UPROAR OVER AIRING OF ANTI-KERRY FILM
Shares of Sinclair Broadcast Group fell some 8 percent Monday as controversy continued to mount over its decision to preempt network programming on all its 62 stations to air Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, which condemns Sen. John Kerry's anti-war activism during the Vietnam War era. Advertisers in Portland, ME, Madison, WI, Springfield, IL, and Minneapolis, MN have pulled their spots from Sinclair stations because of the ruckus over the broadcaster's decision. Activist groups have threatened to boycott Sinclair advertisers in other cities if the documentary airs as scheduled on Oct. 23. On Monday, Kenneth Campbell, a professor at the University of Delaware sued the movie's producer for libel and threatened to sue Sinclair as well if it broadcasts the film. Campbell is seen in the film attending an anti-war demonstrations as the narrator says that many of the veterans who participated in it were later "discovered as frauds" who "never set foot on the battlefield." In his lawsuit, Campbell says that viewers would conclude that he had lied about his war record. Also on Monday, Sinclair's Washington bureau chief, Jon Lieberman, was fired after he was quoted in the Baltimore Sun as saying that Sinclair's decision to air the movie was "indefensible." He told the newspaper: "I feel so strongly that our credibility is at issue here. ... I feel our company is trying to sway this election." A statement by Sinclair referred to Lieberman as a "disgruntled employee" and said, "We are disappointed that Jon's political views caused him to speak to the press about company business."
NBC HOPING THAT LOSER WILL BE A WINNER
NBC appears to be converting a regular Dateline feature into a reality series. The series, called The Biggest Loser, set to premiere tonight (Tuesday), brings together 12 contestants who are placed into two teams. They are assigned a series of weight-loss regimens, then attend a weigh-in at the conclusion of each episode. The team with the smaller weight loss must then vote off a member. Billed on Dateline as "Losing It: The Ultimate Weight-Loss Challenge," a similar format was introduced last year, in which a overweight high-school alumni were assigned different weight-loss programs eight months before their 25th high-school reunion, set for Thanksgiving time. Dateline concludes this year's "Challenge" next month. Meanwhile Caroline Rhea, the host of the new show, has told the Boston Globe that she's not comfortable with the title. "I wish it was a different title," she told the newspaper. "I wish it was called something like 'The Fantastic and Supportive Show.'" She said that she's also uncomfortable with the catchphrase that has been assigned to her: "It's time to cut the fat."
SIX CHANNELS, ONE SCREEN FOR DISH VIEWERS
Home satellite provider DISH Network plans to provide customers a special feed that will allow them to watch six cable channels on a single TV screen during the week before the Nov. election: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CSPAN, MTV and Comedy Central. Michael Schwimmer, a programming and marketing exec with EchoStar, which operates the satellite service, said in a statement: "With six networks on one channel, our customers have a decided advantage in the effort to stay on top of the 2004 elections. And we have something for every viewer, including traditional up-to-the-minute election returns and analysis, an in-depth look at the election issues most affecting the younger generation, and a channel offering a humorous side of the elections."
CANADIAN HOCKEY FANS SING HOLLYWOOD BLUES
Canadian hockey fans are up in arms over the decision by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to air Hollywood movies in place of hockey games during the current National Hockey League lockout. The CBC has traditionally aired Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays. Referring to the Hollywood fare as "foreign movies," the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting made public a letter that it had dispatched to CBC president Robert Rabinovitch, in which it said, "We find it highly regrettable that you wold preside over a scheduling change that will have the effect of reducing Canadian content on CBC Television's primetime schedule to a level last seen in the 1980s." Several groups are urging the CBC to air American Hockey League games of the teams in Canada's major junior leagues.
STUDY: CABLE CHANNELS RESERVE BEST AD PLACEMENTS FOR THEMSELVES
A new study indicates that many of the top cable networks allocate most of their "A" positions -- the first commercial during an ad break -- to themselves to promote their own programming. Citing Media IQ's Commercial Positioning Monitor, MediaPost's online MediaDailyNews reported Monday that E! Entertainment Channel gives its own promo units A positions 71 percent of the time. Also reserving a disproportionate number of A positions to themselves are A&E, Comedy Central, MTV, SciFi channel, and VH1, according to the study. On the other hand, all of the cable news networks reserve only a tiny portion of their A positions for their promos, the study indicated.
A ROYAL F***-UP AT THE BBC
The new BBC show Outtake TV
, which shows embarrassing on-camera mistakes by celebrities appearing on British TV shows found itself in an embarrassing position when it turned out that language that was bleeped out of the broadcast last July was not eliminated in the subtitled version for deaf viewers. According to today's (Tuesday) London daily Telegraph, such swear words as "f***" and "f***ing hell" were duly bleeped on the air but were spelled out (without asterisks) in the subtitles for the deaf. Responding to an inquiry by the industry watchdog OFCOM, the BBC said that the subtitling department was not aware that the program was not in its final form when it was received.
