SO, WHO'S WATCHING TV?Network television remained in the summer doldrums last week, with every show in the Nielsen top ten a rerun, except for an edition of ABC's Primetime magazine show, which came in at No. 8. Average network ratings for the week were the lowest of the year, as CBS came out on top with a 4.8 rating and a 9 share. NBC placed second with a 4.2/8, followed by ABC with a 3.6/7 and Fox with a 3.3/6. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.0/16; 2. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.7/13; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 6.9/11; 4.Two and a Half Men, CBS, 6.5/11; 5. Law and Order, NBC, 6.1/10; 5. NCIS, CBS, 6.1/11; 7. Law and Order: Criminal Intent,NBC, 6.0/10; 8.Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 5.9/10; 8. Primetime Live, ABC, 5.9/10; 10. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 5.8/10.
TURNER BROADCASTING RIDES ROLLER-COASTER
Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner, reported very good news and very bad news on Tuesday. On the one hand it said that its TNT channel (Turner Network Television) not only beat every other cable channel but also sibling broadcast network The WB and Viacom's UPN, as well. On the other hand, its flagship channel, CNN, saw its ratings continue to fall, even as Fox News Channel's audience rose 31 percent above its year-ago level, making it the fourth most-watched channel on cable TV, tied with Lifetime Television and Nick at Night. USA Network placed second (down 14 percent from a year ago), while Disney Channel finished third.
PROFITS SOAR AT COMCAST
Comcast, the country's largest cable operator, reported a huge boost in quarterly profits, which it attributed to video and Internet broadband services. Net income rose to $430 million against $262 million for the same quarter a year ago -- a surge of 64 percent. Results beat analysts' expectations. Not so rosy a picture was painted by Charter Communications, the nation's third-largest cable provider. While narrowing its loss in the quarter to $356 million from $416 million in the year-ago quarter, it was still substantially greater than analysts had expected.
INTERNET BROADBAND USERS SHUNNING TV
Consumers who plug into DSL and cable broadband lines watch two fewer hours of television per week than those without Internet services; those with dial-up connections watch 1.5 fewer hours of TV, according to a study by Forrester Research, "The State of Consumers and Technology: Benchmark 2005," released Tuesday. The study also predicted that the number of households with broadband connections to the Internet will increase from 31 million at the end of 2004 to 71.4 million by 2010.
CHAPPELLE WON'T RETURN TO COMEDY CENTRAL, COLLEAGUE SAYS
Dave Chappelle's "hiatus" at Comedy Central is likely to be open-ended. Charlie Murphy, a writer and sometimes performer on Chappelle's Showtold the New York Post, "I don't think Dave is going to do anymore. ... We shot about eight shows for the third season, and they're hilarious. They'll be released on DVD, I'm sure. But that's it." Murphy said that he could only speculate about why Chappelle would walk away from a $50-million deal. "He probably wants to put a big show together, then put it on the road," he said.
FOX REALITY OFFERS TO BUY YANKED ABC SERIES
The new Fox Reality cable channel has offered to buy ABC's Welcome to the Neighborhood, the reality series in which in which a group of seven families from untraditional backgrounds were to vie for a four-bedroom home in an Austin, TX suburb. The judges were to be the white, Christian neighbors living on the cul-de-sac where the house is located. ABC yanked the show after it was attacked by such groups as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Fair Housing Alliance. But Fox Reality CEO David Lyle told today's (Wednesday) New York Daily Newsthat he had made an offer to ABC to air the series because he found it "really quite gripping." However, he told the newspaper, "So far they haven't taken us up on our kind offer."
