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Jun 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Universal Signs Cramsey

Universal Domestic Television has signed Denise Cramsey, the executive producer of the TLC cable series “Trading Spaces,” to an overall development deal under which she will produce lifestyle shows for first-run syndication, network prime time and cable.

The announcement was made today by Lisa Hackner, executive VP, programming and development, for Universal Domestic Television, who said in a prepared statement, “Lifestyle television is a business that we-like many other studios and networks-very much want to be in, and who better than someone of Denise’s caliber to take us there.”

Both Ms. Cramsey and “Trading Spaces” were nominated for Emmy Awards in 2002.

Charter Amends Credit Terms: Charter Communications, the cable company controlled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, said late today that it inked a deal with its banks that amends the terms on $5.2 billion in senior credit facilities and makes it easier for the debt-laden multiple system operator to borrow the $300 million that Mr. Allen has offered to help bail out the company.

As part of the deal, St. Louis-based Charter plans to set up holding companies that could more effectively borrow funds to help pay down a debt load that is around $19 billion. Among the plans being considered is one in which Charter issues $1.38 billion in debt that exchanges into equity, according to a late report in The Wall Street Journal.

That convertible note offering would be in addition to borrowing $300 million that Mr. Allen has made available through his holding company, Vulcan Inc.

The arrangement comes a little more than a week after Charter, which boasts 6.7 million subscribers, purchased cable giant Comcast’s stake in a joint venture for $728 million. Charter struck that deal to enable Mr. Allen to avoid having to pay Comcast $725 million to purchase a stake in Charter that Comcast inherited with its acquisition of AT&T Broadband.

CBS Picks Up Sixth Season of ‘Becker’: CBS has picked up a sixth season of “Becker.” The net ordered 13 episodes of the Ted Danson comedy, which is produced by Dave Hackel Productions and Industry Entertainment, in association with Paramount Network Television. The new episodes will debut midseason.

Povich Re-elected President of NTA N.Y. Chapter: Talk-show host Maury Povich has been re-elected president of the New York chapter of the National Television Academy.

His entire executive committee, which consists of 1st VP Diana Williams, 2nd VP Herb Granath, Treasurer Mona Mangan and Secretary Cindy Wallis, was also re-elected. Chapter executive director William Hanauer said the decision by the board of governors was unanimous.

Mr. Povich said, “We have been able to accomplish a great deal that we set out to do two years ago, but our work is hardly over. We want to further expand our membership, create new programs and become an even greater learning tool for students who wish to enter the broadcasting business.”

‘BBQ’ Cooks on Food Network: Food Network’s June 9 to 15 “BBQ Bonanza Week” generated a 0.7 rating in households with an estimated average of 568,000 homes tuned in, both record figures for Food Network during prime time, the network said.

Citing Nielsen Media Research data, Food Network said big ratings draws included “FoodNation With Bobby Flay,” which kicked off June 10 with a 1.2 household rating, followed by “All American Festivals,” which pulled a 1.01 household rating. June 15, “BBQ Bootcamp” posted a 1.08 household rating.

The network’s average audience in households during prime time was up 33 percent vs. the same week last year, when it posted 428,000 households.

Malone Not Joining Forces in Vivendi Bid: Liberty Media Chairman John Malone said he is not working with USA Interactive Chairman Barry Diller or with Viacom on Liberty’s bid for Vivendi Universal’s U.S. entertainment assets, adding that any effort to join forces right now would be “inappropriate.”

Speaking at Liberty’s annual shareholders meeting, Mr. Malone answered questions raised after the Englewood, Colo.-based company elected Gary S. Howard and Donne F. Fisher as directors to serve three-year terms and appointed accounting firm KPMG as its auditor.

“We do own 19 to 20 percent of Barry Diller’s company, which he controls through a proxy we give him, and Barry Diller is us to a very substantial degree,” Mr. Malone said. “But in this case he represents his own interests. To try to combine our interests would be inappropriate. He has a completely different set of objectives than we have as a potential acquirer of Vivendi Universal Entertainment.”

Mr. Malone added that he is not working with Viacom on a combined bid for the VUE assets, which include cable channels, a film studio and television production operations.

However, he did not rule out what he termed “any bizarre combination or outcome,” including a link-up with either company sometime down the road. And he said that if Liberty is the successful bidder, he will explore ways to bring USAI and VUE closer together.

Liberty and Viacom are among six parties expected to make a play for some or all of Vivendi Universal’s U.S. entertainment assets, which in addition to VUE include theme parks and the world’s biggest music group. Other potential bidders include General Electric’s NBC unit, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and two separate investment groups. Mr. Diller has said he is not interested in the Vivendi assets.

