ILL-STARRED ALL-STAR GAME
Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, which became a blow-out for the American League when it scored six runs off National League starter Roger Clemens in the first inning, produced its worst ratings in primetime ever. In a ratings anomaly, the Fox telecast, which drew 13,995,000 viewers, placed third on the Nielsen list of network primetime TV shows, behind CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami, which drew slightly fewer viewers (13,949,000 and 13,268,000 respectively). ABC received some good news. Its summer entry The Days, which received critical praise, debuted in 36th place in households but tied for 18th place in the 18-49-year-old demo. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition landed in 14th place overall, and Barbara Walters' 20/20 interview with Martha Stewart came in at No. 20. Meanwhile, in the cable universe, HBO's new Mark Wahlberg-created series Entourage got off to a weak start on Sunday, holding only about half the audience of its lead-in, Six Feet Under. But USA's The 4400 drew 5.6 million viewers, off from its record-setting premiere of 7.4 million, but nevertheless a second-week record in its own right for basic cable. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.7/17; 2. CSI: Miami, CBS, 9.1/15; 3. MLB All-Star Game, Fox, 8.8/15; 4. Without a Trace, CBS, 8.3/15; 5. Cold Case, CBS, 7.9/14; 6. 60 Minutes, CBS, 7.8/15; 7. Law and Order, NBC, 7.7/14; 8. 60 Minutes II, CBS, 7.5/14; 9. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 7.2/12; 10. MLB All-Star Pre-Game, Fox, 7.1/13.
FOX STRIKES OUT WITH ANOTHER NEW SERIES
Fox drew only so-so ratings with its new Trading Spouses, a series that ABC called a rip-off of its own Wife Swap (based on a hit British series). The Tuesday-night show pulled a 4.6 rating and an 8 share in the 8:00 hour, placing third behind CBS's Navy NCIS (6.0/11) and ABC's Extreme Makeover (5.0/9). CBS easily won the night with an average 6.3/11, followed by NBC with a 5.0/9. ABC placed third with a 4.2/7, while Fox trailed with a 3.6/6.
AOL SUBSCRIBERS RALLY TO FOX NEWS CHANNEL
Fox News Channel, under attack by several liberal and Democratic organizations, the Robert Greenwald documentary Outfoxed, and "Doonesbury" cartoonist Gary Trudeau, drew strong support in an informal (and admittedly unscientific) poll conducted by America Online on its welcome page Tuesday. Of some 25,000 users registering their opinions, 51 percent said that they regarded the cable news channel as "fair and balanced," as its slogan boasts; 37 percent ticked off "No, and I don't like its viewpoint;" 9 percent replied, "No, but I like its viewpoint;" and 2 percent checked "I have no idea." Meanwhile, a spokesman for News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch, whose holdings include the news channel, told Editor and Publisher that the media magnate was "amused" by Trudeau's jibes at him in his "Doonesbury" strips this week.
VIACOM APPOINTS NEW MTV CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Viacom's recently appointed co-COO Tom Freston has appointed MTV Networks President Judy McGrath to the position he just left -- chairman and CEO of MTV Networks. Freston described his decision as tough, especially because he was aware that it would result in the resignation of MTV's operations and sales chief Mark Rosenthal, who had expected the appointment. (Rosenthal quit shortly after Freston's announcement.) Nevertheless, he said in a statement, "Judy is the perfect fit for this job ... and [I] very much look forward to seeing her influence on the company grow and grow."
TV JOURNALISTS PREVIEW AMISH IN THE CITY
UPN has allowed the press to see the first two episodes of its controversial reality series Amish in the City, which goes on the air on July 28. Apparently concerned about the controversial nature of the plot -- which brings together a group of young Amish kids with a group of street-wise city kids -- Viacom co-COO Les Moonves told TV critics at their annual summer tour in Los Angeles Tuesday that he had similarly tried to keep other controversial programs under wraps, including CBS's biography of Hitler, its drama about the Manson family, and its miniseries about Jesus. He suggested that the decision not to screen the shows until now was based not on his concern that they would generate poor reviews, but his desire to avoid allowing "affiliates to approve or disapprove of what we're putting on the air." [Nevertheless, today's (Wednesday) Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the UPN affiliate in Lancaster, PA, the homeland for many Amish, said that it does not intend to carry the series.] Moonves also suggested that he wanted to avoid having the show become a political hot potato. "I don't want to be judged by a member of Congress before the show goes on the air," he said. Critics suggested that Moonves may have had little reason for concern. Washington Post TV writer Lisa de Moraes described it as a kind of "Real World, only without all the alcohol and sex." On another matter, Moonves said that UPN may expand to a sixth night of programming, either on Saturday or Sunday, "next season or the season after."
