Fates & Fortunes Weekly Round-Up: August 24, 2009

Here’s this week’s round-up of who’s coming and going in the media industry.

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Big Kahunas

MGM CEOHarry Sloan was pushed aside last week, but retained his chairman title. Now three people are filling his position: Mary Parent, chairperson of the worldwide motion picture group; Bedi Singh, CFO and president of finance and administration; and Stephen S. Cooper, vice chairman and restructure specialist who’s Zolfo Cooper’s partner.

Robert Clasen, chairman and CEO of Starz, will retire at the end of this year, the premium programmer said Wednesday, Aug. 19. Clasen joined Starz in 2003 as president of sales and marketing, and was named CEO in 2006, after parent Liberty Media Corp. acquired the assets of IDT Corp. and formed Starz Media.Under Clasen’s leadership, Starz and its sister channel Encore grew subscribers by more than 20% and more than doubled cash flow. Starz also launched VOD, HD and Internet video offerings, launched a movie studio (Overture Films) and led the development of original programming for the channels, including Crash and Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  No replacement has been named for Clasen. Liberty Media said it would conduct a search for a successor and that Clasen would remain with Starz until the search is completed.

Corporate Changes

Ken Ripley was named Current Media’s executive vice president of advertising sales based in New York. Ripley most recently was executive vice president of global advertising sales for IGA Worldwide Inc., an independent in-game advertising agency. Prior to that, Ripley was vice president of sales development at Discovery Communications.  Ripley also has served as vice president of advertiser sales for TiVo, Inc., where he launched TiVovision, interactive television’s first marketing system for advertiser on-demand messaging.  Before TiVo, Ripley was vice president of advertiser sales for Columbia TriStar Television.

Kimberly Philo has been named vice president of media advertising and promotion at CBS Television Distribution. In her new position, she’s responsible for all media planning and strategy for the syndicator’s 11 first-run shows as well as its off-net product. Philo joins CTD from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, where she spent six years in advertising and media planning. She had been vice president of global media since 2006. Prior to working at Disney, she had been local sales manager at both KCBS and KNBC Los Angeles. Philo graduated from USC where she earned a BA in communications.

Sally DeStefano has been named vice president of human resources for Time Warner Cable’s Northeast Ohio Division. In this role, DeStefano will be responsible for directing all areas of human resources, including organizational development, recruiting, compensation, benefits and training. Most recently, DeStefano was president & CEO of Perspectagon, LLC, a human resources service agency. She has also served as vice president of human resources for Time Warner Cable in southwest Texas as well as with Suddenlink Communications, Inc. DeStefano holds a bachelors degree in education, an MBA in human resources management, and holds SPHR and CPC certifications in human resources and professional and executive coaching.

Programming Promotions

Lisa Leingang has been named Comedy Central’s senior vice president of original programming and development on the East Coast. She’ll be responsible for overseeing all original pilots and series based on the East Coast. Prior to this, Leingang spent four years as vice president of primetime programming and development at CBS Entertainment, where she oversaw development of scripted series and handled executive responsibilities on pilots such as The Good Wife, Love Monkey and 3Lbs. Before joining CBS she worked at NBC for seven years as vice president of comedy development, securing the first development deal for Flight of the Conchords and comedian Demetri Martin, among others.  Leingang is effectively replacing Lou Wallach, who had been senior VP of east coast development before being laid off from Comedy last December. Wallach started his own producing, packaging and consulting company late last year.

Journalism Jumps

Steve Harvey — author, comedian, actor and host of The Steve Harvey Morning Show — as joined ABC’s Good Morning America as an occasional paid contributor. Harvey’s first broadcast aired Wednesday, Aug. 19. Harvey will bring GMA viewers a series of reports on topics ranging from relationships to parenting over the next few months. He will bring his own unique perspective, style and humor to morning television while interacting with viewers around the country via ABCNEWS.com, Skype and live guests in-studio.

Martin Savidge will become a special field correspondent for public broadcasting’s weeknightly international newscast, while Daljit Dhaliwal takes over as anchor. Savidge moved over to Worldfocus from NBC News and CNN. Prior to joining Worldfocus, Dhaliwal worked for CNN International and BBC News. She also hosted PBS’ half-hour weekly international affairs show, Foreign Exchange. Worldfocus, produced by New York’s WNET.org, launched one year ago and is seen on nearly 90% of the country’s public TV stations.

