A SUPER WEEK FOR ABC
ABC's telecast of the Super Bowl guaranteed the network a win for the week, but what may not have been so predictable was how big a lead it turned out to be. Not only did the game, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10, produce the biggest audience for any television program since the Super Bowl of 1996, but people stayed tuned in for the post-game show in greater numbers than usual, and a special episode of Grey's Anatomy which followed drew the biggest audience for any entertainment program since the final episode of Friends in May 2004 -- 38.1 million. With 90.8 million viewers tuning in for the game, ABC's average for the week went through the roof -- 23.1 million (12.0 rating and a 19 share). By contrast CBS, which had won every other week of the season, averaged 12.1 million (7.7/12). And Fox, which again drew more than 30 million viewers for each of two episodes of American Idol, nevertheless ended up in third place in total viewers with an average of 10.3 million (6.2/10). NBC was a distant fourth with 7.6 million (5.1/8). The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Super Bowl Xl, ABC, 41.6/62; 2. Super Bowl Post Game (10:05-10:10 p.m. EST), ABC, 34.6/51; 3. Super Bowl Post Game (10:11-10:27 p.m.), ABC, 29.0/44; 4. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 210./34; 5. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 17.4/27; 6. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 17.1/25; 7. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.9/25; 8. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.5/22; 9. CSI: Miami, CBS, 13.2/21; 10. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 12.3/18.
ABC'S NIGHTLY NEWSCAST COMES CLOSE TO OVERTAKING NBC'S
With interest in the condition of co-anchor Bob Woodruff running high, ABC's World News Tonight came close to overtaking NBC Nightly News in the ratings last week. WNT, which usually attracts about 1 million fewer viewers than Nightly, narrowed the gap to just 300,000 last week. NBC's newscast averaged 9.6 million viewers as it registered a 6.7 rating and a 13 share; ABC's averaged 9.3 million, with a 6.6/12. On Tuesday, Woodruff's brother Dave said that the newsman continues to be sedated. "The reason for that is to keep him quiet and calm so he can heal faster," he told the Detroit News. "All the indications that have been made along the way to us is that he will recover."
STONES BLAST CENSORSHIP OF THEIR SONGS DURING SUPER BOWL
The Rolling Stones on Tuesday denounced the decision by ABC to censor the lyrics of two of the three songs they performed during Super Bowl halftime on Sunday. In a statement released by spokeswoman Fran Curtis, the veteran rock group called the decision "absolutely ridiculous and completely unnecessary." On Monday ABC said that the band members were informed that Mick Jagger's microphone would be cut off when he sang the controversial lyrics. An NFL spokesman said Tuesday that the league wanted to "ensure family entertainment." Curtis indicated that while the band may indeed have known about the plan, it did not approve of it.
BET SKIPS LIVE COVERAGE OF KING FUNERAL
In what Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist Gail Shister described as "a shocker," BET, Viacom's cable channel targeting the black audience, skipped live coverage of the Coretta Scott King funeral and stuck with its usual lineup of music videos Tuesday. BET spokesman Michael Lewellen told the newspaper: "We weighed a number of different options. In the end, we chose to offer a different kind of experience for BET viewers." He said the network received only a handful of complaints. However, the cable network has come under increasing attack by black leaders for canceling news, public affairs, and talk shows and replacing them with music video programming that many regard as sexually explicit and violent.
JOEY ALL BUT DEAD
That NBC will almost certainly drop Friends spin-off Joey at the end of this season seemed apparent Tuesday with the announcement that Andrea Anders, who plays the title character's next-door neighbor has joined the cast of a new comedy series on rival CBS. Anders will appear in The Class, about a group of twentysomethings who were once friends in the third grade and have now reunited. Also co-starring in the series is Jason Ritter, the 26-year-old son of John Ritter (and grandson of country singer Tex Ritter), Also appearing will be Jay Bernthal, making his TV debut, and Heather Goldenhersh (Kinsey).
SHOWTIME TO OFFER SHOWS ON ITUNES STORE
Although CBS Inc.'s CBS has not yet made a commitment to provide any of its shows for downloading from Apple's iTunes Music Store, its Showtime pay-TV channel has. Showtime said Tuesday that original episodes of Sleeper Cell, Weeds, and Fat Actress are now available from the Apple website for downloading at the standard price of $1.99 per episode. Showtime is the only cable network retained by CBS Inc. following the recent split-up of Viacom. The new Viacom's MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central have each made separate deals to sell programs on the iTunes website.
