MURDOCH IN WIN-WIN MODE WITH WSJ, SAY ANALYSTS
Investors were apparently unconvinced that the Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, were determined to keep the newspaper and its other holdings from falling into the hands of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Dow Jones' board announced Wednesday that it had decided "to take no action" on Murdoch's $5-billion surprise bid for the company. But Dow Jones shares were still trading early today (Thursday) at $57 -- more than 50 percent above the price they had settled at before Murdoch's $60-per-share offer was disclosed on Tuesday. Many analysts speculated that the Bancrofts, who have a controlling interest in the company, were unlikely to put up a united front against Murdoch. Analyst Alan D. Mutter told Bloomberg News: "If the board adamantly didn't want to sell, they would say, 'Leave us alone. Go away. It's not for sale.' This appears to be not rejecting [the offer], just tabling it for now." Meanwhile MarketWatch columnist Jon Friedman observed Wednesday that regardless of whether Murdoch acquires the Journal, he has already won a huge marketing victory for his planned Fox Business Channel. "News Corp's coming business channel just got a supersonic promotional push," he wrote. Murdoch, Friedman continued, now "has everyone talking about News Corp and Fox, which can only enhance prospects for his financial-news network."
COCKEYED RESULTS FOR CBS
Despite strong ad sales for its television network, which were up 9 percent versus 2006, CBS reported that its overall earnings fell 6 percent in the first quarter. It primarily blamed a huge drop in earnings from syndication. Even much of the company's TV earnings were related not to ad sales for its established programs but to the Super Bowl, analysts observed. Analysts predicted further revenue erosion as CBS's ratings continue to soften. Nevertheless, CBS CEO Les Moonves said that much of the ratings erosion comes from people recording their programs on DVRs. He has demanded that the Nielsen company factor in those viewers. During a conference call, he predicted that advertisers will begin paying for DVR viewing, "turning a current problem into a big an ongoing asset."
IMUS LIKELY TO SUE CBS FOR $40 MILLION IN PAY
Lawyers for Don Imus are likely to claim that CBS Radio breached its contract with him and must continue to pay him $10 million per year for the next four years, published reports said Wednesday. CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin read a paragraph from Imus's contract, which indicated that Imus must be warned before being fired for making any off-color jokes. The contract also defined Imus's job description: "Services to be rendered are of a ... controversial and personal character." On its website, Fortune magazine, a corporate sibling of CNN, cited a source as saying that Imus is expected to file a lawsuit against CBS within a month. There was no mention of Imus's separate contract with MSNBC, which also fired him. Fortune reported that Imus has hired Martin Garbus, a renowned First Amendment attorney, to represent him. The magazine also indicated that Imus's case may hinge on whether he broke the FCC's decency rules when he uttered his "nappy-headed hos" comment. The commission has not weighed in on Imus's remarks.
WALTER REED HOSPITAL QUARANTINES JOAN BAEZ
In the latest controversy to swirl around the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, officials of the hospital refused to allow singer and anti-war activist Joan Baez to appear at a televised concert at the hospital featuring John Mellencamp. In a letter to the editor appearing in today's (Thursday) Washington Post, Baez complained that four days before the concert she learned that she had not been approved by the Army to participate in the concert. The concert was televised by Mark Cuban's HDNet on Friday and was to have included interviews with Baez and Mellencamp by Dan Rather. In an email message to RollingStone.com, a spokesman for the hospital said that it had received requests for Baez and Rather's participation only two days before the concert and could not approve them given such short notice. (Rather later said that scheduling conflicts would have prevented his participation.) Mellencamp told RollingStone.com: "We asked why [Baez had been rejected] and they said, 'She can't fit here, period.'"
IDOL: DOWN TO THE FINAL FOUR
In a results show that narrowed the contestants to the final four, American Idol once again dominated the ratings Wednesday night drawing an 18.4 rating and a 27 share in the Nielsen overnights. That translated to a whopping 28.07 million viewers. Fox also held sway in the 8:00 p.m. hour with Bones, which won the hour with a 7.6/12. CBS took over the lead at 10:00 p.m. with CSI: NY (9.3/15), followed by ABC's Lost (8.1/13). (Fox does not carry national programming during the 10:00 p.m. hour.)