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Jul 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

NBC to launch HD Service July 31

NBC plans to contribute to the growing array of high-definition programming with the launch of its first HD cable service. NBC Cable Networks plans July 31 to roll out Bravo HD+, which will include arts, culture and entertainment content in HD. Most of the programming is exclusive to Bravo HD+, though some will be HD versions of Bravo shows. Titles will include: “The West Wing,” Cirque du Soleil’s “Varekai,” classical concert performances, Olympic programming and horse racing.

CBS Wins Demo: CBS won Thursday night in adults 18 to 49 by a 14 percent margin over second-place NBC, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “CSI” (3.9/12) and “Without a Trace” (3.2/10) won their time slots over NBC’s “Will & Grace”/”Frasier” and “ER,” respectively. NBC won the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. hour with “Friends”/”Scrubs” (3.1/11) just edging out CBS’s “The Amazing Race 4” (3/11) by a tenth of a ratings point.

For the night, CBS won in adults 18 to 49 with a 3.3/11, followed by NBC (2.9/9), ABC (2.1/7) and Fox (1.9/6). CBS also won the night in total viewers with 10.4 million, followed by NBC (6.7 million), ABC (6.6 million) and Fox (4.7 million).

‘Practice,’ ‘Bernie Mac’ Honored at Humanitas Awards: ABC’s “The Practice” and Fox’s “The Bernie Mac Show” took top TV honors at the Humanitas Awards presented Thursday. The Humanitas awards recognized TV and film writers whose work “entertains and enriches the viewing public.” David E. Kelley won in the hour-long category for an episode of “The Practice” titled “Final Judgment.” Teri Schaffer, Steve Tompkins and Larry Wilmore won the half-hour category for the “Bernie Mac” episode “Sweet Home Chicago Part II.” Other TV awards were: Gordan Rayfield for Showtime’s “Our America” (90 Minute or Longer Category); Marita Giovanni and Bruce Graham for Disney Channel’s “A Ring of Endless Night” (Children’s Live Action Category); and Dwayne McDuffie and Alan Burnett for The WB’s “Static Shock” episode titled “Jimmy” (Children’s Animation Category).

Charter Issues Debt Offering: Charter Communications, the debt-addled cable operator controlled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, on Friday said it was issuing $1.7 billion in new debt to pay off or extend the maturity of older debt, including some that is convertible into stock.

The news sent Charter shares soaring more than 20 percent Friday, hitting $4.80 a share in midday trading.

The St. Louis-based company, which has been rocked in the past year by a huge debt load and an accounting scandal that forced the company to restate nearly three years’ worth of earnings, said that at least $500 million of the new debt would be used to pay down at least one of its credit facilities.

The debt offering comes just weeks after Charter reorganized its subsidiaries to take advantage of an offer that Mr. Allen made in April to lend the company $300 million to help refinance its debt, which stood at $19 billion at the end of March.

NASA Fights NAB on Station-Cap Legislation: In a bizarre twist in the broadcast industry’s escalating battle over efforts to roll back the Federal Communications Commission’s media ownership deregulation, the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance announced this morning that it continues to support legislation to bar broadcasters from owning TV stations reaching more than 35 percent of the nation’s TV households.

The National Association of Broadcasters confirmed yesterday that it is now opposing all pending legislation because it fears it won’t be able to prevent agitated lawmakers from loading up the measures with a host of provisions that the industry opposes, including one that would resurrect the bar on broadcasters acquiring daily newspapers in their markets.

But in its statement this morning, NASA, which represents 600 network-affiliated TV stations, made clear that it and NAB are at loggerheads on the issue.

In an interview, Alan Frank, NASA chairman and president of Post-Newsweek Stations, said the affiliates are actively lobbying lawmakers to approve legislation that would cast the 35 percent cap in legislative concrete. “As long as it’s a clean bill that supports the 35 percent only, we’re right there,” Mr. Frank said. Mr. Frank also alleged that NAB’s surprise change in lobbying position ran afoul of its orders from the NAB’s TV board. “Clearly this is not where the board left off,” Mr. Frank said.

NBC Profits Surge, Revenues Dip: General Electric said its NBC unit saw its second-quarter profits surge 26 percent to $688 million from year-earlier profits of $545 million, lifted by the network’s strong showing in the upfront market and its prime-time ratings success.

Revenues, however, slipped 2 percent to $1.955 billion from $1.987 billion a year ago.

NBC was one of the eight businesses that Fairfield, Conn.-based GE said posted double-digit growth during a quarter in which the company’s profit slid 14 percent to $3.8 billion, or 38 cents a share, and overall revenue remained flat at $33.3 billion, hurt by weakness in GE’s gas-turbine branch and mounting costs in its plastics businesses.

Despite that, “This year is turning out as planned,” GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt said in a statement.

Among NBC’s highlights, the company said, was the network’s record $3 billion in prime-time commitments secured during the May upfront market. NBC also landed the rights to broadcast the 2010 and 2012 Olympics and scored its third consecutive prime-time season win among viewers 18 to 49.

The network also saw audience growth at its cable properties, with MSNBC’s prime-time viewership advancing 67 percent, CNBC posting a 35 percent jump in audience 25 to 54 and Bravo registering a 14 percent jump in audiences 25 to 54.

Looking ahead, GE said it probably won’t post its trademark double-digit growth in 2003 — the second consecutive year it will have failed to do so. It projected full-year profits would come in between $1.55 and $1.61 a share. That forecast was trimmed from earlier projections of $1.55 to $1.70 a share for 2003. In 2002, profit was $1.51 a share.