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Aug 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

AOL Time Warner Considers Name ChangeAOL Time Warner, the media titan that has been rocked by accounting scandals and declining subscriptions at its America Online unit, is considering dropping the “AOL” from its name, and could make a decision on the name change at its September board meeting.

A spokeswoman for the media giant said the idea for the name change came from America Online CEO Jonathan Miller, who believes that having the AOL name in the parent company’s name is confusing for subscribers to the online service.

If the board approves dropping AOL from its name, it would be yet another chapter in the unwinding of AOL’s influence over the media company. AOL used its high-flying stock price to acquire Time Warner in 2001 in what is widely regarded as a disappointing merger. Indeed, many of the AOL executives who spearheaded the merger have left the company amid AOL’s weak performance.

Making matters worse, the online division is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for accounting fraud and has seen a steep decline in subscribers as consumers opt for either cheaper dial-up services or high-speed data offerings.

Despite the troubles at AOL, the spokeswoman said that AOL Time Warner remains committed to the online unit and has no plans to sell or spin off the unit. She added that if the name were dropped it would not be a sign of management’s waning support of the online business.

FNC Claims Franken Book Title Infringes Trademark: Fox News Channel wants a New York court to tell liberal humorist Al Franken and the Penguin Group to take the phrase “fair and balanced” out of the title of his upcoming book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” Fox filed a trademark infringement lawsuit Monday in which the news channel claims it registered “Fair & Balanced” as a trademark in 1995 and which seeks unspecified damages.

Home Depot to Sponsor ‘Trading Spaces’: The Home Depot will be a category exclusive sponsor of TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” providing the budget and materials for the design teams in exchange for unspecified marketing opportunities with the popular series. The deal also extends to the Discovery Networks’ “While You Were Out” and “Trading Spaces: Family.”

NABET Agree on New Contracts: The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians and ABC have reached tentative agreement on new contracts for 10 bargaining units covering technicians, news writers and other job classifications.

The contracts expired May 12. The NABET negotiating committee agreed to a prompt ratification vote with the unanimous recommendation that the union’s membership accept the proposed contracts. The new contracts would take effect upon ratification and would expire March 31, 2007. The results of a vote are expected by Sept. 26, 2003. Those affected at ABC include regular employees at ABC’s television and radio networks and station operations in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Deutsch to Host CNBC Specials: Donny Deutsch, the colorful chairman and CEO of Deutsch Inc., has signed a deal that will have him hosting six one-hour CNBC specials, occasionally guest-hosting “Squawk Box” on weekday mornings, substituting as co-host on the weeknights program “Kudlow & Cramer,” and appearing as a commentator on CNBC business-day and prime-time programming.

MTV Greenlights Kung-Fu, Monster Telepics: MTV has promoted Maggie Malina to senior VP of original movies and announced two new projects: “Volcano High,” a subtitled kung-fu film set in a Korean high school, and “Monster Island,” an MTV style sendup of creature features.

“Volcano High,” the first acquisition of MTV’s original movies for television department, will air in the fourth quarter of 2003. “Monster Island” will be going into production in September and will air in the first quarter of 2004. Ms. Malina previously served as the department’s VP.

Toellner Named GM of WGRZ: Jim Toellner has been named president and general manager of WGRZ-TV, the Gannett-owned NBC affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y. Mr. Toellner will replace former WGRZ president and general manager Darryll Green, who was named last week to the same role at Gannett’s Washington affiliate, WUSA-TV.

Mr. Toellner has served as general sales manager for WGRZ since March 2001. Before joining WGRZ Mr. Toellner was general sales manager at WOOD-TV, Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1999 to 2001.

Stewart Legal Troubles Clouding Omnimedia’s Future: The legal troubles of Martha Stewart continue to weigh heavily on the media company bearing her name, with management predicting the dark cloud over Ms. Stewart will continue to put pressure on the company’s revenue and profits.

“Our long-term visibility will not be strong until the early part of next year,” Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia CEO Sharon Patrick said Monday during the company’s second-quarter earnings call.

She added that after Ms. Stewart was indicted in June for allegedly profiting from an illegal sale of Imclone Systems stock a situation that had generated uncertainty for the company had become a “certain uncertainty.”

Though Ms. Stewart’s trial doesn’t begin until January, it has already cast a cloud over the company and will likely hurt its financial performance for the rest of the year, the company predicted.

For the second quarter, MSO reported an 86 percent decline in profit to $931,000, compared with earnings of $6.7 million a year earlier. Revenue fell 16 percent to $65.8 million.

The company said it was hurt by declines in revenue at its flagship magazine as well as at its merchandising unit.

The syndicated television series saw revenue fall 8 percent to $6.6 million and reported that its operating income before depreciation and amortization tumbled to $400,000 from a year-earlier $1.4 million, driven by lower ratings and by the loss of airtime on CBS’s “The Early Show.” However, Ms. Patrick noted that the show is coming up on its 11th season and sold 70 percent of its inventory during the upfronts.

Zotnowski Promoted at CBS Entertainment: Robert Zotnowski was promoted to VP, current programs, CBS Entertainment, from director of current programs. Mr. Zotnowski oversees “CSI,” “CSI: Miami,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the new fall sitcom “Two and a Half Men.”

Comedy Central Renews ‘Tough Crowd’: Comedian Colin Quinn’s topical late-night talk show, “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn,” has been renewed through the end of 2004.

“The television landscape is littered with falsely compassionate, hypocritical and pandering double standards that masquerade as intelligent and edgy,” Mr. Quinn said. “Comedy Central is giving us the opportunity to continue in that great tradition.”