DEAL PAYS OFF; TRUMP SLUMPS
Deal or No Deal made a triumphant return to NBC on Monday, averaging an 8.1 rating and a 12 share in the 8:00 hour and beating the usual winners of the time slot, CBS's The King of Queens and How I Met Your Mother, which averaged a 6.6/10. But despite featuring an appearance by Donald Trump on Deal, the premiere of The Apprentice, which followed, wound up in fourth place with a 6.2/9. CBS won the 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. hours -- and the night -- with CSI: Miami drawing the biggest audience of the night at 10:00 p.m. with an 11.6/18.
UNIONS BATTLE PRODUCERS OVER IPOD RESIDUALS
It appeared Monday that the Internet was likely to become the new battleground between producers and film and TV unions. Unions representing writers, actors and directors each issued statements vowing to fight a decision by ABC to pay residuals for programs sold on the Internet at the same rate as they do for home video rather than at the far higher pay-TV rate. Writers Guild of America West President Patric Verrone vowed that the union would "aggressively pursue all legal options at our disposal." WGA East President Chris Albers called the home-video residual rate "paltry," dating back to "the age of Betamax." Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg called the ABC decision a "violation of our collective bargaining agreements." Both Verrone and Rosenberg campaigned for office on a platform calling for an increase in residual payments for home video. They were joined Monday by Directors Guild of America President Michael Apted, who warned that the DGA "will be filing claims against ABC and any other company" that pays residuals at the home-video rate. ABC responded that it was willing to allow a neutral arbitrator to decide how the existing agreements on residuals should be interpreted. Despite the fact that they were negotiated relatively recently, none of them specifically refers to online downloads.
CBS ON YOUR CELLPHONE
CBS on Monday said that it would begin offering "CBS News to Go" and "Entertainment Tonight to Go" to cellphone users on a subscription basis. In an odd pricing structure, the company said that the CBS News content would cost 99 cents per month while the E.T. content would go for $3.99 per month. Subscribers will receive "up to" five news alerts daily. In a statement, CBS chief Les Moonves said, ""This move underscores our strategy of offering best-in-class content on as many platforms as possible while seeking out new revenue streams."
TIVO FOR FREE?
TiVo, which suffered a devastating blow when DirecTV announced it would halt installing the TiVo digital recorders in subscribers' homes and introduce its own proprietary DVR instead, may offer its hardware free in select markets. Word of TiVo's plans came from company CEO Tom Rogers at a Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York. TiVo, which charges $13.00 per month for its service, is facing increasing challenges not only from DirecTV and its satellite rival EchoStar, which also offers a DVR, but also from some cable operators who also make the settop boxes available to customers, often without charge.
OLYMPICS SET RECORD -- A RECORD LOW
The 2006 Winter Olympics from Turin, Italy produced the lowest ratings since they were first recorded for the Games in 1968, Reuters reported Monday. The good news for NBC was that they averaged a 12.2 rating, falling within the range of 12-14 rating points that the network had promised advertisers. Therefore, there will be need for "make goods" -- free commercials to make up for any ratings shortfall. (Today's Los Angeles Times pointed out that the numbers for Sunday's closing ceremonies were particularly dismal, with more viewers in the younger demographics watching ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos than the final hoopla in Turin.) NBC pointed out that despite the low ratings, 184 million tuned in to at least some portion of the games either on NBC or its cable siblings.
ANNA NICOLE ATTENDS SUPREME COURT HEARING
Former Playboy model and reality-TV star Anna Nicole Smith was met by dozens of photographers and cameramen as she arrived at the U.S. Supreme Court today (Tuesday) to observe arguments over whether state or federal courts had jurisdiction in her probate dispute involving the will of her billionaire ex-husband. Smith was originally awarded $474 million after the death of her husband, J. Howard Marshall II, an amount that was later reduced to $88 million in federal court and then thrown out entirely by an appeals court.
STUDY CLAIMS GAYS ARE INVISIBLE ON BBC
A study by the University of Leeds has concluded that gay people are virtually invisible on the BBC and that whenever they are seen, they are likely to be depicted negatively. The study, which examined BBC programs that aired between May and July 2005, observed that lesbian and gay lives were covered by the BBC (presumably in news or magazine programs) in just six minutes, mostly during an interview with gay singer Rufus Wainright. The study further found that 32 minutes of material featured "derogatory or offensive references to gay people," while no programs showed stable gay relationships.
