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Nov 13, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Fox, Cable Nets Join for ‘School of Rock’ TV Deal

Fox Broadcasting bought the first broadcast rights to the hit movie “School of Rock” as part of a complicated deal with Paramount that also involved three cable networks.

Paramount is estimated to have reaped north of $22 million for broadcast rights to “School” plus two other films, “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” and “Fighting Temptations.”

Fox gets “School of Rock” first in May 2006, followed by a play on one of Turner Broadcasting’s networks. Fox and Turner will alternate in the back end of the window.

Turner has first dibs on “Dickie Roberts” in about April 2006, followed by MTV Networks. MTV is likely to put the films on either VH1 or Comedy Central.

UPN gets to run “Fighting Temptations” first, as soon as April 2006, followed by VH1 and Turner.

With the popularity and family friendliness of “School of Rock,” and by getting several networks involved in the broadcast windows, Paramount was able to score an above-average fee for the films, insiders said.

Univision Reports Profit Increase: Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications Thursday reported a 108 percent rise in third-quarter profit, propelled by strong ratings at all three of the company’s television networks.

The Los Angeles-based company generated a profit of $42.2 million, or 16 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit $20.3 million, or 8 cents a share. Revenue surged 19 percent to $321.1 million.

At the company’s television operation, net revenue rose 18 percent to $283.9 million as ratings at its three networks-Univision, TeleFutura and Galavision-surged during the period. The company’s owned-and-operated television stations ranked No. 1 in several key Hispanic markets, including Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and Phoenix.

The company also reported strong revenue growth at its radio division, which now includes the former Hispanic Broadcasting Co.

Gemstar-TV Guide In the Red: Gemstar-TV Guide International Thursday reported a third-quarter loss in what the company described as a turnaround period that saw Gemstar execute in several key areas expected to bear fruit in the future.

The Los Angeles-based company reported red ink of $18.1 million, or 4 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $3.9 million, or 1 cent a share, on a 12 percent drop in revenue for the period.

Despite the weaker performance, Gemstar officials called the quarter an important one in which the company relaunched its flagship publication, TV Guide, and inked deals with several consumer electronics manufacturers to install Gemstar’s interactive program guide technology into their products.

Gemstar saw weakness across its product lines, including its cable and satellite segment, which suffered declines as a result of consumer migration to newer DSS systems from C-Band direct-to-home satellite services and a drop in advertising at its TV Guide Interactive business.

The consumer electronics division also saw weakness as shipments of the company’s VCR Plus+ product continue to decline against the backdrop of newer digital technologies, including the company’s IPG products.

Liberty Q3 Profits Double: John Malone’s Liberty Media said Thursday its third-quarter profit nearly doubled to $41 million, or 2 cents a share, from a year-earlier profit of $22 million, or 1 cent a share, while revenue surged 72 percent to $905 million.

The improvement in part related to the Englewood, Colo.-based media company’s recent purchase from Comcast of the 56.5 percent stake in shopping network QVC that it didn’t own.

QVC’s contribution helped to offset revenue declines at several Liberty units, including Starz Encore Group, which reported an 11 percent decline in third-quarter revenue to $217 million.

Liberty will discuss its third-quarter results in more detail Friday during an earnings conference call.

NBC Pulling Out of Paxson: NBC Thursday began unwinding its investment in Paxson Communications, asking the struggling broadcaster to redeem for cash the 41,500 preferred shares NBC purchased in 1999.

The value of the shares is around $549.2 million, and includes NBC’s initial investment of $415 million plus interest accrued over the life of the investment.

Paxson officials said in a statement that they have until Sept. 15, 2004, to decide how to respond to NBC’s request. The investment agreement does not require Paxson to honor NBC’s request. Paxson added that its interpretation of the agreement leaves the company with the choice of redeeming all, part or none of the stake between now and September. If Paxson takes no action by the 2004 deadline, then NBC is free to sell the stake to a third party, Paxson said.

West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Paxson, which has struggled in recent years to find a programming strategy, said NBC’s request won’t impact the company’s liquidity position, which through asset sales and other steps during the past year reached the $100 million reported Wednesday in its third-quarter earnings release.

