CABLE CUSTOMERS GOING TO DIRECTV
A week after three of the country's largest cable operators reported a significant erosion of their subscriber base, News Corp's recently acquired DirecTV indicated where the subscribers had gone. The satellite TV provider reported that it had signed up 455,000 new customers during its second quarter, an increase of more than 150 percent over the comparable period a year ago. In fact, analysts observed, the company recruited nearly a million new subscribers during the period, but lost about half that number because of "churn," or cancellations. A 7 percent hike in its subscriber rates was largely responsible for a 23 percent jump in revenue to $2.2 billion. Nevertheless, it said, marketing expenditures to entice the new subscribers proved costly, and the company finished the quarter with a loss of $13.3 million versus a net profit of $21.6 million in the year-ago quarter.
NBC OLYMPICS "SHOWCASE" TO BE FEATURED ON DISH
To help Olympics fans navigate through the numerous events that NBC and its cable affiliates will be airing beginning Aug.11 (more than 1,200 hours of coverage is planned), the network and EchoStar's DISH Network have created the NBC Interactive TV showcase. It will allow viewers to monitor five different cable network feeds, plus a sixth showing NBC's highlights and previews. Oprah Winfrey, who in 1999 had publicly mulled retirement, extended her current contract with Viacom-owned King World through the 2010-11 season, when she will celebrate 25 years on the air. ""The thought of taking the show to its 25th anniversary is both exhilarating and challenging," Winfrey said in a statement. "The years ahead will allow me to continue to grow along with my viewers and will give my production company the time and opportunity to use the show as a launching pad to create and develop additional projects."
KERRY CHIDES NETWORKS FOR CUTTING CONVENTION COVERAGE
John Kerry sharply criticized the broadcast networks on Thursday for their decision not to broadcast live from the Democratic convention a week ago Wednesday. Speaking to a conference of minority journalists associations in Washington, Kerry remarked, "I'm not going to make this a critique of media ... but look at the conventions. I thought Barack Obama gave a brilliant speech. America missed it. ... Ron Reagan speaking on stem cells. My wife, I think, gave a superb speech, but the networks chose not to [carry it live] that night. These are issues for a strong democracy."
WHO LEAKED WHAT TO WHOM?
Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and federal investigators have accused each other of leaking classified information to reporters. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Shelby, the former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had leaked secret information to Fox News political correspondent Carl Cameron and CNN reporter Dana Bash. The Post said that Cameron had confirmed to the FBI that Shelby had divulged the secret information to him. No sooner had the story hit the streets than Shelby issued a statement accusing federal law-enforcement officials of leaking it to the Post. "This story represents a grotesque abuse of a public trust on the part of law enforcement," the statement said. "For someone in law enforcement to express one-sided, personal views anonymously to the media while the investigation itself is still under way and while the matter is pending before the Senate ethics committee is unprofessional and grossly unfair." Meanwhile Fox News' Cameron denied the Post's account.
ROSIE'S GAY CRUISE ON HBO WON'T ALL BE SMOOTH SAILING
HBO is producing a documentary film with Rosie O'Donnell and her wife, Kelli Carpenter, about the weeklong Caribbean cruise that they recently chartered for 500 gay and lesbian families. The documentary will apparently not merely chronicle the vacationers' fun and games aboard the cruise liner but also describe the protests that greeted them when they stepped off the ship. Burlingame, CA 16-year-old Marina Gatto, who accompanied her two "moms" on the cruise has described on the Alternet website how she was interviewed by an HBO crew shortly after they came face to face with native protesters in the Bahamas. "I told them how I couldn't understand why a group of people that should know discrimination first hand would still hate my family," she wrote.
WHEN "NOTHING" COSTS $119.95
It may have been the sitcom about nothing, but the two four-disc DVD sets of Seinfeld, to be released by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment on Nov. 23, will together cost $99.90 -- $119.95, if you want the holiday gift set, which includes Monk's Diner salt-and-pepper shakers, a special deck of playing cards, and a script with handwritten notes by writer/co-creator Larry David. The disks will also include numerous extras, including unaired footage of Seinfeld's standup comedy routines shot during the show's first seasons.
CBS ANNOUNCES GRAMMY PLANS
CBS plans to air the 47th Annual Grammy Awards from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2005, it said Thursday. Nominations will be announced on Dec. 8.
SEXY CARTOON FARE BECOMES BIG CABLE DRAW
For more than a year, the Cartoon Network's lineup of adult-oriented late-night cartoons, airing under the banner "Adult Swim," have been drawing more young-adult males than either The Tonight Show with Jay Leno or Late Night with David Letterman, Kansas City Star TV columnist Aaron Barnhardt observed today (Friday). Barnhardt also noted that the network doesn't publicize the fact that in a recent week, eight of the 20 top-rated cable programs among teens have been "Adult Swim" shows. Barnhardt commented that he understands why the network doesn't publicize those figures: "It might stir outrage among the nation's TV critics," he wrote. He added, "Then again, those ratings suggest that kids don't need us to be outraged on their behalf."
