Viacom has all but assured Tom Freston and Leslie Moonves that either or both executives will replace Sumner Redstone as CEO of Viacom by 2007, a Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows. According to the document, which details the executives’ employment contracts, by no later than Dec. 31, 2007, either Mr. Freston or Mr. Moonves or both will be named CEO of the media giant. If one is chosen over the other for the CEO spot, the also-ran will be named sole president and chief operating officer and be required to serve in the role for 18 months to ensure a smooth transition. Their new contracts disclose that Mr. Freston and Mr. Moonves each will have an annual base salary of $3 million and deferred compensation of $2 million, while Mr. Redstone will receive a base salary of $3.5 million, up from last year’s base of $1 million, and $2 million in deferred compensation, down from $4 million under his previous contract.
Liberty, Comcast Agree to Asset Swap
John Malone’s Liberty Media and cable titan Comcast agreed last Wednesday to an asset swap in which Comcast will trade its stake in Liberty for Liberty’s stake in several programming assets, including E! Entertainment, and $545 million cash.
`Rescue Me,’ `The Grid’ Grab Viewers
Two original cable projects drew substantial viewership in their debuts last week. FX’s Denis Leary-led drama series “Rescue Me” premiered July 21 with 4.1 million total viewers and 2.5 million adults 18 to 49, according to FX. The premiere episode was presented by the Miller Brewing Co. without commercial interruption, a basic-cable first. Also last week the first two episodes of TNT’s original limited series “The Grid” drew an average of 4.3 million viewers July 19, according to TNT. “The Grid” delivered almost 1.5 million viewers in the adults 18 to 49 demographic.
Belo Closes Two News Channels
Newspaper and station group owner Belo Corp. last Friday said it shuttered two 24-hour cable news channels in Texas that it operated in a joint venture with Time Warner Cable. The channels, News 24 Houston and News 9 San Antonio, were closed immediately Friday, with all 190 employees at those two channels losing their jobs. Control of a third all-news cable network in Charlotte, N.C., that Belo and Time Warner jointly ran will be handed over to Time Warner. The joint venture with Time Warner lost for Dallas-based Belo $18.7 million since the partnership began in September 2000.
Brogliatti Upped at Warner Bros.
Barbara Brogliatti has been promoted to executive VP and chief corporate communications officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment. She will continue to report to Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, who made the announcement last week. Ms. Brogliatti will continue to head Warner Bros.’ press activities, serving as the company’s official spokesperson and chief press officer, handling the corporate press; dealing with industry issues and public affairs. Ms. Brogliatti most recently was senior VP and chief corporate communications officer.
Senate Panel OKs Retransmission Measure
The Senate Commerce Committee last Thursday approved legislation that would require satellite operators to offer all retransmissions of local broadcast signals on a single dish within 18 months. EchoStar Communications had been lobbying for the right to keep the signals on two dishes in key markets. Broadcasters persuaded lawmakers that the two-dish policy is discriminatory. Nonetheless, the legislation also opens the door for satellite companies to offer distant digital TV signals to subscribers that can’t receive those signals from local affiliates-an initiative broadcasters have opposed. Pro-broadcast provisions in the legislation make clear that satellite operators can only offer the distant network digital signals in areas where they are already offering the analog signals of broadcast stations.