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Oct 14, 2003  •  Post A Comment

DirecTV Announces Quarterly Results

DirecTV executives said Tuesday they are confident that by the end of the year they will obtain regulatory approval for their merger with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., despite what they called a “momentary delay” in the process.

The delay, which involves the Federal Communications Commission’s wanting to coordinate its review of the $6.6 billion merger with the U.S. Department of Justice, was described as “routine” by executives during a conference call to discuss third-quarter results.

That news came as DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics Tuesday reported a widened third-quarter loss, hurt by an accounting charge that offset subscriber growth at the DirecTV unit during the period.

The El Segundo, Calif.-based company reported a loss of $23 million, compared with red ink of $13.6 million a year earlier. Revenue climbed 17 percent to $2.57 billion as the company added 326,000 new subscribers during the quarter. Operating profit before depreciation and amortization rose 33 percent to $359 million.

The company noted that that 2002 results included a $159 million pre-tax gain associated with the sale of 8.8 million shares of Thomson Multimedia common stock, while 2003’s results included a $65 million charge related to the adoption of a new accounting rule.

At DirecTV, which is now boasting 11.85 million subscribers, revenue surged 20 percent to $1.93 billion, thanks to higher average monthly revenues per subscriber associated with a March 2003 price increase, additional fees from customers with multiple set-top receivers and subscriptions to DirecTV’s National Football League pay-per-view services.

Operating profit climbed 10 percent to $112 million.

Scripps, Gannett Report Third-Quarter Results: Sharp declines in political spending took their toll on the broadcast television divisions of newspaper and TV station owners Gannett and E.W. Scripps in the third quarter, but the declines were more than offset by other units of the two companies.

At Gannett, which owns 22 TV stations, broadcast TV revenue fell more than 6 percent to $173.2 million for the period, while operating income dropped 11 percent to $72.6 million and operating cash flow sank 10 percent to $79.3 million.

However, strong results at Gannett’s newspaper helped the company record a 5 percent rise in third-quarter profit to $279 million, or $1.03 a share, from a year-earlier profit of $265.6 million, or 99 cents a share.

Meanwhile, Scripps’ broadcast TV unit, which owns 10 TV stations, reported a nearly 1 percent decline in revenue to $72.3 million, as the tumble in political advertising was offset by stronger local and national advertising revenue. Operating profit fell 9 percent to $18.7 million.

Scripps produced better results at its Scripps Networks unit, which controls cable channels Food Network, Home & Garden Television, Fine Living and DIY-Do It Yourself Network. Profits at the division surged 35 percent to $40.3 million, while advertising revenue soared 29 percent to $96.6 million and affiliate fee revenue climbed 12 percent to $23.5 million.

The company also reported a pro forma 10 percent revenue jump to 58.4 million at its Shop at Home Network, which Scripps acquired in October 2002.

Those results led Scripps to report a 24 percent rise in overall revenues to $440.5 million, while the company’s profit climbed 13.5 percent to $51.9 million, or 64 cents a share.

NBC Orders Full-Season of ‘Las Vegas’: “Las Vegas” is the first new NBC series to get a full season order from the network. The hour-long drama starring James Caan and Josh Duhamel, has held its own in a tough Monday Night time slot against CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” and ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” It has been finishing third in the time slot, but with very competitive numbers. Last night, it scored a 4.5/11 in adults 18 to 49, almost beating “MNF,” and 10.8 million viewers. “Las Vegas” is produced by DreamWorks and NBC Studios.

SAG Award For Karl Malden: Former “Streets of San Francisco” star Karl Malden will be honored with the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The accolade will be presented February 22 during the 10th annual SAG Awards telecast on TNT. The Oscar winner other credits include the telepic “Fatal Vision” and the features “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront.”

“In a career spanning six decades, Karl Malden has superbly achieved the goal of every actor-to bring an extraordinarily rich range of iconic characters to the screen and stage,” said SAG President Melissa Gilbert. “On a personal note, making the call to inform Mr. Malden of this honor was one of the most moving and joyous tasks of my presidency. He is a man I have always looked up to, for many years and many reasons.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award is considered SAG’s highest honor.

Baseball is a Big Hit Among Total Viewers: Baseball was the sport of choice last night as viewers chose to watch the playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees instead of the “Monday Night Football” match-up between the St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

Fox delivered its highest-rated Monday night in eight months in total viewers and in five months in adults 18 to 49. Once final numbers for the game are in, the broadcast will most likely be the highest-rated Monday night League Championship series game on any network since 1992.

ABC, which usually wins the night in most measurements with football, dropped to fourth place with its combo of a “Threat Matrix” repeat and “Monday Night Football” in adults 18 to 49 and total viewers.

