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Oct 28, 2003  •  Post A Comment

NAACP Study Reports Continuing Lag in Minority Hires

The broadcast networks have made progress hiring minority on-air talent but still lag in hiring minority talent behind the scenes, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s new study on television diversity that was released today in Washington.

Among on-air talent, last season Fox employed more minority actors that any of the other Big 4 networks, with 121 minorities in regular or recurring roles. CBS came in second with 99 minority actors on-air. NBC and ABC also improved, with ABC’s raising its number to 74 from 35 in the fall 2000-01 season. NBC had 81 minority actors on its prime-time shows last season, up from 35 in 2000-01.

Results for employment of minority writers, producers, directors and executives was more disappointing, according to the report. Fox had the most minority directors, with 27, who directed 81 prime-time episodes. CBS had 10 minority directors and ABC had eight. NBC reported that 10 percent of its episodes were directed by minorities but did not provide the number of minority directors employed.

Fox was also cited for its leadership in hiring minority writers. In 1999 only 5 percent of Fox’s writers were minorities-that number has risen to 24.4 percent in 2002. In the 2002-03 season, ABC employed 19 minority writers, up from 12 the season before, and NBC employed 24 minority writers, up from the fewer than 18 the year before. CBS had nine minority writers, the same as the year before, but is the only network that has a minority showrunner-Pam Veasey on “The District.”

CNBC to Air Weekly Show ‘Topic A With Tina Brown’: Starting in January “Topic A With Tina Brown” will rev up from a series of quarterly specials to a weekly show airing at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sundays on CNBC. Ms. Brown’s fourth and final quarterly special will be telecast on the financial news network at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, with a lineup that includes CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves; Democratic consultant, CNN pundit and “K Street” “actor” James Carville; New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and attorney David Boies.

When Ms. Brown goes weekly, she will occupy the time slots currently allotted to repeats of “The Suze Orman Show.”

MGM Reports Third-Quarter Results: MGM Chairman and CEO Alex Yemenidjian said Tuesday that his company is looking to make acquisitions after its failed attempt to snag Vivendi Universal Entertainment earlier this summer, and continues to explore ways to “share the company’s wealth” with its shareholders.

Mr. Yemenidjian also said that MGM’s role as the international distributor for General Electric’s NBC content remains intact despite NBC’s planned merger with VUE.

Speaking during a conference call to discuss third-quarter results, Mr. Yemenidjian said MGM’s board is kicking around four possible scenarios and is set to make a decision at its regular board meeting Nov. 12. Among the options he has discussed in the past is a tender offer for MGM shares.

He also said that despite losing out on its bid for the VUE assets, which NBC agreed to acquire last month, MGM continues to look for properties to acquire, on either the content or the distribution side. “We can create a lot of value both in content and distribution,” Mr. Yemenidjian said.

In a sign the company is at least cleaning up the books ahead of an acquisition, MGM said it has paid down its term debt of $1.15 billion and has enough cash on hand to step up with a bid on an asset when the time is right.

As far as the NBC distribution pact goes, some observers have questioned the status of MGM’s distribution deal with NBC now that NBC is about to acquire VUE, which has a strong international distribution arm. Mr. Yemenidjian said MGM’s current contract runs through the 2007-08 television season, and added that MGM is to distribute the network’s programming outside North America for 15 years after that. “We are distributing [NBC’s content] up until 2023,” he said.

Mr. Yemenidjian’s comments came as MGM reported a third-quarter loss of $32.6 million, or 13 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $11.7 million, or 5 cents a share. Revenue surged 20 percent to $457.1 million.

The studio’s film unit drove much of the revenue growth, thanks to strong results for films such as “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde,” which offset a 7 percent decline in television revenue to $62.5 million.

Rod Roddy Dead at 66: Rod Roddy, the announcer on CBS’s game show “The Price is Right,” died Monday after a long battle with prostate, colon and breast cancer. He was 66. Mr. Roddy had a long radio career hosting music and talk shows before he brought his voice to television in 1977 as the narrator of the ABC sitcom “Soap.” He joined “The Price is Right” in 1986.

Fox’s Monday Lineup Declines Week to Week: Fox’s new Monday lineup of “The Next Joe Millionaire” and “Skin” declined in its second week in adults 18 to 49 and total viewers. “Joe Millionaire” was down 22 percent in adults 18 to 49 week to week, while “Skin” declined 19 percent. “Joe’s” 2.5/7 in the demo was good for fourth place in its time slot, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “Skin’s” 2.2/5 landed the series in fourth place as well.

As usual, NBC’s “Fear Factor” (5.7/15) won the 8 p.m. hour leading into the two-hour special “Radio Music Awards,” which finished in third place in the demo with a 4.5/11. At 9 p.m., a CBS rerun of “Everybody Loves Raymond” won the time slot with a 6.2/15 in adults 18 to 49. CBS’s “Two and a Half Men” turned in a strong performance at 9:30 p.m. with a 5.5/13, just behind ABC’s “Monday Night Football.”

