MCMANUS APPOINTMENT AN EYE-OPENER AT CBS NEWS
Wednesday's appointment of Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports, to replace Andrew Heyward as president of CBS News was greeted with "palpable relief" by employees of the news division, the New York Times observed today (Thursday). John Roberts, the network's chief White House correspondent and often mentioned as a possible successor to Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, told the newspaper: "If there was going to be a change, and it appears inevitable there was going to be a change, I think people are glad it's this change." Bob Schieffer, described as the "temporary" anchor of the CBS Evening News, remarked: "Sean is someone who knows CBS, its standards and traditions." In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan Zirinsky, producer of CBS's 48 Hours Mysteries, commented: "Sean is a fantastic guy. ... He knows who we are and what we do... . He's a bold guy who's going to make deals." However, Vaughn Ververs, who operates the official CBS blog "Public Eye," indicated that reaction within the news division to McManus's appointment has been mixed, noting concerns that McManus "is not a newsman and does not come from what many would consider a journalistic tradition. There are also worries that the news division -- for the first time ever -- does not have a dedicated president (with McManus wearing that hat for both the sports and news divisions). And most are anxious to see what, if any, changes will be made in other top management positions."
WHITE SOX WIN; FOX DOESN'T
The Chicago White Sox's four-game sweep of the Houston Astros in the World Series may have brought transcendental joy to the populace of the Windy City, but there was no joy in Fox-ville as -- for the second year in a row -- the Fall Classic went the minimum length, wiping out millions of dollars in revenue. Wednesday night's finale, although down considerably from a year ago when the Boston Red Sox ended the "Bambino's Curse" by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals, nevertheless posted an average 14.8/23, representing 17.3 million viewers. Nothing else came close. ABC decided to air a rerun of Lost in the 9:00 hour, which drew only a 6.5/10. In the same hour, women who had already seen the episode and were not interested in baseball gave NBC's The Apprentice: Martha Stewart its highest ratings since it went on the air, a 6.2/9.
NETWORK PRESIDENTS WRESTLE WITH IPODS
The entertainment presidents of the six broadcasting networks indicated Wednesday that they have not yet figured out what impact podcasting will make on their business. Speaking of Apple's new video iPod, David Janollari, president of The WB, told a meeting of the Hollywood Radio & TV Society in Beverly Hills, "These things are selling ridiculously. ... We're all talking about it." CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler seemed to indicate that the network is trying to figure out how to embrace the new technology. "The train has left the station," she said. "We're just trying to figure out which station to get on." However, ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson said that such devices are not going to supplant conventional TV but complement it. "It's something you use to catch up on shows on the train," he said. "You're not going to sit around a three-inch screen with your family watching shows." Fox's Peter Liguori agreed. "Past history has proven that these aren't replacements," he said, pointing out that so far as the networks are concerned, content remains king. "Create great programming, and let the distribution services fight it out," he said
VIDEO INTERVIEWS WITH TV PIONEERS POSTED ON GOOGLE
Google has entered into a partnership with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to offer thousands of hours of "oral history" interviews with TV veterans. In a statement, Academy Foundation Chairman Steve Mosco said, ""Google has been fantastic. They learned of our need to make our interviews more accessible and stepped up to make it happen. This relationship is a perfect marriage of irreplaceable content and one of the most powerful delivery systems in the world." Seventy-five interviews, totaling 240 viewing hours, went online Wednesday at http://video.google.com, with such TV legends as Alan Alda, Sid Caesar, Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, Norman Lear, Carl Reiner, James Burrows, and Ted Turner. Google exec Susan Wojcicki said that the interviews are available to anyone in the world without charge. "We're happy to join with the Foundation to preserve the rich history of television by showcasing the individuals who pioneered the medium," she said.
CNN EMPLOYEE FIRED FOR ACTING AS BLOG SOURCE
Tom Thomsen, a CNN employee, has been fired for acting as a source for the blog FishbowlNY. Co-editor Rachel Sklar quoted Thomsen as saying that he had been let go for "speaking about the company to an outside source without authorization; revealing information about a meeting where executives were speaking to employees, not the general public; and granting an outside person access to the company for inappropriate reasons." Sklar replied that she did not consider the information posted to be proprietary or confidential and that when she accompanied Thomsen to CNN, she informed guards about her purpose "and did not gain entry to any part of the offices under false pretenses." She said she was surprised to learn of Thomsen's firing, "considering that I was never contacted regarding any of my coverage and Thomsen never received any sort of warning."
