The week that was


The Vivendi Mess(ier)

Jean Marie Messier
was finally ousted as chairman and chief executive of Vivendi Universal
last week, and the move unspooled lots of spooky scenarios and some new disasters for the French media once-giant.

For example, the Bronfmans
of Seagrams
fortune, who sold Universal to Vivendi, has seen the $3 billion value from its stock proceeds decline by two-thirds.

Then later last week, a French newspaper reported that Vivendi's accounting practices are being called into question, making the collapsing company's woes even worse.

One wild card in the mess is that the person to end up with an even bigger role at Vivendi is Barry Diller,
who earlier bought USA Networks
and other assets from the Bronfmans and then sold them to Vivendi. He still runs Vivendi's U.S. television and film divisions and now may be in a position to snap up parts of the company, which almost certainly will be carved up and sold.

What happened with Vivendi reverberated, as some observers saw it as a sure sign big, big media entities have big, big problems. Stock in AOL Time Warner, already suffering, fell last week as Vivendi unraveled. Stay tuned, however you say that in French.

Ad it up

Roughly $4.9 billion in domestic media accounts changed hands in first half 2002, according to Cable Audit Associates' MediaAnalysisPlus. Last month alone, MAP CEO Jim Surmanek estimated, nine clients shifted a total $387 million in media billings—"a major slowdown from the $1.4 billion awarded in May" and the second-slowest month this year (behind March) in terms of account activity.

The biggest account switch of June came toward the middle of last month, when Hewlett-Packard
, in the wake of its merger with Compaq Computer
, moved $135 million in media billings from Foote,Cone & Belding
and Initiative Media North America
to Publicis Groupe
and Zenith Optimedia
. ...

Cordiant Communications Group's Bates North America
is folding its media operations into Zenith Optimedia Group's Optimedia,
part of Publicis Groupe
. Bates parent Cordiant also owns 25% of Zenith Optimedia.

Bates and Optimedia had been negotiating deals together during the recent TV upfront. Bates lost considerable bargaining clout with its recent loss of the estimated $500 million Hyundai Motor America

Name dropper

With financial and accounting scandals aplenty, CNBC
has recruited a former SEC
acting chairman to help sort out the news. Laura Unger
is joining CNBC as a regulatory expert and to provide commentary and analysis on the SEC and the financial markets. She'll appear on CNBC programs including Squawk Box,
Business Center
and Capital Report. ...

In her debut week on CNN, Connie Chung
attracted an average 649,000 households, about half the draw of her chief competition, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly. Connie Chung Tonight
averaged a 0.8 rating from June 24-28, while The O'Reilly Factor
posted an average 1.7 rating. MSNBC's
The News With Brian Williams
(in its final weeks before moving to CNBC
July 15) mustered a 0.4 with 331,000 households. Chung's highest rating last week was a 0.9 on her premiere night. But her ratings are a 33% improvement over CNN's previous offering Live From
in June. ...

Fox News Channel
anchor Neil Cavuto re-upped in a new five-year deal. Your World With Neil Cavuto
at 4 p.m. ET averages a 0.7 rating and 573,000 households.

The hirer authority

According to a tracking study by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, media companies axed 1,045 people in June. That's up from 829 in May but a blissful 83% below the 6,309 fired in June 2001. Challenger Gray compiles companies' announcements and filings with regulators concerning layoffs. The tracking study's media category includes broadcast, cable, radio, advertising, entertainment and print but excludes Internet-related cuts.

What's on TV?

Deborah Norville
sits in with Jane Clayson
this week on The Early Show.
It's temporary,
but wags think two women fronting a morning news show might give CBS
enough of an edge to dent the competition. ...

USA Network's'Dead Zone, has returned to form. The series was back up to a 4.7 overnight rating for its third episode June 30. That's after earning a 4.7 for its June 16 debut, then falling off to a 3.4 in week two.

The Adelphia story

Adelphia Communications' ex-auditor, Deloitte & Touche
LLP, blasted the company's new managers, claiming that they withheld information. Deloitte says its auditors had difficulty securing information even after a special committee of the board was set up to examine irregularities at the cable operator.