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Mar 25, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Writers and Producers Schedule Talks

The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers announced late Thursday that negotiations for a new contract will begin April 5.

“We are prepared to meet with the companies and bargain in good faith,” said Daniel Petrie Jr., who was recently elevated to president of the Writers Guild of America West. “The issues of concern to our members are critical to their economic security. We look forward to an open dialogue and a successful negotiation that addresses the needs of writers and the companies.”

“While there is much work that lies ahead, we are eager to sit down with the WGA and negotiate the important industry issues as expeditiously as possible to bring about a mutually satisfying contract,” said J. Nicholas Counter III, AMPTP president.

At the first meeting, the two sides are expected to trade proposals for what should be in the new contract. The current contract, covering both the western and eastern writer’s guilds, expires at the beginning of May.

Spader Gets New ‘Practice’: James Spader signed on to star in ABC’s spinoff of “The Practice” next fall. He will reprise the character of Alan Shore, an ethically challenged attorney. The new drama will follow his character to a high-end civil law firm.

Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite to Get Separate Nielsen Reports: At MTV Networks’ request, Nielsen Media Research will begin reporting Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite as if they were separate networks. While they share a single channel they are programmed separately and sold to advertisers separately, and reach very different audiences, according to MTV. The change takes place beginning March 29. Had the new system been in effect last week, Nickelodeon would still be the top kids network and tops in total viewers over the total day, while Nick At Night would be No. 2 in delivery of adults 18-49. In prime time, Nick at Nite would have registered as the No. 8 network among adults. Executives at other networks said they didn’t understand how the change would be implemented and complained that it set up apples-to-oranges comparisons to networks that are on 24 hours a day.

Brothers to Launch Stand-Up Net: Two brothers who made millions during the dot-com boom are attempting to launch a Chicago-based stand-up comedy cable network. Joseph and Avi Fox, founders of the online brokerage firm Web Street, Inc, announced “Stand-Up Comedy Television (SCTV),” a 24-hour cable channel launching in 2005. Original programming will be shot at the network’s own “studio stages” Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix. No carriers have been announced.

‘Dragnet,’ ‘Karen Sisco’ Finish Runs on USA: ABC dramas “L.A. Dragnet” and “Karen Sisco” will finish their runs on USA network. Both Universal Television produced shows faltered in the ratings on ABC. The Universal-owned cable network USA will air three never aired episodes of “Karen Sisco” and five never aired episodes of “L.A. Dragnet.” “Sisco” will air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. starting March 31, with “L.A. Dragnet” taking over that time slot starting April 21.

Fox Sports Net 2: ‘Lakers Living Room’: Fox Sports Net 2 announced a one-time special featuring a female perspectives on Lakers games, the network announced Thursday.

“Lakers Living Room” features a look at the players’ personal and professional lives through the eyes of five co-hosts: Lakers executive VP Jeanie Buss; Shaunie O’Neal, Shaquille’s wife; WNBA All-Star and FSN college basketball ansalyst Lisa Leslie; Linda Rambis, wife of Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis and FSN’s Leeann Tweeden.

The special will air after the Lakers vs. Hornets game on Tuesday, March 30.

Comcast Buys TechTV: After months of waiting on pins and needles, employees of TechTV were told Wednesday afternoon that Comcast is purchasing their network.

As first reported by TelevisionWeek last December, Comcast plans to fold TechTV into it’s own video game network, G4. The deal is estimated to be worth $300 million for billionaire Paul Allen’s Vulcan Programming. Charles Hirschhorn, founder and CEO of G4, will be CEO of the combined network.

G4 is currently seen in 15 million cable homes and TechTV is in 43 million homes.

Komando Joins CNNfn: Kim Komando, host of the radio hit “The Kim Komando Show” and a popular syndicated columnist, will become a consumer technology contributor to CNNfn next week. In addition to her daily consumer-focused segments on the network, she will contribute twice-weekly columns for the CNN/Money Web site.

The TV segments are meant to help viewers sift through jargon and use technology productively. Ms. Komando’s tips will cover protecting children online, using spam filters and mastering digital photography.

Kaplan, Ballard Promoted at Viacom: Bob Kaplan and Julie Ballard-Lebe have been promoted to senior VPs and regional directors of sales for Viacom Television Stations Sales, which serves as in-house national rep firm for 20 of the 39 Viacom-owned stations. Mr. Kaplan, who has served in a number of key management positions with Viacom Television Stations Sales (formerly CBS Spot Sales), will continue to work out of New York. Ms. Ballard will remain based in Los Angeles. They succeed Alan Clack, who has been named general sales manager of flagship WCBS-TV in New York.

Cable Industry Warned About Rising Rates: The cable TV industry must to move quickly put a lid on skyrocketing rates, or lawmakers will do it. That was the warning shot fired by Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., during Senate Commerce Committee hearings today. “You better listen to the constituents or you are going to have trouble,” Sen. Lott said. “They’re going to holler at us, and we’re going to take it out on you.”

Like several other lawmakers on the panel, Sen. Lott said he does not want to intervene and would prefer that the industry crack down on rates on its own. But rates, as several lawmakers noted, have shot up 56 percent since 1996, at nearly three times the rate of inflation, riling their constituents.

“You’re knocking at that door,” Sen. Lott said. “This is fair warning. If you don’t do something about it, we will.”

Nexstar Reports Q4 Loss: Nexstar Broadcasting, the Irving, Texas-based station group that went public late last year, reported a widened fourth-quarter loss today of $24.4 million, or $1.29 a share, compared with year-earlier red ink of $15.1 million. Revenue fell 6 percent to $59 million.

For the year, Nexstar posted a narrower loss of $87.1 million, or $5.59 a share, compared with a loss of $116.6 million a year ago. Revenue slipped 4 percent to $214.3 million.

The quarterly and full-year results reflect the effect of several influences, including Nexstar’s December completion of its acquisition of Quorum Broadcast holdings, which owned 11 television stations, bringing Nexstar’s roster of stations to 44. The company said it booked $11.8 million in expenses related to the sale.

The company also booked $4.1 million in expenses tied to its November initial public offering.

Meanwhile, a sharp decline in political advertising spending hurt the company’s quarterly and full-year results, with the fourth quarter alone seeing political ad revenue falling to $2 million from a year-earlier level of $17.6 million. However, that decline was partly offset by an 18 percent jump in national and local advertising revenue to $54.8 million.

Adelphia Obtains Funding from Banks: Troubled cable operator Adelphia Communications moved another step toward emerging from bankruptcy today after a group of four banks agreed to lend the company $8.8 billion as part of its reorganization plan.

Under thgs of waiting on pins and needles, e terms of the deal, which was described in court filings submitted late Wednesday, Adelphia will receive senior credit facilities worth $1.375 million each from banks JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Credit Suisse First Boston and Deutsche Bank, plus another $825 million in bridge loan facilities, which are short-term loans made until more permanent financing is secured.

The loans would refinance pre-bankruptcy debt of $6.8 billion and provide the compan
y with working capital.

The financing would take effect only after the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based company obtains court approval of its bankruptcy emergence plan.