Fates & Fortunes Round-Up: Jan. 18, 2010

As most take a day off to commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., NBC gets close to wrapping up Conan O’Brien’s exit package. When and if we see him return to late-night remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I spend this week prepping for NATPE, at which I’m moderating a panel on Monday, Jan. 25, at 2:30 p.m. Come by and see me!

As always, you can follow Fates on Twitter @BCFates or me personally @PaigeA. Forward fates to me at BCFates@gmail.com or at palbiniak@gmail.com.

Big Kahunas

Ted Harbert, president of the Comcast Entertainment Group, has been reupped for five more years, taking him through 2016. The Comcast Entertainment Group includes E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, G4, Comcast International Media Group and Comcast Entertainment Productions. Under Harbert’s leadership, E!, Style and G4 have been on a continued growth streak, hitting most-watched records every year for the past five years. Harbert, the former chairman of ABC Entertainment who’s well-known for his wicked sense of humor, was  named president of E! in summer 2004

News Corp. confirmed its TV reorg, as first reported by B&C Editor Ben Grossman.

Programming Prospects

Kent Alterman has been named Comedy Central’s head of original programming and production, replacing former programming chief Lauren Corrao, who left the network at the end of 2009. Alterman previously had been the head of Comedy Central’s New York development office until his departure in 2001. Most recently, Alterman had a deal at Fox Film Studios, producing and directing feature films, as well as producing and directing projects in development at New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., Lionsgate and a television pilot with Shawn Ryan at 20th Television Studio. Alterman directed and executive produced New Line’s feature film, Semi-Pro, starring Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson and Andre Benjamin. A veteran development executive, he was with New Line from 2001 to 2006 where he oversaw a diverse slate of projects including, Elf, A History of Violence and Little Children. He also worked with Michael Moore for two years as a writer, director and executive producer on the Emmy-award winning series, TV Nation on NBC and Fox.

James Abee has been named VP, programming of the new HD lifestyle network, be. The network’s first original production, A Moment of Wellness, will be available at NATPE next week.

Diane Robina has been named EVP, development, acquisitions and programming strategy at the TV Guide Network. Robina also will continue to serve as president of FearNet, the multiplatform joint venture owned by Comcast, Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Television. Lionsgate owns a controlling stake in TV Guide Network. Prior to her appointment at TV Guide Network, Robina also served as EVP, acquisitions strategies for MTV Networks, EVP/GM of TNN, and the head of Comcast Emerging Networks.

Peter Iacono has joined Lionsgate as managing director, international television, reports the Hollywood Reporter. Based in Los Angeles, he replaces Lionsgate veteran Craig Cegielski who left the company in November to run Graham King’s newly launched TV production company GK-TV. For the past two years, Iacono oversaw the merger of Granada International and Granada Ventures into ITV Global Entertainment. Before that, Iacono spent 12 years overseeing Sony Pictures Television International’s global distribution, most recently serving as head of production for Sony Pictures Features International.

Corporate Changes

Michael Skarzynski, president and CEO of ratings outfit Arbitron, has been ousted and replaced by board member William Kerr as word came from Washington that a powerful legislator was looking into whether the executive misled them in testimony on the company’s Portable People Meters.  Skarzynski resigned after Arbitron’s board concluded he had “violated a company policy in a matter entirely unrelated to the financial performance of the company.” An Arbitron spokesperson would not comment on the reasons for the departure, but Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, said he had received information Jan. 11 that Skarzynski “may have provided false testimony at a December 2, 2009 hearing” of his committee. Arbitron has been under scrutiny in Washington, including on the Hill and at the FCC, for its Portable People Meters, which critics say undercount minorities. Kerr has been a director since 2007 and has been chairman of the board of Meredith.

Brian Potter has joined Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic as senior director of communications. Prior to this, Potter worked in communications for three National Hockey League teams, including five seasons with the Washington Capitals. He joins Comcast SportsNet from the Atlanta Thrashers and began his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he held various communications roles for three seasons.

Station Switches

Mike Reid has been named EVP of national sales at Liberman Broadcasting, a privately-held, minority-owned Spanish-language broadcaster. Prior to joining LBI Media, Reid spent 17 years at Univision Communications Inc. Most recently, he was SVP, sales, in New York. He got his start at Liberman company as a local account executive for KUVN-TV in 1992.

KTVT-KTXA Dallas News Director Scott Diener has been named VP and news director at the CBS-owned duopoly KCBS-KCAL Los Angeles. He replaces Nancy Bauer Gonzales as head of news at the Los Angeles duopoly.

Scripps’ WXYZ Detroit VP/GM  Bob Sliva will retire April 1. A 23-year veteran of the station, he became GM late in 2007.

Ofelia Castiblanco has been named the new director of community affairs at NBCU-owned WNBC and WNJU. Castiblanco is taking over the responsibilities of VP of Press and Public Affairs, Anna Carbonell, who is retiring.

Journalism Jumps

Veteran Fox News producer Gresham Striegel has jumped to MSNBC, reports TVNewser.

Nicole Lapin (pictured right) is joining CNBC as anchor of Worldwide Exchange, the first worldwide daily business news program with anchors across the globe. Previously, Lapin was an anchor at Atlanta-based CNN.

As reported, Erica Hill has been named newsreader for CBS News’ The Early Show. She will continue to serve as co-anchor of the Saturday edition of The Early Show and contribute to other CBS News broadcasts. Hill, who is departing CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 to take the job, replaces Russ Mitchell, who is leaving the Early Show to become CBS News’ national correspondent.

Vera Jimenez, who has been KCBS Los Angeles’ morning traffic reporter, starts as Tribune-owned KTLA’s evening weather anchor on Jan. 25, reports the LA Times.

