ESPN, Cox Renew Carriage Contract
After an unusually public and contentious negotiation, ESPN and Cox Communications today announced an agreement to renew and extend Cox’s carriage of multiple ESPN networks and services. Under the long-term deal, Cox will continue to carry ESPN and ESPN2 on its expanded basic tiers. Cox had threatened to move ESPN to a sports tier because it said ESPN was seeking a big increase in its license fee. ESPN’s old contracts with operators called for increases of 20 percent annually on a fee that was in the $2.60 per subscriber per month neighborhood.
Financial terms of the new deal were not made public, but a source familiar with the deal said it called for a “healthy” rate increase that would meet ESPN’s cost needs. Cox also agreed to distribute new services, including ESPN HD and ESPN Deportes. “We’re pleased to reach agreement with ESPN,” Cox President and CEO Jim Robbins said in a statement. “We are resolved to protect the value of cable television service for our customers, and with this agreement we believe we made material progress in accomplishing that objective.”
We are pleased to have completed agreements with Cox that are good for both parties and great for fans who will continue to enjoy ESPN and ESPN2 on expanded basic into the next decade,” said George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN. “These agreements are consistent with ESPN’s strategic plan, begun over a year ago, to offer our affiliates new deals with moderating rate adjustments for ESPN off a solid rate base, in exchange for long-term commitments and the distribution of new services from ESPN such as ESPN HD and ESPN Deportes.”
ESPN, Charter Announce Distribution Agreement: ESPN and Charter Communications announced long-term distribution agreements for ESPN networks and services, including the continued distribution of ESPN and ESPN2 on expanded basic cable, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, and the launch of ESPN Broadband, ESPN Deportes and ESPN HD. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Kellerman to Host Fox Sports Net Show: Fox Sports Net has hired ESPN’s Max Kellerman, to host a daily 30-minute talk and interview show. Mr. Kellerman’s FSN show is scheduled for a mid-April launch. Mr. Kellerman had been host of ESPN’s “Around the Horn” and a studio analyst for “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN2.
Univision Reports Q4 Profit Surge: Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications on Thursday said its fourth-quarter profit surged 62 percent to $58.9 million, or 17 cents a share, from $36.4 million, or 14 cents a share, a year ago, propelled by the company’s acquisition of a radio group as well as improved ratings at its television properties. Revenue at the Los Angeles-based company jumped 44 percent to $408.1 million.
For the year, Univision’s profit soared 80 percent to $155.4 million, or 55 cents a share, from a year-earlier level of $86.5 million, or 34 cents a share. Revenue advanced 20 percent to $1.3 billion.
Univision’s television properties, which include its eponymous broadcast network as well as new broadcast network TeleFutura and cable net Galavision, recorded an 8 percent increase in revenue to $1.1 billion, despite declines in advertising revenue due to the absence of the World Cup and a slowdown in political advertising spending. The company attributed the gains to audience growth.
Fox Wins Wednesday: An “American Idol”-powered Fox easily won the night last night in adults 18 to 49 and total viewers. “Idol” was the highest-rated show of the night in adults 18 to 49 with a 9.6/25 and total viewers with 21.8 million, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. At 9 p.m. “The O.C.” continued to do well after “Idol,” tying for first place in adults 18 to 49 with ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” Both shows scored a 5.1/12 in the demo. “The O.C.” is up 33 percent in adults 18 to 49 over its pre-“Idol” average (5.2/12 vs. 3.9/10).
At 10 p.m. NBC’s “Law & Order” won the time slot in adults 18 to 49 with a 6.2/16 and total viewers with 18 million.
For the night, Fox won adults 18 to 49 with a 6.4/16, followed by NBC (4.3/11), ABC (4.2/11), CBS (3.2/8), The WB (2.2/5) and UPN (1.4/4). In total viewers, Fox won the night with 14.1 million, followed by NBC (12.4 million), CBS (10.8 million), ABC (9.8 million), The WB (5.3 million) and UPN (3.4 million).
Food Network to Produce ‘Iron Chef’ American Version: The Food Network plans to produce an American version of “Iron Chef.” Food Network has acquired license and format rights from program creator Fuji Television of Japan and plans to film a new series in March that will air in April. Among the competitors will be Food Network cooking personalities Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck and Aldo Vitale.
Brooke Johnson, senior VP and general manger of Food Network, said Food Network will be working closely with Fuji on the project. “It’s an honor to us they are trusting us with this” program, she said.
