F & F Round-Up: April 7 – April 13, 2010

Surprise! After all of us media sheep spent the last four months wondering, writing and wringing our hands over whether and when Conan would end up on Fox, the whole thing ends in one fell swoop with today’s announcement that Coco is headed to TBS come November.  To me, the deal’s a slam dunk for all involved. Fox never made financial sense and trying syndication in access was too risky. TBS is like the Goldilocks of deals for Conan – just right.

As always, you can follow Fates on Twitter @BCFates or me personally @PaigeA, although depending on workload and computer health I’m not always as twittery as I should be. Forward fates to me at BCFates@gmail.com or at palbiniak@gmail.com.

Big Kahunas

Charter Communications Interim CEO Mike Lovett was named the company’s permanent CEO, reports Multichannel News. CFO Eloise Schmitz will leave the company when her contract expires in July. Lovett joined Charter in 2003, and took over as interim CEO in March when Neil Smit left to become president of Comcast Cable.

Comcast COO Steve Burke (pictured left) upped his pay 50% in recession-riddled 2009 to $34 million from $22.6 million in 2008, reports Multichannel News. Burke runs Comcast’s entertainment assets and will oversee NBC Universal once that acquisition is complete. The bulk of Burke’s increase was fueled by additional stock awards, jumping to $10.1 million in 2009 from $4 million in 2008, according to a proxy statement filed with the SEC. Burke also received a $3 million bonus in 2009 – versus none in 2008 – and got a $110,000 raise in salary. Burke has been at Comcast since 1998.

Former Nat Geo President Laureen Ong becomes president of The Travel Channel, which Scripps Networks Interactive acquired last December. Scripps Networks Interactive  also owns HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, Great American Country and Fine Living Network, soon to be branded as the Cooking Channel. Prior to coming to Scripps, Ong spent the past three years as COO of Hong Kong-based Star Group Limited.  Jonathan Sichel also has been promoted to general manager of network. Previously, he was SVP of commercial affairs at the network.

Debbie Richman, formerly executive VP of ad sales for Lifetime, has joined ABC as SVP of prime time sales for the network, reporting to Geri Wang, ABC’s new president of sales and marketing. Before moving to the other side of the table to join Lifetime in 2008, Richman was managing director of national broadcast at OMD. Her media buying experience also includes stints at Young & Rubicam and McCann-Erickson, and Optimum Media.

Liberty Media Chairman John Malone is resigning from the board of DirecTV. According to a statement, Malone is also reducing his 24.3% voting interest in the company to a 3% stake and is exchanging 21.8 million Class B shares, for 26 million Class A shares. The move effectively eliminates the Class B shares. The change is expected to satisfy an FCC condition regarding Liberty Media’s acquisition of a stake in DirecTV in February 2008. The FCC order came as a result of the overlapping interests of both Liberty and DirecTV in Puerto Rico. Greg Maffee, president and CEO of Liberty Global, and Paul Gould, a member of Liberty Global’s board of directors, also are expected to resign when the transaction closes, according to DirecTV.

Programming Prospects

Melinda Hage has been promoted to EVP current programming at Warner Bros. TV, joining Susan Rovner as studio chief Peter Roth’s two top programming lieutenants. Hage will oversee current series, while Rovner oversees development. The new structure is being put into place after Leonard Goldstein left WBTV to head the TV department at Fake Empire, the new production company founded by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. Schwartz and Savage are the producers behind such shows as Fox’s The O.C., The CW’s Gossip Girl and NBC’s Chuck.

Miramax production vet Kristin Jones has been hired as Vuguru’s chief creative officer, one of a few top executive hires by the Internet production shingle backed by Michael Eisner’s Tornante and Canada’s Rogers Communications.  David Shall, former business affairs exec at FremantleMedia North America and Fox, also has been tapped as head of business operations and general counsel

Former WME agent Priyanka Mattoo has been hired to grow the television department at actor Jack Black’s production company, Electric Dynamite, which also is partnering with Shine International’s Reveille to develop scripted comedies, animation and unscripted series for both television and digital platforms. Shine will handle global distribution for any projects resulting from the partnership.

Tramm Wigzell has been named VP of action adventure, and Nick Weidenfeld has been named VP comedy development at Cartoon Network reports THR.

Mary V. Buck, head of casting at Warner Bros. Television for the past four decades, will retire on May 27. Prior to her long tenure at WBTV, Buck was an independent casting director, working with Susan Edelman as a partner in Buck/Edelman Casting for more than 20 years. She also was president of the Casting Society of American from 1999 – 2002. Among the shows she has helped cast are Two and a Half Men, Gossip Girl, Chuck, The Wonder Years, Malcolm in the Middle and many others.

Buck (pictured left) will be replaced by Tom Burke, a talent agent at ICM, reports Deadline.com’s Nellie Andreeva.

Marjorie Levy and Megan Lawrence have been named VP, development, and director, development at WE tv and Wedding Central. Danielle Ostroske joined the development team as development producer, after previously serving as development producer.

John Taite has been named VP of multiplatform programming at BBC America. Taite previously was VP, programming, for BBC Worldwide’s EMEA channels, and since arriving in 2007 has launched 12 channels in that territory.