COLUMNIST CALCULATES DATE OF JENNINGS' JEOPARDY DEFEAT
Based on Internet rumor that Ken Jennings' winning streak on Jeopardy will end after he has won 75 consecutive games and $2.5 million, New York Post columnist Michael Starr has calculated that he'll be knocked off on Tuesday, Nov. 9. Jennings' streak has boosted the show's ratings by more than 20 percent, Starr observed.
TEAM AMERICA ROUTED
Team America: World Police, which analysts had expected to rule the box office over the weekend, appeared to be in full retreat by Sunday. The R-rated animated puppet feature earned just $12.1 million, slightly more than half what many analysts had predicted. It wound up in third place, behind the third week of DreamWorks' Shark Tale, which earned $22 million, and the second week of Friday Night Lights, which took in $12.2 million. Miramax's Shall We Dance, the only other film to open wide (1,772 screens), earned $11.8 million, placing fourth (but drew the largest per-theater gross). The film, which stars Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon, also appeared to be benefiting from positive word-of-mouth. By Monday it had moved to second place on the box-office chart. Overall, the box office tallied $97 million in ticket sales, some 15 percent below what it earned in the comparable weekend a year ago.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Shark Tale, DreamWorks, $22,005,952, 3 Wks. ($118,724,863); 2. Friday Night Lights, Universal, $12,216,880, 2 Wks. ($37,819,455); 3. Team America: World Police, Paramount, $12,120,358, (New); 4. Shall We Dance?, Miramax, $11,783,467, (New); 5. Ladder 49, Disney, $8,503,420, 3 Wks. ($53,747,377); 6. Taxi, 20th Century Fox, $7,891,169, 2 Wks. ($23,891,719); 7. The Forgotten, Sony, $6,007,726, 4 Wks. ($57,160,305); 8. Raise Your Voice, New Line, $2,757,809, 2 Wks. ($7,902,305); 9. The Motorcycle Diaries, Focus Features, $1,756,157, 4 Wks. ($5,748,162); 10. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Paramount, $1,218,417, 5 Wks. ($35,899,489).
HUGH GRANT EASING OUT OF FILMS, SAYS REPORT
Hugh Grant has decided to "ease up" on promoting his upcoming romantic comedy, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason in order to spend more time with Jemima Khan, his new girlfriend, and her two sons, according to an online report. The website FemaleFirst.co.uk quoted a source as saying that Grant has concluded "that he is never going to be taken seriously as an actor and he has made enough cash to last him forever. But he feels that the best chance he and Jemima have of making it as a couple is to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible and that's when he intends to do." In an interview with the online publication, Grant himself said that he had found his return to acting difficult after a two-year absence. He indicated that during the filming of Edge, "I had horrible tangles of forgetting my lines badly and I got quite bad stagefright at one point. Right at the beginning of it they had to give me Valium."
INDIE FILM GETS UNIQUE MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Atlanta-based The Convex Group plans to employ a unique marketing scheme to stimulate sales of its low-budget Christmas movie, Noel, directed by renowned character actor Chazz Palminteri and featuring a cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, Penélope Cruz, Alan Arkin, and Robin Williams. The film is set to debut in about 10 U.S. cities on Nov. 12. On the same day, it will become available on self-destructing DVDs (for $4.95), and then, two weeks later, it will air on TNT channel. Reporting on the release plan, Reuters commented on Monday, "The idea could be especially relevant for low-budget movies like Noel which open in only a few cities yet compete against national releases of major movies backed by multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns. Fans who are aware of the movie but can't find it in their city can turn to the DVD."
"THE MOST SEXUALLY EXPLICIT FILM EVER" IS PASSED BY U.K. CENSORS
What Britain's Sky News has described as "the most sexually explicit film ever in British cinema" has been passed by British censors. On Monday the British Board of film Classification gave director Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs an 18 rating -- allowing moviegoers 18 and older to attend it -- commenting that the numerous sex scenes in it are actually "sensual, not sexual" and that they are "exceptionally justified by context." It concluded: "Some people may find such explicit images shocking or unexpected in a cinema film. The Board is sensitive to public concerns, and its guidelines are based on extensive consultation ... The Board has concluded in this case that adults should be free to choose whether or not to see the film." The film follows a young couple from their first date to their break-up. Their relationship is punctuated by nine concerts that they attend -- hence, the title.