In other news, the Food Network will launch a “Cooking With Kids” initiative, encouraging parents to team with their children in the kitchen because cooking teaches lessons in math, reading and organization. The project will be launched with an Emeril Lagasse special in April and lead to a week in October during which all of the network’s programs will have a cooking with kids theme.Charter Reduces Red Ink: Charter Communications said today that it narrowed its fourth-quarter loss to $58 million, or 20 cents a share, vs. red ink of $1.2 billion, or $6.36 a share, a year ago as the company pared down its negative cash flow and continued to pull itself out of its financial hole.
Revenue at the St. Louis-based cable operator rose 2 percent to $1.2 billion, on high-speed data subscription growth, which offset declines in advertising revenue and a contraction in video basic subscriptions, as new customers lured to Charter with low-cost pricing promotions abandoned the operator once regular monthly rates were imposed.
For the year, Charter narrowed its loss to $242 million, or 82 cents a share, from a loss of $2.5 billion, or $8.55 a share, a year ago. Revenue was up 6 percent to $4.8 billion, as high-speed data growth and video price increases offset a fall in advertising dollars.
During what Charter CEO Carl Vogel described as a transition year, Charter in 2003 exchanged nearly $1.9 billion in debt that was coming due soon for $1.6 billion in debt securities with longer maturities, providing a savings of $294 million.
Charter also sold cable systems to generate proceeds of around $760 million that will be used to repay bank debt, which stood at $18.6 billion at the end of 2003.
Linkletter to Receive Life Achievement Award: Art Linkletter, who became “America’s grandfather” through his 19 years of hosting “People Are Funny” and his 26 years with “House Party,” will receive the Christopher Life Achievement Award at the 55th annual Christopher Awards program Thursday, Feb. 26, at New York’s Time-Life Building.
The pilot for the CBS freshman hit “Joan of Arcadia” is among the 24 works and 79 people to be honored by the Christophers, a nonprofit organization that recognizes people who use their talents to raise the standards of public life.
Other TV honorees include Bill Moyers’ PBS miniseries “Becoming American: The Chinese Experience”; HBO’s “Unchained Memories: Readings From the Slave Narratives”; the Lifetime Television movie “Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story”; ABC News’ “20/20” for a story about a physically disabled high school cheerleader; the Cinemax documentary “The Collector of Bedford Street”; and Ken Burns’ “Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip.”
Museum of Television & Radio Names Brotman President: Stuart Brotman, a communications consultant and academic, has been named president of the Museum of Television & Radio after what board chairman Frank Bennack Jr. described as a “very exhaustive and thorough search” for the successor to Robert Batscha, who died in July 2003 after 22 years at the helm of the museum.
Mr. Brotman will take his new position March 1.
Mr. Bennack said, “Stuart’s diverse and extraordinary background will complement his k
nowledge of television and radio history and his appreciation for the creativity of the artists who produce the programming that is in the museum’s collection. I am confident that he will advance the museum’s already high standing, ably help define and pursue its mission and build on the robust foundation.”
“His talent and leadership will serve the museum well as we continue our mission to expand and enrich the collection, present outstanding public programs and convene executive-level discussions on critical communications issues,” said Mel Karmazin, Viacom president and chief operating officer and co-chairman of the Museum of Television & Radio’s board of trustees search committee.
Mr. Brotman most recently served as president of Stuart N. Brotman Communications, a global consulting firm based in Lexington, Mass. Since 1981 he has provided strategic business, financial, regulatory policy and operations counseling, due diligence evaluations and management education to corporate CEOs, presidents and other key executives within the domestic and international telecommunications, Internet, media, entertainment and sports industries.
Mr. Brotman said, “I have been a loyal patron for the past 25 years and have marveled how the museum captures our collective memory. Its extraordinary collection, including programs from more than 70 countries, is unparalleled. I look forward to working with a superb staff, a dedicated chairman and board of trustees as well as the museum’s Los Angeles board of governors and the boards of the International Council and the MT&R Media Center.”
Food Network to Launch ‘Cooking With Kids’: The Food Network will launch a “Cooking With Kids” initiative, encouraging parents to team with their children in the kitchen because cooking teaches lessons in math, reading and organization. The project will be launched with an Emeril Lagasse special in April and lead to a week in October during which all of the network’s programs will have a cooking with kids theme.