COMPUTER BUG DISRUPTS CNN, ABC
At about 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, computers at CNN in Atlanta and New York suddenly began shutting down, then starting again repeatedly as their Windows 2000 operating system began feeling the effects of what is believed to be a computer "worm," called Zotob. CNN reported the attack on the air, then switched to Washington D.C. "We didn't really miss a beat," a CNN spokesman said. Later, ABC spokesman Jeff Schneider said that ABC's computers on the East and West coasts were also affected, forcing news writers to prepare copy on typewriters for the first time in years. On numerous blogs, writers questioned why the two giant news organizations were still running Windows 2000 software and why anti-virus software had not been updated to protect the machines. Meanwhile, CNN chief Jim Walton advised staffers that he could only be reached by telephone after an email campaign protesting an ad by NARAL Pro-Choice America generated more than 10,000 email complaints to Walton. The complaints continued to flood in even after NARAL pulled the ad.
SANS JENNINGS, WORLD NEWS TONIGHT RISES TO NO. 1
ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings won the ratings race among network news broadcasts last week, the week following Jennings's death and the final week that the program included his name. On Monday, the day after lung cancer claimed the anchorman's life, the program drew 10.5 million viewers, the largest number in August since 1998, according to Nielsen Research. The program went on to beat NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, the usual leader, on every night except Wednesday, averaging a 6.3 rating and a 13 share to NBC's 6.0/13. CBS Evening News remained a distant third with a 4.6/10. Moreover, the audience for ABC's two-hour ad-free special paying tribute to Jennings would have placed it in the ninth position for the week, but the network does not rank shows that air without commercials. CBS once again ended the week as the ratings leader with a 5.1/9 average, as it took the top six spots. ABC and NBC tied for second with a 4.1/7, followed by Fox with a 3.1/5. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.3/16; 2. Without a Trace, CBS, 8.0/14; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.9/13; 4. 60 Minutes, CBS, 7.6/14; 5. Two and a Half Men (9:30 p.m.), CBS, 7.0/11; 6. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 6.9/11; 7. Extreme Makeover Home Edition (8:00 p.m.), ABC, 6.8/12; 8. NCIS, CBS, 6.5/12; 9. AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game, ABC, 6.2/11; 10. Law and Order: Criminal Intent, NBC, 6.0/10.
FOX NEWS WIDENS LEAD OVER CNN
CNN's efforts to promote itself as the serious news network appeared to be failing badly Monday as Fox News Channel, with an average of 2,421,000 viewers in primetime, drew nearly five times the number of viewers as CNN, which registered only 507,000. Among adults 25-54, FNC boasted an average of 618,000 viewers versus 202,000 for CNN.
BRITISH REGULATOR ORDERS COSMETICS ADS REMOVED
The British Advertising Standards Authority has ordered the cosmetics manufacturer L'Oréal to pull its TV ads featuring Claudia Schiffer in which the model touts the product Anti-Wrinkle De-Crease and says that 76 percent of women who used it "reported visible reduction on expression lines ... in only one hour." The ASA also ordered that ads for L'Oréal's Perfect Slim, which calls itself an "anti-cellulite" cream, be removed, saying that the cosmetics company had failed to provide sufficient evidence to back up its claims. Reporting on the ASA's action, today's (Wednesday) Guardian newspaper commented: "The ruling is the latest to suggest some claims made by manufacturers of expensive creams and lotions that promise to defy the aging process are more mumbo-jumbo than miracle cure."
WEINSTEINS' SPLIT TO BE COSTLY FOR DISNEY
The costs of marketing and distributing seven Miramax films in Disney's fourth quarter, which ends on Sept. 30, will have a significant impact on the company's earnings in the quarter, Wall Street analysts warned clients Tuesday. Disney is speeding up the release of the films that were produced under the aegis of Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who are leaving Miramax after 12 years at the end of September. Three films, Secuestro Express, The Warrior and The Great Raid, already released during the current quarter, have performed poorly. The latter film, which reportedly cost Disney $20 million to market, took in only $3.4 million in its debut last weekend. In his message to clients, CIBC World Markets analyst Michael Gallant referred to the additional costs to Disney of "blowing out the remaining Miramax films in development."
