Shares in Meredith Corp. fell as much as 5 percent last Friday after the company announced it had fired its top broadcast executive. News that the company late Thursday had dismissed Kevin O’Brien, president of Meredith Broadcasting Group, for allegedly violating the company’s equal employment opportunity policies sent Meredith’s shares down $2.50 to $48.56 a share Friday afternoon. Some analysts suggested Wall Street reacted strongly to the firing because a successor to Mr. O’Brien has not been named and because Mr. O’Brien is well regarded in the industry and was seen as the chief engineer of the broadcast group’s recent success. A Meredith spokesman declined to elaborate on Mr. O’Brien’s dismissal other than to say it was not related to financial matters. Meredith President and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Lacy will oversee the 13-station group until a replacement is named.
Turner, Copps to Speak at NATPE Conference
CNN founder Ted Turner and Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps are scheduled to speak at the 2005 National Association of Television Program Executives Conference & Exhibition. NATPE co-Chairs Stephen Davis, president of Granada America, and John Weiser, president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, announced last week that Mr. Turner will address NATPE’s opening session the morning of Jan. 25. Mr. Copps will be the featured speaker the morning of Jan. 26. Rick Feldman, NATPE president and CEO, also announced the inaugural daylong session of NATPE Mobile ++, which will address the impact of wireless, mobile and digital distribution technologies. The session will be held Jan. 24, the day before the NATPE Conference & Exhibition officially opens.
FCC Commissioners Plan Hearing on Consolidation
Stirring the pot anew on media concentration, the Federal Communications Commission’s two Democrats-Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein-announced last week that they plan to preside over a field hearing on industry consolidation Dec. 9 at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. In a statement, the commissioners said they want to provide a forum to sound out what the public feels the agency should do about its media ownership regulations in the wake of last June’s decision by a federal appeals court overturning FCC deregulation efforts.
Mets’ Cable Net Plan Heads to Court
MSG Networks said last week that the New York State Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing Nov. 17 on its lawsuit over the New York Mets’ plan to start a new cable network that would carry Mets games beginning in 2006. MSG, managed by Cablevision Systems, claims the Mets breached several provisions of the rights deal MSG and the Mets signed in 1996. The Mets bought themselves out of that agreement earlier this year and agreed to form a regional sports network with Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
`A POW Story’ Draws Modest Audience
After two weeks in the white-hot political and media spotlight, “A POW Story: Power, Politics and Media” appears to have attracted a modest audience during its Oct. 22 broadcast on stations owned or programmed by Sinclair Broadcasting Group in metered markets. Nielsen Media Research estimated that the hour-long program was seen in an average 25,000 homes in 15 metered markets.
`Grounded for Life’ Gets Grounded
The WB is not giving its Friday night sitcom “Grounded for Life” a full-season order, which means the final original episode of the Carsey-Werner production will air in early 2005. The series, which is scheduled for an off-network cable run on ABC Family Channel, will have a total of 91 episodes. The show will stay in production a few more weeks to complete this season’s 13-episode order.