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Sep 19, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Riskin Re-Elected WGA President

Victoria Riskin was re-elected Writers Guild Association west president Friday for her second term. Ms. Riskin defeated challenger Eric Hughes. Along with Ms. Riskin, the remainder of the guild’s incumbent officials were re-elected, including: vice president Charles D. Holland and Secretary-Treasurer Patric M. Verrone. The vote totals have not yet been released.

ESPN2 Delays Delivery of ‘Cold Pizza’: Citing what it described as an “aggressive timetable,” ESPN2 said Friday that it is rescheduling the premiere of its new live morning show “Cold Pizza” to Oct. 20 from Oct. 1.

“We had established an aggressive timetable to launch the kind of show we envision,” said Jim Cohen, ESPN’s VP of programming and production and the show’s executive producer.

“Cold Pizza” will be a live, two-hour weekday series from New York that the network said will be an alternative to other live morning programming, offering a combination of sports coverage, popular culture, entertainment and lifestyle content. It will air Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and will repeat from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

‘Survivor’ Gets Off to a Strong Start: CBS’s premiere of “Survivor: Pearl Islands” demolished the competition Thursday night, averaging an 8.2 rating and 22 share in adults 18 to 49 and 21 million total viewers. The reality show easily won its 8 p.m.-to-9:30 p.m. time slot, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

“Survivor” debuted a week before the official start of the broadcast season so it was up against reruns of “Friends” on NBC and “That ’70s Show” on Fox and the series premiere of ABC’s new drama “Threat Matrix.”

“Threat Matrix” didn’t fare as well, coming in third from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a 2.1/6 in adults 18 to 49 and 7.6 million total viewers. ABC also debuted “Extreme Makeover,” which finished third from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a 3.1/8 in adults 18 to 49 and 8.6 million total viewers.

Following its special 90-minute “Survivor” premiere, CBS ran a repeat of a 90-minute “CSI.” “Will & Grace” beat the first half-hour of “CSI” with a 5.6/15 in adults 18 to 49 to “CSI’s” 5.2/13, but “CSI” took the 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. hour with a 5.0/14. An “ER” repeat saw a rare third-place finish in the demo with ABC’s “Prime Time” beating “ER” with a 3.8/11 to “ER’s” 3.6/10.

For the night, CBS won adults 18 to 49 with a 6.6/18, followed by NBC (5.0/14), ABC (3.0/8) and Fox (2.1/6). CBS also took the night in total viewers with 17.5 million, followed by NBC (10.9 million), ABC (8.7 million) and Fox (4.2 million).

CBS will rerun the premiere episode of “Survivor: Pearl Islands” Sunday from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m, CBS’s prime-time schedule for Sunday starts at 7:30 p.m. with “60 Minutes” (after an anticipated football overrun), a repeat of “Without a Trace” at 8:30 p.m. and “Survivor” at 9:30 p.m.

Charter Issues Bonds to Reduce Debt: Charter Communications, the cable operator controlled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, took another step toward reducing its debt Friday, purchasing around $1.95 billion of its debt in exchange for new bonds.

The transaction reduces the amount of debt that will come due in 2005 and 2006, but doesn’t change the St. Louis-based company’s overall leverage, a point that many bondholders raised during a Friday conference call to discuss the debt buyback.

Per the terms of the transaction, Charter, through an indirect subsidiary, CCH II, will retire $609 million in convertible notes and $1.3 billion in Charter Communications Holdings debt. In exchange, CCH II will issue $1.6 billion in bonds that have a maturity in 2010.

Charter CEO Carl Vogel said during the conference call that Friday’s offering, combined with a series of recent sales of noncore cable systems, raises around $1.1 billion, including a $300 million discount associated with this transaction, and puts the company “in a pretty good place.”

Still, Mr. Vogel acknowledged that the company, whose debt stood at nearly $19 billion on June 30, has much work ahead of it.

“This transaction was not a silver bullet that solves many of our issues,” Mr. Vogel said. “This is one of many steps. We are trying to do what’s right.”

Mr. Vogel added that the company continues to explore ways to reduce its debt load, including additional asset sales and system swaps that will increase the size of the company’s footprint.