Liberty had been barred by a standstill obligation from making a bid on the Vivendi Universal assets. That obligation went into effect when Vivendi acquired USAI’s TV assets a year and a half ago. However a person close to Vivendi Universal said that clause was nullifed when Liberty signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of the bidding process for the entertainment assets.

A Liberty spokesman declined to comment, as did a Vivendi Universal spokeswoman

Mr. Malone downplayed Vivendi Universal’s indication earlier this week that it would explore an initial public offering of a part of VUE if the six bids expected to come for the U.S. entertainment assets were too low.

“Because of Vivendi’s need for cash, they would have to make it the largest IPO in the history of the world. And they’re having trouble with their accounting,” he said. “I doubt that as a total solution to their financial situation [an IPO] would be adequate. But that is speculation.”

Helfand Named VP at Fox Sports International: Alan Helfand has been named VP of broadcast operations for Fox Sports International. The announcement was made by David Sternberg, senior VP of emerging networks for the Fox Cable Networks Group.

Mr. Helfand will oversee day-to-day broadcast operations management of the U.S. networks, Fox Sports World, the 24-hour programming service for international sports and American soccer enthusiasts, and Fox Sports en Espa — ol. He also will be responsible for all international sports channels grouped under the new Fox Pan American Sports venture formed by Fox Sports International, Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc. and Liberty Media Corporation. He also is assisting in day-to-day broadcast operations management of the extreme sports network Fuel, which is set to debut soon.

Diaz-Balart Pulls Double Duty for Telemundo: Jose Diaz-Balart, the co-anchor of Telemundo’s morning news program “Hoy en el Mundo,” will be doing double duty starting July 1, when he will also serve as Jennifer Valoppi’s co-anchor on NBC-owned Miami station WTVJ-TV’s 5 p.m. weekday newscast. Mr. Diaz-Balart’s first stint at WTVJ began in 1988 and led to his earning two Emmys and sharing in the station’s Peabody and duPont-Columbia awards for coverage of Hurricane Andrew.

Horvitz Will Direct Emmys Once Again: Louis Horvitz will return for the tenth year as director of the prime-time Emmy awards, it was announced today by Don Mischer, executive producer of the telecast. “The 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards” will broadcast Sunday, Sept. 21, on FOX, originating from the Shrine Auditorium in L.A.

“I am delighted to be able to work with Lou once again and look forward to his direction of the Emmy Awards telecas
t this year,” Mr. Mischer stated. “Lou is a brilliant artist with a gift for flawless direction of live events, and I am confident that he will play a key role in making the “55th Annual Emmys” an unforgettable event.”

Mr. Horvitz recently completed his seventh year as the director of “The 75th Annual Academy Awards”, his 12th year as co-producer/director of “The People’s Choice Awards,” and his 10th year as director of “The American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award.” He also directed “Lifetime’s Achievement Awards: Women Changing the World,” VH1’s “Divas Duets” and “The 2003 MTV Movie Awards.”

Later this year Mr. Horvitz will mark his seventh year as executive producer and director of “An Evening of Stars,” a four-hour global concert special benefiting the United Negro College Fund, and his 12th year as director of “The Kennedy Center Honors.”

Mr. Horvitz has helmed numerous other high-profile programs, including “The Daytime Emmy Awards,” “The VH1 Concert For New York City,” benefiting survivors of 9/11, the “U2 Halftime at the Super Bowl,” “Live Aid,” “Paul Simon in Central Park,” “The Rolling Stones Steel Wheels Tour,” “The Judds’ Farewell Concert,” ABC’s “In Concert” series, Paramount’s “Solid Gold Series” and Norman Lear’s cult classic, “Fernwood Tonight.”

‘Sopranos’ Back for a Sixth Season: Good news for fans of “The Sopranos”: HBO and creator David Chase have agreed to do a 10-episode sixth season. Mr. Chase is in the midst of production of the 13-episode fifth season of the hit, which is expected to debut March 2004. Dennis Miller Returns to Cable: Dennis Miller and his socio-politicized rants will be back on cable Friday nights starting June 27, but this time he will be sharing his thoughts on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” each Friday, and his commentaries will repeat on “Weekend Live With Tony Snow” every Saturday. “Dennis Miller Live” was a fixture of HBO Friday nights for nine seasons that came to an end last year, when he also lost his spot in ABC’s “Monday Night Football” booth after two seasons.