RUSSIA DECLARES ALL ABC REPORTERS PERSONA NON GRATA
In a case of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped, Russia has in effect declared all ABC reporters persona non grata following ABC's interview with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, who claimed responsibility for the raid on a school in Beslan in September 2004 in which 344 civilians were killed, 172 of them children. ABC, however, has already shut down its Moscow bureau in a cost-cutting move. The interview was conducted by Andrei Babitsky, a staff member of the U.S.-backed Radio Liberty, who is regarded as a Chechen-rebel sympathizer by Russian officials. The government said in a statement that the broadcast represented "obvious support to the propaganda of terrorism, and direct appeals for violence as regards Russian citizens." In a statement, ABC News President David Westin said, ""The Russian people have suffered greatly at the hands of Chechen terrorists. No civilized people can condone the murder of innocent civilians. However, he added, "The mission of a free press is to cover news events -- even those involving illegal acts -- to help our audience better understand the important issues that confront us all. ABC News deeply regrets the action taken by the Russian government ... but we cannot allow any government to deter us from reporting the news fully and accurately."
JAMES MURDOCH SAYS HE'LL STAY AT NEWS CORP
James Murdoch says he has no plans to follow his brother Lachlan out the doors of News Corp. Speaking to investors in BSkyB, the News Corp-controlled satellite service that he has headed for the past two years, Rupert Murdoch's youngest son said, "My intention and hope is that I can stay here for the long term. I'm fully engaged in the business; the team is fully engaged and we have a lot of work to do." Murdoch's comments came as quarterly financial results were announced indicating that BSkyB profits rose to $1.4 billion, 34 percent above the same quarter a year ago.L.A. COMING TO LALouisiana, which has been successful in luring Hollywood production companies to shoot such films as Ray, Mr. 3000, The Skeleton Key, The Dukes of Hazzardand All the King's Men within its borders, has announced plans to build a $60-million studio with five sound stages and 200,000 square feet of office space. Gov. Kathleen Blanco said that the project represented "proof that we are building a permanent film industry here. ... Movie projects that once went overseas are now coming to Louisiana." The project is being financed by a consortium that includes Los Angeles-based Sunset Gower Studios; producers Jim Green, Mark Bacino, and Albert J. Salzer; and film executive Charlie French. Salzer (The Big Easy) told the New Orleans Times Picayune that for the city to "take it to the next level we need to have a studio," he said. "Large theatrical features need a lot of space. (Producers) are seldom able to do a movie without some stage work. And they need the support of a construction facility, commissary, wardrobe, makeup and props: all the ancillary stuff that goes into making a full-fledged studio." Another report noted that the project is being planned "in association with Mardi Gras Productions and Kern Studios, designers and famous builders of Mardi Gras parades, and operators of Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World."
FIRST THE BOX-OFFICE SLUMP, THEN THE DVD SLUMP
The box office slump is about to affect the video rental and sales market the way falling tectonic plates generate a tsunami. An early warning of the potential disaster was issued by Blockbuster on Tuesday when CEO John Antioco said in a statement that earnings in the second quarter were disappointing and predicted that results for the remainder of the year were not likely to improve. As Antioco put it: "Overall industry decline and continued poor theatrical performance had a negative impact on the second quarter and has created uncertainty about the balance of the year." He promised that the company would take "aggressive actions" to counteract the decline. Ironically, theater owners and movie studios had been blaming the growth of home theater systems and increased DVD use for the slumping box office.
SONY SETTLES "DAVID MANNING" LAWSUIT
Sony Pictures has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought against it by a group of moviegoers in 2001 who claimed that the studio misled them by including quotes from a non-existent critic in their ads for several films. The made-up critic, "David Manning," supposedly worked for The Ridgefield Press in Connecticut. The plaintiffs also claimed that the people who appeared in man-in-the-street television ads praising certain Sony movies were actually Sony employees. Under the deal, the studio agreed to pay members of the class action $1.5 million but admitted no liability.
FAMILY AT CENTER OF MOVIE DRAMA SUES WRITER
In advance of the movie version of Running With Scissors, Augusten X. Burroughs' scathing account of his life with the family that raised him, the family has filed a defamation suit against him. The Turcotte family said that Burroughs sensationalized his past in order to sell the book and that as a result they were harmed and humiliated by it. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Washington Post, Howard Mr. Cooper, the attorney representing the family, said, "With the forthcoming movie, the family is living in fear that there will be utter devastation to their reputations and the invasion of their privacy will be complete." The Sony TriStar movie, set to be released next year, stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Annette Bening, Vanessa Redgrave and Alec Baldwin.