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Jul 31, 2003  •  Post A Comment

VUE Experiences Q2 Revenue Drop

Vivendi Universal on Thursday reported a 60 percent drop in second-quarter revenue, as a slowdown in the Franco-American’s entertainment business offset gains seen at the telecommunications unit.

The Paris-based company said its consolidated revenue fell 60 percent to e6.132 billion ($6.9 billion) from a year-earlier level of e15.341 billion. For the full year, revenue fell 59 percent to e12.364 billion ($13.9 billion) from a year-earlier level of e29.990 billion.

On a pro forma basis, which assumes Vivendi owned the entertainment properties of USA Interactive at the start of 2002 and excludes exchange-rate fluctuations, Vivendi said revenue declined 6 percent for the second quarter and 4 percent for the year.

The company will report second-quarter earnings in September.

Vivendi, which is locked in a high-profile sale of its U.S. entertainment arm, Vivendi Universal Entertainment, blamed much of the revenue decline on VUE. The unit recorded a 15 percent drop in second-quarter revenue to e1.516 billion ($1.7 billion) as a result of a weak dollar and declines in VUE’s television production and theme park business, which more than offset gains seen at VUE’s studio and cable channels.

‘Lucky’: Not So Much: FX’s “Lucky” has been canceled, a network spokesperson confirmed Thursday. The series, about Las Vegas gamblers, was generally well received by critics and was nominated for an Emmy for writing, but its ratings were lackluster.

“We were really proud of it. The premiere did a good number, but then it nose-dived and flat-lined,” said an FX spokesperson.

The final episode aired July 1.

RTNDA Says Minorities in Newsroooms Declined: The percentage of minorities working in local radio and television newsrooms this year has declined from last year, according to the 2003 Radio-Television News Directors Association/Ball State University Annual Survey, which said the minorities represent 18.1 percent of local TV news staffs (down from 20.6 percent last year) and 6.5 percent of local radio radio staffs (down from 8 percent.

Among news directors minorities held 6.6 percent of the local TV slots (down from 9.2 percent) and 5 percent of the local radio slots (on par with last year).

For women, the employment picture was rosier than last year. Women comprise 39.3 percent of the TV workforce and 24 percent of the radio work force.

Among news directors, women hold a record 26.5 percent of TV jobs and 14.4 percent of radio jobs.

Disney Reports Fiscal Q3 Profits: The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday reported a 10 percent increase in fiscal third-quarter profit to $400 million, or 19 cents a share, compared with earnings of $364 million, or 18 cents a share, a year ago, as gains at the company’s television, studio and consumer products units offset declines in the theme park business.

Revenue at the Burbank, Calif.-based parent of ABC, rose 7 percent to $6.2 million.

The results reflected a gain and a charge that canceled out each other and were related to Disney’s sale of the Anaheim Angels.

At the company’s media networks unit, which includes ABC and the 80 percent of ESPN that Disney owns, revenue grew 19 percent to $2.5 billion. The gain was fueled by increased advertising revenue as well as a decline in programming costs at ABC, which offset higher programming costs at ESPN, which was hurt by the costs of carrying National Basketball Association games. Cable channels also posted higher affiliate revenue because of subscriber growth and contractual rate adjustments, the company said.

UPN Promotes, Hires in Programming Dept.: UPN has beefed up its programming departments with a promotion and two new hires. Steve Veisel was upped to VP of comedy development, from director of comedy development. He will continue to develop comedies for the network and report to Kim Fleary, senior VP of comedy development.

Rebecca Stay has joined UPN as VP of drama development, from VP of development at The Shephard/Robin Co. She will report to Maggie Murphy, senior VP of drama development. Beth Miyares was hired as director of current programs from manager of development at First Move Entertainment. She will report to Laurie Zaks, senior VP of current programs.

Clooney’s Section Eight Signs First-Look Deal With Warner Bros. TV: Section Eight Television, the production company founded by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, signed a two-year first-look deal with Warner Bros. Television. Grant Heslov was named president of Section Eight’s television division. He had been VP of the company’s film division. One of the first projects Section Eight is developing is a live TV movie about broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. It will be written by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Mr. Clooney.

FX Buys Off-Net ‘Bernie’ for 2008: Twentieth Television has sold cable off-net runs of “The Bernie Mac Show” to FX for the fall 2008 season. The series will join other Twentieth acquisition’s on the cable channel, including “Malcolm in the Middle,” “King of the Hill” and “That ’70’s Show.”

“Bernie Mac” has already been sold to 75 percent of the country for national syndication in 2005.

Charter Has $38M Q2 Loss: Paul Allen’s Charter Communications on Thursday reported a narrowed second-quarter loss of $38 million, or 13 cents a share, compared with red ink of $161 million, or 55 cents a share, as the beleaguered cable operator continued to focus on generating cash flow and holding the line on costs.

Revenue advanced 7 percent to $1.22 billion, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization jumped 11 percent to $497 million.

The results come as Charter recovers from an accounting scandal in which four former executives were indicted on allegations they inflated revenue and subscriber numbers to mask a slowdown in business. So far, a senior VP has pleaded guilty in charges stemming from his role in the accounting scheme.

The St. Louis-based company said it lost 41,300 analog subscribers and 47,200 digital customers but added 76,700 high-speed data users. The company noted that the second quarter typically is a weak period.

“Our primary focus remains on increasing revenues and adjusted EBITDA and being disciplined with our capital expenditures,” said CEO Carl Vogel.

Comcast Reports Q2 Loss Less Than Year Ago: Cable giant Comcast on Thursday said its second-quarter loss narrowed significantly to $22 million, or a penny a share, from year-earlier red ink of $210 million, or 22 cents a share, as the company reported subscriber growth during a quarter that typically sees contraction.

Revenue more than doubled to $5.7 billion, as did operating cash flow to $1.8 billion. The strong results led the company to raise its 2003 cable operating cash flow guidance by $100 million to between $6.3 billion and $6.4 billion from earlier estimates of $6.2 billion to $6.3 billion.

The improved results came as the company reported strong results across the board. Comcast said it added more than 12,000 basic cable subscribers in the quarter, compared with a loss of 133,000 subs a year ago, and said it was on target to add 125,000 to 150,000 basic subs for the year. Digital subscribers grew by 162,000 to reach nearly 7 million, and high-speed data customers grew by nearly 351,000 to reach 4.4 million.

On the content side, the company said its cable channels each reported revenue growth above 17 percent and operating cash flow in excess of 25 percent for the quarter.

CEO Brian Roberts declined to comment on whether Comcast was interested in acquiring Vivendi Universal’s U.S. entertainment assets, other than to say, “We think we owe it to take advantage of our new platform to look and evaluate new opportunities to see where the future is headed to create shareholder value.”