SCHIEFFER ASKED TO STAY ON AFTER COURIC ARRIVES
Bob Schieffer has been asked to remain on the CBS Evening News as a twice-a-week commentator after Katie Couric signs on to take his place as anchor in September, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today (Monday). He currently airs a commentary every Sunday on Face the Nation. In an interview with the Inquirer, Schieffer indicated that he has not decided whether to accept the offer. "I don't know if I have three [commentaries] a week in me. I'll decide over the summer." Schieffer seemed to indicate, however, that he is leaning towards accepting the offer. "It would be fun, because I like Katie so much, and I just want to see what's going to happen. I want to see if we can be No. 1. I think I've got us [the evening newscast] moving on the right road. It gets my competitive juices flowing." Meanwhile, in an interview with Newsweek, Sumner Redstone, chairman of CBS Corp., observed that while he expects Couric to "revitalize" the CBS Evening News, "there's a second thing that people haven't grasped. To the extent we have hurt [NBC's] morning-news show, we help our morning show."
BROADCASTERS TO CHALLENGE INDECENCY FINES
Four major broadcast station owners and the FCC are heading towards what the Los Angeles Times has described as a "showdown over what constitutes indecency on the airwaves." The four -- CBS, Fox, ABC, and Hearst-Argyle Television -- filed court notices in New York and Washington late last week seeking to overturn last month's penalties meted out by the agency for some broadcasts that aired between 2002 and 2004. NBC, which was not fined by the commission, nevertheless petitioned the court to intervene on behalf of the others. The broadcasters issued a joint statement, calling the FCC's actions an arbitrary abridgement of their First Amendment rights, and declaring that the objectionable language cited by the agency was "fleeting, isolated -- and in some cases unintentional." For its part, the FCC said that the U.S. Supreme Court had already upheld the FCC's authority in such matters when it ruled in the case of George Carlin's -- "seven dirty words you can't say on television" -- a monologue that the FCC found to be indecent. The networks now argue "that they should be able to air two of those same words," an FCC spokeswoman remarked.
SPORTSCASTER TO HEAD CBS NEWS INVESTIGATIVE UNIT
Sean McManus, who moved from president of CBS Sports to become president of both CBS News and CBS Sports, has named Armen Keteyian to become chief investigative correspondent for the CBS Evening News and other news programs, heading a New York-based unit expected to include about six reporters and a producer. Keteyian had previously been a baseball player for San Diego State University and a sportswriter for the Escondido Times-Advocate before joining ABC and NBC as a sports broadcaster. In an interview with the North County (San Diego/Riverside) Times, Keteyian said that the offer from McManus "came from out of the blue. ... Any time the boss calls you into his office, you wonder what's up. ... But when Sean told me what he had in mind, I couldn't believe it. The CBS Evening News is known for its tradition of journalism. It's awesome to be part of that. ... This was a knock-your-socks-off offer." Moreover, he added, "There is a great buzz around the Evening News. You can just feel the creative energy. Honestly, I'm re-energized by this."
WILL VIDEO GAMES BECOME A PROFESSIONAL SPORT?
Hoping to lift competitive videogame playing to the level of a professional sport, Major League Gaming Inc. has signed a deal with the USA cable network to air video-game tournaments on the channel on Saturday mornings between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Monday). The telecasts, which will be recorded, will culminate with the MLG championships in Las Vegas. In an interview with the newspaper, Gordon Beck, senior vice president of sports at USA Network said, "We're definitely interested to see how this will translate into television programming. ... I think there's a very solid foundation.
ABC'S PROGRAM SWITCH FAILS TO LIFT RATINGS
ABC's decision to move its Primetime Live newsmagazine from Thursday to Friday and to replace it in its old time period with Commander in Chief appeared to backfire as neither show attracted a substantial audience. On Thursday, the return of CiC drew only a 5.3 rating and a 9 share, well below its average earlier in the season when it aired on Tuesdays. On Friday, Primetime Live registered only a 5.0/9, despite featuring a Diane Sawyer interview with Tom Cruise. It was beaten in the ratings that night by the magazine show that followed, 20/20, which posted a 5.4/10 for a show that featured University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt. On the positive side, the debut of ABC's What About Brian? got off to a strong start Sunday night, winning its 10:00 p.m. time period with an 8.4/14. The network's Desperate Housewives remained the top-rated show of the night with a 12.1/19.
