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Apr 15, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Comcast Expands VOD in New England

Comcast has expanded its local video-on-demand focus in New England with plans to offer its 2.2 million customers in the area local programming on demand shortly after it airs. The operator finalized deals with New England Cable News, Hearst-Argyle-owned ABC station WCVB-TV, PBS station WGBH-TV, New England Sports Network and CN8, The Comcast Network. They will be offered on Comcast’s new “Get Local” programming category on the on-demand menu.

Comcast said a variety of programs, such as NESN’s Boston Bruins playoff coverage, WCVB’s 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news and WGBH’s “Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” will be available “minutes after they air.” Comcast also said it will offer morning news in Connecticut at 6:30 a.m. and evening news at 6 p.m. from NBC-owned WVIT-TV in Hartford, Conn.

Adelphia Makes Deal with iNDemand: Adelphia has struck a deal with iNDemand to carry its high-definition networks, INHD and INHD2. The deal is significant because Adelphia is the second major cable operator that is not one of iNDemand’s owners to carry the networks. Cablevision added the channels earlier this year. iNDemand is owned by Comcast, Cox, Time Warner and Bright House.

Under the deal, iNDemand will provide marketing assistance to Adelphia in launching the channels. In addition, Adelphia retains the right to pre-empt the two channels with local professional sports in HD.

Viacom Execs’ Compensation Drops: Viacom Chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone and President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin each took home 6 percent less in total remuneration in 2003 than in 2002, thanks to reduced annual bonuses, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The two executives, who are generally paid the same salary and bonus, saw their bonuses fall to $15 million in 2003 from $16.5 million a year earlier, which offset an increase in their base salaries to $3.99 million.

Mr. Redstone also saw annual compensation fall in the “other” category, which generally includes his use of company aircraft and other perquisites. Both executives saw compensation related to life insurance and retirement plans fall as well.

Meanwhile, Chief Financial Officer Richard Bressler saw his remuneration rise nearly 2 percent in 2003 to $6.7 million from a year-earlier level of $6.6 million, largely due to an increase in his base salary to nearly $1.2 million from a year-earlier $1.1 million. His annual bonus was unchanged at $5.5 million.

Tribune, Emmis Report Higher Revenues: After starting off slowly, a more robust advertising market helped a pair of station groups report higher quarterly revenue numbers today.

Tribune, which owns 26 television stations and a stake in The WB Network, said its broadcast and entertainment division posted a 7 percent increase in operating profit to $97 million while revenue rose 4 percent to $329 million. At its television stations, revenue rose 6 percent to $306 million while operating profit climbed 9 percent to $102 million, largely on the strength of gains in auto and financial services advertising.

However, those results weren’t enough to offset investment losses at the company, which reported a 15 percent decline in first-quarter profit to $120.7 million, or 35 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $141.2 million, or 41 cents a share. Revenue rose 3 percent to $1.3 billion.

The losses related to value declines of derivative instruments and a related Time Warner investment.

Meanwhile, Emmis Communications said its 16 television stations reported a 9 percent increase in revenues to $56.4 million for the fiscal fourth quarter ended Feb. 29 and a 1 percent increase to $235.9 million for the full fiscal year.

That helped the Indianapolis-based company post an 8 percent increase in revenue to $136.9 million for the fiscal fourth quarter and a 5 percent increase to $136.9 million for the full year.

However, the company reported a widened fiscal fourth-quarter loss of $23.7 million, or 43 cents a share, compared with a year-ago loss of $7.4 million, or 14 cents a share, due to charges related to discontinued operations and an accounting rule change. For the year, Emmis reported a narrowed loss of $6.7 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with a loss of $173.5 million, or $3.27 a share, a year earlier.Oxygen Media Inks Deal With Stone Stanley: Oxygen Media signed “Man Show” creator Stone Stanley Entertainment to a development deal. Stone Stanley, which also produces “The Joe Schmo Show” and “Celebrity Mole” is developing a reality series for the Oxygen Network. “Stone Stanley has a proven track record with edgy, fun reality shows and their brand of television fits right in with other Oxygen programming,” said Debby Beece, Oxygen programming president. “Their shows have a lot of personality and a very distinct feel and we are really eager to see what they come up with.”

National Geographic Goes to Titanic: Explorer Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the remains of the R.M.S. Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985, returns to the wreck site in a National Geographic Channel one-hour special.

“Return to Titanic” will air June 7 and will include the first-ever live telecast from the Titanic wreck site.

Husband of Former FCC Spokeswoman Charged with Murder: Police in Arlington County, Va., have charged the husband of former Federal Communications Commission spokeswoman Susan Lewis with her murder. According to a police statement, Ms. Lewis, 41, was found unconscious in her Arlington home April 12, suffering from an “apparent strangulation wound.”

Police said she died soon after being transported to a local hospital. Ms. Lewis’ husband-James William Powell Jr., 44-is being held in the county detention facility without bond, police said.

Ms. Lewis served as director of the FCC’s office of public affairs for former agency Chairman Reed Hundt. Her mother is Ann Lewis, a Democratic National Committee official who was President Clinton’s director of communications.

Ms. Lewis was the niece of Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. Services for were held Thursday morning.

Lifetime Announces Plans for 2004-05: Lifetime Television today outlined its 2004-05 season, unveiling plans to boost the number of Lifetime original movies by 50 percent and introducing a new reality series from the producers of “American Idol.”

During an upfront presentation in New York that featured a live performance by hip-hop singer Ashanti, the network said all four of its original dramas are returning next season and that it will increase the number of original movies to 19 from 12.

Among the movies planned are “Caught in the Act,” starring Lauren Holly, who portrays real-life Tennessee private investigator Janice Holt; “Baby for Sale,” starring Dana Delany in a film about a sting operation involving a baby-selling ring; and “Miracle Run,” which features Mary-Louise Parker as a mother who champions the cause of her autistic twin sons.

In addition, Lifetime is introducing a new reality series to complement the returning series “Merge” and “Head 2 Toe.” The new show, “How Clean Is Your House,” is produced by “American Idol” producer FremantleMedia North America and is a British import that features the original British hosts Kim Woodburn and Aggie Mackenzie.