AT&T to sell assets
AT&T says it will comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s demands that it sell some of its assets as an agreed condition of the company’s acquisition of MediaOne this year. In a letter sent Wednesday to FCC Cable Services Chief Deborah Lathen, AT&T reiterated its plans to divest its programming arm Liberty Media, contingent upon AT&T getting a favorable tax ruling from the Internal Revenue Service. In the event of an unfavorable ruling, AT&T says it will sell its 25 percent interest in Time Warner Entertainment.
In other AT&T news, the company Wednesday announced plans to slash its quarterly dividend paid to shareholders by 83 percent, marking the first cut in corporate history. AT&T will replace its usual 22 cents-per-share quarterly dividend with 3.75 cents a share for its next payment Feb. 1. Wall Street’s response to AT&T’s after-hours announcement was reflected in a sell-off Thursday of AT&T stock,which fell 9.5 percent in early trading. AT&T’s stock value has dropped 70 percent from its 52-week high of $61 per share in April.
New ‘People’s’ person: “The People’s Court” has found another judge. Jerry Sheindlin — Judge Judy Sheindlin’s husband — has decided to retire after taking the gavel of the Warner Bros. court show in 1999. Marilyn Milian has been tapped as the first female judge of the strip. Judge Milian, who formally tendered her resignation from county court in Miami this week, will join the program early next year. Cases with Judge Milian presiding will begin airing in March 2001.
“Not only does Marilyn have an excellent track record as a circuit and county court judge, she also has tremendous charisma, a terrific sense of humor and an uncanny ability to get to the heart of cases,” said Executive Producer Stu Billett. “Over the years we have been incredibly fortunate to have had three great men in Joe Wapner, Ed Koch and Jerry Sheindlin presiding over the show. We are now moving in a new and exciting direction and are thrilled to have Marilyn as our first female judge.”
Hughes buys Telocity: Hughes Electronics Corp. has acquired broadband provider Telocity for about $180 million. Adding Telocity’s existing DSL-based network is expected to enable Hughes to significantly expand its offering of Internet and broadband services to consumers throughout the United States, complementing Hughes’ nationwide DirecPC broadband service via satellite. Separately, DirecPC announced the availability of its new “two-way” satellite service.
USA still No. 1 cable network: Despite losing its World Wrestling Federation ratings franchise, Barry Diller’s USA Network looks as if it will still end up as cable’s top-rated network in prime time for 2000, according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen Media Research provided by Turner Entertainment Research. Based on ratings numbers for 51 weeks in 2000, USA is averaging a 2.1 rating in its cable universe, representing 1.6 million homes. USA’s numbers dropped from last year, when it averaged a 2.4 rating and 1.8 million homes. TBS is ranked second with a 1.9 rating and 1.5 million homes, followed by Turner’s Cartoon Network at a 1.8 rating and 1.3 million homes. Kids network Nickelodeon is projected to win total day with a 1.5 rating and 1.1 million homes. Networks TBS, Lifetime Television and Cartoon Network will share a three-way tie for second with a 1.1 rating. TBS averaged 931,000 homes; Lifetime, 867,000; and Cartoon, 772,000.
‘Deathmatch’ on UPN on Fridays: “Celebrity Deathmatch,” MTV’s Claymation parody of celebrities and sports coverage, is joining UPN’s 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) Friday lineup Jan. 12. In the first sign of programming synergy between MTV and UPN (both are owned by Viacom), repeat episodes of “Deathmatch” will air in the lead-out slot from the previously announced midseason Claymation entry “Gary & Mike,” which premieres in the 8 p.m. slot the same night. “Gary & Mike” also gets a sneak preview at 9:30 p.m. (ET) Thursday, Jan. 11, coming out of a truncated 90-minute episode of “WWF Smackdown!”
WNBC’s Pressman honored: Veteran political reporter Gabe Pressman of WNBC-TV, New York, received the state’s highest award today, the Jackie Robinson Empire State Medal of Freedom, from Gov. George Pataki for his work chronicling 20th century New York. “For the entire second half of the 20th century, from the front lines of foreign wars to the front steps of urban strife and social injustice, Gabe Pressman has been an uncompromising voice for the common man,” Gov. Pataki said.
Dramatic ratings win for NBC: Going up against a steady diet of repeat programming on the other networks, NBC’s Wednesday all-drama lineup cleaned its competitors’ clocks this week. Sparked by original episodes of “The West Wing” and “Law & Order,” NBC’s top-ranked 6.1 rating/16 share average in adults 18 to 49 posted a 22 percent increase over the previous week, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate ratings. NBC also pummeled ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”-powered lineup in households, holding a 20 percent victory margin with an 11.0/18 average (16.1 million total viewers) over ABC’s 9.2/15 (13.6 million viewers), which was down 19 percent week to week.