BREAKING UP IS LAZARD TO DO
Corporate raider Carl Icahn on Tuesday unveiled a 343-page plan prepared by Lazard Frères, the influential investment banking firm, calling for the breakup of Time Warner into four companies and buybacks of stock totaling about $20 billion. Icahn shared a platform with Bruce Wasserstein, head of Lazard, as Wasserstein Wasserstein argued that the plan would allow the four major components of the Time Warner empire -- the Time Warner cable company; the film and TV units, including Warner Bros., HBO, and CNN; Time Inc., which publishes Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Money, and Fortune magazines; and AOL -- to display their individual worth, thereby enhancing the value of the company's share price, which has stagnated at about $18. In a reference to Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons, Wasserstein said, "If Dick Parsons indeed has the secret super spicy sauce to drive and deliver greater value, we all say, hallelujah and God bless." However, he said, "the stock has gone nowhere and doesn't have the prospect of going anywhere under the current strategy." Time Warner later issued a statement saying that it would study the Lazard report and would "have more to say on the specifics of the proposal in due course."
SETTOP BOX TO CONNECT TV SETS TO THE INTERNET FOR MOVIES
Consumers with a broadband connection to the Internet and a $299 TV settop box from Aeon Digital will be able to download recent movies from Universal and watch them at any time during a 24-hour period. Aeon and NBC Universal announced a licensing agreement on Monday that will make such films as Ray and The 40-Year-Old Virgin and TV shows like Jerry Springer: Uncensored and The Land Before Time available on demand beginning this spring. Unlike similar services, the films are meant to be watched on a TV set, not on a computer.
SONY ANNOUNCES PRICES FOR HIGH-DEFINITION DISCS
Sony Pictures announced pricing on Tuesday for upcoming home-video releases on high-definition Blu-ray discs. Older "catalog" movie titles, it said, will wholesale for $17.95; newer releases, for $23.45, about 15 percent more than conventional DVDs. Sony said it would not suggest any retail prices for the titles. Meanwhile, Home Media Retailing magazine on Tuesday quoted Disney CEO Robert Iger as saying that he was "bullish" on high-definition DVDs. "I realize it's going to go through a challenge period because of competing formats and the fact that we have to penetrate the market with new players and new software, new movies [but] I think it's something that is going to ignite the marketplace."
DISNEY TECHNICIANS METICULOUSLY RESTORE LADY
Technicians at the Walt Disney Co. went through 339,552 original frames of 1955's The Lady and the Tramp and digitally removed 30 million pieces of dust and dirt from them, the company said in a news release. The classic animated feature is currently being shown on the big screen at the Disney-owned El Capital Theatre in Hollywood prior to the re-release of the "50th Anniversary" DVD on Feb. 28. Technicians indicated that the new film will represent an improvement over the original, which was the first animated film to be released in the CinemaScope wide-screen format. It also was originally released with a magnetic sound track, but while it was relatively simple to change the lens on projectors to show the CinemaScope movie, it was far more difficult -- and costly -- for theater owners to convert the sound systems. The result was that an optical soundtrack was included on most of the final release prints, which obscured a significant portion of the picture.
ANTI-HOLLYWOOD PROTEST SHUTS DOWN SOUTH KOREAN FILM INDUSTRY
Some 1,500 South Korean movie producers, actors and directors participated in a protest rally near the U.S. embassy in Seoul today (Wednesday), carrying a banner reading "Stop humiliating negotiations that will allow a cultural invasion." The protesters were opposing trade negotiations with the U.S. that would ease South Korea's restrictions on the number of Hollywood films that can be shown in the country. South Korean officials have indicated that they were willing to increase the number of Hollywood films that can be shown in the country because locally produced films have proved to be so successful both artistically and commercially in recent years. They pointed out that of the top ten hits in South Korea in 2005, seven were produced locally. No U.S. film, they observed, made the top five.
PSSST! WANNA BUY A GEISHA?
Despite the fact that Chinese officials have refused to allow Memoirs of a Geisha to be shown theatrically in the country, bootleg DVDs are easy to come by, Reuters reported Tuesday. One sidewalk vendor in Beijing offered a copy to a Reuters reporter for 85 cents, saying, "Of course it's been banned, but it doesn't really matter. All of my supply is pirated."