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The week that was

Mel's 'rocking'

"We are rocking big time." That was Viacom
President and COO Mel Karmazin's assessment last week of Viacom's performance through the first nine months of 2002.

"All five sectors are extraordinary," he said in a conference call, noting that the company's third-quarter revenue and profit performance was the best in its history. He said to expect further acquisitions in the next 12 months.

For the third quarter, total revenues were up 10%, to $6.3 billion.

TV revenues rose 14%, to $1.8 billion, and cable revenues climbed 13%, to $1.2 billion. The company projects 20%-plus growth in profits for the fourth quarter and said it expects to achieve double-digit earnings growth for the full year 2002.

Iraq expelling foreign press

Iraqi officials have told foreign journalists at CNN, ABC
and NBC
to get ready to clear out. CNN chief news executive Eson Jordan
said that Iraqi officials complained about coverage of what he characterized as an unprecedented anti-government demonstration outside the Ministry of Information, including soldiers firing guns in the air to disperse the crowd.

Sales exec exits Meredith's WSMV-TV

Mike Murphy, sales manager at WSMV-TV
Nashville, Tenn., left the station last week, only days after owner Meredith Corp. and NBC
entered talks to resolve accusations that the station had compressed programming to squeeze in additional local commercials.

Sources said Murphy denied that the move was related to the compression flap reported in last week's edition of BROADCASTING & CABLE .

Meanwhile, B&C learned, Meredith earlier compressed time at other stations it owns.

Meredith also operates Fox, UPN and CBS affiliates.

Avoiding the issue

The interesting thing about AOL Time Warner's internal accounting review isn't the $190 million in write-offs the company found. It's what AOL executives aren't looking for. Sparked by allegations of aggressive accounting of online-advertising deals, AOL began reviewing transactions from July 1999 through March 2002. But Sanford Bernstein
analyst Tom Wolzien
worries that the review excludes AOL's period of highest growth in 1998 and early 1999, the period that Time Warner's board found so impressive when they agreed to sell out to AOL. "Never before has the surviving company in a large acquisition been under investigation for doctoring the numbers that might have changed the outcome of the acquisition," Wolzien said.

Jenny Jones scores a courtroom victory

The Michigan Court of Appeals threw out a $29.3 million wrongful-death jury verdict against The Jenny Jones Show, owner Warner Bros.
and distributor Telepictures
in the Scott Amedure-Jonathan Schmitz
"secret admirer" murder case. Amedure was shot to death by Schmitz in 1995, three days after Amedure surprised Schmitz by revealing his crush on him during a taping of the episode, which never aired. The court found that the show's duty was limited to reasonably responding to imminent and foreseeable dangers exposed on its premises. During taping, the court noted, Schmitz "gave every appearance of being a normal, well-adjusted adult."

What's on TV?

TNT's original movie Big Time
was a sizable disappointment in its Oct. 20 premiere. Big Time, which revisits the early days of the TV industry in New York, mustered a 0.7 rating for its debut and a 0.5 for a 10 p.m. repeat, according to Nielsen Media Research. The premiere rating is less than half TNT's 1.6 prime time average for last week. Successful TNT movies have drawn mammoth ratings, such as the 9.6 for 2001's Crossfire Trail
and 6.8 for last Christmas's Call Me Claus
. ...

was surprised when Comedy Central
declared that it is plunking down about $28 million for nine seasons' worth of Mad TV, the Fox Broadcasting
sketch comedy show. TNN has been airing Mad TV
reruns to terrible ratings (0.2 at 6 p.m. ET) and has rights until August 2004, but Comedy said it will add the show in January 2004. Hmmm. Turns out producer Warner Bros. had been talking to TNN about letting the show go early, but no deal had been finalized. ...

King World's
Dr. Phil
still rules among rookie talkers, gaining 5% in the week ended Oct. 13, to a 4.3 rating and holding strong in second place among all talk shows, behind The Oprah Winfrey Show. Dr. Phil
was up across the board in the female demos for the week, 21% in women 18-34, 8% in women 18-49 and 3% in women 25-54. In the previous week, Dr. Phil
had seen a slight drop in its household rating and the demos.

Ross replaces Abruzzese at CBS

has named JoAnn Ross
president of network sales. Formerly, the No. 2 executive at the division, she replaces Joe Abruzzese, who resigned last week to join Discovery Networks
as head of sales. Ross has been with the network for 10 years, the last four as executive vice president of the sales division. She's credited with devising new ways to sell advertising in reality shows such as Survivor.