Cox Continues Carriage of Fox’s Regional Sports
Fox Cable Networks Group and Cox Communications are expected to announce Wednesday morning an agreement to continue to carry Fox’s regional sports networks on Cox’s cable systems. Cox had threatened to take the networks off its systems’ lineup as early as Jan. 1. Cox has been complaining about the high cost of sports programming and also has been involved in a war of words with ESPN over that network’s programming fees.
Koplovitz Named Chairman of Reality Central: Veteran cable executive Kay Koplovitz has been named chairman of the board of directors of Reality Central, the new cable network devoted to reality television. Reality Central announced the appointment Tuesday. Ms. Koplovitz-who was founder of the USA Network as well as chairman-CEO of USA Networks-will set strategy, raise capital and form partnerships for Reality Central. She is known largely for pioneering the business model for program networks based on two revenue streams, subscriber fees and advertising revenues. Though Reality Central is based in Santa Monica, Calif., Ms. Koplovitz will be based in New York.
NBC Gets Big Monday Demo Win: Against mostly reruns on other networks, NBC had a stellar night Monday, winning the adults 18 to 49 demo with a 6.3 rating and 16 share, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. ABC and CBS tied for the top spot in total viewers with 14.2 million.
“Fear Factor” won its time slot at 8 p.m. with a 6.1/16 in adults 18 to 49, equaling its highest regular time slot rating of the season. It also won total viewers with 14.3 million. At 9 p.m., ABC’s “Monday Night Football” ruled, but NBC’s “Las Vegas” pulled solid numbers with a second-place 5.6/13. That’s 19 percent above NBC’s 18 to 49 average in the hour last season.
The biggest winner of the night in the demo was NBC’s “Average Joe,” which hit a series high with a 7.2/18, up 44 percent over last week.
In total viewers, CBS won the 9 p.m. hour with repeats of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Two and a Half Men” pulling down an average 15.4 million viewers. CBS’s repeat of “CSI: Miami” won the 10 p.m. hour with 15.5 million viewers.
For the night, NBC won in adults 18 to 49 with a 6.3/16, followed by ABC (5.3/13), CBS (4.5/11), Fox (2.4/6), UPN (1.5/4) and The WB (1.3/3). In total viewers, CBS and ABC tied for first with 14.2 million viewers, followed by NBC (13.8 million), Fox (5.5 million), The WB (4 million) and UPN (3.5 million).
‘John Walsh Show’ to Cease Production: NBC Enterprises has decided to pull the plug on sophomore talk show “The John Walsh Show.” The final episode of the strip will air during February sweeps. Mr. Walsh’s show has averaged a 1.1 rating this season, down 15 percent from last year. NBC executives were vocal about waiting until the finish of the November book before making a decision.
In a statement, executives at NBC said: “We are very proud of John Walsh and the staff of ‘The John Walsh Show.’ We thank them for their dedication and hard work that has resulted in a high-quality program that we have come to expect each day.
“The efforts by John and his staff have resulted in impactful shows that have addressed real issues that viewers face on a daily basis. However, with his prime-time program, charitable causes and extensive work with law enforcement, serious time constraints have made it very challenging for John to continue to host the ‘The John Walsh Show.’ We wish him and everyone involved in the show the best in the future.”
Berning Named A&E Chief Ad Exec: A&E Networks has hired Mel Berning as its chief advertising sales executive. Mr. Berning comes to A&E Networks from MediaVest Worldwide, a major New York media buying agency, where he was president of U.S. broadcast.
Mr. Berning takes over the big cable network as it struggles to right itself after years of lackluster programming efforts. In addition, in the past few years, executives said, the company was hurt because advertisers inked deals for lower prices at the A&E Network and its channels.
At MediaVest, Mr. Berning was instrumental in inking the largest cross-platform deal of its kind in 2001 for Procter & Gamble in negotiating a $300 million annual pact with Viacom TV properties, including CBS, CBS Television Stations, MTV Networks and Nickelodeon. That deal was renewed in 2002 for $350 million.
MediaVest has announced that Donna Speciale will be president of U.S. broadcast, replacing Mr. Berning. She had been executive VP, director of national and local broadcast, Grey Global Group’s Mediacom.