At 10 p.m., a repeat of CBS’s “CSI: Miami,” with a 5.6/15 in adults 18 to 49, just beat out football on ABC.

For the night, CBS won in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.4/14, followed by ABC (5.0/13), NBC (4.9/12), Fox (2.4/6), UPN (1.6/4) and The WB (1.4/4). In total viewers, CBS won the night with 15.8 million, followed by ABC (13.8 million), NBC (10.8 million), Fox (5.5 million), The WB (4.2 million) and UPN (3.5 million).

NBC Cable Promos HDTV: NBC Cable Networks is distributing spots to local cable operators designed to promote HDTV. The spots are tagged with the cable operator’s brand and feature the top NBC shows that are available in HDTV, including “ER,” “The West Wing,” “Frasier,” “The Tonight Show,” and the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Bravo to Run ‘Queer Eye’ Christmas Special: Bravo plans to air a “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” Christmas special Dec. 16. The hour program will feature festive “hip tips” and a look back on some of the men who have been made over by the Fab Five. New regular episodes of “Queer Eye” return to Bravo starting Nov. 18.

Cox Reports Q3 Results: Cox Communications President and CEO Jim Robbins on Tuesday repeated his promise to drop sports channels ESPN and Fox Sports unless the cable programmers backed off the big increases he claims they are seeking from the cable operator.

“We won’t telegraph what our intents are, but the options run the gamut from what we hope will happen-that we get contracts from both vendors at current prices or with a little bit of an increase-to if we can’t get to reasonable terms, we don’t carry their programming,” Mr. Robbins said. “We have a good negotiation with one of these vendors, and we hope we don’t have to go to an extreme position with either of them.”

The comments from Mr. Robbins, the most vocal of operators against the programming fee hikes being sought by cable networks, came as the company reported a widened third-quarter loss as costs associated with the company’s paying down of debt outstripped gains associated with subscriber gains.

Atlanta-based Cox posted a loss of $215.1 million, or 35 cents a share, compared with year-earlier red ink of $73.1 million, or 12 cents a share. Revenue advanced 15 percent to $1.5 billion.

Cox said its cost of services, which includes programming costs, rose 15 percent to $622.2 million for the quarter, with programming costs alone climbing 14 percent due to rate increases and customer growth.

The company said it added n
early 122,000 digital cable subscribers during the period, while more than 169,000 high-speed data customers were added. The company also boosted its telephony customer count by more than 73,000 during the quarter.

Meanwhile, Cox forecasted that its full-year revenue growth would rise between 14 percent and 15 percent over 2002 levels as basic cable subscriptions rise 1 percent.

U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds FCC Digital TV Ruling: The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington Tuesday upheld a Federal Communications Commission ruling requiring TV set manufacturers to include digital TV tuners in all television receivers with screens larger than 13 inches by July 2007. The Consumer Electronics Association challenged the FCC decision, but the court said the agency had the legal authority to act under the All Channel Receiver Act-a 1962 law that paved the way for the agency to adopt rules to ensure that TV sets are “capable of adequately receiving all frequencies allocated by the commission to television broadcasting.”

TV Hall of Fame Announces New Inductees: Bob Barker, Art Carney, Katie Couric, Dan Rather and Brandon Tartikoff (posthumously) have been chosen by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for induction into the Hall of Fame, it was announced today by Dick Askin, chairman of the Television Academy.

“The ATAS Hall of Fame is a special place reserved only for those who have made significant contributions that will leave an indelible mark on the television business,” Mr. Askin said. “… It is an honor to recognize their individual careers, and we are pleased to formally welcome them into our Hall of Fame.”

The academy’s board of governors nominates candidates for the Hall of Fame and the final decision is voted on by the Hall of Fame selection committee. The committee, which this year was chaired by Sam Haskell, executive VP, worldwide head of television, for the William Morris Agency, included Leslie Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS; Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television; Ethel Winant, casting director and academy Hall of Fame inductee; Tom Del Ruth, Emmy Award-winning cinematographer of “The West Wing”; and Dawn Ostroff, president of Entertainment for UPN.

CBS Orders Five Series for Full Season: CBS has picked up five of its six new series for a full season. Sitcom “Two and a Half Men” and dramas “Cold Case,” “Navy NCIS,” “Joan of Arcadia” and “The Handler” all received 22-episode orders. The only new show not to be picked up is the David. E. Kelley drama “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.,” which has been canceled.

“Men” is averaging a 5.2 Nielsen Media Research rating and 12 share in adults 18 to 49 and 15.9 million viewers. “Cold Case” is averaging a 3.18 in the demo and 13.6 million viewers. “Navy NCIS” is averaging a 2.8/8 in adults 18 to 49 and 12.3 million viewers. “Joan of Arcadia” is pulling an average of 3/11 in the demo and 11.6 million viewers. “The Handler” is averaging 2.5/8 in adults 18 to 49 and 9.6 million viewers.

Football Network Launches Home Video Line: The Football Network is launching a “Rivals” line of home videos narrated by Pat Summerall. The first two videos are “The Tradition of Georgia vs. Florida” and “The History of Michigan vs. Ohio State.”