GIANT APE; GIANT BUDGET
Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong for Universal will have cost $207 million by the time it hits the screens and run more than three hours, published reports said today (Thursday). (By contrast, the original RKO film, produced in 1933, ran half as long and cost $650,000, or $8.8 million in today's dollars; Paramount's 1976 remake ran two hours 14 minutes and cost $24 million, or $82 million in today's dollars.) Universal executives told today's (Thursday) New York Times that they agreed to the extra length -- they originally required director Peter Jackson to bring it in under two and a half hours -- and cost -- it originally was budgeted at $175 million -- after screening it at Jackson's New Zealand studios last month. Universal Vice Chairman Marc Shmuger told the Times: "This is a three-hour feast of an event. ... I've never come close to seeing an artist working at this level." Universal Chairman Stacey Snider remarked similarly to Daily Variety: "We loved it. It's a brilliant movie, an epic feast." Questions remain about who will pay the additional costs. The Times quoted Snider as saying that they will be split between Universal and Jackson. But Variety reported that Jackson had agreed to swallow the overage. And in an email message to the Times Jackson said that in an effort to support the three-hour length, "we offered to pay for these extra shots ourselves. That's what we're doing."
ANTI- AND PRO-WAL-MART FILMS TO BE RELEASED ON SAME DAY
It now appears that two dueling Wal-Mart documentaries will be released on November 15. One will be Robert Greenwald's much publicized anti-Wal-Mart film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, and the other will be the pro-Wal-Mart response, Why Wal-Mart Works: And Why That Drives Some People C-r-a-z-y, from brothers Ron and Robert Galloway. (The two told Daily Variety that Wal-Mart did not provide financing for their $85,000 film and helped them only by giving them access to stores and personnel.) Home Media Retailing said Wednesday that Wal-Mart has sent out a press packet containing the company's responses to allegations made in the Greenwald film and directing reporters to Galloway's. The company told the trade publication that it was highlighting Why Wal-Mart Works for those who want to look at "both sides of the story." It charged that Greenwald's film was neither fair nor balanced. The company that is releasing it said that it was not intended to be.
BLOCKBUSTER FEELING BLUER THAN USUAL
Following its announcement that its losses in the third quarter will be lower than analysts had predicted, Blockbuster has begun meeting with bankers to modify its loan agreements to allow it to raise additional working capital. Word of the meetings touched off another wave of heavy selling with shares of the video "rentailer" falling 15.9 percent Wednesday to close at $4.28. The Motley Fool website commented today (Thursday): "Three years ago, the stock peaked at $30. Now, a share of Blockbuster may not be enough to land you a flick rental."
SONY, WITHOUT SPIDEY TO RESCUE IT, PLUMMETS
Sony today (Thursday) reported its worst half-year ever, saying profits plummeted 72 percent to $184 million. While the primary loser for the company was its consumer electronics division, Sony also noted that its movie business had sustained an operating loss of $57 million compared with last year's profit of $238 million, largely due to its blockbuster hit Spider-Man 2. By contrast, this year's Stealth, a $130-million production starring Jamie Foxx, earned only $31.7 million domestically. The company's only bright light appeared to be its new PlayStation Portable, which has been selling strongly. Sony also appears to be on the verge of winning the high-definition DVD format war with its Blu-ray system against Toshiba's HD DVD.
COMING: A MOVIE TO YOUR HOME IN HALF A SECOND
A system that would deliver movies and other content to home viewers on demand instantaneously was unveiled today (Thursday) by Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co., the country's second-largest electric utility firm. The French news agency Agence France Presse reported that the company had developed a technology that can transmit a two-hour movie over fiber-optic cables mounted on power-transmission towers in half a second. The wire service quoted a company spokesman as saying that the transmission speed of one terabyte per second is more than 100 times faster than current high-speed Internet transmissions.