Edwards Co-Anchors ‘World News Now’: Tamala Edwards made her debut Monday as “World News Now” co-anchor. Ms. Edwards was an award-winning writer for Time magazine for six years before joining ABC News as a correspondent in October 2001. She will be working with co-anchor David Muir, who joined the overnight newscast in August.
“She’s a gifted journalist, and this is a wonderful opportunity for her to continue to grow as a broadcaster,” ABC News President David Westin said.
WNET Seeks Funds to Digitally Restore Archives: New York public broadcaster WNET-TV is seeking funding for its plan to digitally restore and remaster some of the more fragile titles in its archive of some 30,000 public television titles.
At the top of the list are programs that originally aired in the 1970s, including the docudrama “The Adams Chronicles: 1750-1900;” experimental newsmagazine “The Great American Dream Machine;” the pioneering reality series “An American Family,” nightly news program “The 51st State;” and the artsy “Skyline.”
Among the sources from which WNET is seeking funds are the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Historical Publications and Records Commission; and the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.
Vivendi Profit Beats Expectations: Vivendi Universal, the Franco-American conglomerate that has spent the past 18 months struggling under a mountain of debt, appears to have turned a corner.
The Paris-based company on Tuesday reported a third-quarter profit that beat analyst expectations.
The company said it is on track to sharply reduce its debt load by the end of 2004. Vivendi said its third-quarter profit was 131 million euros ($158.3 million) vs. a year-earlier loss of 1.23 billion euros-largely the result of growth at several of its units. The company, which reports revenues and profits separately, said in November that its revenue fell 59 percent to 5.9 billion euros ($7.1 billion), due mainly to asset sales designed to trim its debt load.
Its U.S.-based entertainment unit, Vivendi Universal Entertainment, reported a 20 percent rise in operating income to $163 million, thanks to stronger sales of its classic television library and robust results from the “Law & Order” franchise, which offset increased investments in programming and marketing.
Vivendi is currently merging VUE with NBC in a $14 billion all-stock deal scheduled to be completed by the second quarter of 2004.
That sale will contribute significantly to Vivendi’s plan to reduce its debt level to around 5 billion euros by the end of 2004 from an estimated 13 billion at the end of 2003.
MTV New Year’s Show to Intro New Series: MTV’s annual New Year’s bash will feature performances by Hilary Duff, Ludacris and Simple Plan, who will perform just after midnight. “MTV’s New Year’s Eve 2004” will originate live from the network’s studio in Times Square from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and will be tape-delayed on the West Coast.
Cartoon Network to Air New Episodes of Adult Swim: Cartoon Network plans to air new episodes of some of its original series as part of its New Year’s Eve edition of Adult Swim. The New Year’s Eve Adult Swim will be hosted by Brak and his father, who will be joined by other Cartoon Network characters. The evening will feature new episodes of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “Sealab 2021,” “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” “The Brak Show” and “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.”
ESPN, Sonic Team Up for College Football Picks: ESPN and Sonic Drive-Ins announced they’ll work together on a c
ollege football bowl picking contest. “Bowl Mania Presented by Sonic” will kick off during ESPN’s bowl selection show Dec. 7 and will be promoted on ESPN’s “College Gameday,” during bowl game broadcasts and “SportsCenter” and on ESPN2, ESPN Classic and ESPN.com as well as “ESPN the Magazine.” The contest will be on ESPN.com, and winners will receive a pair of tickets to any college game during the 2004 bowl season.
Fisher Broadcasting Agrees to Sell Two Fox Affiliates: Fisher Broadcasting, the struggling television station owner that has for months been looking for a buyer for its broadcast properties, moved a step closer to exiting the TV business Tuesday, agreeing to sell two Fox affiliates in Georgia to Southeastern Media Holdings for $40 million.
The sale, which was brokered by Kalil & Co., involves WFXG-TV in Augusta and WXTX-TV in Columbus. Southeastern Media is based in North Carolina. Seattle-based Fisher owns 10 network-affiliated stations in the Northwest. Fisher has spent the better part of the year looking for a buyer of its television stations, but to no avail. Sources said few buyers wanted all of Fisher’s stations and that there has been pressure for Fisher to look at selling its stations in pieces, with its properties in Seattle and Portland, Ore., likeliest to find buyers.