BATMAN BEGINS SETS RECORD FOR IMAX
The IMAX 2-D version of Warner Bros.' Batman Begins generated $14.5 million worldwide, making it the biggest gross for a 2-D Hollywood title ever exhibited by the giant-screen company. The previous record holder was The Matrix Reloaded: The IMAX Experience, which produced $14 million in total ticket sales.
HOLLYWOOD GOING CREOLE
Veteran film-studio crew members in Hollywood who have watched dozens of productions flee to states offering tax incentives -- particularly Louisiana, where 24 theatrical and TV movies were filmed last year -- are pulling up stakes and heading in the same direction, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Wednesday). Producer Joel Silver, who is currently filming The Reaping, starring Hilary Swank, in Louisiana, told the newspaper: "I'm sitting here at my office at Warner Bros. and I'm looking at big buildings and soundstages and all the things you need to make a movie, but what do I have to do? Get on a plane and fly thousands of miles so I can look at big buildings and soundstages and all the things you need to make a movie. And why? Because of costs. It all comes down to costs." However, the Times observed, so many filmmakers have come to Louisiana that they are now finding it difficult finding qualified office staff and crew. Production designer Craig Stearns told the newspaper: "It's hard to find people here. They're new, and there's a lot of competition."
VIVENDI-UNIVERSAL AND NBC-UNIVERSAL DIVIDE OVER NEXT-GENERATION DVD'S
As a result of G.E./NBC's acquisition of most of Vivendi-Universal's entertainment assets, with the exception of the Universal Music Group, two media companies bearing the name Universal following the hyphen were created. And, as if to demonstrate the permanence of the split, Vivendi Universal's music company announced Tuesday that it will back Sony's Blu-ray DVD format over Toshiba's HD DVD format, which is backed by NBC-Universal. Meanwhile, Toronto-based Lions Gate was expected to announce today (Wednesday) that it will also back the Blu-ray technology. Sony's two new allies now give it an edge in its format war with Toshiba.
DISNEY STORES GOING HIGH TECH
The first of some 30 remodeled Disney Stores is scheduled to open on Aug. 21 in Trumbull, CT, some 50 miles west of New York City. An announcement on Tuesday said it will feature "a sparkling, character-rich world of classic Disney magic and enchantment, with imaginative settings and colorful, eye-popping displays." The struggling chain of more than 300 stores was acquired by the Children's Place Retail Stores last year. The extent of Disney's involvement in the renovation of the stores was not disclosed. The Trumbull outlet will no longer be called "The Disney Store," but "The Mickey." Meanwhile Disney Consumer Products unveiled its products for the holidays on Tuesday, showing off numerous high-tech items. In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, Disney exec Joe Lawandus said, "We're really looking to integrate technology even more into toys. ... Kids are so used to technology everywhere, if they don't have it in the toy, they'll find it lacking."
BRITAIN'S PINEWOOD AND SHEPPERTON STUDIOS TO EXPAND
Britain's principal studio facilities, Pinewood in Buckinghamshire and Shepperton in Middlesex, have received final approval for a major 10-year expansion that includes the construction of new sound stages, workshops, and post-production units, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Wednesday). Plans also call for the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment. The Guardian quoted Pinewood Shepperton CEO Ivan Dunleavy as saying, "Shepperton has a long history of hosting acclaimed media productions but has recently been constrained by the age and scale of some of the original facilities."
TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL TO SPOTLIGHT BRITISH FEATURE CARTOON
The claymation comedy Wallace & Gromit -- The Curse of the Were-rabbit will make its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, organizers said Tuesday. The film, produced in England by Aardman and distributed in the U.S. and Canada by DreamWorks Animation, is due to be released domestically on Oct. 7.