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Fates & Fortunes Weekly Round-Up: Oct. 5, 2009

This morning we woke up to more speculation about the potential Comcast-NBC U merger:What would happen to Jeff Zucker?What would happen to Hulu? Who will run the new company?Why the heck didn’t Comcast just buy Disney when it had the chance?

We’re also still getting to hear about this hideous Letterman scandal, which I’m sure will go on for months. I’m not sure what I want to hear about less – Jon & Kate’s marital woes or David Letterman’s sexcapades.  I wonder: will this delightful news affect the hard-fought late-night ratings wars? In the short term, I expect it will goose Letterman’s ratings but in the long-term, will it send disgusted viewers over to Conan?

Media moves follow. As always, you can follow us on Twitter @BCFates (or me personally @PaigeA). Forward fates to me at or at I try to be comprehensive in what I include in these round-ups.

Big Kahunas

Watch this space. If Comcast and NBC U do form a joint venture, there will be lots of big corporate moves to report, particularly who will be the programming bigwig at Comcast (the LA Times’ money is on Steve Burke) and what will happen to the Jeffs Zucker and Gaspin.

Journalism Jumps

Jack Atherton is the new anchor at Hearst-owned NBC affiliate WLWT Cincinnati, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. The station hired him after his contract with Raycom-owned Fox affil WXIX expired, but he had to wait to work until his non-compete clause expired on Oct. 1.

Jamie Holmes, weekend anchor at WPTV West Palm Beach, quit his post this week, according to Josie Lambiet’s Page 2 Live blog. Holmes apparently was unhappy that he was moved to a reporter post instead of being named weeknight anchor. That job went to Jay Cashmere.

ABC veteran ops manager Zach Toback has joined NBC News as Vice President, News Operations, according to TVNewser. Toback most recently was executive director of production and operations for Good Morning America. He’d been with ABC News for 14 years. Toback starts at NBC News Oct. 19.

Corrie Harding, news director at Cox’s NBC affiliate WPXI Pittsburgh, is departing the station, reports the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. Harding joined WPXI in 2005 after working as an assistant news director and managing editor at WBNS in Columbus. Melissa Knollinger, who had been the newsroom’s second-in-command, left two weeks ago. Meanwhile, general manager Ray Carter will serve as the news director until a replacement is found.

WABC New York is hiring, and it’s turning to local talent to fill its ranks. Reporter Darla Miles has been hired on from Belo’s WFAA Dallas, reports Ed Bark’s blog Uncle Barky’s Bytes. And Rob Powers, weeknight co-anchor at ABC’s WTVG Toledo, is moving to New York to become the station’s weekend sports anchor, reports the Toledo Blade.

Jennifer Burgess has been let go from Scripps-owned ABC affiliate KNXV Phoenix, reports the Phoenix Examiner.

Miranda Combs, co-anchor of the 10 p.m. news on Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WDKY, is leaving next month to take a public relations job at Preston-Osborne, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. In other Lexington market news, former WKYT Lexington reporter Joe Gillespie is returning to the Gray-owned CBS affiliate as a part-time weekend assignment editor. Gillespie previously worked as news director, anchor and reporter for WVLK-AM 590 but was among the staffers cut during a November 2008 restructuring by the Cumulus Broadcasting station. And Morris-owned ABC affiliate WTVQ Lexington has hired Cate Slattery as a reporter and photographer. Slattery is from Cincinnati and previously worked at stations in Lafayette, La., and Charleston, S.C.

Programming Prospects

Karrie Wolfe’s role at RDF Media Group is growing. The SVP will now serve as the main American contact for RDF Rights, charged with acquiring American formats from third-party non-RDF producers to be sold worldwide. She’ll also be responsible for selling U.S. paper formats to international broadcasters, while continuing in her current position of acquiring international formats for the American market.

Former New York Mets and Texas Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is joining ESPN as a baseball analyst. Valentine will contribute primarily to Baseball Tonight, starting during the League Championship Series and continuing through the World Series. He will assume a larger role in the broadcast during the 2010 season. In addition, he will contribute to, the cabler’s local sports Website launching in 2010, as well as 1050 ESPN Radio in New York. Valentine previously contributed to ESPN in 2003, before moving to Japan to manage the Chiba Lotte Marines from 2004-2009. Valentine led the Marines to a Japan Series victory in 2005, the first for that team since 1974. Prior to that he managed the New York Mets from 1996-2002, leading them to the World Series in 2000, and he managed the Texas Rangers from 1985-1992.

Jared Tobman has been promoted to executive vp of digital and production for Reveille, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In the newly created position, Tobman, previously senior vp and executive in charge of production, will be responsible for producing Reveille’s digital entertainment programming and overseeing physical production of Reveille’s roster of unscripted television programming, including NBC’s “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins” and MTV’s “The Buried Life,” which Tobman also co-executive produces.

Migdalia Figueroa has been promoted to VP content for the Telemundo Station Group. Figueroa previously held the same title at Telemundo station WSCV Miami, and will continue with that role too. Figueroa has been with WSCV since January 2005, when she started as VP news. She was promoted to VP content in February 2009. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico and resides in Miami.