Former CBS Political Director Steve Chaggaris has been named director of television projects and senior executive producer of Allbritton’s News Channel 8 local news net. The move is part of the company’s plan to combine the assets of the Washington area cable news net, its ABC affiliate, WJLA Washington, and a new web site. At CBS, Chaggaris oversaw coverage of the 2008 elections, both running the political unit and reporting on the races and first year of the Obama administration, according to Allbritton.

SallyAnn Mosey has joined Fox’s WTXF Philadelphia, as a weather and traffic reporter on Good Day Philadelphia.” Prior to joining WTXF, Mosey was with WNBC New York, where she served as the meteorologist for Weekend Today in New York for three years. Previously, she spent eight years as a weekend meteorologist and a reporter for WPVI Philadelphia. Earlier in her career, Mosey spent six years as a weather anchor at WTNH New Haven, Connecticut. She began her television career at WGRZ Buffalo, N.Y.

Gayle Guyardo, morning anchor at NBC affiliate WFLA Tampa Bay, Fla., is leaving the station to develop a hybrid entertainment/advertorial daytime TV show with Clearwater-based infomercial king Kevin Harrington, who’s currently starring on ABC’s Shark Tank, reports The St. Petersburg’s Times’ Eric Deggans. Their show is tentatively scheduled to launch in September and has the working title Access: Gayle. WFLA will replace Guyardo with Rod Carter, a former reporter and fill-in anchor who left the station in 2007 for a morning anchor job in Birmingham, Ala.

Blaise Labbe is the new news director at KCTV/KSMO Kansas City, reports TV Barn’s Aaron Barnhart. He comes to the duopoly from Griffin Communications, where he directs online content. Prior to that, he was the news director at Griffin’s KWTV Oklahoma City.

Kevin Robinson, former meteorologist at The Weather Channel, started last week as chief  meteorologist at WLWT Cincinnati, while Valerie Abati moves to weekends, and Eric Green moves to Albuquerque, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Kiesewetter.  Robinson, 30, is a 1997 Princeton High School graduate, replacing chief meteorologist Derek Beasley.

Bill Bolen, longtime WBRC Birmingham news anchor and contributor to Good Day Alabama, is retiring at the age of 81.

Married couple Candace Hirleman and Chris Archer, the respective marketing and news directors at KGMB, KHNL and KFVE (which share news services under an agreement reached last year), are transferring to Los Angeles, where Hirleman will become news promotion manager at KABC.

Also in Honolulu, Lara Yamada is joining Paula Akana as an anchor at KITV this April. Hawaii native Yamada comes to KTIV from KCPQ Seattle.

Tech trades

Sean Percival joined MySpace as director of content socialization, reports WebNewser. Percival, one of MySpace’s first 3,000 users, had most recently been with Tsavo Media, and he has also worked with Mahalo and Docstoc and started the lalawag blog.

Also at MySpace, Shari Friedman has been promoted to SVP of advertising sales, West, where she will oversee branded sales and relationship development with major advertising partners in the region. Prior to MySpace, she spent six years at AOL, reaching the post of regional sales director.


Barbara Lange has been named executive director ofthe Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. She most recently served as staff director of product management and business development for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
In Memoriam

Bill Brooks, former Palm Beach councilman and retired GM of WPTV Palm Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Jan. 16, at the age of 76 while on a cruise of the Panama Canal with his wife, Muffy. He had been suffering from cancer.

John Billingsley, 27, photographer at ABC affiliate WLOS Greenville, S.C., died early Sunday morning, Jan. 17, when he fell into an air shaft at the Omni Hotel where he was a guest. Billingsley had been at the station since 2004, getting promoted to photographer in 2006.

Stuart A. Lindman, the first news anchor at KARE Minneapolis who worked at the station for years, died on Tuesday, Jan. 12, after a long battle of pancreatic cancer at the age of 87.

Richard Frohlich, a former reporter at WFTV Orlando, died Sunday, Jan. 10, at the age of 5 Frohlich’s survivors include two daughters and a sister.


Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism announced the 2010 winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards on Thursday, Jan. 14. CBS News won two duPont Awards for political and economic reporting. Six local television stations also will be honored this year—the highest number of local stations to win in more than two decades. The first duPont Award for a Web-based production will go to MediaStorm, a multimedia production studio.

Selected by the duPont Jury for excellence in broadcast journalism, the award-winning news programs aired in the United States between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009. The following honorees will be presented with silver duPont batons at a ceremony held at Columbia University this Thursday:

  • American Public Media, American RadioWorks, Michael Montgomery & Joshua E. S. Phillips
    What Killed Sergeant Gray
  • CBS News & Katie Couric
    The Sarah Palin Interviews
  • CBS News
    CBS Reports: Children of the Recession
  • HBO & Edet Belzberg
    The Recruiter
  • KHOU-TV, Houston & Mark Greenblatt
    Under Fire: Discrimination and Corruption in the Texas National Guard
  • KMGH-TV, Denver & Tony Kovaleski
    33 Minutes to 34 Right
  • MediaStorm & Jonathan Torgovnik
    Intended Consequences
  • NPR, Michele Norris & Steve Inskeep
    The York Project: Race and the 2008 Vote
  • POV, Elizabeth Farnsworth & Patricio Lanfranco
    The Judge and the General, on PBS
  • WCAX-TV, Burlington & Kristin Carlson
    Foreigners on the Farm
  • WGBH, Boston, FRONTLINE/World, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy & Dan Edge
    PAKISTAN: Children of the Taliban, on PBS
  • WSVN-TV, Miami, Carmel Cafiero & Anthony Pineda
    Pill Mills
  • WTVF-TV, Nashville & Phil Williams
    General Sessions Court
  • WWL-TV, New Orleans
    NOAH Housing Program Investigation
Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). 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.