B&C Eye

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Cable's ups and downs

Morgan Stanley media analyst Richard Bilotti estimates that, altogether, cable networks will ring up 7%-10% more in ad sales in the current upfront than they did in last year's. But not all the networks are prospering, and some have had to cut their cost-per-thousand-viewer rates (CPM). Here's his take on CPMs compared with 2001:

Network

CPM % chg.

Fox News

+15

Nickelodeon

+8

MTV

+8

ESPN

+7

ESPN2

+7

Comedy

+7

E!

+7

Toon

+6

BET

+5

Court

+5

CMT

+5

HGTV

+3

Food

+3

TBS

+1

TNT

+1

MSNBC

0

fX

0

TNN

0

TV Land

0

History

0

VH1

-2

CNBC

-5

CNN

-5

Headline News

-5

A&E

-5

Discovery

-5

TLC

-5

ABC Family

-5

Animal Planet

-5

Travel

-5

Lifetime

-10

Sci Fi

-10

USA

-12

Talk write

Sports, ESPN executives contend, is the perfect fodder for lively debate and a little shouting. So, come Sept. 30, ESPN is launching its second talk-radio-style show, Around the Horn. The daily, half-hour show features five sports writers from across the country weighing in on the top sports news. An in-studio host (the search is still on) will referee.

"We're turning the 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. hour into a place for lively, hot-topic debate," says ESPN SVP of Programming Mark Shapiro. "We'll let the newspaper guys go at it."

Around the Horn
will air at 5 p.m. ET, leading into ESPN's popular Pardon the Interruption
(below), a face-off between Washington Post
columnists Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon at 5:40 p.m. ET.—A.R.

RCN price break

Cable executives are dying for a nice system sale at a fat price. Not likely the $5,000-plus per sub of two years ago, but the something north of $4,000 that would calm cable investors' anxieties that Adelphia's collapse has taken private market values with it. Well, bad news is coming. The next big sale looks to be RCN Corp.'s properties, and bids are coming in low. Though it's a cable overbuilder, ailing RCN also owns conventional, monopoly cable systems in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including the wealthy Princeton area. Bidding is around $3,500 per sub. (That's $283 million for the 81,000-sub Princeton system alone.) Bidders include Cablevision and three veteran cable executives: Steve Simmons, Bill Bresnan (above) and Dave Unger.—J.H.

Comsat foes see blue

Litigants in a long-running fight over Lockheed Martin's purchase of Comsat are hoping the increasing profile of indecent-programming decisions (Eminem, Sarah Jones) will help their cause. Last week, the Litigation Recovery Trust, which wants what it says are Comsat monopoly profits for the public, asked FCC Chairman Michael Powell to dust off the 1995 petition accusing Comsat of violating indecency prohibitions through its in-hotel movie service. Children have been improperly exposed to pornography, LRT said, because parents have no control over programming provided via hotel closed-circuit TV. —B.M.

News still a go at Gocom

Contrary to local rumor and some Web reports, WJCL(TV) Savannah, Ga., will not be pulling the plug on its local news anytime soon, says Gocom President Paul Brissette. He acknowledged ratings difficulties at the station but said that, overall, it is doing well and that news is not in danger. Gocom is hoping for some gains in news ratings at Fox affiliate WTGS(TV) there, which is owned by members of Brissette's family and run, under a joint sales agreement, by WJCL. WTGS's newscast, also produced by WJCL, is at the less competitive 10 p.m. time slot and recently expanded to an hour.—D.T.

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