DAY OF THE BLOW HARD(Y)
"Blowin' in the Wind" might well have been the theme of TV newscasts Monday as they tracked the path of Hurricane Katrina. Flipping through channels, viewers saw one reporter after another shouting into their microphones while hanging on to flagpoles, streetlamps, and other supports. "It's an accepted TV news style that can fall into a pattern. I'd like to avoid it," NBC anchor Brian Williams told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "We've all done shots like that. [But] it's still the best way to tell another human being, 'This is what 80 miles an hour feels like." Throughout the storm, Williams was the only network anchor playing the part that made Dan Rather famous. Bob Schieffer of CBS and Charles Gibson of ABC remained in their New York studios. New York Daily News TV writer David Bianculli commented that "the most satisfying coverage" came when reporter Brian Andrews of WFOR in New Orleans, reporting for CNN, was knocked down as he signed off. "Served him right," Bianculli remarked, then quoted CNN anchor Daryn Kagan as saying on the air: "Points for effort, if not using your smarts so much, Brian." New York Post columnist Linda Stasi said that she particularly enjoyed watching Fox News Channel's Steve Harrigan in Gulfport, MS. "He seemed to be judging the severity of the storm by whether or not he could get whiplash," she wrote. Stasi also observed that female reporters and even pretty-boy TV weather forecasters were conspicuously absent from the front lines of the hurricane story. "Well, do you even know what a category-five hurricane can do to a person's hair?" she quipped. Syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith said that her favorite moment came on Sunday while Fox News's Shephard Smith was interviewing people in New Orleans who had not evacuated the city. "What are you doing here, walking your dog?" he asked one man, who replied, "None of your f***ing business."
PEOPLE METERS ALTER NIELSEN'S NUMBERS
Raising new questions about the reliability of audience measurements, Nielsen Research disclosed Monday that in six markets where it introduced electronic Local People Meters, the number of 18-34-year-old viewers increased dramatically from last year when paper diaries were being used. In Washington, the increase was 83 percent; Philadelphia, 56 percent; San Francisco, 55 percent; New York, 24 percent; Chicago, 21 percent; and Los Angeles, 10 percent. Furthermore, Advertising Age reported on its website, other stunning changes in audience makeup showed up in the Nielsen demographic studies. In Philadelphia, the local people meters showed more than twice as many 18-34-year-old viewers watching early morning TV than a year ago. New York figures showed the number of men watching TV from noon to 4:00 p.m. was up 73 percent from last year. Nielsen also said that nationally minority viewers increased substantially. Most notably, Asian TV homes rose 3.2 percent and Hispanic TV homes, 2.9 percent.
SPANISH-LANGUAGE TV STATION DOMINATES NEW YORK RATINGS
Spanish-language WXTV in New York beat all its competitors in New York, America's largest market, in July -- the first Spanish-language station to do so, according to Nielsen Research. Reporting on the numbers, Advertising Age observed Monday that the ratings company must have breathed "a sigh of relief" since they were the first to be collected from the new local people meters, which some minority groups and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp had predicted would undercount minority viewers.
VIEWERS BOO ABC'S DECISION TO BAIL OUT OF LITTLE LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Some ABC-TV affiliates were up in arms Monday after the network cut out of the ending of the Little League World Series championship game between Ewa Beach, Hawaii, and Curacao Sunday with the scored tied at 6-6 to broadcast World News Tonight. Before dumping out of the broadcast, announcer Brent Musburger informed viewers that they could view the conclusion of the game on ESPN2. Affiliates were deluged with calls from outraged viewers. KGUN-TV in Tucson explained to viewers that the decision was made by ABC. "We had no choice," said general manager Ray Depa. WNEP-TV in Scranton, PA, which had its own camera crew at the game, issued an apology to viewers. Lou Kirchen, the station's president and general manager, said: "Under our contract with ABC, we had no legal way to show the rest of the game, using their telecast or our own cameras. ... We are sorry the game was interrupted at such a critical time." WMTW-TV in Portland, ME posted this message on its website: "We sincerely apologize for the error that ABC made in cutting off the game coverage at such a crucial point. At WMTW-TV we promise that we will continue to investigate this matter with ABC to help ensure that a similar situation doesn't occur again in the future."
ROBERTSON'S TELECAST SLAPPED WITH A DISCLAIMER
Following the controversy over televangelist Pat Robertson's remarks calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the Disney-owned ABC Family channel has altered the notice that it posts at the end of Robertson's The 700 Club telecasts. Previously, the notice read, "The preceding program was brought to you by the Christian Broadcasting Network." It now reads, "The preceding CBN telecast does not reflect the views of ABC Family."
COURT TV SAYS "BEAT IT" TO JACKSON NEMESIS DIANE DIMOND
Diane Dimond, Michael Jackson's longtime TV nemesis, has been let go by Court TV, the New York Daily News reported today (Tuesday). Although her contract was not due to expire until December, the channel decided to end it early, Dimond said, adding that it amounted to "a little paid vacation." In an interview with NYDN columnist Lloyd Grove, Dimond denied that her coverage of the recent Michael Jackson child molestation trial was biased, as numerous critics -- and Jackson's defense team -- had claimed. "I'm actually not biased at all," she said. "People on both sides were mad at me, so I must have been doing it exactly right."