DENNIS ("MIS-TER DILLON!") WEAVER DEAD AT 81
Dennis Weaver, probably best remembered for his role as Chester on Gunsmoke between 1955 and 1975 and later as the cowboy detective Sam McCloud in the 1970-77 series McCloud, has died in Colorado of cancer at age 81.
BOX OFFICE: ALL IN THE FAMILY
A film targeting older, church-going black women may hardly seem likely to wind up at the top of the box office, let alone take in more than $30 million in its opening weekend, but that's what Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion accomplished. Final figures released by Exhibitor Relations on Monday showed that the film took in $30.03 million, nearly twice as much as the No. 2 film, Disney's Eight Below, which wound up with $15.87 million. Family or kid-friendly films dominated the rest of the top five, with the third week of The Pink Panther coming in third; Date Movie, fourth; and Curious George, fifth. Two other newcomers arrived DOA -- The Weinstein Co.'s Doogal, which opened in eighth place with $3.6 million, and New Line's Running Scared, which will no doubt have a short run following its $3.4 million opening. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Madea's Family Reunion, Lions Gate, $30,030,661, (New); 2. Eight Below, Disney, $15,872,840, 2 Wks. ($45,206,288); 3. The Pink Panther, Sony, $11,101,845, 3 Wks. ($60,847,581); 4. Date Movie, 20th Century Fox, $9,125,555, 2 Wks. ($33,812,965); 5. Curious George, Universal, $7,213,870, 3 Wks. ($43,347,785); 6. Firewall, Warner Bros., $6,682,212, 3 Wks. ($37,295,572); 7. Final Destination 3, New Line, $5,495,785, 3 Wks. ($44,944,694); 8. Doogal, Weinstein Co. $3,605,899, (New); 9. Running Scared, New Line, $3,381,974, (New); 10. Freedomland, Sony, $2,872,215, 2 Wks. ($10,750,360).
DA VINCI CODE PLAGIARISM SUIT BEGINS IN LONDON
Opening arguments were heard in London's High Court on Monday in the case of two authors who claim that Dan Brown appropriated "the central architecture" of his book, The Da Vinci Code from their nonfiction book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. A film version of the book, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard, is due to open the Cannes Film Festival in May, and at one point, one of the justices asked an attorney for authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh whether they were attempting to have the release of the film halted. News reports of the trial did not record their response. Brown has acknowledged that the Baigent and Leigh book, which argues that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her, influenced his tale. (Indeed, a new "code" was discovered by reporters covering the case: one of the central characters in the book is named Leigh Teabing, which combines Leigh's name with an anagram of Baigent's. Brown also refers to their book in the text of The Da Vinci Code.)
CRITIC ELVIS MITCHELL RESURFACES AT NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
Former New York Times and NPRfilm critic Elvis Mitchell, who reportedly quit the newspaper in order to head the East coast office of Columbia Pictures with producer Deborah Schindler, never took the Columbia job, according to Richard Prince, who writes a column for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education's website. (The institute focuses on training black journalists; Mitchell is black.) "Mitchell's job with Columbia Pictures had been taken as a done deal," Prince observed. He quoted NPR spokesman Chad Campbell as saying that the public radio network recently rehired Mitchell to report on the entertainment industry and review films for Weekend Edition. "He never actually took the job with Columbia so there is no conflict of interest," Campbell was quoted as saying.
ANALYSTS POOH-POOH TALK OF APPLE/DISNEY MERGER
Several analysts on Monday dismissed a weekend report in Barron's magazine that Apple Computer might try to acquired the Walt Disney Co. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) San Francisco Chronicle, Ivan Feinseth, managing director of investment consultants Matrix USA, said that a merger "would be so detrimental to both businesses." He argued that if Apple Computer chief Steve Jobs had his eye on buying Disney, he wouldn't have sold Pixar Animation to Disney and made Disney a more expensive company to buy. Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, another investment consulting company specializing in technology, told the Chronicle, "I don't believe for a second that Jobs wants to be a media mogul as much as he is a technology visionary. ... I find that idea out in left field."