Alonso Galvez and Christian Riehl have each been promoted to VPs of production at NBC Universal-owned-Telemundo. Galvez has been at Telemundo since January 2007, overseeing development, production and launch of more than 14 shows and specials.  Prior to that, Galvez was at Univision for 15 years. Riehl has been at Telemundo since 2001, and prior to that was EP at Orinoco Productions.

Journalism Jumps

CBS’ LA-based duopoly – KCBS and KCAL – is moving its news anchors around. Laura Diaz, Pat Harvey and Paul Magers and weathercaster Jackie Johnson are swapping time slots – and stations in some cases —  while sports broadcasting veteran Jim Hill has signed a multi-year contract extension to continue as the duop’s lead sports anchor. Diaz will solo anchor the weekday editions of KCBS’ 6 p.m. newscasts. Magers and Harvey will co-anchor KCBS’ 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. weekday newscasts. Magers has co-anchored KCBS’ 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts since 2004, but Harvey is a new addition, having just celebrated her 20th anniversary of anchoring KCAL’s primetime newscasts. Weathercaster Johnson departs KCAL to join Magers and Harvey over at KCBS.  Sharon Tay succeeds Harvey as co-anchor of KCAL’s weeknight news editions at 8 and 10 p.m., joining Rick Garcia. Josh Rubenstein will provide KCAL’s weeknight weather reports until Johnson’s successor is named.

Sarah Miles, EP/acting news director at Raycom-owned WAVE Louisville has been named news director at WMBF Myrtle Beach. She starts in mid-May.

Rob DeMello is the new weekend sports anchor at New Vision’s KHON Honolulu, in what has got to be one of the best jobs in the known world: covering sports while living in Hawaii. DeMello has been weekend sports anchor at KITV since 2005.

Station Switches

Bob Sullivan is Scripps’ new VP, content, for the company’s television division.  Previously, Sullivan was president and CEO of Sullivan and Associates Consulting, where he focused on brand development, strategic planning and message marketing. He’s also served as news director and VP, broadcast, at Scripps’ KNXV Phoenix.

Corporate changes

Jim Garrity, CEO of Bellwether Digital Bridge, has been named chairman of the board at Canoe Ventures.  Vicki Lins, Canoe’s CMO, has been named vice chair. Other members of Canoe’s new board include:  Wendy Clark, senior VP, integrated marketing, communications and capabilities for The Coca-Cola Company; Beth Comstock, senior VP and chief marketing officer for GE; David Droga, founder and creative chairman of Droga5; Mark Kvamme, partner and venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital; Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers; Wes Nichols, co-founder and CEO of MarketShare Partners; Mike Pohl, CEO of Jinni Media, Ltd.; Gokul Rajaram , co-founder and CEO of Chai Labs, Inc.; and George Wiedemann, CEO of UMarketing LLC.

Jennifer DeGuzman has been appointed VP, communications, at Bravo. She comes to the network from MTV where she spent 16 years.

Troice Jones has been promoted to VP at Continental Television Sales, a division of Katz Television Group. She’ll be based in Dallas. Jones has been at Continental for 12 years, beginning her career at the company in Detroit.

Kurt Patatwas named of digital PR at MTV, after working at AOL since June 2006. Meanwhile, Caroline Campbelljoined AOL as VP of Corporate Communications in September 2009. She previously worked with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong at Google.

Multiplatform Moves

Gannett’s Chief Digital Officer Chris Saridakis is leaving the company after just two years in the job, according to a just-filed regulatory notice. Saridakis arrived at Gannett in January 2008 as the company’s first chief of digital operations.


Lee Raftery has been promoted to SVP, international marketing at Comcast International Media Group (CIMG). Based in CIMG’s Los Angeles headquarters, Raftery will spearhead all marketing efforts for CIMG’s channels including E! Entertainment Television, The Style Network, G4 and Golf Channel, as well as leading the company’s international marketing teams in the United States, United Kingdom and Hong Kong.  Prior to joining CIMG in 2008, Raftery worked for leading global toy company Hasbro Inc. for ten years.

Finn Arnesen has been named SVP of international distribution and development at Hasbro Inc., charged with leading Hasbro’s international expansion. Arnesen joins the studio from Cartoon Network, where he managed European operations.

In Memoriam

Actress Dixie Carter, 70, passed away on Saturday, April 10, from complications from cancer. Carter was best known for her role as a sassy Southern belle on the CBS sitcom Designing Women. More recently, she was an Emmy nominee for a seven-episode guest stint on ABC’s Desperate Housewives. She’s survived by her husband, actor Hal Holbrook, to whom she’d been married for more than a quarter of a century, and two daughters, Mary Dixie and Ginna.

John E.D. Ball, 77, founding president of the National Captioning Institute and two-time national Emmy Award winner for his television engineering work, died March 25 at the Fairfax Nursing Center of complications from a stroke suffered in November at his home in Vienna. Survivors include his wife, the former Elizabeth Rodger of Vienna; three sons, Norman Ball of Leesburg, Adrian Ball of Arlington County and Evan Ball of Vienna; and a grandson.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.