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Feb 10, 2004  •  Post A Comment

‘Fear’ Elevates NBC to Nightly Demo Win

NBC won Monday night in adults 18 to 49, thanks to a record-breaking performance by “Fear Factor.” “Fear” gave NBC its best 18 to 49 ratings in the Monday 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. time slot, excluding sports, since May 1996. “Fear” scored an 8 rating and 21 share, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “Fear” also won total viewers with 17.7 million.

At 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the first half-hour of Fox’s “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” tied for first at 5.9/14 in adults 18 to 49. Freshman sitcom “Two and a Half Men” held on to 100 percent of “Raymond’s” 18 to 49 audience. The second half-hour of “Fiance” rose to a 6.9/16, which ranked first from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

CBS’s “CSI: Miami” was the victor at 10 p.m., with its 7.4/18 in adults 18 to 49 beating NBC’s “Average Joe: Hawaii’s” 6.1/15. “Miami” pulled in 21.7 million viewers to “Joe’s” 12.3 million.

For the night, NBC won adults 18 to 49 with a 6.4/16, followed by CBS (5.7/14), Fox (4.8/12), ABC (2.3/6), The WB (2.1/5) and UPN (1.5/4). In total viewers, CBS won the night with 17.0 million, followed by NBC (14.1 million), Fox (10.2 million), ABC (6.6 million), The WB (6 million) and UPN (3.5 million).

‘Playmakers’ Goes to DVD: The show the NFL didn’t want ESPN to air is going to DVD. “Playmakers” is being made available in a three-disc DVD set April 20 from ESPN Original Entertainment and Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The set includes a special on-the-set visit by music star Snoop Dogg, who appears in episode 10, audio commentary with creator/executive producer John Eisendrath on the pilot episode and a comprehensive behind-the-scenes featurette. The suggested price for the set is $49.99.

Hughes Lays Out 2004 Goals: DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics expects to reach 15 million subscribers in three years, double its high-definition television programming by year-end and generally boost capital investment to enable the satellite operator to begin offering a variety of new services, its new management team said Tuesday.

Speaking for the first time since News Corp. took over Hughes late last year by purchasing a 34 percent stake in the satellite company for $6.6 billion, the team, led by Hughes CEO and President Chase Carey, laid out its plan for the company and promised, among other things, to bolster DirecTV’s content, expand its digital video recorder service’s availability and to begin exploring opportunities to offer broadband services to subscribers.

The company said the efforts in 2004 are part of an overall strategy to make Hughes’ focus more about television and less about engineering. Hughes under previous owner General Motors had focused more on satellite services and less on DirecTV opportunities for growth.

DirecTV officials said they plan to put more energy into local sales, explore synergy opportunities with Fox and seek ways to reduce churn, or customer defections.

The comments came as Hughes reported a fourth-quarter loss of $310 million, or 22 cents a share, vs. a profit of $113 million, or 8 cents a share, a year ago, reflecting a $132 million charge taken in the 2003 fourth quarter related to News Corp.’s acquisition of Hughes, as well as a $275 million payment Hughes made to GM at the close of the deal. Revenue surged 20 percent to $2.9 billion.

For the year, Hughes reported a narrowed loss of $362 million, or 26 cents a share, compared with red ink of $894 million, or 70 cents a share a year ago. Revenue climbed 14 percent to $10.1 billion.At DirecTV, revenue rose 19 percent to $7.7 billion as a result of nearly 1.2 million net new subscribers and a price increase. The company also reported that average monthly revenue per subscriber swelled 7 percent to $63.90. DirecTV now has 12.2 million subscribers.’Croce’ Picked Up in Major Markets: Sony Pictures Television’s upcoming strip “Pat Croce: Moving In” has found a home in the country’s top three markets. The half-hour first-run series has been picked up by the Fox-owned television stations in New York (WNYW-TV/WWOR-TV), Los Angeles (KTTV/KCOP-TV) and Chicago (WFLS-TV/WPWR-TV) for a fall 2004 launch in national syndication. The series has been declared a firm go.

The series has now been sold in 18 of the top 20 U.S. television markets, and to stations from the following groups: Fox, Viacom, Tribune, Raycom, Scripps Howard, LIN, Belo, Young Broadcasting, Clear Channel, Media General, Acme and Weigel.

