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Aug 13, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Moran Joins 20th Century Fox

Patrick Moran joined 20th Century Fox Television as VP of drama development. He comes to 20th from UPN, where he developed series such as “Platinum” and “Jake 2.0” as VP of drama development. At 20th, he will report to Jennifer Nicholson Salke, senior VP of drama development.

‘Queer Eye’ Gets Makeover: There will be a little less “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” on NBC Thursday night than met the eye when the episode debuted on Bravo two weeks ago. Producers of the summer hit have trimmed approximately three minutes for the NBC airing, scheduled for 10 p.m. (ET), to accommodate the network’s format, said a spokesperson for NBC.

Someone familiar with the situation said the producers’ cuts are likely to neutralize some affiliates’ objections to bathroom-type humor near the top of the show (in which a country-style straight guy who wants to propose to his girlfriend gets spiffed up by the gay “Fab 5”).

The scenes in question take place in the straight guy’s bedroom, where members of the “Fab 5” sniff and display underwear and bed linens and make jokes about body wastes and fluids.

“I am looking forward to getting the [preview] tape, and from what I understand NBC has been very responsive in editing out the gratuitous excretory scenes and references,” said John Mann, GM of Schurz Communications-owned WAGT-TV in Augusta, Ga. Mr. Mann thinks “Queer Eye” is a funny show but delayed a half-hour encore that aired at 9:30 p.m. on NBC last month over the same content issues.

Barring any surprise disappointment in the edited version he expects to see during the day Thursday, Mr. Mann plans to air “Queer Eye” at 10 p.m., as scheduled by NBC.

In Augusta, children returned to school last week and presumably are less likely to be still up when “Queer Eye” airs.

However, schools are still on summer break in Washington, N.C., where Mike Weeks, the GM of Gray-owned WITN-TV, plans to delay “Queer Eye” until late night — a decision he wishes NBC would make. As he said when he delayed the first NBC broadcast of Bravo’s “Queer Eye” in July, Mr. Weeks said he ordered the delay because “The content, I felt, was not suitable at times children might watch.”

Like Mr. Mann, Mr. Weeks said his content reservations about “Queer Eye” on NBC are not about the gay theme but about the disputed quips. “I like the show,” he said.

Mr. Weeks substituted a half-hour about hurricane preparedness when he delayed “Queer Eye” in July. Thursday night, he said he plans to air two half-hour infomercials. “There weren’t any one-hour programs we had available to run,” said the station executive.

Some affiliates suggest that NBC would reduce the potential for pre-emption or delays by sending preview tapes well ahead of potentially controversial programs. Without enough time to make an informed case for content compromise, “NBC puts all of their affiliates in a lose-lose situation,” said one station executive familiar with the negative portrayal on some activist Web sites and in some national newspapers of the motives of a handful of affiliates who did not air the July “Queer Eye” episode in the network pattern.

Wyle Signs On for Additional Season of ‘ER’: Dr. Carter will be in the house through 2005. Noah Wyle has signed on for an additional season of “ER,” the series’ eleventh season. Mr. Wyle, who is one of the series’ original cast members, will also direct an episode of the series. Earlier this year NBC renewed the show for two more seasons, taking it through 2005-06, which will be its 12th season.

Gemstar Signs With Samsung, Sharp: Gemstar-TV Guide International said Wednesday it has signed licensing agreements with electronics makers Sharp and Samsung to supply Gemstar’s interactive program guide technology for a raft of electronics devices, including televisions and digital video recorders.

Sharp’s deal with Gemstar covers electronic devices sold in North America, Europe and Japan. The electronics maker will pay a license fee to Gemstar based on the number of units sold with the IPG technology. Gemstar said there were no minimum commitments tied to the agreement.Samsung’s pact covers only North America. Samsung will build Gemstar’s TV Guide On Screen product into a broad array of digital televisions and recording devices. Other terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Liberty Media Reports Narrowed Q2 Loss: Liberty Media late Wednesday reported a narrowed second-quarter loss of $464 million, or 17 cents a share, compared with year-earlier red ink of $3.1 billion, or $1.20 a share.

Revenue fell to $500 million from $510 million in the 2002 quarter. The company recorded an operating loss of $46 million compared with operating income of $13 million a year ago, according to the results, which were released in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Wednesday evening.

The company saw revenue declines at several of its wholly owned properties, including Starz! Encore Group, which posted a 5 percent drop largely due to the contract dispute Liberty is involved in with Comcast over programming fees.

Those declines were partially offset by gains at Discovery Communications and QVC, in which Liberty owned 50 percent and 42 percents stakes, respectively, at the end of the quarter. Liberty has since acquired all of QVC.

The company will provide more details about the quarter during an earnings call scheduled for Thursday evening.

EchoStar Wins Stay of Injunction: EchoStar Communications said a federal appeals court granted the satellite operator its request for a stay of an injunction imposed on the company earlier this summer that limited the company’s ability to broadcast signals from out-of-market local TV stations.

The injunction was imposed after a federal judge in Miami agreed with an assertion by ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC that EchoStar illegally supplied subscribers with network signals from distant affiliates when they were able to pick up local stations.