RECORD AUDIENCE FOR CHINESE IDOL FINALE
The series finale of China's version of American Idol drew more than 400 million viewers Friday night, setting a probable record for the biggest audience ever to watch a TV show in a single country. However, today's (Tuesday) London Times observed that the show may be axed next year by state censors who have criticized some of the "vulgar" performances and the voting methods. The winner, 21-year-old Li Yuchun reportedly received 3.5 million text-messaged votes; however, the state-run newspaper China Daily asked in an editorial, "How come an imitation of a democratic system ends up selecting the singer who has the least ability to carry a tune?" And a government broadcasting regulator was quoted as saying that the show should be taken off the air unless it corrects its "worldliness."
IRAQ WAR SURPASSES VIETNAM IN NUMBER OF REPORTERS KILLED
More broadcast and print journalists have been killed during the Iraq war than during the entire 20 years of the Vietnam War, according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. The latest casualty, it said, was a soundman for Reuters TV News, who was shot by U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, bringing to 66 the number of journalists and their assistants who have been killed since 2003. (A Reuters cameraman accompanying the soundman was wounded in the incident.) Sixty-three journalists were killed in Vietnam between 1955 and 1975.
NO FAIRY-TALE ENDING FOR GRIMM
Universal's The 40-Year-Old Virgin held off Miramax's The Brothers Grimm over the weekend to claim the top position at the box office for the second week in a row. The Steve Carrell comedy took in $16.3 million to edge out Terry Gilliam's fantasy flick, which took in $15.1 million. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian remarked that Virgin "has got a lot of people talking. ... When the buzz and the word of mouth is that strong in a movie, it tends to hold pretty well." The take for Gilliam's film matched analysts' expectations. But two other newcomers, Sony/Screen Gems' The Cave and Lions Gate's Undiscovered were clearly box-office duds, the former earning $6.1 million and the latter, just $676,048, not enough to cover the cost of creating the film prints used to screen it. Meanwhile, DreamWorks' Red Eye dropped to third place in its second week with $10.3 million. Sales for the top 12 films fell to $82.8 million, a drop of 2.5 percent from the comparable week a year ago, according to box-office trackers, Exhibitor Relations. The industry no doubt was relieved that numerous theater closures in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, facing the oncoming Hurricane Katrina over the weekend, did not cause a deeper plunge in box-office revenue. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. The 40-Year-old Virgin, Universal, $16,275,895, 2 Wks. ($48,567,975); 2. The Brothers Grimm, Miramax, $15,092,079, (New); 3. Red Eye, DreamWorks, $10,289,104, 2 Wks. ($32,564,999); 4. Four Brothers, Paramount, $7,864,194, 3 Wks. ($55,370,515); 5. The Cave, Sony, $6,147,294, (New); 6. Wedding Crashers, New Line, $6,051,445, 7 Wks. ($187,519,203); 7. March of the Penguins, Warner Bros., $4,743,822, 6 Wks. ($55,895,099); 8. Skeleton Key, Universal, $4,537,875, (New); 9. Valiant, Disney, $3,505,126, 2 Wks. ($11,703,962); 10. The Dukes of Hazzard, Warner Bros., $3,118,036, 4 Wks. ($74,464,145).
GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY FOR GOLDEN ARM
A relatively small DVD distributor is planning to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of director Otto Preminger's The Man With the Golden Arm with a two-disc special edition of the movie, which includes an interview with Sinatra about the movie. (He received his only best-actor Oscar nomination for it, two years after winning the best-supporting-actor Oscar for From Here to Eternity.) The film is also notable for having been released without the Motion Picture Association of America's Production Seal code because it dealt with the then-verboten topic of drug addiction. The MPAA's action only helped attract moviegoers to the box office to see it and eventually resulted in the abolition of the code and the introduction of the current ratings system.
REPORT: BLOCKBUSTER STOPS RENTING VHS TITLES
Blockbuster has virtually banished videocassettes from all its outlets, with the exception of some children's and Spanish titles, Home Media Retailing reported on its website Monday. It quoted a Michigan Blockbuster employee as saying, "It's definitely phasing out." However, a company spokesman denied that Blockbuster is dropping its VHS rental business, telling the trade publication that it is continuing to appraise product and format allocations on the basis of customer preference.
JAPANESE ANIME FILMS FLOODING INTO VIDEO STORES
Films using the Japanese hand-drawn "anime" technique now account for nearly 7 percent of all DVDs on the shelves, according to Wired magazine. During this year alone, it reported, 473 anime DVDs were released, leading John Ledford, president of ADV Films, to remark: "Things have never been better for anime fans in America. ... No matter what channel you look at -- retail, broadcast or theatrical -- more anime is available in more outlets than ever before." At the same time, the magazine observed, prices for anime DVDs are escalating. Chris Tibbey of DVD Release Report told Wired, "License holders are asking for way too much money for magical-girl type shows that only the hard-core fan base cares about."