LOWEST-RATE WINTER OLYMPICS EVER?
As ratings for NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics from Turin, Italy remained substantially below the average that the network had promised advertisers, it appeared virtually certain that the network will be forced to give advertisers "make goods" to compensate for the audience short-fall, analysts said today (Monday). Andy Pappalardo, senior partner for ad buyer Mediaedge:cia told Bloomberg News that he expects the make-good agreements to be triggered because of the underperformance. "It's going to be tough for NBC next week," he said. Columnist Robert Bianco in USA Today observed today that this year's Olympics "are on track to become the lowest-rated on record." On Saturday, the NBC telecasts recorded a 10.8 rating and an 18 share, substantially below the 12-14 rating that the network had promised advertisers. (To be sure, the news wasn't all bad. The ratings for CBS and ABC combined couldn't match the NBC figures, with CBS averaging a 4.8/8 and ABC, a 4.7/8. Fox trailed with a 4.0/7.) On Sunday, the Olympics telecasts improved slightly to an 11.6/17 -- still below the guaranteed average. And for the second week in a row, they were easily topped by both ABC's Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. At 9:00 p.m., Housewives scored a 14.2/20 to the Olympics' 13.0/18. At 10:00 p.m., Grey's Anatomy drew the highest ratings of the night with an average 15.0/23 to the Olympics' 11.4/17.
IS NBC SMOTHERING ITSELF WITH PROTECTION?
NBC is shooting itself in the foot by becoming overly protective of its programming, several analysts suggested over the weekend. They pointed to two incidents -- the network's decision to order the website YouTube.com to remove the Saturday Night Live video "Lazy Sunday: Chronicles of Narnia" after it received more than 5 million hits, and its decision to withhold highlights clips from other networks. The Washington Post pointed out that the rap parody gave the show an enormous boost, "making stars of Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg, inspiring T-shirts and other knock-off products." The website boingboing.com commented, "NBC should be sending flowers and chocolates to YouTube, not love notes from lawyers." A blogger commented, "I used to watch SNL all the time years ago, but haven't watched much in recent years. After seeing 'Lazy Sunday,' I've watched the last few episodes. Does NBC not want more viewers?" As for its decision to withhold highlight videos from other TV outlets, Chicago Tribune TV columnist Phil Rosenthal wrote on Sunday that NBC's policy "limits free exposure and promotion on rival outlets. ... Out of sight means out of mind."
TRUMP QUESTIONS STEWART'S CREDIBILITY
Martha Stewart has become engaged in a new battle over her credibility -- this time with Donald Trump. In an interview with Newsweek, Stewart said that her version of NBC's The Apprentice flopped because of over-exposure. She said that originally hers was supposed to be the sole show, premiering with an episode in which she fired Trump. "Having two Apprentices was as unfair to him as it was unfair to me," she said. "But Donald really wanted to stay on." However, Trump immediately denied that such was ever the case, pointing out that he owns the show that features him. In an interview with the Associated Press, Trump said, "I wish she would be able to take responsibility for her failure."
NBC'S GREGORY APOLOGIZES FOR LOSING HIS COOL
NBC White House correspondent David Gregory apologized Sunday for angrily confronting White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan last week over the decision to delay the reporting of vice President Cheney's hunting accident and to allow it to be broken by a small Corpus Christi newspaper. "I think I made a mistake," Gregory said on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday. "I think it was inappropriate for me to lose my cool with the press secretary representing the president. I don't think it was professional of me. I was frustrated, I said what I said, but I think that you should never speak that way, as my wife reminded me, number one. And number two, I think it created a diversion from some of the serious questions in the story, so I regret that. I was wrong, and I apologize." But on her liberal blog, Arianna Huffington commented, "Gregory's a reporter. McClellan was being a jerk. So why the apology?" (On Meet the Press, commentator Mary Matalin told Gregory why she had arranged to have Cheney discuss the incident on Fox News Channel rather than with the Washington press. "You went on a Jihad, David. For four days you went on a Jihad," she said. Replied Gregory: "And that's an unfortunate use of that word, by the way. This is not what that was.")
