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May 14, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Narrowed First-Quarter Loss for Paxson

Paxson Communications on Wednesday reported a narrowed first-quarter loss of $23.3 million, or 35 cents a share, from year-earlier red ink of $199.5 million, as the company that owns and operates TV stations and the Pax TV Network sold off assets and generated positive free cash flow for the period.

Revenue climbed 2 percent to $70.6 million from a year-earlier figure of nearly $69.1 million. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose sharply to $17.9 million from just over $7.5 million a year ago. Free cash flow turned positive, hitting $2.4 million vs. a negative free cash flow figure of $32.7 million in 2002.

The results come as West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Paxson sells off a series of TV stations as part of a broader plan to increase the company’s liquidity. Following the completion of its sale of a station in Albuquerque, N.M., Paxson said it will have raised $104.8 million, beating its goal of raising $100 million in liquidity. The company had $911.8 million in debt on its books as of March 31.

The company added that while the Iraq war had some impact on advertising, the company has seen advertisers return “to normal business practices.”Lawmakers Urge FCC to Delay June 2 Vote: More than 90 Democratic lawmakers signed a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission at deadline today urging the agency to put its June 2 vote on new media ownership rules on indefinite hold to give the public an opportunity to comment on the specific changes proposed before the agency’s Republican majority sets those in regulatory concrete.

“We strongly believe that the commission should not move ahead with a final rule until it demonstrates how changes in the media ownership limits will benefit the public interest and not jeopardize the democratic goals of diversity, competition, and localism,” said the letter, which was signed by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and other Democratic leaders. But at a press briefing this morning, Kathleen Abernathy-one of the FCC’s Republican commissioners-said she would urge her colleagues to stick to the original schedule. “I don’t see this getting any easier with time,” she said. Also urging delay are the FCC’s two Democrats-Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps. Ms. Abernathy and GOP Commissioner Kevin Martin have recommended that FCC Chairman Michael Powell reject the request of their Democratic colleagues at the agency.

At deadline Mr. Powell had yet to announce his decision. At her press briefing, Ms. Abernathy said that under the new regulations, companies may be able to own up to three TV stations and a daily newspaper in the nation’s largest markets, as long as only one of the merged TV stations is among the market’s top four in ratings.

She also said she would be “comfortable” raising the national ownership cap to permit broadcasters to own TV stations reaching 50 percent of the nation’s homes. The cap is currently set at 35 percent.

‘Idol’ Scores Big for Fox: Fox won the night with an 8.2 rating and 21 share in adults 18 to 49 along with 17.9 million total viewers. Fox didn’t miss a beat as 20.7 million viewers tuned in to American Idol (9.5/27) at 8 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

Fox continued to dominate the night starting at 9 p.m. with 24, which scored a 6.3/16 in adults 18 to 49. ABC (3.7/10 in adults 18 to 49) was second for the night with help from 8 Simple Rules, According to Jim, Less Than Perfect and NYPD Blue.

Fox won the night in adults 18 to 49 with an 8.2/21, followed by ABC (3.7/10), NBC (3.0/8) and CBS (2.9/8).

In total viewers, Fox won with 17.9 million, followed by CBS (12.3 million), ABC (9.1 million) and NBC (8.6 million).

CBS Announces Fall Schedule: CBS added five dramas and two comedies to its fall schedule. Big moves include relocating sitcom King of Queens to launch a comedy block on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. and drama JAG moving to anchor Friday nights from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Agency, My Big Fat Greek Life and Becker did not make the fall schedule, although Becker may return for midseason.

CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, who usually preaches schedule stability, said the network made changes on six nights of the week because it was necessary to strengthen two weaknesses-Wednesday and Friday nights. “We are being very aggressive,” Mr. Moonves said.CBS, which has had trouble establishing a second comedy night, will try again this year with the move of King of Queens to Wednesday followed by the new sitcom The Stones. “West Wing is going down. The Bachelor is going down. It is the comedy alternative,” Mr. Moonves said.Survivor will be the only reality show on the network in the fall. Star Search could return later in the season as a hole filler if needed, Mr. Moonves said.

Monday8 p.m. Yes, Dear8:30 p.m. Still Standing9 p.m. Everybody Loves Raymond9:30 p.m. Two and a Half Men10 p.m. CSI: Miami

Tuesday8 p.m. Navy CIS9 p.m. The Guardian10 p.m. Judging Amy

Wednesday8 p.m. 60 Minutes II9 p.m. The King of Queens9:30 p.m. The Stones10 p.m. The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.

Thursday8 p.m. Survivor9 p.m. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation10 p.m. Without a Trace

Friday8 p.m. Joan of Arcadia9 p.m. JAG10 p.m. The Handler

Saturday8 p.m. 48 Hours Investigates9 p.m. Hack10 p.m. The District

Sunday7 p.m. 60 Minutes8 p.m. Cold Case9 p.m. CBS Sunday Movie

Pegasus Reports Revenue Loss: Pegasus Communications on Wednesday reported a widened loss of $43.3 million, or $7.60 a share, from year-earlier red ink of $39.7 million, or $6.65 a share. Revenue fell 4 percent to $213.1 million.

Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based Pegasus runs a digital satellite TV business that caters largely to rural customers and owns or programs 11 television stations.

The company’s satellite revenue slipped 4 percent to $205.5 million, while satellite earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization climbed 8 percent to $52.6 million. Revenue from its broadcast and other operations rose 8 percent to $7.5 million, while broadcast free cash flow rose 12 percent to $495,000.UPN Pick Ups Four Sitcoms and a Drama: UPN picked up four sitcoms from Warner Bros. and a drama from Viacom Productions. Sitcoms getting the nod are the Will Smith-Jada Pinkett-Smith executive produced All of Us, about a blended family; The Mullets, which is executive produced by Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum, Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein; Rock Me Baby from executive producer Tony Krantz; and a sitcom starring hip-hop musician Eve as a fashion designer from executive producers Robert Greenblat and David Janollari. Jake 2.0, about a computer technician who gets injected with tiny computer chips that make him superhuman, was the lone drama pickup and could end up as a companion show to Wednesday’s Enterprise.

With all four of Monday’s sitcoms expected to return, it looks like UPN will create a second comedy night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays are the likely candidate because wrestling is locked into Thursdays and the Friday Night Movie is also expected back.