Paxson also said the decision by NBC to pull its investment in the company won’t affect the various operating relationships Paxson has with NBC, including a series of joint-sales agreements for various Paxson stations.

‘L&O’ Powers NBC to Night Demo Win: On the strength of “Law & Order” NBC just edged out ABC for the adults 18 to 49 win Wednesday night. NBC scored a 4.5/12 to ABC’s 4.4/11 in the demo, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. NBC also won total viewers with an average 13.6 million.

“L&O” dominated its 10 p.m. time slot with a 6.7/18, its highest rating this season since premiere week. ABC won the first two hours of the night with “My Wife and Kids”/”It’s All Relative” scoring a 4.7/13 and “The Bachelor: Women Tell All” special posting a 5.6/14. “It’s All Relative” held on to an impressive 98 percent of “Wife and Kids'” 18 to 49 rating.

CBS’s “King of Queens” turned in a solid performance at 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with a second-place 4.7/12 in adults 18 to 49. “Becker,” however, only held on to 75 percent of that audience from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fox’s “The O.C.” at 9 p.m. finished tied for third place with NBC’s “The West Wing.” Both scored a 3.8/9.

For the night, NBC won in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.5/12, followed by ABC (4.4/11), Fox (3.8/10), CBS (3.2/8), The WB 2.5/7) and UPN (1.4/4). In total viewers, NBC won the night with 13.6 million, followed by CBS (11.1 million), ABC (10.2 million), Fox (7.7 million), The WB (5.6 million) and UPN (3.2 million).

Fox to Air ‘World Idol’: In another extension of the “American Idol” franchise, Fox will air a two-part “World Idol” special Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. “World Idol” will pit the 11 winners of “Idol” competitions in other countries against each other. The first “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson will represent the United States in the competition. The 11 “Idol” winners will perform in a two-hour special Dec. 25 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET). Then judges-one from each country represented-will give feedback. After the show ends viewers around the world will be able to vote for their favorite idol. A winner will be crowned Jan. 1, 2004, in a special that will air 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

UPN Picks Up ‘Rock Me Baby’: UPN gave a full-season order to its Tuesday sitcom “Rock Me Baby,” produced by Warner Bros. Television. “Rock Me Baby” has averaged a 1.2/3 in adults 18 to 49, 2.7 million total viewers and a 1.4/4 in adults 18 to 34. All of those measurements are up double-digit percentages from “Haunted’s” performance in the same time slot last year. In its last airing, “Rock Me Baby” pulled 3.1 million viewers, its second-largest audience of the season. With the pickup, UPN has picked up four of its five new shows for full seasons.

Paxson Bullish on Must-Carry: Paxson Communications Chairman and CEO Lowell “Bud” Paxson said Wednesday he is confident the Federal Communications Commission will pass multicast must-carry rules this fall, and he believes his company, which has completed its digital buildout at many of its stations, is best positioned to take advantage of the new landscape.

Speaking at the c
ompany’s third-quarter earnings conference call, Mr. Paxson said he has had discussions with several programmers about renting out some of Paxson’s digital channels, providing what Mr. Paxson described as an opportunity to create four or five more networks based on the company’s 88 percent coverage of the United States through more than 60 television stations.

“We are a one-stop shop,” Mr. Paxson said. “They are going to come to us first. Our company is in an excellent position because of reach. People can use the distribution we have.”

Mr. Paxson’s comments came as the West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company reported narrowed third-quarter red ink of $54 million, or 80 cents a share, from a year-earlier loss of $72.5 million, or $1.12 a share. Revenue fell 3 percent to $75 million, due to station sales and programming expense cuts associated with the company’s January decision to air infomercials during daytime hours.

Partnering with a programmer is one of three strategies being explored by Paxson. The company is also considering selling off stations or finding a buyer for the entire company. Paxson has hired investment banks Bear Stearns and Citigroup to help it consider its options.

Paxson is also looking to invest in original programming in search of what Mr. Paxson said would be a show that gets a “2 or 2.5 rating point,” though he said no decisions on a particular program have been made.