COURIC SAYS SHE'LL "START A NEW CHAPTER"
Ending a spate of media speculation rivaled only by rumors over some pop stars' impending marriage or divorce, Katie Couric announced on NBC's Today show today that she will be leaving to become the anchor of the CBS Evening News. On an edition of Today that marked Couric's 15th anniversary with the show, she told the audience that "after listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past" she had decided to leave at the end of May. "Although it may be terrifying to get out of your comfort zone, it's also very exciting to start a new chapter in your life," she said. At CBS, she is expected to replace interim anchor Bob Schieffer in late August or early September. Advertisers, analysts, and TV columnists, who had engaged in a flurry of will-she-or-won't-she gossip leading up to today's announcement, went into wait-and-see mode. Susan Nathan, a senior exec at the Universal McCann ad agency, told Bloomberg News: "It's probably time for her to do something else that's more challenging." CNN/Money commentator Paul R. LaMonica wrote: "It's wrong to assume that Today ratings will plummet and ad revenue will dramatically decrease for NBC and its parent company General Electric. Today existed before Katie Couric joined it. (Remember Jane Pauley?) It will go on without her." Media guru Jack Meyers told the New York Post: ""I wouldn't expect to see a sudden drop-off, but it certainly tosses the morning up in the air." Many analysts also expressed doubts that Couric would boost ratings for the CBS Evening News. Daily Variety pointed out that CBS had previously failed in its efforts to transfer Bryant Gumbel's success on Today to similar success on The Early Show. Paul McLeary, politics and media reporter for the online edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, "Let's face it: The news is the news, whether it's Brian Williams, Bob Schieffer or Katie Couric reading from the teleprompter. ... You could put just about any charismatic talking head with some modicum of news sense in the chair and let them follow the teleprompter's instructions, and people would tune in."
VIEIRA TO COME INTO VIEW
NBC is close to completing a deal with Meredith Vieira, co-host of ABC's The View, to replace Katie Couric on Today, the New York Times reported today (Tuesday), citing a person close to the negotiations. NBC has reportedly offered Vieira a four-year contract worth at least $10 million a year. It had reportedly been paying Couric about $16 million a year, making her the highest-paid television news personality. A possible sticking point is the fact that Vieira also has two years remaining on her contract to host the syndicated game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, produced by Disney's Buena Vista Television. The Times quoted its source as saying that NBC had not ruled out permitting Vieira to appear on Today and Millionaire concurrently. Meanwhile, the TVNewser blog today printed excerpts of an interview that appeared in the Rocky Mountain News in September 2002 in which Vieira remarked that after the 9/11 attack, she realized that she no longer wanted to cover hard news. "I had left the set of The View. But instead of wanting to go to ground zero, every piece of me wanted to go home to my husband and children. The desire to cover the story didn't exist," she said. She also added that she had turned down an offer to co-host CBS's The Early Show, adding, "I'm not that much of an early morning person, anyway."
DECISION FAVORS WIDOW OF SUPERMAN CREATOR IN SMALLVILLE SUIT
A federal judge in Los Angeles has poured Kryptonite over The WB's Smallville, granting a summary judgment to the widow and daughter of Jerry Siegel, one of the two creators of the Superman character. As reported by Daily Variety, the ruling by Judge Ronald S.W. Lew observed that Joanne Siegel and Laura Siegel Larson had successfully recaptured the copyright to Superboy in 2004; it also denied a request by Time Warner, Warner Bros, and DC Comics to issue a ruling that Smallville did not infringe on Superboy copyrights. "Enough facts are presented, where this court, contrary to defendants' request, could find that the main character in Smallville is in fact Superboy," the judge ruled. Warner Bros. told the trade paper that it plans an appeal.
IF THEY BUILD THEM, WILL THEY WATCH?
Companies pouring resources into putting video services onto cell phones may be creating the kind of business bubble that proved disastrous to the Internet six years ago, a study by a Boston research and consulting company indicated Tuesday. In a report titled "Mobile Broadcast TV: Caution Needed as Bubble Grows," Strategy Analytics concluded that "the current hype surrounding broadcast mobile TV services remains out of proportion to evidence of consumer interest and willingness to pay." Suggesting that such services are being driven by a kind of it-you-build-it-they-will-come mentality, the study blamed mobile-phone vendors for pushing carriers to provide video services. "Their motivation is out of fear and uncertainty rather than opportunity," the study said. Ignoring such warnings, MSNBC.com today announced a new video mobile service with Action Engine Corporation to provide subscribers with access to sports and national and local news from their cell phones.
