Murdoch disputes Ergen's claims

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch expressed irritation over EchoStar Chairman Charlie Ergen's declaration that News Corp.'s offer for DirecTV is inferior. "The assumptions that our deal offers no premium and few synergies are dead wrong,'' Murdoch said last week while discussing the company's fourth-quarter earnings. He also said Ergen is trying to create "a satellite monopoly" that would "give people in 30% of the country no choice at all in provision of multichannel video services.

"There's been some speculation," he continued, "that Charlie's playing a clever hand of poker" by distracting DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics while EchoStar gains market share. "I say that in admiration, not criticism. It's quite possible."

Otherwise, Murdoch said News Corp.'s TV-station operations have been pinched by the weak ad market, but the corporate pain has been offset by ratings gains at the Fox broadcast network, Fox News and Fx cable networks. Fox President Peter Chernin said that, because of ratings growth, particularly at Fox News, the company is "actually seeing net revenue gains."

Getting buyers and sellers together

NATPE is ramping up its efforts to encourage interaction between the ad buyers and syndication community at January's 2002 conference, adding a panel featuring the heads of top ad agencies and a lounge area where sellers can meet with ad executives.

NATPE Chairman Jon Mandel says the convention amounts to a "pre-upfront' for advertisers to preview product.

King World also bows out of NATPE

King World will apparently skip the NATPE 2002 show floor, a spokesperson confirmed, but added that the syndicator "will have some sort of presence." That could mean setting up shop at a Las Vegas hotel, as the domestic syndication divisions at Warner Bros. and Carsey-Werner plan. In April (B&C, 4/9), King World chief Roger King said he was leaning towards scaling back at NATPE to cut costs.

Fox names Liberatore head of Speedvision

Former Sunshine Network Vice President and General Manager Jim Liberatore has been named president of Fox Cable's new co-venture,Speedvision Networks. Sources say it will move headquarters from Stamford, Conn., to Charlotte, N.C., and change its name.

Some AOL/TW doubts

Two influential analysts are questioning AOL Time Warner's ability to keep financial promises, cutting their forecast for the company's revenues and cash flow. Morgan Stanley's Richard Bilotti and Mary Meeker said that AOL's heavily touted target of $40 billion in sales and $11 billion cash flow for the full year "have a very low likelihood of being achieved." AOL's Steve Case and Jerry Levin have hammered home those numbers to justify AOL's takeover of Time Warner. An AOL spokesman said simply, "We have not changed our guidance" on performance for the rest of the year.


Benedek Broadcasting President Jim Yager's name was misspelled throughout a story about small market broadcasters Aug. 6.

CBS, Fox get races

Championship Auto Racing Teams inked three-year TV packages with CBS and Fox Cable Networks Group last week. CBS will carry eight races live starting in 2002 and will add additional races later. Fox Cable's 14 annual telecasts will air on newly acquired Speedvision, which has committed to a number of CART specials and series.

MTV's Carson NBC's, Too

MTV's Carson Daly has signed a three-year deal with NBC Studios and been named the host of late-night interview series Later, which returns early next year after a one-year hiatus. Daly will continue to host MTV's Total Request Live. Daly will likely host NBC prime time specials and do NBC syndicated projects, as well.

Was Manhunt fixed?

Bob Jaffe, former co-executive producer of Manhunt, says executives at Paramount asked him to manipulate situations on the UPN summer reality series, protecting a contestant from being eliminated and changing the rules after the game had started. UPN and Paramount denied the accusations.

P&G out of Family Law

CBS yanked some repeat episodes of Family Law
that Procter & Gamble found controversial and had indicated it would not advertise in, The New York Times
alleged. CBS denied bowing to pressure.


The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists approved the contract reached earlier this year with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.