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: COLLATERAL
Box-office analysts may be debating whether moviegoers will buy Tom Cruise as a gray-haired villain in Collateral, but film critics, by and large, have had no problem doing so. In fact many are suggesting that the movie may represent Cruise's best work to date. As Joanne Kaufman writes in the Wall Street Journal: "Who knew Tom Cruise could fill a villain's shoes so snugly? Let's forgo the suspense: He does." And Michael Wilmington concludes in the Chicago Tribune: "Playing against his own heart-breaker smile, Cruise can summon up a cold-blooded sadism and ruthlessness that make him a first-rate movie heavy." But comedian Jamie Foxx, in a rare straight acting role, also is receiving fine notices. "Foxx's work is a revelation," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. (Steven Rea in his review in the Philadelphia Inquirer uses the same description.) "Here he steps into a dramatic lead and is always convincing and involving," Ebert remarks. Manohla Dargis, writing her first review for the New York Times after leaving the Los Angeles Times, notes that Foxx "can't have had an easy time playing foil to the world's biggest movie star, but he holds his own gracefully." And Mike Clark in USA Today calls Foxx's performance "one of this year's notable career leaps."
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Sony is counter-programming Collateral with the romantic comedy Little Black Book, starring Brittany Murphy, which critics are filling with snippety remarks in the margins. Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News describes the movie this way: "Little Black Book is a screechy chick-flick relationship comedy with a lot of things working for and against it -- mostly against it." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post sums it all up this way: "If you can't see the big twist coming, you should swear never to see another movie. If you're moved by Murphy's boo-hooing, you should swear to see a shrink and get a life. If you think it's worth it to sit there for 97 minutes for three or possibly four laughs, then you are beyond help." And Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer puts the film on her list of "Movies That Aren't Worth Your Eight Bucks, Let Alone Talking About!" A few critics, charmed by Murphy's performance, appear to go out of their way to say nice things about the film. For example, Kevin Crust writes in the Los Angeles Times: "It's an irrefutably bad movie, littered with paper-thin characters, crummy dialogue and a mawkish undercurrent that wells up any time it starts to resemble something smarter and snappier. Yet it is somehow redeemed by Murphy's agreeably quirky performance in a horribly underwritten role, a better-than-it-deserves supporting cast led by Holly Hunter, and the crazily nonformulaic manner in which the story swerves in some unexpected directions."
DISNEY WON'T FILM ANNAPOLIS AT ANNAPOLIS
Disney has abruptly canceled plans to film the movie Annapolis at the U.S. Naval Academy and government buildings in Maryland and will instead move the production to Philadelphia, the Baltimore Sun reported today (Friday). A spokesman for Gov. Robert Ehrlich indicated that Disney was wooed by Pennsylvania's tax incentives intended to attract moviemakers. "The governor and the administration will take a very close look at how to prevent this from happening again," a spokesman for the governor told the Sun. "I would not rule out a legislative solution in the next session." The newspaper also indicated that Disney's decision may also have been affected by the U.S. Naval Academy's foot-dragging in agreeing to allow scenes to be shot on its campus. The Sun reported that Navy officials have acknowledged that they were concerned about scenes in the film that involve a plebe's romance with a female upperclassman. But a Naval Academy spokesman remarked after the cancellation: "We're surprised by the news and disappointed that a movie about the Naval Academy would be filmed somewhere else."
IGER "WOULD LOVE" TO BECOME DISNEY'S CHIEF
Disney President and COO Robert Iger made it plain Thursday that he would "love" to replace Michael Eisner if Eisner should step down. "Obviously if I was offered the job, it's a job I would love to have," Iger told Reuters, adding, "I'm not suggesting that I have a campaign trail of any kind," meaning, presumably that he does not intend to push for the job. He maintained that if the Disney board does decide to replace Eisner, it should consider him "based on one thing, and one thing only, and it's the performance in the current job I have. I'm concentrating on the job I have in hand."
PIXAR'S PROFITS SOAR; STOCK SINKS
Despite continued speculation within the industry that Pixar will wind up returning to the Disney fold before the expiration of its current partnership with the company in 2006, the computer animation firm on Thursday announced that it had signed a deal with THQ Inc. to produce video games for its first four self-financed movies set to begin hitting the screens in late 2006. The company also said that it was negotiating with other firms to handle the "building blocks" necessary to form an independent operation, presumably including merchandising, overseas distribution, and DVD releases. The company also announced a huge spike in revenue resulting principally from sales of its 2003 hit Finding Nemo, with net income for the quarter coming in at $27 million on revenue of $55.3 million, compared with $19.5 million/$66.3 million for the quarter a year ago. Nevertheless, shares in Pixar dropped $2.46 to $66, largely due, analysts said, to anxiety over the health of Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs who underwent pancreatic cancer surgery earlier in the week.