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The week that was - Broadcasting & Cable

The week that was

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TRIBUNE CO. GETS FCC BREAK IN FLORIDA

The FCC
hasn't changed its newspaper/television cross-ownership rules yet, but it bent the prohibition a bit last week, allowing Tribune Co.'s South Florida Sun-Sentinel
and WBZL(TV) Miami to combine operations.

Formerly denied the opportunity for joint ad promotions and news production with its co-owned newspaper, seventh-rated WBZL turned to NBC
O&O WTVJ(TV)
to produce its newscast. Trouble is, WTVJ also had news-production agreements with two other stations, which meant that WTVJ was providing news for four of the market's stations. By tapping resources of the Sun-Sentinel, Tribune says, WBZL could produce its own 30-minute newscast rather than "recycling" productions of other stations. Tribune remains under orders to sell one of the South Florida properties if the cross-ownership prohibition is continued.

EXPLANATIONS, PLEASE

After being trashed on Wall Street earlier for failing to disclose much detail about its financial maneuvers to improve its bottom line, Cablevision
revealed some shockingly favorable info about the cutback in its digital set-top deal with Sony.

In 1999, Cablevision committed to buy $1.3 billion worth of Sony advanced digital converters at $350-$375 each. Then, Cablevision said it had gotten out of the deal but didn't say how much it would have to pay. The new filing with the SEC shows that the commitment to Sony is just $138 million over the next two years. Cablevision now is free to use other vendors. …

EchoStar Communications
turned in one of the best quarters in its history, boasting a 21% increase in revenue over the same quarter last year. EchoStar reported $1.17 billion in revenue for second quarter 2002, compared with last year's $966 million.

The rest of EchoStar's numbers looked equally strong, with net income increasing to $45.8 million during the quarter from a net loss of $5.86 million last year. EchoStar's EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) grew to $237 million, up 77% from $134 million last year.

EchoStar also added 295,000 new subscribers, bringing its total to 7.46 million subscribers, a 23% increase year to year.

But EchoStar also revealed that 10 unnamed state attorneys general are investigating the company's customer-service practices. EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen
suggested the states may "have some misunderstanding of the way our industry works, but some of them gave very constructive criticisms of some of our policies." …

Fox
knows it had a tough year, and its numbers show it. According to the year-end results for fiscal 2002 (ended June 30), the Fox network had an operating loss of $283 million vs. a loss of $65 million for fiscal 2001. For the quarter ended June 30, the network lost $60 million, almost as much as it lost in the entire previous fiscal year.

The owned TV stations did better, posting a 20% gain in operating income for the full year, to $598 million. The cable unit turned the profit corner for the year, posting $6 million in operating profits vs. a $59 million loss for 2001. The revenue picture was better for all Fox divisions in 2002 compared with the prior year.

NETWORKING

USA Network's quirky detective drama, Monk,
didn't exactly solve ABC's ratings woes in its repurposing debut on the broadcast net Tuesday night. Monk
notched a 2.6 rating among adults 18-49 and a 2.9 rating for adults 25-54, trailing a Frasier
rerun on NBC
and Fox'sAmerican Idol,
according to Nielsen Media Research fast national ratings. …

Taco Bell
is teaming with Viacom's TNN
for an advertising and product-placement pact. The multimillion-dollar deal runs through summer 2003 and includes Taco Bell advertising and product placement on TNN originals. Taco Bell also recently inked a similar deal with TNN sister net MTV. …

Viacom Stations
Friday named Peter Dunn, who had been executive vice president of sales for NBC Stations, to run KYW-TV
Philadelphia. Dunn is another former colleague of new Viacom Executive Vice President Dennis Swanson. Since joining the group last month, Swanson has recruited new general managers in four of the top five markets. Dunn replaces CBS executive Marcellus Alexander, who will likely move to another Viacom station.

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