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Jun 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Goodman Resigns from CNN

Larry Goodman, a 20-year CNN veteran, has resigned his post as president of CNN Sales and Marketing.

His departure coincides with the promotion of Greg D’Alba to executive VP and chief operating officer of CNN Advertising Sales and Marketing for Turner Broadcasting Sales.

Mr. D’Alba will oversee all domestic cable and Web sales and marketing for the various CNN brands, including CNN/U.S., CNN Headline News, CNNfn, CNN Airport Network and CNN.com. He will continue to be based in New York and will report to Jim Walton, president of CNN News Group.

Mr. Goodman, who will remain through an unspecified period of transition, had served as president of the CNN sales force since 1995.

“I am leaving on a high note,” said Mr. Goodman, who added that CNN was “up 30 percent year over year” in the recent upfront and continued to “clobber” archrival Fox News Channel in ad-sales revenues.

But word of Mr. Goodman’s departure follows closely after another ratings victory by Fox News Channel for its coverage of the recent Iraq War. That was an unexpected victory in the ratings battle with CNN, which most analysts predicted CNN would win.

That wartime, hard-news ratings win may have spelled the end of CNN’s ad sales dominance, along with its former ratings dominance, according to some analysts.

Morgan Stanley media analyst Rich Bilotti recently estimated to Advertising Age, for example, that Fox News’ ad revenue will surge by more than 60 percent this year and will overtake CNN’s revenues.

That estimate by Mr. Bilotti was disputed by Mr. Goodman in a brief conversation with TelevisionWeek.

Mr. Goodman told Televisionweek he’d always intended to leave his post by age 50, which he will turn next year, and that if he resurfaces it may be in the energy business. “I planned for it. I saved for it,” Mr. Goodman said of his departure and his possibly brief retirement.

Mr. D’Alba, who joined TBS in 1986, most recently served as executive VP of CNN Sales.

Gannett, Tribune, Belo Release Financial Projections: A trio of TV station owners today released divergent financial projections for the second quarter, with Gannett expecting to beat year-earlier profits, Tribune confirming analysts’ estimates and Belo forecasting its profits would be down.

Gannett, which owns 22 TV stations, said it expected its second-quarter profit to be in the range of $1.19 a share and $1.20 a share, driven in part by strong performances at the McLean, Va.-based company’s TV stations and growth at its newspapers, particularly those in the United Kingdom.

The company’s TV operations are expected to hold their own, even with the absence of political advertising and the onset of the war in Iraq earlier this year.

Craig Dubow, president and CEO of Gannett Broadcasting, noted that advertisers are slowly reviving their purchasing, with retail and telecom offsetting dips in the auto and corporate sectors. He added he was bullish on 2004, when political advertising would heat up and Gannett’s NBC stations would benefit from the network’s coverage of the Summer Olympics in Athens in August 2004.

Meanwhile, Dallas-based Belo said its revenue is likely to slip in the second quarter, thanks to an advertising slowdown at both its 19 TV stations and four newspapers. Its second-quarter profit will likely come in at 33 cents a share, down from a year-earlier profit of 36 cents a share.

Despite the weaker outlook for the second quarter, Belo officials said that the third and fourth quarters should be stronger, with July generating stronger spot advertising revenue after seeing declines in May and June.

For its part, Chicago-based Tribune, which owns 26 TV stations, said its second-quarter earnings would fall within analysts’ projected range of 54 cents a share and 60 cents a share. Expenses for the first half of 2003 should advance in the mid-single-digit range.

Judge Sets Spike Trial Date: The battle for Spike begins August 18. New York state Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub set the trial date after Spike Lee’s attorneys rejected an offer for a July 7 trial. Justice Tolub has sought to expedite the trial after Viacom presented evidence that TNN has lost millions due to the court-ordered injunction barring the network’s rebranding.

Mr. Lee’s attorneys argued that Viacom exaggerated their losses. But Justice Tolub also ordered the director’s bond raised from $500,000 to $2.5 million to better cover Viacom’s losses should he lose his case.

Vivendi Gets Five-Year Loan: Vivendi Universal Entertainment on Tuesday closed a $920 million five-year loan that will aid the company in refinancing a portion of a $1.62 billion bridge loan secured by the company last year.

VUE, a unit of the troubled French conglomerate Vivendi Universal, said the offering attracted more than 80 investors and helped trim the interest rate of the bridge loan by 75 percentage points. JPMorgan and Bank of America were the lead banks on the deal, with Barclays acting as syndication agent.

The refinancing comes as VUE, along with Vivendi Universal’s music and theme park operations, are up for grabs from five bidders. Liberty Media, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, an investment team comprising oil billionaire Marvin Davis and private equity investors and a second investment team headed by Vivendi Vice Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. all submitted bids for the U.S. entertainment assets.