For the night, Fox won in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.7/14, followed by CBS (5.1/13), NBC (4.5/11), ABC (3.8/10), The WB (2.1/5) and UPN (1.9/5). In total viewers, Fox won with 15.4 million, followed by CBS (15.2 million), NBC (10.8 million), ABC (9.9 million), The WB (5.9 million) and UPN (4.3 million). Fox and ABC’s ratings will change when final numbers are available later today because fast affiliate numbers are inaccurate for live sports since they are not time-zone-adjusted.

Touchstone Promotes TV Executives: Touchstone Television promoted three executives in its comedy department. Alex Weinberger was promoted to VP of comedy series from executive director, comedy series. Nina Howie and Jodie Platt were upped to executive directors of comedy series from directors of comedy series.

Ms. Weinberger, who reports to Touchstone Television President Stephen McPherson, is responsible for comedy series development and overseeing current series, including “My Wife and Kids” and “It’s All Relative.”

Ms. Howie will be responsible for managing new comedy development as well as overseeing current series, including “Hope & Faith,” “Life With Bonnie” and “Less Than Perfect.” Ms. Platt will also manage new comedy series development and oversee current series “According to Jim” and “8 Simple Rules.”

Oxygen Scores With Saturday Movie: Oxygen’s original movie “A Tale of Two Wives,” starring Peter Gallagher and Cheryl Hines, drew a 0.6 household rating for its premier last Saturday. The rating was Oxygen’s fourth best for a movie on a Saturday night and helped power the network to the second-highest-rated week since it began getting viewership data from Nielsen.

Freedom Completes Sale of Hoiles’ Stakes: The months-long ownership fight for television and newspaper owner Freedom Communications came to a close today when the company announced it has reached a definitive agreement with a group of private equity firms that will keep the Irvine, Calif.-based company independent and intact.

The agreement calls for private equity giants Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners to buy out the stakes held by descendants of Freedom founder R.C. Hoiles, who have been pushing for months to monetize their holdings in the company. Investment bank JPMorgan Chase will provide a debt facility in support of the recapitalization.

No other financial terms were disclosed by the company, which owns eight television stations and 27 newspapers, including the Orange Coun
ty (Calif.) Register, and whose value has been pegged at $2 billion.

When the deal is completed, control of the company will be retained by the Hoiles family plus Blackstone and Providence.

The pact ends months of wrangling among members of the Hoiles family, who were divided over the company’s future ownership structure. The family agreed earlier this year to explore a sale, which generated interest from a raft of would-be suitors, including newspaper giant Gannett.

Fox Earns Top Grade in Diversity Promotion: Fox earned the highest grade for its efforts to promote diversity, but all of the Big 4 networks showed significant improvement over last year, according to a report issued by the National Latino Media Council. The council, which consists of 13 Latino civil rights and advocacy organizations, graded each network in seven categories. Overall, Fox scored highest with a B+, ABC had a B and NBC and CBS each received a C+. ABC and Fox were cited for adding numerous Latino regulars to their prime-time shows, including ABC’s “The George Lopez Show” and Fox’s “Luis” and “The Ortegas.”

ABC was the most improved network overall, going from a D- in 2001 to a B this year. The network was also cited as the best network in terms of doing deals with Latino writers, talent and showrunners in program development. The one area where ABC was cited as needing improvement was in hiring Latino directors.

NBC’s C+ would have been higher if the council had taken drama “Kingpin” into consideration, the report said. The canceled drama had five Latino writers and a mostly Latino cast. NBC also had more American Latino directors working on its prime-time shows than any other network. One area NBC needs to improve is in hiring Latino entertainment executives as the network does not have a single Latino in this category, the report said.

Year to year, CBS has made great strides, with on-camera talent, directors and development deals all increasing. CBS got an F/incomplete in the category of procurement because the network does not provide that information to the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition.

Fox was the overall diversity employment and procurement leader. It received an A for the large number of Latino actors who are regulars on shows. It was the only network to get an A in procurement, which the report said is three times as large as the performance at any other network.

All four networks received A’s for their commitment to diversity initiatives.

ABC News to Air Series of Health-Care Reports: ABC News is using all of its news programs next week, starting with “World News Tonight Sunday,” in a wide-ranging report titled “Critical Condition: HealthCare in America.” ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson is the principal correspondent for the series, which will focus on subjects ranging from the high cost of prescription drugs to emergency rooms as primary care facilities to deaths due to infections caused by hospitals.

Contributors include anchor Peter Jennings and correspondents Chris Bury, John Donvan, Linda Douglass, Erin Hayes, Melody Hobson, Greg Hunter, Robert Krulwich, Dave Marash, John McKenzie and Brian Ross. Paul Friedman, who became a senior news consultant for the division last winter when he left his position of executive VP and managing editor of news coverage, is the overseeing executive producer for the series.