A half-hour daily strip, “Pat Croce: Moving In” will feature Mr. Croce, the former president and owner of the Philadelphia ’76ers, helping families deal with life issues and problems. Families desiring interventions from Mr. Croce will agree to have television cameras installed in their homes, with round-the-clock video surveillance intended to document behaviors that require attention. Mr. Croce will then move in with the family and help family members work through obstacles and challenges using his motivational strategies.CBS Sponsors Talent Showcase for the Disabled: CBS is sponsoring a talent showcase for performers with disabilities on Wednesday, April 28. The showcase, which CBS development executives and casting directors will attend, is part of CBS’s ongoing diversity initiatives. Lawrence Kaldor will direct the show. Additional showcase sponsors include the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television & Radio Artists and the California State Media Access Office.

Jones Named WB Senior VP of Media Planning: Melanie Jones was promoted to senior VP of media planning at The WB; she was VP of media planning. She oversees all national and local off-air media for the network, including cable, radio and outdoor advertising. She reports to Suzanne Kolb, executive VP of marketing.Viacom to Spin Off Blockbuster, Reports 2003 Profit: Media giant Viacom announced Tuesday it will spin off its video rental unit Blockbuster in a tax-free transaction hoped to complete by the middle of the year.

The news came as the New York-based parent of CBS and MTV reported that the company swung to a loss in the fourth quarter due to a $1.3 billion, non-cash charge related to a reduction in good will at Blockbuster.

The move had been widely anticipated for years as Viacom focuses more on its television-based properties and as Blockbuster, in which Viacom holds an 81 percent stake, finds its video-rental business being hammered by mass-market retailers selling low-priced DVDs.

In the spinoff, Viacom shareholders can exchange their shares in the media company for Blockbuster shares for an undetermined price. Viacom officials said the exchange offer will result in fewer Viacom shares outstanding.

Meanwhile, Viacom recorded a loss of $385.4 million, or 22 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $652.4 million, or 37 cents a share. Excluding the Blockbuster-related charge, Viacom’s fourth-quarter profit would have been $630 million. Revenue rose 11 percent to $7.5 billion, driven largely by gains in advertising revenue across all of its businesses.

For the year, Viacom generated a profit of $1.4 billion, or 80 cents a share, up 95 percent from a profit of $725.7 million, or 41 cents a share, on an 8 percent increase in revenue to $26.6 billion.Viacom said its cable networks unit generated a 24 percent gain in revenue for the quarter to $1.7 billion, and a 19 percent rise for the year to $5.6 billion. Operating income for the quarter rose 19 percent to $634.5 million, and advanced 23 percent to $2.2 billion for the year.

The company said its major cable properties, including MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1, all posted double-digit gains in ad revenue, while cable affiliate fees jumped 9 percent. Comedy Central, in which Viacom in May acquired from Time Warner the 50 percent stake it didn’t already own, was responsible for 8 percent of the division’s advertising revenue and 3 percent of affiliate fee growth for the year.

The television operation, which includes the CBS and UPN networks as well as the syndication business and Viacom’s owned-and-operated stations, saw its revenues slip 1 percent to $2 billion
for the quarter and rise 4 percent to $7.8 billion for the year. Operating income tumbled 23 percent in the quarter to $241 million, but rose 5 percent to $1.2 billion for the full year.

CBS and UPN combined generated 6 percent revenue growth for 2003, with CBS prime time posting 8 percent growth. The unit also reported higher syndication growth for the year, with higher revenues seen for “The Dr. Phil Show” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” The company’s TV stations recorded a 2 percent increase in advertising revenue, overcoming a sharp drop in political advertising revenue.LIN Reports Q4 Loss: The LIN TV station group, which owns 23 television stations in 13 markets, said Tuesday it swung to a fourth-quarter loss and suffered a decline in revenues-the result of a one-time charge sparked by a soft advertising market.

The Providence, R.I.-based company reported red ink of $44.2 million, or 88 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $12.7 million, or 25 cents per share. Revenue dropped 8 percent to $97.4 million.

For the year, LIN reported a widened loss of $90.4 million, or $1.81 a share, vs. $47.2 million a year ago, or $1.13 a year go.

The company blamed much of the fourth-quarter red ink on a $51.7 million charge related to a decline in value of LIN’s broadcast licenses. The company blamed the value decline on weak market conditions brought on by the war in Iraq and a weak advertising environment.

LIN CEO Gary Chapman said it continues to await the result of legal wrangling over station-ownership rules that can help the company expand its use of duopolies, but added that he won’t wait for the rules to become official before he explores ways to grow.

To that end, Mr. Chapman said his sale in January of WEYI-TV in Flint, Mich., to Barrington Broadcasting was part of a broader strategy to shed stations in markets where there was little opportunity to create duopolies. The proceeds of that $24 million sale will be used to pay debt.