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Aug 12, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Heaton Sick Calls Delay ‘Raymond’ Taping

The start of production for CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” was delayed at least another day after Patricia Heaton called in sick today for the second day in a row, a CBS spokesman confirmed. A table read for the first episode of the new season, originally scheduled for yesterday, was rescheduled for today after Ms. Heaton called in sick the first time.

The table read has not yet been rescheduled. The delay comes on the heels of reports that Brad Garrett was holding out for a pay increase and threatened not to show up when production started. Mr. Garrett was not expected at the first table read because his character isn’t involved in the plot of the first episode.

‘World News Tonight’s’ Ratings Up: With all three network flagship anchors off the air for all or part of the week, ABC’s “World News Tonight” slipped past NBC’s “Nightly News” in total viewers and adults 25 to 54 for the first time since the week of Sept. 24, 2001. According to data from Nielsen Media Research for the week of Aug. 4 to 8, “World News” averaged 8.30 million total viewers and 2.91 million viewers in the 25 to 54 demo, followed by “Nightly” with 8.20 total viewers and 2.87 million in the 25 to 54 demo, and CBS “Evening News” with 6.94 million total viewers and 2.43 million in the 25 to 54 demo.

ABC’s Peter Jennings and CBS’s Dan Rather were out all week, while NBC’s Tom Brokaw was in two days and away from the anchor desk the rest of the week. Among the other factors that made it difficult to assess what led to the dog-days surge by ABC ‘s flagship show was the effect “Monday Night Football” had on “World News,” which achieved only 92 percent coverage Monday because of football-related disruptions. An NBC News spokeswoman said NBC’s “Nightly” also saw its lead-in programming drop to lower-than-usual levels.

For the summer to date, “NBC’s “Nightly” average total viewership is running 9 percent ahead ABC’s “World News” and 30 percent ahead of CBS’s “Evening News.”

Another Set-Back for Messier: Deposed Vivendi Universal Chairman Jean-Marie Messier on Tuesday was dealt another setback in his quest for his severance package. A French court said the French conglomerate could hold off paying Mr. Messier the $23.5 million he says is owed to him.

The Paris Commercial Court also authorized Vivendi to sue Mr. Messier and his lieutenant Eric Licoys for damages linked to the severance package.

The ruling is the latest in a protracted battle between Vivendi and Mr. Messier over whether he is entitled to a severance package he claims was to be paid to him in connection with his ouster July 2002.

Vivendi has challenged the ruling, saying the board of directors did not approve the payment.

Both sides took their case to a New York arbitration panel, which ruled in favor of Mr. Messier earlier this summer. However, Vivendi asked a French court to weigh in on the matter, and the court ruled a few weeks ago that Vivendi shareholders should have voted on Mr. Messier’s severance package.

Research Group Urges Regulated Cable Rates: The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has joined ranks with cable industry critics urging federal policymakers to give local governments the right to regulate cable rates and require cable operators to shift to an a la carte pricing scheme that would allow consumers to pay for only the cable networks they want to watch.

In a report released today, the group also advocated that large cable companies be required to include a “citizen member” on their boards, that program access obligations be extended to cable’s regional sports channels, and that operators be required to include billing inserts inviting consumers to operate local channels underwritten by cable operators. “Increased industry concentration and anti-competitive practices by cable providers since cable industry deregulation in 1996 have prevented competitors from gaining enough market share to give consumers real choices, lower cable rates or improve cable service quality,” PIRG said.

In response, Rob Stoddard, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said deregulation had given consumers a better deal, fostering “the most robust telecommunications marketplace in the world.” Added Mr. Stoddard, “The broadband renaissance, and the marketplace competition it has spawned, has brought unprecedented choice and value to tens of millions of Americans. Cable’s investment of more than $75 billion in upgrades and rebuilds has facilitated the transmission of more than 300 nationally delivered video networks and popular consumer services such as high-speed Internet access, video-on-demand, high-definition television, and competitive local telephone service. If these self-appointed consumer representatives had their way, the majority of this investment and innovation would have been stifled from the start.”

Young, Gray Have Differing Views of Ownership Rule Relaxation: Two television station owners had somewhat different takes on the impact of the Federal Communications Commission’s recent relaxation of ownership rules, with executives at Young Broadcasting hoping to create duopolies, while management at Gray Television said they’re likely to sit out any station buying, at least initially.

Young’s executives are “very pleased with the attempt to take the burden off of local television,” and see the new rules as helping to promote station trades that could create station hubs and bolster local news operations, said Chairman Vincent Young during a second-quarter earnings call Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Gray President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Prather said during Gray’s quarterly earnings call that while he lauds the FCC’s decision to deregulate some station ownership rules, he plans to “sit back and learn from people’s mistakes” when the buying begins. He added that so far as potential acquisition targets are concerned, he has “not seen anything that appeals to us at this time.”

