NEWS MAGS TOPS FOR CBS ON WEDNESDAY
As usual during the summer rerun season, news magazines pulled top ratings Wednesday night. And CBS, which carried two of them, ended up in the catbird seat for the night. At 8:00 p.m., its 60 Minutes II garnered a 6.2 rating and a 12 share, well ahead of second-place ABC's My Wife and Kids, which posted a 4.8/9. NBC's Law and Order, which continues to draw strong numbers even during the summer, took over the top spot at 9:00 p.m. with a 5.3/9, as CBS dropped to second place with back-to-back episodes of The King of Queens, which averaged a 5.0/9. A second episode of NBC's Law and Order at 10:00 produced the highest ratings of the night with a 7.4/13, but CBS's 48 Hours Investigates produced strong ratings as well, a 6.3/11. CBS averaged a 5.9/11 for the night, followed by NBC with a 5.2/9. Fox placed third with a 4.2/8, as ABC trailed with a 3.6/7.
VETERAN TV EXEC HARBERT MAY BE HEADING TO E!
Ted Harbert, the former head of NBC Studios and ABC Entertainment, will likely take over as CEO of E! Networks, industry trade reports said today (Thursday). Harbert, who served 20 years at ABC before being named chairman of ABC Entertainment in 1993, presided over the launching of such series as NYPD Blue, Roseanne and Home Improvement during his four years in the top spot. At NBC Studios, he was involved in the development of such shows as Ed, Boomtown and Crossing Jordan. At E!, he would replace former CEO Mindy Herman, who was forced out in May following a report that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in which company staffers accused her of abusive behavior and financial improprieties.
CABLERS PUSH HDTV IN ADVANCE OF OLYMPICS
Hoping that HDTV coverage of the Olympic Games this summer will push sales of high-definition TV sets, Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which manufactures electronics products under the Panasonic brand name, is teaming up with the country's top-ten cable companies for a $10-million ad campaign, titled "Make It a Hi-Def Summer." The campaign is due to be launched early this month and will feature a promotion in which buyers of Panasonic HDTV sets will receive $100 off high-definition cable service. Gene Kelsey, vice president of Panasonic's brand strategy group. "The Olympics is a nice opportunity because it's a big event that's attractive to both males and females." Gene Kelsey, vice president of Panasonic's brand strategy group, told Advertising Age magazine.
TWO SECONDS ON SUPER BOWL: $550,000
The FCC is likely to fine each of CBS's 20 owned-and-operated TV stations $27,500 for airing Janet Jackson's breast baring at the end of her halftime performance during the Super Bowl in February, published reports said today (Thursday). Total cost to the network would be $550,000. Viacom, CBS's corporate parent, declined to discuss the reports.
JURORS FINISH THIRD DAY OF DELIBERATIONS IN ADELPHIA CASE
Jurors in New York completed a third day of deliberations at the federal fraud trial of Adelphia founder John Rigas, his two sons, and a former assistant treasurer of the cable company. They have been requesting copies of the transcripts of testimony, but on Wednesday, when they also asked for a copy of the prosecutor's closing argument, the judge, Leonard Sand, turned them down, saying that it was "not evidence and may not be furnished to you."
POLICE WEB SNAGS CAMCORDING TEEN
A 16-year-old youth, who allegedly was spotted as he was using a camcorder during a screening of Spider-Man 2 in Chatsworth, CA, was arrested early Wednesday and charged under a new law aimed at copyright infringement. The teenager's name was not released because of his age; he was released to his parents' custody. The arrest follows intensified efforts by the MPAA and theater owners to reward theater patrons and theater employees for alerting management or police about use of camcorders. Employees have been issued night vision goggles to help them spot violators. In Wednesday's incident, a projectionist using the goggles reportedly spotted the suspect among an audience that showed up for a midnight screening of the Spider-Man 2. "In theaters nationwide, there are now thousands of eyes looking for camcording pirates, and this incident proves that pirates who use devices in theaters will be caught," said MPAA official James W. Spertus.
HOW HIGH DID SPIDEY SOAR?
Sony declined to release ticket-sales figures for late-night (post midnight) screenings of Spider-Man 2 Tuesday, but several analysts were predicting that, combined with Wednesday's results, the film is likely to break the record for a Wednesday. Many theaters reported sell-out crowds. (The original film earned $404 million during its entire run. DreamWorks' Shrek is expected to exceed that figure by this weekend and presumably crossed the $400-million mark Wednesday, after having reached $399,666,000 on Tuesday.) Beginning on Friday, Spider-Man 2 will be competing against the debuting Cole Porter biography De-Lovely and the Disney patriotic documentary America's Heart and Soul, as well as the second week of Fahrenheit 9/11.
BRITISH DISTRIBUTOR INVITES BLAIR TO PRIVATE SHOWING OF FAHRENHEIT
The British distributor of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has published an open letter in Parliament's The House magazine, inviting Tony Blair to a private screening of the movie. The film, distributed by Optimum Releasing, is due to open in Britain next week.
MORE MONEY WOES FOR DISNEY -- THIS TIME FROM PARIS
The Walt Disney Co.'s efforts to help bail out the financially troubled Euro Disney theme park near Paris will cost the company millions of dollars -- with little likelihood that it will realize any revenue from the park for years, the New York Times reported today (Thursday). Other French creditors have agreed to defer some interest payments, the newspaper observed, but only Disney has agreed to invest more money in the theme park. Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a principal shareholder who invested millions to keep the theme park in operation following a financial crisis in 1994, reportedly did not participate in the current negotiations.
NEW STUDIO COMPLEX IN TORONTO UNVEILED
Developers of a huge new entertainment complex in Toronto, which will include 13 sound stages and a film school as well as shops and restaurants, displayed artists' renderings of the proposed movie center Wednesday and predicted it will help attract Hollywood production companies. The C$170 studio is due to be constructed on city-owned port lands. "We just don't have sufficient space in this city for major productions," Toronto Film Studios Inc. president Kenneth Ferguson told the Toronto Star. "A big production now needs six to eight sound stages altogether and there's no facility in the city that can do that right now." he added.
MUSLIM MEN FILE COMPLAINT AGAINST CHICAGO-AREA THEATER
Three Muslim men have filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human rights charging that they were evicted from a Loews Cineplex in the Chicago suburb of Crestwood by security guards who mocked them and joked that they might be carrying a bomb. Kamran Memon, a member of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Chicago, who is representing the men, observed that both federal and state public accommodation laws require that all customers be treated equally. Ahmad Tansheet, a member of the Muslim Civil Rights Center, said: "What these men endured is unacceptable and must be addressed by theater management." The men were attending a screening of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
TIME WARNER WOOING MGM
After months of apparently fruitless negotiations with Sony, MGM is now considering an aquisition offer from Time Warner, according to published reports. Today's (Thursday) Wall Street Journal quoted a source familiar with the negotiations as saying, "Sony had the early lead ... but now Time Warner is closing the gap." The London Financial Times said that the Time Warner deal is worth almost $5 billion, about the same amount bid by Sony, which reportedly has been stymied by complicated negotiations with its backers. Meanwhile, today's New York Post is reporting that Microsoft might also become a suitor, either on its own, or by joining another bidder.