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The week that was

Mouse in a hole

broadcasting and cable networks both showed declines in operating income for its fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30. The ABC
network and the owned stations combined posted a 4% drop in revenues to $1.2 billion and a $110 million drop in operating income—from $87 million last year to negative $23 million this year.

Although cable network revenues rose 17% to $1.3 billion, operating income plunged 40% to $170 million. The company blamed ABC's problems on higher costs for buying series, the addition of three NFL
games and slack advertising. The problems in cable include higher sports-rights costs at ESPN and high costs for generating ad sales at both ESPN
and 50%-owned Lifetime.

And Fox in the hunt

Despite the recession, News Corp.'s U.S. TV operations posted strong quarterly earnings, with cable performance carrying the day.

Increasing ratings and subscribers at the Fox News
network and FX
helped send cable revenue up 28%, while cash flow soared 197%. That figure is somewhat inflated by Fox Sports Networks, which folded in two networks this year.

Fox Broadcasting
almost reversed a sharp loss last year, blamed in part on 9/11. Despite American Idol, the broadcast net still lost $3 million on $424 million in revenue. Fox's TV stations enjoyed strong political-ad sales, which helped revenues jump 30% and cash flow 73%.

MAP goes to court

Media Access Project
last week asked federal judges to grant opponents of the Comcast/AT&T deal access to AT&T's confidential ISP-carriage deal with AOL Time Warner. Separately, MAP also asked the FCC
to suspend its review of the merger. Last Wednesday, the FCC refused MAP's request to review the carriage deal on grounds that it was irrelevant to the merger review.

Good news for Boston

Boston is America's top city for late local TV news, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual report card, released last week. All three Boston stations studied, WBZ-TV, WCVB-TV
and WHDH-TV, received "A" grades (and so did several newscasts in other markets). On the other end, Denver's KMGH-TV
got the only "F" grade. Byron Grandy, news director there, said, "I have questions and concerns about the methodology and the sample size, but I look forward to any opinions and thoughts about our product." For the first time the project studied Spanish-language stations and concluded that Miami's WSCV(TV)
and WLTV(TV)
and New York's WXTV(TV)
deserved "A" grades. PEJ looked at late newscasts in 17 markets over a two-week period.

What's on TV

Sharon Osbourne, the wheeler-dealer/matriarch of MTV's
unreality hit, The Osbournes, has a development deal for a daytime talker from Telepictures
that could bow in fall 2003, sources say. But no one is commenting. …

Producer Stephen Bochco
and co-creator Alison Cross
are teaming with HBO
on a new drama, Marriage,
slated for 2004. It's the story of a New York couple facing the conflicts that develop in a long-term relationship. …

finished the week of Oct. 28-Nov. 3 with a 2.3 average in prime time, according to Nielsen. Its Sunday Night Football
telecast on Nov. 3 grabbed a 6.3 rating, good enough to be the highest-rated cable program. …

finished second with a 1.8 average, followed by Lifetime
(1.7) and Nickelodeon
(1.6). Two more Turner Broadcasting
networks, TBS
and Cartoon,
tied for fifth with a 1.4 prime time average. …

is suing ABC, Granada PLC
and Granada Entertainment, accusing the three of infringing CBS's Survivor
copyright with the upcoming reality program I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here.
(Hey, we heard that line at the Kaitz
dinner!) …

BET's programming chief Curtis Gadson
is exiting, just as the Viacom
network plans to start buying off-net fare. Likely buys could include shows from corporate cousin UPN
or Showtime's Soul Food.
Gadson may take another post at Viacom. …

has replaced Haunted
on Nov. 12 with a WWE Smackdown!
special, calling into question the future of the low-rated show, sources say. It's unclear whether Haunted
will return.

Deadline extension of the week

Citing numerous requests and the importance of the issue, the FCC Media Bureau
has moved the comment deadlines back by a month in its biennial review of media-ownership rules. The Dec. 2 comment deadline moved to Jan. 2 and the Jan. 2 reply comment deadline is now Feb. 2. (And that's Groundhog Day, another tough day for filing. These commissioners are impossible.)