The comments came as the companies reported divergent results for the second quarter, with Atlanta-based Gray recording a 128 percent jump in profit to more than $7 million, while revenue advanced 80 percent to $76.7 million. The improvement was a direct result of Gray’s acquisition last year of Stations Holding Co., which added 15 network-affiliated stations to Gray, bringing its total to 29.

At the same time, Young, which owns 11 stations, including San Francisco’s KRON-TV, swung to a loss of $4. 7 million during the quarter from a year-ago figure of $240.3 million, while revenue fell less than 1 percent to $53.9 million. The year-earlier figure includes an income tax benefit of $122 million and a $135 million gain on the sale of its Los Angeles station, KCAL-TV, to Viacom.

The company also noted that the slowdown in political ad spending this year contributed to the revenue decline, but added that ad revenue at KRON grew 13 percent as a result of increased ratings.

‘Mad TV’ Cast to Host Primetime Creative Emmys: The cast of Fox’s late-night sketch series “Mad TV” will host the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. The Awards will be held Sept. 13 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Spike Jones Jr. will produce the ceremony, while Michael A. Hoey and John Moffitt will return as co-executive producers for the sixth year in a row.

NBC Wins Monday: Monday’s finale of NBC’s “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?” scored the best ratings of its run, with a 4.7 rating/13 share in adults 18 to 49 and 11.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. That was good enough to make it the highest-rated show of the night in the demo and total viewers. NBC’s “For Love or Money 2” also turned in a strong performance, winning its 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time slot in adults 18 to 49 (4.2/11) by a 31 percent margin.

NBC easily won the night in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.1/12, followed by CBS (2.9/9), Fox (2.5/7) and ABC (1.9/6). In total viewers, NBC won with 9.6 million, followed by CBS (9.2 million), ABC (5.8 million) and Fox (5.3 million).

ESPN2 to Debut Live Morning Show: ESPN2 will debut a two-hour weekday morning s
how called “Cold Pizza” on the network’s 10th anniversary, Oct. 1. The show will cover sports, pop culture and lifestyle features and is designed to broaden the sports net’s audience by targeting young and casual fans.

“It will become ESPN2’s signature program, bringing tremendous value to the network, our affiliates and the ad sales community looking to reach casual sports fans,” said Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive VP of programming and production. “Cold Pizza” will air 7 a.m. (ET), and repeat at 11 a.m.

DirecTV and NRTC Settle Lawsuit: DirecTV and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative settled their years-long legal battle Monday, absolving DirecTV of all financial damage claims and setting the stage for the satellite operator to begin buying customers from NRTC’s markets beginning in the middle of 2011.

However, the settlement does not resolve the legal tussle between DirecTV and Pegasus Communications, which dates back to 1999 and includes an antitrust suit filed in 2000 by NRTC and Pegasus against DirecTV and DirecTV’s responding in 2001 with a breach-of-contract suit against Pegasus.

Pegasus has the option of signing on to the NRTC settlement, but hasn’t yet decided to do so. “Pegasus will review the proposed settlement and all other alternatives,” the company said in a statement.

Shares in Pegasus tumbled 37 percent on news of the settlement.

At issue was an allegation that DirecTV began selling satellite services to customers that had been the domain of NRTC members.

In addition to the right to buy NRTC customers in eight years and no damages payment for DirecTV, the settlement permits the satellite operator to continue marketing its services in NRTC markets.

USOC, CSTV to Broadcast Olympic-sports events: The U.S. Olympic Committee and the CSTV: College Sports Television on Monday announced a partnership in which CSTV will broadcast national and international championship events involving 39 Olympic sports represented by the USOC and its national governing bodies.

As part of the pact, CSTV will produce a television series called “U.S. Olympic Pursuit” that will showcase amateur athletes competing in sports that comprise Olympic Games. The competitions are not part of events used as qualifiers for the actual games; NBC controls the broadcast rights to those events.

The channel will also have access to archived USOC content.

Lampley, O’Brien to Host Olympic Coverage: Veteran sportscaster Jim Lampley will host NBC’s daytime Olympic coverage from Athens, and “Access Hollywood” co-anchor Pat O’Brien will host the Olympic morning show on NBC-owned Bravo during the Games, which begin Aug. 13, 2004.

Athens represents the 12th Olympic assignment for Mr. Lampley, which assignment will tie him in the history books with sports broadcasting icon Jim McKay, who contributed to NBC’s 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics coverage.