BROKEBACK SHINES AT BAFTAS
Brokeback Mountain's momentum as Oscar ceremonies near showed no letup as the movie dominated Britain's BAFTA awards Sunday. The film was voted the best film of 2005, and it also picked up awards in three other top categories: director (Ang Lee); supporting actor (Jake Gyllenhaal); and original screenplay (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana). Oscar favorites also received awards in other categories. Philip Seymour Hoffman was named best actor for his performance in Capote, while Reese Witherspoon took the actress award for Walk the Line. Thandie Newton won the best supporting actress award for her role in Crash, while that film also won for best original screenplay (Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco). Nick Park's animated Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was named best British film.
STEWART GIVES OSCAR JOKE PREVIEW
In an interview with USA Today, Jon Stewart discussed some of the problems he will likely face when he hosts the Oscar telecast on March 5. Asked whether he worried that Brokeback Mountain has already been parodied to death, he replied, "From what I've been told, the people cannot get enough of the gay cowboy joke. ... In many respects, [it's] like the banana and the person slipping on the sidewalk." He then quipped: "Crash and Munich are a comedian's dream. ... I've always said, if I can't make fun of the Holocaust, at least I can make fun of the Olympics massacre."
POLITICAL FILMS WIN AT BERLINALE
The traditional affection juries at the Berlin Film Festival have shown to movies with political themes was evident on Sunday as the festival's Golden Bear for best film was awarded to the Bosnian film Grbavica, about a 12-year-old girl's discovery that she was the product of a rape that occurred when her mother was held in a Serbian prisoner-of-war camp. The low-budget film was the debut effort of Sarajevo director Jasmila Zbanic. "I'm dreaming that I'm here on this stage and dreaming that I'm here in Berlin," Zbanic said in acceptance remarks. The runner-up Grand Jury Prize went to the Iranian film Offside, about young women who disguise themselves as men so that they can watch a soccer game (where women are barred). A second Grand Jury Prize went to the Danish film A Soap, about a romance between an emotionally troubled beautician and her male transsexual neighbor. The Silver Bear award for best director went to Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross for The Road to Guantanamo, about three British Muslims who were imprisoned for two years at the U.S. base in Cuba.
EIGHT BELOW: A CUT ABOVE
No doubt touching off a sudden run on Kleenex, Disney's tear-jerking dog drama Eight Below appeared to lead the weekend box office with about $19.8 million. Because of the Presidents Day holiday, some studios did not report estimates, but the new Date Movie and last week's winner, The Pink Panther, appeared to be close behind Eight Below with about $19.5 million and $19.1 million respectively, according to box-office trackers. Another new release, the thriller Freedomland, brought in about $6 million.
BAVARIAN PREMIER WANTS CINEMAS TO PULL TURKISH FILM
The premier of the German state of Bavaria has called upon German cinema owners to stop showing the Turkish movie Valley of the Wolves -- Iraq, which depicts U.S. soldiers in Iraq as murderous villains. In an interview with the Bild am Sonntag, Edmund Stoiber described the film as a "racist and anti-Western hate film" and charged that it was intended to sow "hate and mistrust against the West." The $10-million movie, the most expensive ever produced in Turkey, is based on the July 2003 arrest by U.S. troops of 11 Turkish soldiers serving among coalition forces, who were held for two days with bags covering their heads. The incident threw a monkey wrench into Turkish-American relations. The U.S. has yet to offer an explanation for the incident. According to today's (Monday) Washington Post, the U.S. Army has warned service members abroad to stay away from theaters showing the movie and "avoid getting into discussions about [it] with people you don't know."
BIONDI BIGGEST WINNER IN ICAHN/TIME WARNER TRUCE
Time Warner and Carl Icahn confirmed late Friday that they had reached a truce. Under it, Icahn gives up his demand to split up the company into four units and Time Warner agrees to increase its stock buyback to $20 billion and implement a $1-billion cost-cutting program. The sides said that they would consult on the appointment of two new independent members to its board of directors. In a statement, Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons said, "We are very pleased to have reached an understanding with Mr. Icahn. We appreciate his role as a significant shareholder as well as his constructive suggestions." Today's (Monday) Financial Times observed that the biggest winner in the settlement is likely to be Frank Biondi, who formerly headed Viacom and Universal. The newspaper pointed out that when Icahn hired Biondi to aid him in his battle with Time Warner, he guaranteed him at least $6 million, regardless of which way the battle went. (The figure could go substantially higher if Time Warner shares go up.) In an interview with the FT, Biondi remarked, "It beats minimum wage, that's for sure."