Ratings Rise for Fox’s ‘O.C.’: The second episode of Fox’s new drama “The O.C.” was up 21 percent in adults 18 to 49 over its premiere last week. Its 3.5 rating and 10 share were good enough to give it a first-place finish in the demo in its 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time slot, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

Last week, “The O.C.” premiered with a 2.9/8 in the demo. “The O.C.” also gained a half-million viewers this week over last week (8 million vs. 7.5 million). After lower premiere numbers than expected, Fox aggressively repurposed the series, repeating the first episode last Thursday night and Monday night this week.

Fox announced Wednesday that it will also air reruns of “The O.C.” on Friday, Aug. 15, and Friday, Aug. 22, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., replacing reruns of fall time slot occupant “Boston Public,” which have been averaging around a 1 rating. The network will also air reruns on Monday, Aug 18, and Monday, Aug. 25, at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., replacing what had been a mix of half-hour reality shows and movies.

Also of note, “The O.C.” was up 40 percent week to week in adults 18 to 34 (4.2/13 vs. 3.0/9).

While “The O.C.” improved Fox’s fortunes, CBS won the night in adults 18 to 49 thanks to “Big Brother,” which was the highest-rated show of the night with a 4.1/14, winning the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. time slot. “Cupid” also turned in a strong performance from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., finishing second in its time slot with a 3.0/9 in the demo.

CBS won the night in adults 18 to 49 with a 3.0/9, followed by Fox (2.9/9), NBC (2.6/8) and ABC (2.4/7). It was a close three-way race for No. 1 in total viewers for the night with NBC (7.7 million) just edging out CBS (7.5 million) and Fox (7.4 million). ABC came in fourth with 6.5 million.

Fox Premiere Dates Change: Fox moved up its Friday night premiere dates one week to Sept. 19. “Wanda At Large,” “Luis” and “Boston Public” were originally scheduled to debut on Sept. 26.

Newton Signs to Host ‘Performing As …’: Todd Newton has signed on to host the new Fox variety series “Performing As … ,” which premieres Aug. 26. Mr. Newton has hosted numerous shows on E! Entertainment Television, includ
ing “Talk Soup” and “Coming Attractions.”

CBS Forms Diversity Institute: CBS has formed the CBS Diversity Institute with the goal of cultivating minority writers and directors. The Institute includes two new programs and one ongoing program. It establishes the new CBS Writers Mentoring Program and the CBS Directing Initiative.

“The establishment of the Diversity Institute is an important step forward in CBS’s ongoing effort to develop talent as diverse as our audience,” said CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves. “At CBS, we believe diversity is good business. Expanding and institutionalizing our programs to identify and nurture diverse talent, in front of and behind the camera, has meaningful benefits for the artists, for our programming and for all our key constituents.”

The Writers program will match up to 20 writers with network executive mentors and give them the opportunity to meet network showrunners, executives and agents. The directing initiative will match participants with directors of current CBS drama and comedy series who will act as mentors. Applications for both programs are available at www.cbsdiversity.com.

The Diversity Institute also includes CBS’s Minority Talent Showcase program. CBS has already hosted five showcases with the next one set for Wednesday, Oct. 8, showcasing Latino/Hispanic performers at the Court Theatre in Los Angeles.

Murdoch Pleased With Progress of DirecTV Deal: News Corp. is making significant progress in its quest to win regulatory approval for its $6.6 billion acquisition of DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics, and could complete the deal by the end of the year, Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Wednesday.

“We’re pleased with the progress so far,” Mr. Murdoch said during the company’s fiscal-year 2003 earnings call, adding that he remains “hopeful the transaction will receive necessary approvals by the end of the calendar year.”

Meanwhile, Co-Chief Operating Officer Lachlan Murdoch said the company is unhappy with the performance of its UPN stations, though they remain profitable for News Corp. He added that with a new management team in place at the network, he wanted to “give [the new team] a shot” at turning around UPN.

However, “If they can’t turn it around, we have lots of options” available to deal with weaknesses, he said.

The comments came as the Australian-based media giant posted what the senior Mr. Murdoch called its most profitable year, as strong performances by the television, cable and film businesses for the period ended June 30 helped swing News Corp. to a fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $370 million vs. a year-earlier loss of $1.7 billion, and a full-year profit of $1 billion compared with year-ago red ink of $6.3 billion.

Revenue surged 20 percent in the quarter to $4.6 billion, and 15 percent to $17.5 billion for the year.

The Fox Entertainment Group, meanwhile, saw its fiscal fourth-quarter profit rise nearly six-fold to $258 million, while full-year profit nearly doubled to $1 billion. Revenue climbed 15 percent to $2.8 billion, while full-year revenue advanced 13 percent to $11 billion. Operating income before depreciation and amortization (formerly known as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) surged 59 percent to $505 million.

The gains could be linked to strong advertising revenue at Fox’s station group, which for the year saw revenue rise 13 percent while operating income before depreciation and amortization jumped 23 percent.

The broadcast network was able to translate its strong ratings from shows such as “Joe Millionaire” and “American Idol” into a 16 percent gain over year-ago prime-time ratings while narrowing its operating loss to $100 million from a year-earlier loss of $283 million.

The cable properties had similar success, with strong ratings growth at FX, Fox News Channel and the regional sports networks helping to generate operating income of $300 million vs. a year-ago figure of $6 million.