EACH NETWORK CLAIMS BRAGGING RIGHTS
The two editions of Fox's American Idol last week landed in first and second place once again, but CBS, with only one night of NCAA basketball to depress its usually strong ratings, saw its overall average climb some 7 percent, giving it a commanding lead for the week. The network's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation placed third for the week. But ABC and even NBC had something to boast about, too. ABC's Grey's Anatomy continued to surprise, placing fourth for the week, slightly above its Sunday-night lead-in, Desperate Housewives, which placed fifth. And struggling NBC returned to the top ten with its Monday-night edition of Deal or No Deal, which placed tenth. The Wednesday-night edition of the game show placed eleventh. (Commented Washington Post TV writer Lisa de Moraes: "CBS may have won the ratings game last week, but Howie Mandel was the biggest star, saving NBC from a fourth-place finish by single-handedly winning three hours of prime time.") Last night (Tuesday) Fox continued to score strongly with a country-music edition of Idol, which registered a 16.2/25 at 8:00 p.m., down somewhat from previous weeks, but nevertheless the highest-rated program of the night by far.
STUDIOS PROVIDING FEWER PRESS SCREENINGS
Studios are declining to arrange advance screenings for critics not only for their cheapo horror flicks, as in the past, but for just about any film likely to receive negative reviews, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, noting that this year 11 movies were not screened for critics -- versus just two at this time last year. Three of the films, Underworld: Evolution, When a Stranger Calls, and Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion opened in first place at the box office. Two films scheduled to open at the this coming weekend, The Benchwarmers and Phat Girlz are also not being shown. Studios declined to discuss the reasons for not screening them, but Richard Roeper, who cohosts the syndicated Ebert and Roeper at the Movies, told the A.P.: "It's telling that most of them won't even comment about it, because it's obviously something they're not proud of. ... But audiences are smart. They know if a movie isn't being reviewed, it's not because the studio thinks it's great. Studios are trying to separate a moviegoer from his or her money before not only critical word but word of mouth comes down on it." In an interview with the wire service, Disney publicity chief Dennis Rice said, "If we think screenings for the press will help open the movie, we'll do it. ... If we don't think it'll help open the movie or if the target audience is different than the critics' sensibilities, then it may make sense not to screen the movie."
NETFLIX ASKS COURT TO SHUT DOWN BLOCKBUSTER'S ONLINE SERVICE
Netflix on Tuesday sued rival Blockbuster, claiming patent infringement and maintaining that, in the words of a company spokesman, "From top to bottom, Blockbuster has deliberately and willfully copied Netflix's business model." In its filing, Netflix asked a federal court in San Francisco to shut down Blockbuster's online rental service. It also seeks unspecified damages. Shares of both companies fell Tuesday after the lawsuit was filed.
SAMSUNG LATEST TO ANNOUNCE BLU-RAY DELAY
As expected, Samsung has become the latest member of the Blu-ray camp to announce a delay in shipping high-definition Blu-ray players. The Korean company said that it had postponed its launch until June 25 in order to "complete compatibility testing with several Blu-ray test discs." Sony, which was the lead Blu-ray developer, announced last month that it was delaying shipment of its PlayStation 3 devices until November because "copy protection technology for the Blu-ray Disc has not been finalized." The announcement spiked speculation that other Blu-ray players might similarly be delayed. Meanwhile Toshiba began rolling out players with the rival (and incompatible) HD DVD format on March 31 and said it plans to introduce them in the U.S. this month.
KENNEDY CLAN ACTOR SAYS CUBA BLOCKADE AFFECTS U.S. FILMMAKERS
Actor Christopher Lawford, a nephew of President John Kennedy who confronted the Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, has told Australian interviewers that he has been trying to make a film about that incident from Cuba's perspective but that he has been stymied by the U.S. blockade. Lawford, whose father was Rat Pack member Peter Lawford and mother is JFK's sister Patricia, told The Australian newspaper that he sat next to Prime Minister Fidel Castro in Havana during a screening in 2001 of Thirteen Days, a film about the missile crisis in which Lawford co-starred. "It was incredible," he told the newspaper. "I went there and sat next to the guy my uncles were trying to kill. But President Castro believes if president Kennedy had lived, the embargo would have been lifted and they would have normalized relations." In a separate interview with the ABC, Lawford said Castro "got up at the end of the film and he said, 'You've made a great film, but you've ignored Cuba, now you have to make a film of what was happening here in Cuba during those thirteen days." Lawford said that he had returned to Cuba six times in an effort to do just that "but as you know we have an embargo against Cuba which is one of the greatest foreign policy tragedies in the history of the United States."