News Briefs

Dec 22, 2003  •  Post A Comment

NBC and Vivendi Universal on Friday moved a step closer to completing their $14 billion merger of the broadcast network and the French conglomerate’s U.S. entertainment assets by receiving deal approval from the European Union Commission. The all-stock transaction, announced in September, still awaits approval in the United States. Both companies said they expect approval in the first half of 2004. Earlier in the week, NBC Chairman and CEO Bob Wright began realigning NBC and its major properties in preparation for the merger by consolidating broader territories under Entertainment President Jeff Zucker, NBC Television Network President Randy Falco and NBC Television Stations Division President Jay Ireland. The executives, along with NBC Sports and Olympic Chairman Dick Ebersol, will report to Mr. Wright. Mr. Zucker assumed the newly created position of entertainment, news and cable group president. In his expanded role, Mr. Zucker assumes responsibility for NBC News and its cable channel MSNBC (which will continue to report to NBC News President Neal Shapiro) as well as CNBC (which reports to Mr. Zucker). He will continue to oversee NBC Entertainment and Bravo as well as Telemundo prime-time programming. Mr. Falco got operational responsibility for the Telemundo Network in addition to his role as leader of NBC’s commercial, operational and business-development organizations. Mr. Ireland added responsibility for the 15 owned-and-operated Telemundo stations to his oversight of the 14 NBC O&Os.
Endemol Founder, CEO to Step Down
Endemol founder John de Mol and acting chairman and CEO Aat Schouwenaar will leave the company next year, following the appointment by shareholder Telef ‘nica of Joaqu ‘n Agut Bonsfills as the new CEO of the company. Mr. Schouwenaar will leave before the end of March 2004, while Mr. de Mol will depart either May 1 or Dec. 31, 2004. The company is known for producing series such as “Fear Factor” and “Big Brother.”
Broadcast and Cable Order Up
Broadcast and cable networks were busy ordering and scheduling projects last week. The WB gave Warner Bros. Television-produced “Gilmore Girls” an early pickup for next season. ABC slated three new movies for early 2004. “Romy and Michele: In the Beginning,” a prequel to the feature film comedy “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” will air Saturday, Feb. 14 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET). “The Mystery of Natalie Wood” is slated for Monday, March 1, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET). “Judas” is scheduled for Monday, March 8, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET). Nickelodeon picked up more than 90 new episodes of original animation for series currently on its lineup, including “The Fairly Odd Parents,” “All Grown Up,” “My Life as a Teenage Robot” and “ChalkZone.” Among the orders are 30 episodes of “Odd Parents,” 20 of “Jimmy Neutron,” 10 of “ChalkZone” and 13 for “Robot.” “ChalkZone” and “Robot” episodes will premiere in the 2004-05 season in the Friday Night Toon Block. “All Grown Up” has been given an order of 22 new episodes. Meantime, Nick at Nite and TV Land plan to develop original programming, including shows from Bill Cosby, Kelsey Grammer, Henry Winkler, Peter Bonerz and David Steinberg. The shows could be seen on both networks as early as 2004.
Nielsen Gets OK to Release Sweeps Figures
A district court in Texas ruled last week that Nielsen Media Research can release its November book for Corpus Christi, Texas, without results from Eagle Creek Broadcasting’s CBS affiliate KZTV. Nielsen had de-listed the station after KZTV ran on-air spots linking the station’s anchors with a Nielsen diary during the sweeps. KZTV owner Brian Brady, who had sought a restraining order, said Friday he would decide over the next few days whether to pursue his complaints in court. A spokeswoman for Nielsen said the first data, minus any information about KZTV for the sweeps, was released electronically to stations in the Corpus Christi market Thursday night and the books were in the mail Friday morning.