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Murphy Predicts Upturn For Abc

October 23, 1987|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Despite Monday's spectacular collapse of the stock market, all will be well for Capital Cities/ABC Inc. if the market settles down, Thomas S. Murphy, the company's chairman, said Thursday.

On Monday, ABC's stock fell 32 points--an 8.2% drop. It dropped another 13 points Tuesday but climbed 12 1/2 points Wednesday.

"I would think that if the market stabilizes the way it is now, it (the collapse) will have no impact," he told a news conference held for visiting TV writers at the Waldorf-Astoria.

His appearance came in the morning, well before Thursday's final stock market performance was known. As of 3:06 p.m. EDT Thursday, the company's stock was down another 14 3/8 points.

Joined by Cap Cities/ABC President Daniel B. Burke and ABC-TV President John B. Sias, Murphy also predicted that the network will turn a profit this year, even though it has opened the prime-time season where it ended last season--in third place.

Earlier this year, he had said the network might lose $70 million, although the entire company, which includes KABC-TV Channel 7 in Los Angeles and seven other TV stations, would be in the black in 1987.

However, Murphy said Thursday, because of good advance sales of commercial time, the ABC-TV network now "will be modestly profitable" this year. He didn't say how much that profit will be.

During the press session, Sias, in addition to saying there will be a cutback on what he called "disease-of-the-week" TV movies on ABC, also forecast fewer hours for ABC's miniseries in the future.

The network achieved sky-high ratings a decade ago with the 12-hour "Roots" and since then has been a prominent user of the miniseries form, though not always with Nielsen success. Its 14 1/2-hour "Amerika" proved a critical and ratings misfire last February.

Henceforth, Sias said, ABC, finding diminishing returns with miniseries that in past years have ranged from 10 to 18 hours, will try to limit them to six hours. That would emulate NBC, which generally has had a six-hour limit for miniseries for several years.

Unless it changes its mind, ABC thus will be making its last hurrah for monumental miniseries with its 30-hour, $100-million "War and Remembrance," scheduled to start airing in the fall of 1988.

That World War II epic, approved in November, 1985, just after Capital Cities bought ABC, got the green light partly to overcome a potentially negative image problem for ABC's new owners, Burke said.

Capital Cities, he explained, was regarded both by ABC's employees and the TV production industry in Hollywood as a "lean and mean" operation more devoted to the bottom line than to programs of great import and consequence.

"We felt it very important to send a message to our people, and to everybody in the creative community, that we were here to compete," he said.

However, ABC chairman Murphy expressed doubts that the network will make any money on the broadcast of "War and Remembrance," Herman Wouk's sequel to "The Winds of War."

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