COMCAST TO CARRY DISNEY, ABC VIDEO ON INTERNET BROADBAND
Cable giant Comcast, which earlier this year was rebuffed in its effort to acquire the Walt Disney Co., has signed a deal with Disney that will bring children's programs and ABC News shows to its broadband Internet subscribers. The company said that it plans to launch an kids service called Toontown Online, that will offer not only programs but interactive video games to kids. It plans an immediate launch of the news service, offering live streaming news as well as archived broadcasts of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and ABC Nightline.
SHREK = SHARES
Following the monumental success of Shrek II this summer, DreamWorks announced today (Wednesday) that it intends to sell shares in its animation unit to the public and has filed for an IPO that could bring in $650 million. Jeffrey Katzenberg, who oversees the animation unit and will become the new company's CEO, said funds raised by the IPO will be used to increase its output of feature films. DreamWorks Animation will carry three classes of stock: Class A, which will be offered to the public and provide one vote apiece; Class B, which will be held by DreamWorks principals Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, and David Geffen and carry 15 votes per share; and Class C, to be held by an entity controlled by DreamWorks' initial investor, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, which will carry one vote apiece and permit Allen to name one member to the company's board.
PIXAR TO STAY PUT AT DISNEY, SAYS REPORT
After holding discussions with MGM, Sony, Warner Bros. and Fox, Steve Jobs' Pixar Animation Studios has concluded that it will remain partnered with Disney, the New York Post reported today (Wednesday), citing sources familiar with the matter. The newspaper commented that such a development would represent a significant victory for Disney CEO Michael Eisner, whose relationship with Jobs was described by the Post as "acrimonious." (Jobs has told interviewers in the past that he would renew negotiations with Disney only if Eisner was forced out.) Jobs had reportedly been hoping that another studio would agree to a deal in which it would receive simply a distribution fee to handle Pixar films and would not share in their profits.
NEW ENDING ADDED TO NAPOLEON DYNAMITE
Admittedly inspired by DVD "extras" packages, the producers of Napoleon Dynamite have decided to add a five-minute epilogue to the movie when it expands into wider release on Friday to more than 350 screens. In a statement, Fox Searchlight's marketing chief Nancy Utley said, "Fans of Napoleon Dynamite nationwide have fallen in love with the film's anti-hero and his quirky friends. We decided to take a page out of the DVD handbook and give them something more. It has been Searchlight's challenge in marketing Napoleon Dynamite to be as unique as the film's lovable characters." The new ending was shot just four weeks ago by the director, 24-year-old Jared Hess, who also wrote the movie with his 23-year-old wife Jerusha.
RONSTADT UNFAZED BY VEGAS FUROR
Singer Linda Ronstadt says that she will continue to urge her audiences to see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 despite the uproar that ensued when she did so Saturday night at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times, which described her as "a longtime liberal activist," Ronstadt said that she has been making her remarks about the Moore film at every concert and each time drawing a mixture of hisses and hurrahs. "I've done this all across the country, and I'm telling you, it's like my independent poll. I have never seen a [polarized] reaction like this in all my years of touring." Ronstadt also told the Times that reports that the Aladdin management threw her out of the building after her performance were exaggerated. "They didn't throw me out. I didn't even know there was trouble. I didn't know they were mad," she said.
RUSSIA BOASTS OF MOVIE HIT
After years of stagnation, the Russian film industry has finally produced a bona fide blockbuster, Night Watch, a film which is beating such American features as Spider-Man 2 and Troy at the Russian box office, the New York Times reported today (Wednesday). In its first 11 days, it has taken in $8.5 million versus $5.5 million for Spider-Man 2. The film, based on a sci-fi trilogy by Sergei Lukyanenko, reportedly employs impressive Russian-programmed special effects and offers a solid, well-told story. Russian film critic Aleksei V. Prostyakov told the Times, "I always felt a little embarrassed for Russian movies. ... It was like the Stone Age in terms of special effects and editing. This one? You can love it or not, but it's a very high-quality film."
BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY HAS A RECORD YEAR
Despite the elimination of a significant tax break for U.K. film investors, the British motion picture industry experienced a remarkable boom last year, with the 10 most successful U.K. films taking in nearly $2 billion worldwide, according to figures released today (Wednesday) by the U.K. Film Council. U.K. films, which included such hits as Love Actually, Johnny English, and Tomb Raider 2 were responsible for 5.7 percent of U.S. ticket sales ($516.8 million). The council also disclosed that the total output of the British industry in 2003 was 173 films, more than twice the number in 2002. More than 57,000 people were employed by the industry, up 77 percent from 1993.