LAUGHS + SCARES = BOX-OFFICE RECORD
Harvey Weinstein may be feeling a bit like Harvey, the big bunny in the Jimmy Stewart movie, today (Monday) as The Weinstein Company's film Scary Movie 4 broke an Easter weekend record to earn an estimated $41 million. Although the film took in less than 2003's Scary Movie 3 ($48.1 million) and the original's $42.3 million, the box-office take this weekend far exceeded analysts' expectations. It also marks the first time that a Weinstein Co. release has topped the box office. Meanwhile, audiences indicated that they were not so wild about Disney's The Wild, which opened in fourth place with just $9.6 million. At the same time, 20th Century Fox's animated Ice Age: The Meltdown, melted down to second place in its third week as it took in $20 million, bringing its total to $147 million. Fox Searchlight also did well with the critically acclaimed Thank You for Smoking, which widened its release and moved up to eighth place with $4.5 million. The film has earned $11.5 million after five weeks, but is still showing in only 1,015 theaters, up from 315 last week. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Scary Movie 4, $41 million; 2. Ice Age: The Meltdown, $20 million; 3. The Benchwarmers, $10 million; 4. The Wild, $9.6 million; 5. Take the Lead, $6.7 million; 6. Inside Man, $6.3 million; 7. Lucky Number Slevin, $4.6 million; 8. Thank You for Smoking, $4.45 million; 9. Failure to Launch, $2.6 million; 10. V for Vendetta, $2.2 million.
VIACOM CHAIRMAN BACKS PARAMOUNT CHIEF
Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone has expressed his "unequivocal faith in the integrity" of embattled Paramount Chairman Brad Grey, whose past association with private detective Anthony Pellicano continues to draw widespread attention by the news media. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Redstone remarked, "When Brad came aboard, he told us everything there was to tell us about what was going on with Pellicano ... I would be shocked, truly, if Brad engaged in any -- never mind illegal, but in any -- inappropriate conduct." Referring to a recent report in the New York Times citing FBI documents as indicating that Grey had been involved with Pellicano far more extensively than Grey had previously disclosed, Redstone said, "I have read The New York Times, and I still say I saw nothing in it that would make me change my opinion."
REPORT: ACTORS TO BE PAID FOR CELL-PHONE, IPOD APPEARANCES
Members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) are likely to receive a residual payment of 2 cents every time their performance is downloaded or accessed on a cell phone, computer, or portable video device, the New York Post reported on Sunday, citing an unnamed industry source. It quoted a SAG spokesman as confirming, "Unions are seeking or are engaged with producers in serious conversations over what residual formula ought to be applied to new distribution platforms like downloads and mobile phones." The newspaper said that an agreement between producers and the two unions regarding the new media is likely to be reached "within weeks."
CONCERT DVD'S TO BE SOLD WITH CONCERT TICKETS
In a merchandising ploy that could be dubbed, "Buy the Concert Ticket; See the Movie," DVD supplier Image Entertainment is teaming up with Ticketmaster to provide special deals on concert DVDs to anyone purchasing tickets for the Austin City Limits Festival in Texas and the Coachella Valley Music Festival in California. The ACL DVD features some two hours of performances from last-year's festivities, while Coachella: The Movie features highlights from the festival's six-year sun, according to Home Media Retail Magazine.
UNIVERSITY TURNS AWAY FILMMAKERS
The University of Nebraska - Lincoln, has refused to allow the producers of the film The Good Life to use the university campus or its Memorial Stadium as location sites. Although the name of the university is changed in the movie to "Nebraska Southern," UNL spokeswoman Meg Lauerman told the Associated Press, "One of our jobs is to defend and build the image of the university -- and ultimately Nebraska -- and it's appropriate to consider the effect of what appears to be a probable negative portrayal of the institution and the state. ... It also depicts our loyal fans in a negative light." But co-producer Patrick Markey told the AP, "I certainly don't think our film will be a negative portrayal of the university or Nebraska. ... Steve Berra, our writer and director, grew up there and is very fond of his hometown." Most of the $10-million comedy is being shot in the Canadian province of Manitoba.