Lauren Przybyl is joining Fox O&O KDFW Dallas as the new co-host of Good Day.  Starting Monday, Sept. 21, Przybyl will join Tim Ryan, Evan Andrews, Chip Waggoner and Fiona Gorostiza at 5-9 a.m. Prior to joining KDFW, Przybyl was an anchor and reporter at WHDH Boston since 2004. Previously, she was an anchor and reporter at KOB Albuquerque, N.M. Earlier, she was an anchor at KTXS Abilene, Texas, and worked at KCTF Waco, Texas, and Texas Cable News in Dallas.

Stacy Owen, news director at Gannett’s KXTV Sacramento, has been hired by Hearst’s WLWT Cincinnati to replace Brennan Donnellan, who left the station a month ago. Owen has been news director for three years in Sacramento. Before that, she spent 13 years at Young’s KRON San Francisco as an assistant news director, executive producer and producer and three years as news director. Owen, who is married with a 4-year-old son, starts Sept. 8.

Alycia Lane, dismissed from CBS’ KYW Philadelphia in early 2008 after a string of bizarre incidents, reports for duty at KNBC Los Angeles August 19. She’ll be a weekend anchor and general assignment reporter.

Station Switches

Jennifer Jennings has been named local sales manager of CBS’ WWJ Detroit. Most recently, she was local sales manager at Clear Channel Communications in Chicago. She’s also been a sales manager for Cumulus Broadcasting and CBS Radio.


The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers began its search for a new executive director to succeed Kimberly Maki, who served a three-year term and accepted a senior executive position with Bright House Networks. The trade group for the motion-imaging industry says a search committee to identify potential candidates was appointed, and it expects to fill the slot by year-end.


Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films, will receive the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The award, for “an individual, company or organization that has made a substantial impact and demonstrated the extraordinary use of television,” will be presented at the Creative Arts Emmys Sept. 12, which will air as a two-hour special on E! Sept. 18. Under Nevins’ leadership, HBO docs have raked in 20 Academy Awards. Individually, Nevins has collected 22 Primetime Emmys as a producer, as well as 25 news and doc Emmys, 31 Peabody awards, and one personal Peabody award. This year, Nevins is nominated for four more Emmys.


Don Hewitt, creator and former executive producer of CBS’ venerable newsmagazine 60 Minutes, died on Aug. 19 of pancreatic cancer. He was 86. Hewitt joined CBS News in 1948, directing the first TV newscast with anchor Douglas Edwards. He also executive produced the CBS Evening News, the first half-hour network newscast, in 1963. That broadcast featured another stalwart of the industry, Walter Cronkite, who passed away on July 17. In 1960, Hewitt produced and directed the pool coverage for the first televised presidential debates in 1960 between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. He launched 60 Minutes on Sept. 24, 1968, with Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace in the anchor chairs.

Robert D. Novak, the conservative columnist and cable news pundit, died Aug. 18 at his home in Washington after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 78. He wrote a nationally syndicated political column, Inside Report, with Rowland Evans for 30 years. Evans retired in 1993 and Novak continued the column on his own until his health forced him to retire last summer. Evans died in 2001. Novak also was well known to cable news audiences as a conservative commentator. He and Evans appeared on CNN from the network’s start in 1980. He also executive produced Capital Gang and was a regular panelist on Inside Politics. He left CNN in 2005, and Fox News hired him as a political analyst in 2006.

TV syndication pioneer Dick Colbert died Friday, Aug. 21, after suffering from a brief illness. He was 85.  In the mid-1970s Colbert partnered with Jack Barry and Dan Enright, forming Colbert Television Sales (CTS). Through the company, Colbert distributed such first-run programs as The Joker’s Wild and Tic Tac Dough. Throughout the 1980s, Colbert continued his association with Barry and Enright until he facilitated the sale of the B&E library to Sony in the early 1990s.  He is the father of Program Partners’ Ritch Colbert.

Stan Henson, audio operator at Gannett’s NBC affiliate WXIA Atlanta, passed away on Friday, Aug. 14, after a two-year battle with cancer. Henson had been working as a broadcaster in Atlanta for 36 years.

Jim Riekse, former broadcast journalist at Gannett’s ABC affiliate WZZM Grand Rapids, died on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at the age of 63. He had spent more than 20 years with the station as an investigative reporter, starting in 1971. He was the first reporter to interview President Gerald Ford at the White House in 1974. He left broadcast journalism in 1995 to become executive director of the Grand Rapids Service Corp. Later, Riekse was the West Michigan coordinated campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential run in 2004. He’s survived by his son, Jim Riekse III; his daughter, Jamie McWilliams; his parents, Dr. James and Helena Riekse; four sisters and three grandchildren.

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.