Michael Bearden has been named band leader of TBS’ new late-night show Lopez Tonight, premiering on November 9, 2009. Most recently, Bearden was musical director for “This Is It,” the series of 50 concerts by Michael Jackson to be held in London before Jackson’s death. He can be seen as keyboardist in the upcoming film documenting Michael Jackson’s rehearsals of the concert series of the same name. Michael is also the music supervisor, composer and associate producer of the film. Bearden has worked with some of music’s biggest names and composed scores for many feature films.

Ben Rubin has been named creative director, marketing for Discovery’s Planet Green, reporting to Rob Jacobson, the network’s SVP marketing. Rubin joins Planet Green from Rush HD and VOOM HD where he was VP marketing and creative services for Rush HD and VOOM HD.

Tiffany Thorpe has been promoted to director of production operations at Gospel Music Channel, overseeing all original and acquired production as well as on-air operations for the channel.

Station Switches

Robert Simone was named president and general manager of Belo Corp.’s Tucson duopoly, KMSB/KTTU. Simone most recently advised Liberty Media on its broadcast industry initiatives. Prior to his position at Liberty, Simone spent 20 years at Fox Television Stations Inc. in a variety of management roles.

Journal Communications President/Journal Broadcast Group CEO Doug Kiel will retire December 27 to start his own company somewhere outside of Milwaukee. Journal Communications Chairman/CEO Steven J. Smith will run the station group for the foreseeable future after Kiel steps down.  Kiel joined Journal Communications in 1987 as Vice President and General Manager of WKTI-FM and also managed WTMJ Milwaukee. He took over the Broadcast Group in 1992 and became president of Journal Communications in 1998.

Barry Leffler, president and general manager of Media General’s NBC affiliate WNCN has purchased minority ownership of 1360 AM, WCHL radio in Chapel Hill, and will be leaving WNCN. Leffler will assume the role of CEO and managing partner with current majority owner Jim Heavner, and eventually will buy Heavner out.

Corporate Changes

News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media was reorganized and renamed News Corp. Digital Media (NDM). The new executive team includesGeneral Counsel and EVP of Business Affairs Dan Fawcett; EVP of Operations Jack Kennedy; EVP of Strategy and Corporate Development Jorge Espinel; and SVP of Safety, Security and Privacy Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam. Jon Miller remains News Corp.’s Chief Digital Officer. NDM will now direct  MySpace, IGN Entertainment, Fox Audience Network, Photobucket, Beliefnet, and Fox Mobile Group will now be directed by NDM.

Edward Georger has been promoted to EVP, ad sales, at Crown Media Holdings, owner of Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel.  Georger will be based in New York. In addition, Cindy Kelly was promoted to SVP, National Advertising Sales, and Stephanie Versichelli has joined the company as SVP, Eastern Sales.  Both Kelly and Versichelli will report to Georger.

Dennis Adamovich has been named senior vice president of brand and digital activation/general manager of festivals for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies.  Adamovich is based in Atlanta and reports to Jeff Gregor, chief marketing officer for TBS, TNT and TCM.Adamovich joined TBS in 2008 as senior vice president/general manager of comedy festivals.  He previously served as senior vice president of marketing for Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang networks.Before joining Cartoon Network in July 2000, Adamovich worked for Coca-Cola as managing director of Marketing Works. Prior to that, Adamovich was director of worldwide leisure marketing for Coca-Cola.

Phil Bishop and David Grant each have been promoted to VP at CBS Television Distribution. Bishop’s new role as VP, worldwide DVD mastering will put him in charge of production of all CBS DVD and Blu Ray releases worldwide.  He will be responsible for overseeing CTD’s new internal production area at Television City, which includes creating the physical design and authoring of CTD’s DVD titles in-house, producing special features for new releases and helping build the worldwide DVD release schedule. VP, digital mastering, Grant will oversee all HD and SD mastering on CBS Home Entertainment titles, including editorial and music replacement, music rescoring and creative direction of on-screen menus. He will also collaborate with the marketing and sales departments on new DVD title releases.

Howard Handler has been named EVP, marketing and sales, at MSG Entertainment. Handler will serve as the strategic leader of all MSGE marketing initiatives including brand management and event sales for all MSG Entertainment properties. He also will oversee the management of our brands, creative services, research, database and ad sales planning spanning the entire portfolio of MSGE properties including concerts, family shows/Broadway series, events and productions.

Jake Maze has been named account executive, in charge of U.S. distribution for Sony Pictures Television.Political Prospects

Former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will co-chair D.C.-based Patton Boggs’ telecommunications and communications practice. Martin had been working at the Aspen Institute since departing the chairmanship last January.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has announced staff appointments in several bureaus:

Catherine Seidel, chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, has been named deputy chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau.

John Branscombe, chief of the Spectrum and Competition Policy Division, has also been named deputy chief of the Wireless Competition Bureau.

Monica Desai, former chief of the media bureau, has been named deputy chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

Mark Stone, deputy managing director of the commission, has been named deputy chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.


Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) Chairman Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma Entertainment, was reelected to a second two-year term.


No obits this week! What a relief!