360AM — Morning news briefing from The Cable Show in Las Vegas for Wednesday, May 9.
A day after ceding control to COO Bill Nelson and entering rehab, disgraced HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht was asked to resign by Time Warner chairman/CEO Dick Parsons and president/COO Jeff Bewkes, leaving Albrecht no choice but to step down (or be fired). He was quickly removed from TW’s corp. website, with Nelson as HBO’s acting head until a replacement is determined. Albrecht, two months shy of his fifth anniversary as HBO top exec, said in a statement this afternoon: "With great regret, at the request of Time Warner, I have agreed to step down as chairman and CEO of Home Box Office. I take this step for the benefit of my Home Box Office colleagues, recognizing that I cannot allow my personal circumstances to distract them from the business. I’m very proud of what we have achieved together at Home Box Office, and I wish everybody there many more successes in the future." Bewkes, the previous head of HBO who tapped Albrecht as his replacent, spoke on the closing panel of the Cable Show this afternoon (where he admitted that he doesn’t use DVRs at home and prefers video-on-demand) but gave no indication on-stage that Albrecht, his protege, was out. Albrecht had been put on a paid leave of absence yesterday so he could re-enter Alcoholics Anonymous treatment while awaiting charges from the Las Vegas District Attorney. But a damning story in this morning’s Los Angeles Times cited sources on an incident that was bandied about at the Cable Show this week: a 1991 payment of at least $400,000 from Time Warner to a subordinate of Albrecht’s, whom he was dating and allegedly assaulted after they broke up. Bewkes was HBO’s CFO at the time while Michael Fuchs was then HBO’s top executive. Albrecht’s fall from grace is particularly tough for Bewkes, not only Albrecht’s boss but longtime friend and mentor, who’s in line to take the reins at Time Warner next year when Parsons is expected to retire.
NBC‘s Law & Order franchise may move to TNT. The New York Times calls TNT "a serious contender," citing executives involved in negotiations with L&O creator/producer Dick Wolf. Variety says a TNT deal is possible but "a longshot. Dick Wolf would have to dramatically reduce the costs and license fee on "L&O" to make it fiscally viable for TNT, which would likely pick up 13 episodes (rather than the standard broadcast 22)."
Nancy Grace is leaving Court TV after more than a decade. Her sole TV gig is now CNN Headline News. [Variety]
News Corp. reported 1st quarter earnings this morning. Highlights: operating income for Q1 was $1.2 billion, up 23% over the same 2006 period; revenues increased 21% to $7.5 billion; net income was up 6% to $871 million. Its cable networks including Fox News Channel, FX and its regional sports networks, boosted the quarter’s income 34% via increased affiliate revenues. [Release] For Rupert Murdoch’s view on digital media, check out his column on Forbes.com this week. His lede: "Traditional [media] companies are feeling threatened. I say, bring on the changes."
DirecTV also reported 1st quarter earnings this morning. Highlights: 235,000 net subscriber adds; lowest monthly churn rates (1.44%) in 3 years; revenues were up 11% to more than $3.5 billion, fueled by a 5.2% increase in average monthly revenue per subscriber (ARPU) to $73.40. Pres/CEO Chase Carey, commenting on the quarter, touted DirecTV’s HD expansion as drivers for 2007: "With the successful launch of DirecTV 10—currently targeted to lift-off in late June—we remain on schedule to offer up to 100 HD channels by the end of this year. With this added capacity, we expect to offer significantly more HD channels than most of our competitors, providing DirecTV with an important advantage in this rapidly growing market." [Release]
Discovery Holding Company reported 1st quarter earnings this morning. Discovery U.S. Networks’ revenue was up 10% to $486 million and operating cash flow increased 18% to $180 million. [Release]
Verizon‘s FiOS TV announced a deal at The Cable Show with BBC World News, launching the esteemed international news channel with a weekly global audience of 65 million viewers. Also carried as a 24/7 channel on Cablevision, BBC World daily newscasts are on 229 PBS stations and BBC America. [Release]
FX landed Spider-Man 3; its final license fee depends on how much money the movie chalks up at the U.S. box office. Variety does the math: "If the domestic gross shoots up to $400 million or more, FX could pay up to $33 million. In addition, FX’s five-year deal allows Sony to carve out three separate windows within the FX license term to sell the picture to one or more broadcast networks, which could pony up another $7 million to $10 million."
News Corp.’s TVG horse racing channel expands internationally to more than 8 million homes in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia via a deal with Dubai Sports Channel. [Release]
Congress is cracking down on American college students’ piracy of film and TV content, sending warning letters to 19 universities (including UCLA, Columbia, Duke and Howard) requiring that each institution complete and return a "Survey of University Network and Data Integrity Practices" by May 31. About 44% of domestic piracy is attributed to college students who use peer-to-peer file-swapping networks; more than 2/3 of college students also pirate music. [Release] Warner Bros. blames Canadians for pirating its feature film releases, and yesterday announced it won’t hold any advance public screenings north of the border. [Release]
IP Video Networks acquired Path 1. [Release]