General Electric’s NBC unit submitted a letter of interest for the assets.

Comedy Central Lays Off 20 Percent of Employees: Approximately 80 Comedy Central employees, just over 20 percent of the network’s workforce, were let go today in the wake of the newest Viacom network’s formal integration into MTV Networks.

The cutbacks touched the legal, human resources, research, information systems, creative services, finance, production management, planning and design, network operations and affiliate sales and marketing departments and included a “couple” department heads, though a Comedy Central spokesman declined to specify which department heads or how the 80 layoffs were distributed among the affected departments.

Comedy Central departments that were not touched by today’s layoffs include programming, production, marketing, on-air promotion, communications and ad sales, according to the spokesman.

The reason for the layoffs is to “mirror the structure of the other MTV Networks and to help us grow, in part, by tapping into MTV Networks’ extensive resources,” according to a memo sent out to the Comedy Central staff by Judy McGrath, MTV Networks group president, and Larry Divney, president and CEO of the channel. Those MTV resources include a “centralized, strategic services group,” which includes staff members that perform the functions of the departments that were cut back at Comedy Central.

The cutbacks follow a reorganization of the MTV Networks group itself, in which Ms. McGrath was named MTV Networks group president and the reporting structure was changed, with Mr. Divney reporting directly to Ms. McGrath. At that time, Ms. McGrath also was made responsible for responsible for MTV, MTV2, VH1 and CMT.

Viacom was previously a half owner of Comedy Central with AOL Time Warner. The network was formed in 1991 when HBO’s The Comedy Channel and Viacom’s Ha! merged. In 1999, Mr. Divney was elevated by Tom Freston, current chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, and Jeff Bewkes, then chairman and CEO of HBO, from Comedy Central’s ad sales department to head the network.

In 2002 Comedy Central generated $371 million in revenues, of which $283 million came from advertising sales and $88 million came from affiliate revenues, according to a report by JPMorgan analyst Spencer Wang. Viacom paid $1.255 billion to acquire the entire network.

Urick to Leave Tribune: Henry Urick, VP of marketing for Tribune Entertainment, will leave his position at the company effective July 31 to form his own independent marketing services company.

Mr. Urick’s inaugural client will be Tribune Entertainment, which has hired him to exploit its growing library of DVD and home video product, including the action-hour programs, “M
utant X,” “BeastMaster” and “Earth: Final Conflict.”

He will also be responsible for identifying potential long-form titles for DVD/home video licensing as well as developing strategies for direct-response marketing programs. Mr. Urick has lined up ADV Films as a client and is in discussions with FremantleMedia North America and others about his services. Mr. Urick joined Tribune Entertainment in 1996 as VP of marketing.

Edwards’ Bill Calls for More In-depth Drug Ads on TV: Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., filed an amendment to pending Medicare prescription-drug benefit legislation before both houses of Congress that would require direct-to-consumer drug advertising to offer more information about risks, side effects and effectiveness of the advertised drugs.

Sen. Edwards, whose amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the curbs would be a way to ensure drug ads are more honest and consumers get balanced information.

“Every time you turn on the TV, you get bombarded with drug commercials that promise miracles,” Sen. Edwards, a Democratic candidate for president, said in a statement. “At a time when drug prices are skyrocketing the last thing we need is big drug companies spending billions on misleading ads. We need to get critical health information out of the fine print so that consumers are informed.”

The proposal immediately prompted a warning from ad groups, which on Monday night said passage of the amendment would effectively kill direct-to-consumer broadcast ads, which represent $2.3 billion in advertising annually, most of it broadcast.

Erwich Upped at Fox: Craig Erwich, head of Fox’s drama development department, was promoted to executive VP, programming, for Fox. He will oversee current programming, drama development and comedy development. He fills a position that has been open since David Nevins left last year to head Imagine Television. Mr. Erwich will report to Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman.

Reality TV Does Well for NBC: NBC’s all-reality evening beat reruns of CBS’s regular lineup last night in adults 18 to 49. NBC won the 8 p.m. hour with a “Fear Factor” repeat (3.1/11) and the 9 p.m. hour with “For Love or Money” (3.9/11), according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. At 10 p.m., NBC’s “Meet My Folks” tied with CBS’s “CSI: Miami” at a 4.0/11. ABC’s two-hour “According to Jim” repeat mini-marathon finished fourth with a 1.9/6 in adults 18 to 49. Fox’s reality shows also performed well with two half-hours of “Anything for Love” finishing second from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a 2.7/9 and “Paradise Hotel” finishing third from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a 3.1/9.

For the night, NBC won in adults 18 to 49 with a 3.7/11, followed by CBS (3.2/10), Fox (2.9/9) and ABC (1.8/5). In total viewers, CBS won the night with 9.7 million, followed by NBC (8 million), Fox (5.9 million) and ABC (5.3 million).