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Aug 6, 2003  •  Post A Comment

NASA Asks Court to Overturn FCC Ruling

The Network Affiliated Stations Alliance on Wednesday asked the Court of Appeals in Washington to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s June 2 decision to raise the cap on national TV ownership from 35 percent to 45 percent of the nation’s TV homes. In a filing with the court, NASA alleged that the decision was “arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise not in accordance with law.” Wade Hargrove, a NASA attorney, said a brief documenting the specific points being challenged would be filed “at the appropriate time.” In a separate filing with the court, the National Association of Broadcasters also appealed aspects of the FCC media ownership rulings dealing with radio ownership and a provision that many broadcasters believe fails to provide sufficient duopoly relief.

‘The O.C.’ Gets OK Ratings: “The O.C.,” Fox’s latest venture into airing new scripted programming in the summer, debuted to decent ratings Tuesday night. It finished second in its 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time slot in adults 18 to 49 with a 2.9/8, behind the final hour of the finale of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” which scored an impressive 4.3/12, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “The O.C.” was up 16 percent in adults 18 to 49 from its “American Juniors” lead-in.

NBC was the big winner of the night, with the two-hour “Last Comic Standing” scoring a 3.6/11 and “Law & Order: SVU” winning its time slot with a 4.4/13. CBS’s “Big Brother” won the 8 p.m. hour with a 3.6/12, but “Cupid” didn’t fare so well in its new Tuesday 9 p.m. time slot, where it dropped to fourth with a 2.5/7.

For the night in adults 18 to 49, NBC won with a 3.9/12, followed by Fox (2.7/8), CBS (2.6/8) and ABC (2.2/7). In total viewers, NBC won the night with 9 million, followed by Fox (7.2 million), CBS (6.9 million) and ABC (6.2 million).

Granite Aims to Change Station Mix: Granite Broadcasting Chairman and CEO W. Don Cornwell said today that Granite will focus on changing its mix of television stations to take advantage of the relaxed TV station ownership rules and create duopolies in certain markets.

As part of that strategy, he said, Granite wants to sell or swap its WB stations in San Francisco and Detroit for TV stations that are news-oriented and generate positive cash flow.

At the same time, Mr. Cornwell said during Granite’s second-quarter earnings call that the company will work to reduce its leverage, which he believes will be made easier if he can trade the WB properties for other stations.

However, he acknowledged that New York-based Granite isn’t “as far along strategically” as he would have hoped because of the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Federal Communications Commission’s June 2 vote that relaxed many rules regarding station ownership.

The comments came as Granite, which owns eight TV stations, reported that it swung to a second-quarter loss of $13.3 million, compared with a year-earlier profit of $110.5 million, largely due to the sale last year of its profitable KNTV station in San Jose, Calif., to NBC.

The sale of that station also contributed to Granite’s nearly 13 percent decline in revenue. Excluding the KNTV sale, Granite, which owns eight TV stations, said its revenue would have risen 5 percent, largely due to strong revenues posted at the company’s WB affiliates.Broadcast cash flow advanced 2 percent to $5.4 million.

Mediacom Shares Drop: Cable operator Mediacom Communications saw its shares tumble 12 percent in late-afternoon trading Wednesday after the company reduced its full-year guidance, as the industry tradition of losing subscribers in the second quarter continued into third quarter amid stiffening competition from satellite operators.

Mediacom’s shares were trading at $7.80 apiece in late trading Wednesday, down nearly 12 percent from Tuesday’s close.

While other cable operators are predicting gains in subscribers, Middletown, N.Y.-based Mediacom, which operates largely in smaller communities, said it now expects to see basic subscriber numbers decline by 2 percent, up from the flat to 1 percent decline the company projected earlier this year. That decline will be partially offset by gains in the number of digital cable subscribers.

And the troubles aren’t likely to stop there. Richard Greenfield, an analyst at Fulcrum Global Partners, notes that as satellite companies step up their efforts to convert cable subscribers into satellite customers, Mediacom is being forced to discount further to prevent further shrinkage, which could jeopardize the company’s margins. Indeed, satellite operators DirecTV and EchoStar will cover 60 percent of Mediacom’s markets by year-end, up from 15 percent at the end of 2002 and 34 percent at the end of the 2003 second quarter.

That news came as Mediacom reported a slightly widened second-quarter loss of $38.2 million vs. red ink of $37.5 million a year ago.

Revenue advanced 9 percent to $252.2 million, while operating cash flow rose 9 percent to $104.7 million.

Burnett Signs Two-Year Deal With Warner Bros.: Mark Burnett-best known for producing reality programming such as “Survivor” and “The Restaurant”-signed a two-year deal with Warner Bros. Television to develop and produce scripted programming.

“Mark’s success and storytelling ability in the reality television genre is unparalleled,” said Warner Bros. TV President Peter Roth. “We believe he will create equally compelling and innovative scripted programming. We are delighted to be in business with Mark and his talented team.”

Mr. Burnett’s producing partner Conrad Riggs will assist in developing scripted projects and continue to oversee reality development and business operations.

Carruthers Named Executive Producer of ‘All My Children’: Julia Hanan Carruthers was named executive producer of the ABC soap opera “All My Children.” She has been the executive producer of “Port Charles,” which was canceled and will end its run this fall. She replaces Jean Dadario Burke at “All My Children” Sept. 29.

Springer Out of Senate Race: Talk show host Jerry Springer has announced, as expected, that he will not run for the U.S. Senate. TelevisionWeek (July 28) had reported that he felt controversies stemming from his show would be too much for his candidacy to overcome, and that he would instead continue with his highly rated talk show.

Mr. Springer, a 59-year-old Democrat, said he could not get his message through the “clutter of the show.” He meant that the controversial show, where guests often brawl, has given him an image that would be difficult to overcome. TelevisionWeek had reported results of an Ohio poll showing very high negative ratings for Mr. Springer.

Insiders at Universal, which produces his show, as well as sources at stations, said they would be open to extending the show. It appears likely that a framework for a deal is already in place to extend the series at least another two years.

‘The O.C.’ Gets OK Ratings: “The O.C.,” Fox’s latest venture into airing scripted programming in the summer, debuted to decent ratings last night. It finished second in its 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot in adults 18 to 49 with a 2.9/8, behind the final hour of the finale of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” which scored an impressive 4.3/12, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “The O.C.” was up 16 percent in adults 18 to 49 over its “American Juniors” lead-in.

NBC was the big winner of the night, however, with the two-hour “Last Comic Standing” scoring a 3.6/11 and “Law & Order: SVU” winning its time slot with a 4.4/13. CBS’s “Big Brother” won the 8 p.m. hour with a 3.6/12, but “Cupid” didn’t fare so well in its new Tuesday 9 p.m. time slot, where it dropped to fourth with a 2.5/7.

For the night in adults 18 to 49, NBC won with a 3.9/12, followed by Fox (2.7/8), CBS (2.6/8) and ABC (2.2/7). In total viewers, NBC won the night with 9 million, followed by Fox (7.2 million), CBS (6.9 million) and ABC (6.2 million).

Green Named President of WUSA: Darryll Green has been named president and general manager of WUSA-TV, the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate in Washington. Mr.
Green served as president and general manager of WGRZ-TV, a Gannett-owned NBC affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y., since April 1999.

Under his leadership, WGRZ achieved steady ratings growth. Also during this time, the station won national recognition for outstanding community-based projects as well as numerous local and regional awards for achievement in broadcast journalism. Mr. Green was Gannett’s manager of the year for 2001.