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Feb 25, 2004  •  Post A Comment

NBC to Take Part in Indecency Summit

NBC late Wednesday announced that it will join the other three major TV networks at a March 31 industry summit hosted by the National Association of Broadcasters that’s aimed at cleaning up broadcast programming. Under the gun from federal regulators, ABC, CBS and Fox have already announced their intent to attend the all-day NAB session, which is slated to be held in Washington.

In a Feb. 25 letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, however, Randy Falco, NBC Telvision Network Group president, and Jay Ireland, NBC Television Station Group president, recommended that the NAB’s indecency session be expanded to include “stakeholders from all segments of the media industry.” Said the two NBC executives, “NBC recognizes that this issue involves far more than television broadcast networks.” The NBC executives also said the network supports pending legislation that would raise the maximum fine for indecent broadcasts from $27,500 to $275,000 — as long as regulators keep in mind the context of alleged violations and don’t use their new authority to issue penalties “disproportionate to the gravity of the offense.”

Promax Conference Registration Begins: After a couple of tough years, Promax says its annual conference seems to be on the rebound, with nearly 1,000 people already signed up for the TV promotion group’s June 2004 get-together.

Part of the reason registration is up is because this year’s conference is being held in New York, said Jim Chabin, CEO of Promax & BDA. At this time last year, only 200 people were signed up for the conference, which was held in Los Angles. Ultimately the L. A. confab drew 2,400 attendees, well down from the record 4,300 attending the 1999 conference in Toronto. The Promax conference hasn’t been held in New York for more than 20 years.

Mr. Chabin said that with the marketing arms of many broadcast and cable channels based in New York, it’s easier for managers to send their staffs to a conference in the Big Apple. “So much of the cost of sending someone is airfare and hotels,” he said. Holding the meeting on the East Coast also creates an easier trip for international.

Promotion people are involved the hot area of integrated marketing and product placement, and Promax is holding part of its conference in conjunction with a meeting of the Promotion Marketing Association. Mr. Chabin said that will give marketing executives from major companies a chance to network with TV marketing types and find additional opportunities to promote brands on TV.

One company taking advantage of the opportunity to become more familiar to TV executives is Sole Mineral Water, which is imported from Italy. Sole will be distributed and promoted as the “exclusive pouring partner” at all official Promax & BDA U.S. events.

“This partnership not only assists our company with product integration, it also allows us to interface with television’s key decision makers,” said Sally Ver Vynck, director of Sole Mineral Water.

The Promax & BDA annual conference will be held jointly with the PMA on June 23, with the regular Promax & BDA meetings taking place June 24 and 25.

Among the speakers expected are NBC anchor Brian Williams, Oxygen founder Geraldine Laybourne, Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, Fox Sports Chairman David Hill and MTV president Judith McGrath.

Calpers Will Withhold Vote for Eisner: In the clearest sign yet that a showdown could be brewing at The Walt Disney Co.’s annual shareholders meeting next week, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) said Wednesday it was withholding its vote for Michael Eisner as chairman and CEO of the media company, saying it has “lost complete confidence” in the executive.

CalPERS, which owns 9.9 million Disney shares and is the media company’s 29th-largest shareholder, said it was also withholding votes for the three board members who make up the company’s audit committee: Monica Lozano, Robert Matshullat and Father Leo O’Donovan. CalPERS cited the audit committee’s authorization of its auditor to perform “an unquantifiable amount” of nonaudit services, such as tax examination help and internal controls services, at a time when many corporations are moving away from such practices.

“We have lost complete confidence in Mr. Eisner’s strategic vision and leadership in creating shareholder value in the company,” Sean Harrigan, president of CalPERS’ board of administration, said in a statement. Among the gripes CalPERS has is the five years of what it called “dismal performance” of Disney’s stock compared with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

The investment agency said it will vote for the other Disney directors up for re-election because it believes signs are pointing to the directors taking steps to make management more accountable.

