Scrubs: Funniest Moments (7.8/20) edged out a strong adults 18 to 49 performance from CBS’s CSI (7.5/18). For the night, in adults 18 to 49, NBC won with an 8.3/23, followed by CBS (6.6/18), ABC (2.2/6) and Fox (1.8/5). CBS won the night in total viewers with 18.3 million, followed by NBC (17.9 million), ABC (6.6 million) and Fox (4.7 million).

Hearst-Argyle Profits Drop 10 Percent: Hearst-Argyle Television today reported a 29 percent drop in first-quarter profit to nearly $10.1 million from a year-earlier figure of $14.3 million, as revenue slipped nearly 4 percent to $149.3 million, hurt by a slowdown in advertising revenue and the impact of the Iraqi war.

On a per-share basis, the New York-based owner of 24 television stations reported a profit of 11 cents per share vs. a year-earlier profit of 15 cents a share.

The company noted that advertising revenue was down because of the lack of the Olympics and political campaign advertising that figured prominently in the 2002 first quarter. Hearst-Argyle pegged that missed advertising revenue at $20 million, and added that it lost another $5 million in ad dollars due to its stations’ coverage of the war in Iraq.

On a network-affiliation basis, Hearst-Argyle said its CBS stations posted a 7 percent gain in ad revenue, while the ABC affiliates were flat and the NBC affiliates fell 8 percent.

MTV Pledges to ‘Sorority’ and ‘Fraternity’: MTV is committing to third-season and second-season pickups of Sorority Life and Fraternity Life, respectively. Both series are shot on California campuses and will have their new-season debuts in September.

Disney Sees Improvement Despite Profit Drop: The Walt Disney Co. Thursday said it saw a 12 percent drop in first-quarter profit to $229 million, or 11 cents a share, as terrorism fears and the Iraqi war put a damper on several of the media giant’s businesses. A year ago, the Burbank, Calif.-based company recorded a profit of $259 million, or 13 cents a share.

Revenue rose 8 percent during the period to $6.3 billion, driven by strong results at the company’s television and film studio divisions.

Disney said the TV unit reported a 13 percent jump in revenue to nearly $2.5 billion, lifted by strong advertising revenues related to ABC’s broadcast of the Super Bowl and higher advertising rates at the company’s cable assets. That more than offset higher programming expenses and increased costs associated with the company’s coverage of the Iraqi war, which Disney pegged at $32 million for the first quarter.

The film studio also saw improved results, reporting a 20 percent jump in revenue to $1.8 billion. Consumer products and theme parks, meanwhile, trended lower, recording 14 percent and 3 percent declines, respectively.

Wheels TV Cruising Down the Programming Highway: Wheels TV, a new network devoted to autos, motorcycles and trucks, is coming down.

Programs on Wheels will include magazine and lifestyle programs, documentaries, new vehicle profiles, how-to shows, travel, safety and recall alerts, event coverage, news, movies, action and comedy series. Series in development include Ultimate Garage, World’s Fastest Wheels, The Highway My Way and Hot Streets.

The network is from Automotive Networks and with Global Television Network, a producer of automotive-related programming, and it expects a fourth-quarter launch. No distribution has yet been announced.