Although beaten in households by “Millionaire,” NBC’s “Ed” marked its third weekly 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) Wednesday outing by achieving a tie with the ABC game show at a 5.0/14 average in adults 18 to 49. The freshman NBC drama was up 22 percent from its first Wednesday bow Nov. 19 (4.1/9). “Millionaire” continued its key young-demo slippage, dropping 12 percent from its previous week’s 18 to 49 score (5.7/14).
From there, things got even better for NBC, with “West Wing’s” 6.5/16 average in adults 18 to 49 improving 48 percent from its previous week’s repeat episode (4.4/11). “West Wing” also posted a 12.2/18 in households, representing 18.2 million adults at 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. NBC’s closing hour with “Law & Order” also carried the time period in adults 18 to 49 (6.8/18), households (12.6/21) and total viewers (18.2 million).
Meanwhile, CBS, experiencing continued 18 to 49 erosion for 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. sitcoms “Bette” (2.5/7) and “Welcome to New York” (2.3/6), finished third-ranked in key demo for the evening (3.2/8). Fox dropped 20 percent week to week with a fourth-ranked 2.8/7 for evening, thanks to a cold viewer reception of the made-for-TV movie “How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale.”
‘Gilmore Girls’ get good ratings: In Nielsen Media Research’s metered overnight markets, The WB Network saw its special Wednesday airing of “Gilmore Girls” post a 3.9 rating/6 share household average, holding 98 percent of its “Dawson’s Creek” (4.0/6) lead-in. Meanwhile, UPN’s sci-fi lineup of “Seven Days” (2.7/4) and a repeat of “Star Trek: Voyager” (3.3/5) were flat week to week.
Strong ‘Saturday Morning’ for ABC: On Saturday, ABC’s “Disney One Saturday Morning” children’s lineup delivered a 2.7 rating among the kids 2 to 11 demographic, marking its strongest delivery of the 2000-01 season in the core demo. During the past two weeks, ABC has notched its two highest marks in kids 2 to 11, with the latest average up 22 percent compared with its season-to-date average (2.2 rating).
“One Saturday Morning,” on ABC from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (ET) Saturday, broadcasts five of the top 10 network programs of the morning among kids 2-11: “Recess-2” ranked second overall, followed by “Disney’s Mickey Mouseworks” (No. 5), “Buzz Lightyear” (No. 9) and “Teacher’s Pet,” along with “Weekenders” tied in the No. 10 position. In addition, “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” placed No. 12, and “Disney’s Doug” held the No. 15 position among kids 2 to 11 for the morning.
Generating ABC’s strongest kids 2 to 11 delivery in the 9:30 a.m. half-hour this season, “Recess-2” (3.9) won its time period, beating The WB’s “Cardcaptors” (3.7) and Fox’s “Digimon: Digital Monsters” (2.4). At 10:30 a.m., “Buzz Lightyear” (3.0) produced its highest rating ever and gave ABC its best delivery in the half-hour this season. Also, “Buzz Lightyear” ranked among the morning’s top 10 network programs for the first time. At 12:30 p.m.
,”Disney’s Mickey Mouseworks” (3.4) tallied its strongest kids 2 to 11 delivery of the season.
For the time period in kids 2 to 11, the ratings are WB 3.2/13, ABC 2.7/12, CBS 1.7/8 and Fox 1.6/8.
No digital standard in Russia: Reports that Russia will soon formally announce the selection of DVB-T as its digital television standard are premature, according to Dmitry Tkachenko, an associate professor at St. Petersburg State Technical University’s radio engineering and telecommunications department and senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Mr. Tkachenko is preparing for a broadcasting conference to be held in Moscow in February. Although Europe’s DVB-T is generally recommended for broadcasting in Russia, said Mr. Tkachenko, nothing would bar ATSC testing, for instance, though it would take time to get formal approval. He did confirm there will be three pilot zones testing DVB-T next year in Nigni Novgorod, St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Sony Open in HD on CBS: CBS Television and Sony will produce the 2001 Sony Open golf tournament live in high definition on the CBS Television Network. The two-day coverage begins 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Jan. 20 from the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Thirty-one of CBS’s owned-and-affiliated stations are broadcasting in HDTV, reaching about 45 percent of the nation, according to company estimates. The high-definition broadcast will also be carried in Japan by NHK Japan Broadcasting Corp. (Nippon Hoso Kyokai.)
PC options planned during Orange Bowl telecast: ABC Sports will provide synchronized PC enhancements during the telecast of the Jan. 3 FedEx Orange Bowl, which pits Oklahoma against Florida State. The package of options at the ESPN.com Web site includes a play-along game, instant polling and prizes — including a 2001 Ford Escape.#