Margol Joins Travel Channel: Former TNT executive Bill Margol has been hired by the Travel Channel as VP of production, the company announced today. Mr. Margol will head the network’s production staff and collaborate on Travel Channel’s development and programming efforts. At TNT Mr. Margol served as director of production and development. Previously, he was an executive producer and manager of special projects for the Sci Fi Channel.

‘Idol’ Drives Fox; ‘Model’ Struts for UPN: “American Idol”-driven Fox may have won the night last night in adults 18 to 49 and total viewers, but UPN was a true winner. “America’s Next Top Model” scored record highs in adults 18 to 49 and total viewers.

It pulled a 3.8/9 rating in adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data, finishing in third place in the demo. “Model” beat NBC’s sitcom combo of “Frasier” (3.3/8) and “Scrubs” (3.4/8), CBS’s “The Guardian” (2.5/6) and The WB’s “One Tree Hill” (1.6/4) and came within a tenth of a rating point of ABC’s sitcom combo of “According to Jim” (4.2/11) and “Less Than Perfect” (3.6/9). Fox’s “24” won the time period in the demo with a 4.6/11.

“Model” also drew 7.5 million total viewers, its biggest audience yet. The second half-hour of “Model” scored a 4.1/10, second only to “24,” which had a 4.2/11 and 8 million total viewers.

Fox’s “American Idol” demolished the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. competition with an 11.1/29 in adults 18 to 49 and 26 million viewers. The closest any competitor came to “Idol” in the demo was ABC and CBS, which tied for second place with a 2.8/7. “Idol” also beat second-place CBS’s “Navy NCIS” by nearly 14 million viewers.

At 10 p.m. NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” won the time slot with a 5.7/15 in adults 18 to 49 and 14.5 million viewers. ABC also got a boost in the hour with the third episode of “Super Millionaire,” which pulled a 4.4/12 in the demo and 13 million total viewers, good enough for a second-place finish in both measures.

For the night, Fox won in adults 18 to 49 with a 7.8/20, followed by NBC (3.7/9), ABC (3.7/10), CBS (2.7/7), UPN (2.6/6) and The WB (1.9/5). In total viewers, Fox won the night with 18.6 million, followed by CBS (11.5 million), NBC (10.2 million), ABC (10.1 million), UPN (5.5 million) and The WB (4.6 million).

Adelphia Outlines Plan to Emerge from Bankruptcy: Beleaguered cable operator Adelphia Communications on Wednesday laid out its plans to emerge from federal bankruptcy protection, with company executives hoping to complete the process by year-end and announcing that the company received $8.8 billion in bank financing to help fund the effort.

The financing is split between $5.5 billion in senior secured credit facilities and a $3.3 billion bridge loan, the latter of which serves as a short-term loan to tide over the company until more permanent financing is in place. The $8.8 billion total will be used to finance cash payments made by Adelphia as part of its Chapter 11 reorganization plan, which was submitted Wednesday to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Investment banks JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse First Boston, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank are serving as lead banks.

“This gives us what we need to be a stand-alone company that is independent and growing very rapidly,” sa
id William Schleyer, Adelphia chairman and CEO.

As part of the reorganization plan, Adelphia estimated its value at about $17 billion, excluding minority interests, and said it will carry about $8 billion in debt and have access to a $750 million revolving credit facility.

The company said it will have several classes of creditors and equity holders, who, depending on their status, could be paid with cash, preferred securities or common stock. The final outcome could be only a month away.

While specific details have not been announced regarding creditor payments, Adelphia officials said they expect debtor-in-possession lenders to receive cash, as would bank lenders, subject to pending litigation. Joint venture partners would receive preferred securities in exchange for their stakes in various Adelphia joint ventures.

Meanwhile, jury selection continued Wednesday in the trial of company founder John Rigas, his sons Michael and Timothy, and Michael Mulcahey, former director of internal reporting, all of whom face various charges related to allegations they bilked Adelphia out of millions.