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Nov 14, 2003  •  Post A Comment

AMC Sues Time Warner Cable for $250M

Rainbow Media’s American Movie Classics filed a $250 million breach-of-contract lawsuit Friday against Time Warner Cable, alleging the multiple system operator violated an affiliation agreement as part of a broader tactic to gain leverage as Time Warner negotiates with Rainbow in areas not tied to AMC.

The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, comes after a five-month battle between AMC and Time Warner over what appeared to be Time Warner’s dismay at AMC’s transformation into an advertising-supported network. It also appears to highlight both the lengths to which an MSO will go to manage programming fees and the risks a cable network faces when it changes its programming and business strategy to remain competitive.

AMC is seeking to restore the affiliation pact with Time Warner. At the same time it is arguing that it is entitled to damages associated with lost fees and advertising revenues for what it calls Time Warner’s unilateral and wrongful termination of the affiliate agreement.

Officials at Time Warner and Time Warner Cable declined to comment. A Time Warner Cable spokesman said the company had not yet received a copy of the suit as of late Friday afternoon.

ABC Changes Wednesday Lineup: ABC is shaking up its Wednesday schedule. Freshman drama “Karen Sisco” is taking a breather, and “Celebrity Mole Yucatan” will be taking its time slot. “Mole” premieres Wednesday, Jan. 14, at 10 p.m. Also on Jan. 14, “The Bachelorette” will premiere at 9 p.m.

The network also backtracked on its decision to air “Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital” on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. Instead, its regular time slot will be Wednesdays from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. after “Mole” finishes its run. “Kingdom Hospital” will get a special two-hour premiere on Wednesday, March 3, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., before settling into the 10 p.m. slot the following week.

“Karen Sisco” will return to ABC’s schedule in March in a new time period, which has yet to be determined. Six episodes of the show are left to air. The network had ordered four additional scripts, but only six episodes will be necessary to finish out its run in the spring.

HBO to Air 6-Hour ‘Angels in America’: HBO is planning to air the Mike Nichols-directed film “Angels in America” in three different lengths on three different channels. The six-hour presentation will first be shown in two three-hour parts, with Part 1, “Millennium Approaches,” premiering on HBO Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. (ET), and Part 2, “Perestroika” making its debut Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. HBO will rebroadcast each part several times in December. They will also appear on HBO2.

The film will be shown in one-hour “chapters” on HBO in January, appearing at 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Wednesday and at 10 p.m. (ET) Thursday through Saturday. HBO Signature will also play all six hours in order Jan. 3 at 6 p.m. (ET) HBO Signature will also play one chapter every Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. (ET) beginning Jan. 4.

International Channel Lays Off 5 Ad Staffers: International Channel said it laid off five staffers who were responsible for selling local ads on the channel in New York and Seattle. The move came after Comcast told the channel it didn’t want to do third-party ad sale deals in Seattle.

The arrangement was put in place when AT&T Broadband owned the system three years ago. The New York arrangement with Time Warner Cable was created this year but is ending as well.

NBC Takes Demo, CBS Wins Total Viewers: NBC won last night in adults 18 to 49, while CBS took total viewers.

NBC’s “Friends” followed by a “Friends” repeat won the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. hour in adults 18 to 49 with an 8.9/23, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. At 9 p.m., “CSI” easily won the hour with a 10.5/25 in adults 18 to 49. “ER” prevailed at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., with a 9.6/24, beating CBS’s “Without a Trace” by 75 percent.

ABC also did some damage at 10 p.m. for a change with “PrimeTime,” which featuring a Diane Sawyer interview with pop star Britney Spears. It scored a 4.8/12 in adults 18 to 49. It finished in third place, but did tie “Trace” in the second half-hour in the demo.

In total viewers, the first half of “Survivor” (20.9 million) just edged out “Friends” (20.2 million), and CBS won the full hour with 22 million viewers. At 9 p.m., “CSI” finished first with 29.2 million viewers and at 10 p.m., “ER” finished first with 20.7 million viewers.

For the night, NBC won adults 18 to 49 with 8.6/21, followed by CBS (8.1/20), ABC (3.4/8), UPN (2.3/6), Fox (1.3/3) and The WB (1.2/3). In total viewers, CBS won with 22.6 million, followed by NBC (18.1 million), ABC (9.3 million), UPN (6 million), Fox (3.3 million), The WB (3 million).

Liberty Interested in Discovery Stake: Liberty Media CEO Robert Bennett said Friday that he would be interested in acquiring the 25 percent stake in Discovery Communications that is now held by cable operator Cox Communications, another sign that Liberty is looking to become a more active owner of the assets in which it holds stakes.

Though he said there is no mechanism for Liberty to force Cox to consider selling the stake in Discovery, Mr. Bennett said Liberty is “always interested” in acquiring Cox’s stake and has held discussions with the Atlanta-based cable operator about selling it. “We don’t control the circumstances that could make things come to that,” he said. Liberty now holds a 50 percent stake in Discovery.

A Cox spokeswoman was not available for comment Friday.

Mr. Bennett also said Liberty would be interested in acquiring the 50 percent stake in cable channel Court TV that is now owned by Time Warner. However, he noted that Liberty has about two years remaining before it can broach the subject with Time Warner.

After years of being a more passive investor in various media assets, Liberty has been stepping up in recent months to become a more active owner of properties. In that vein, Liberty this past summer paid Comcast $7.9 billion for its 56.5 percent stake in shopping channel QVC.